The stakes and meanings of Iohannis' presence in the European Parliament ANALYZE

The chances of Klaus Iohannis at a top position in the EU architecture are difficult to quantify, experts say, but the head of state emphasized, in the context of the speech in the European Parliament, that an Eastern European will have to have an important position, being pushed by the PNL the person of the president.

PHOTO Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea

Five years after he was in the European Parliament to give a speech about Europe and the need to defend the rule of law in Romania, when the governments led from the shadows by Liviu Dragnea were in an assault on Justice, Klaus Iohannis came to The Strasbourg legislature to present its vision for Europe, just as early behind-the-scenes talks are being held about new top EU jobs after the June 9 election.

Iohannis addressed numerous topics, from the benefits of the European project, the attention in preparing the next elections for a European Parliament with the most responsible people, reforms, Romania's pro-European orientation and the need to expand the EU.

If at the beginning of the speech the room was almost empty, being less than 100 MEPs, in the conclusion part, when the head of state opted for a free expression, Klaus Iohannis was applauded by a full room, especially when he made the remark about the fact that it is not normal for a single state to veto the entire European architecture and when he suggested that the EU should have a coordinated foreign policy, not “27 foreign policies”.

Seen as a solution by PPE

According to “Adevărul” information, Iohannis is still seen, especially by the PNL and their popular colleagues, as a potential candidate for a top position, mainly that of president of the European Council, but a variant is also that of High Representative for EU Foreign Policy. Moreover, in his speech in the EP, the liberal Siegfried Mureșan, vice-president of the EPP, made it clear that Iohannis will not end his career with the end of his mandate.

“As pro-Europeans, we will continue to offer solutions and tell people that extremism is not a solution to the challenges we face. As pro-Europeans, we must take a stand, defend Europe and defend European values. This is what we, as a pro-European majority, stand for here in the European Parliament. It is also what we are prepared to achieve together with you in the coming years”, Mureșan pointed out.

He wants the top job for Eastern Europe

Iohannis avoided saying whether he wants to get a European post. “As for me, I don't think this is the time to speculate. I am the President of Romania, I am a member of the European Council, where after the European elections all these positions will be discussed, but regarding the second part of the question, I have a very clear opinion and I thank the President for expressing herself very elegantly”, he pointed out Iohannis. Instead, he insisted on correcting a “wrong” with Eastern Europeans.

“In my opinion, it would be inadmissible for no position to be occupied by a person from the new member states, i.e. from the eastern part. I think that in 2019 it was wrong, all the relevant positions were occupied by very competent people, so this is not the discussion, from the old Europe and it is one of the reasons why many Eastern Europeans consider themselves a little left out. It is an error and I hope that this time the error will not occur again”, added Iohannis. Moreover, Roberta Metsola, head of the EP, who is next to the Romanian president, stated that everyone should feel represented at the level of top positions. Including in an informal discussion with journalists, the head of state emphasized that “the chances are different from zero” regarding the possibility that Romania can obtain a very important position.

In the plenary session of the European Parliament, most of those who took the floor had words of appreciation for Iohannis, including from among the Social-Democratic Group, Renew, and the Greens. Cristian Terheș did not target Iohannis either, but had a speech against the head of the European Commission. The leader of the PPE delegation from Romania, Rareș Bogdan, had a laudatory intervention addressed to Iohannis: “I had the privilege of listening, with you, to the analysis and vision of a true statesman (…) You listened to the speech of a man with European vocation about Europe”.

What the specialists say

“Adevărul” spoke with several specialists about the meanings and stakes of Iohannis' speech. “It is an opportunity to state some issues that are relevant for the European agenda, in conjunction with that of the respective state. So I think that from this point of view it is relevant that an event like this takes place”, said the political scientist George Jiglău, emphasizing that it mattered for the “European dimension” of the head of state.

“A well-delivered speech and a civilized speech in which he pointed out some key elements of his positioning, not necessarily for the presidency of the European Council, but rather for an EU Foreign Minister, a position held in the negotiation between political families, by a social democrat,” pointed out, for his part, the political analyst Radu Magdin.

Jiglău claims that there are no clear data regarding Iohannis's chances for a top position, but Romania has behaved exemplary as a NATO and EU state with regard to Ukraine. “If we look a bit at the political configuration in this region, surely Poland has also changed the boat, but Romania, with Iohannis at the head, is the country that has been the most unequivocally clearly loyal to the discourse that comes from the EU, from at the top, from the western side. All the other countries have had syncopes or still have them,” added Jiglău, pointing out that the messages sent about the representation of Eastern Europe can also be long-winded. “It's good that this idea of ​​representing the Eastern Flank is being put on the back burner, especially in a period that is complicated,” George Jiglău concluded.

On the other hand, Radu Magdin claims that it is difficult for Iohannis to get a top position. “The EPP, his political family, wants the Commission presidency first and as seen today, the president is making a plea for one of the key positions, as belonging to an easterner. We support this approach, as a country. The problem with Iohannis is that at home he is seen as not delivering for us and has not made an impression in his external action, at least in perception. Outside the European Council room, he did not seem like a great European. In essence, although the president's messages are positive, the fact that he has not had a strong appetite for communication and intra-community networking in recent years may not help him”, concluded Magdin.