Janus: Too little too late, and emerging European federalism via Romania

, by Ioan Bucuraș

Janus: Too little too late, and emerging European federalism via Romania
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the military parade on Great Union Day | Photo: Klaus Iohannis Facebook Page

One neck, two faces. Facing the future while looking at the past – now anchored in the present. The Roman god of duality, transitions and new beginnings, Janus (Latin IANVS) and his symbolism are rather descriptive of how Romanian president Iohannis positioned himself lately, before finally drawing a clear line.

One neck, two faces. Facing the future while looking at the past – now anchored in the present. The Roman god of duality, transitions and new beginnings, Janus (Latin IANVS) and his symbolism are rather descriptive of how Romanian president Iohannis positioned himself lately, before finally drawing a clear line.

Rumoured to become Donald Tusk’s successor at the helm of the European Council, Klaus Iohannis left some room for speculation, refusing to give a clear answer on whether he intends to take on the role in Brussels or whether he will run again for a second mandate as head of state. His good English, and diplomatic and composed appearance during EU Summits made him a clear favourite for the job. Not to mention that his native German helps. A lot.

During a ceremony held by the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania today, he decidedly stated that he wants “to continue being the president of Romania, as much remains to be done.” It’s quite understandable that he wants to leave a legacy as the pillar of hope in the fight against corruption, as the institutionally correct president that managed to deliver – according to the book­.

His chances to get a 2nd term are looking very good. We might be in for a big surprise though, if Iohannis will face a non-PSD candidate in the second round. The two party leaders, Dacian Ciolos (PLUS) and Dan Barna (USR) are keeping their cards close to their chests, with the former already being heavily involved in shaping European affairs, but neither have completely ruled out running for the presidency. The Alliance will have one candidate – whether it’s going to be one of the two remains to be seen. Nevertheless, if this is the scenario (Iohannis vs USR-Plus), it will be a political premiere in Romania.

Who is Viorica Dancila?

The newly elected president of the Social Democratic Party (PSD).

After being an S&D backbencher in the European Parliament for 9 years, where she was nicknamed “the one who doesn’t speak” in the group, she was summoned to become prime minister by the (now jailed) former party leader Liviu Dragnea, who needed a person that would be loyal to him, after having ousted two of his own governments for refusing to ultimately grant amnesties for corruption-related crimes.

After many political gaffes she became a social media meme sensation and was labelled as Dragnea’s puppet. Interestingly enough though, after the former leader was imprisoned, she managed to quickly ostracise his most loyal people while immediately adopting a completely new pro-European line and refusing to push forward any alleviation-related agendas proposed by Dragnea’s clique.

But whether this will have a lasting impact on the party remains to be seen. The frenetic efforts for milder anti-corruption laws, the growing anti-EU fuelled rhetoric, the public association with various shady figures (and I could go on) angered the people tremendously and cost the party a drop of more than 20% since the last elections. The whole “it was all him, it was all Dragnea” rhetoric adopted might backfire on the party even more. Spinning it all around now as if nothing has happened, smashing the wet sponge on a black board covered in blood might be too little, way too little, way too late.

Stuttering status quo. So what’s next?

European federalist ideas – coming from one of the Union’s youngest members.

Angry with the backroom deals, with the whole shemozzle around the vague Spitzenkandidaten process and the countless leaks and speculations we’ve seen in the media around these negotiations, Dacian Ciolos announced on social media that “the current system, based exclusively on negotiations and deals, needs to evolve. (…) I will do everything I can in order to have a direct European-wide vote at the next European elections, to directly elect the president of the European Commission. If we want a different Europe, this needs to be the first step that we take.”

This would be an ambitious move and we’d most likely need transnational lists for that – a project that was killed in the European Parliament last year. My guess is that this will surely be back on the agenda in 4 years’ time the latest.

The other Alliance party, USR, has been unanimously accepted in the ALDE Party as a full member. The party’s history is strikingly similar with many other “new centrist liberal wave” parties. Formed as a civil society organisation, it then quickly evolved into a party, similar to the Austrian NEOS party, Ciudadanos in Spain, Momentum in Hungary or La République En Marche in France. Their results varied, but we clearly see a tendency in Europe which is slowly becoming a success story: liberal, open-minded people, fed up with the establishment parties, completely disagreeing with the populist and nationalist parties, started doing politics themselves.

What was an idea of fresh parties and people who never did politics will soon become the new status quo. If establishment parties are to survive, they will either need to reinvent themselves accordingly and adopt a similar position (more transparency, more direct implication and communication and more direct involvement) or surf the populist wave.

My only hope is they’ll choose reform, not complacency.

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