President says Romania ready for EU presidency after 'crisis'

Romania's President Klaus Werner Iohannis arrives in Brussels during the second day of a European Summit aimed at discussing the Brexit deal, the long-term budget and the single market, on Dec 14, 2018.
Romania's President Klaus Werner Iohannis arrives in Brussels during the second day of a European Summit aimed at discussing the Brexit deal, the long-term budget and the single market, on Dec 14, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

BUCHAREST (AFP) - Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said Friday (Dec 21) that the country was now ready to take up its first rotating presidency of the EU, weeks after casting doubt over the preparations.

"We are well prepared and I'm confident that we'll handle (the presidency) in a suitable way", Iohannis said at a press conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Bucharest.

He said that the government had overcome a "staffing crisis" when Romania's Minister for EU Affairs Victor Negrescu resigned unexpectedly last month.

At the time Iohannis said Negrescu's departure showed Romania was not ready for the presidency.

But on Friday the Romanian president said the appointment of experienced diplomat George Ciamba as Negrescu's replacement had resolved the situation.

Iohannis said overseeing Brexit, bringing agreement on migration and on the EU budget would be the "tough" issues Romania will grapple with during its six-month presidency of the bloc.

Iohannis, who hails from the centre-right, has been a frequent critic of the left-wing government, particularly over judicial reforms that critics - including Brussels - say will curb the independence of judges and prosecutors.

Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) and widely seen as the most powerful politician in Romania, hinted on Thursday that more friction with the president could be in the offing.

Dragnea underlined that his ally, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, would be charged with handling the EU presidency and not Iohannis.