Politico.eu: Liviu Dragnea, Brussels’ oncoming ‘illiberal’ headache
“Liviu Dragnea, president of Romania’s ruling Social Democrats (PSD), may be running the country without being prime minister, like Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński. And fears are rising at home and in Brussels that he is steering his country in the same “illiberal” direction as Poland and Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.”
This is how the feature posted by politico.eu starts, a feature presenting the developments in Romania and which is based on an interview granted by Liviu Dragnea to the publication. Politico.eu wonders if Dragnea will truly become Brussels’ next illiberal migraine.
Several ideas of the article:
- Dragnea has forced the resignation of two prime ministers, pushed forward a controversial overhaul of the justice system and infuriated other Romanian politicians by suggesting the country follow the lead of U.S. President Donald Trump in Israel and move its embassy to Jerusalem.
- Dragnea — who is barred from serving as prime minister because of a suspended jail sentence for an attempt to rig a referendum in 2012 — is facing new charges of corruption, with Romania’s High Court expected to deliver a ruling Thursday.
- At a recent PSD rally, Dragnea accused what he calls “the parallel state” — which he defines as a conspiracy by the intelligence services, police officers, customs officials, financial authorities, prosecutors and judges — of trying to take the PSD government down. “Don’t think that only dignitaries are targets,” he told the crowd. “You can all become targets of this repulsive system,” he said. In response, the crowd cheered: “Liviu Dragnea don’t give up, we are on your side!”
- Romania’s foreign partners — including NATO and the EU — encouraged and “partially financed this parallel state and this repulsive system,” Dragnea said in a television interview the next day.
- Dragnea, whose office is adorned with Orthodox icons and paintings of rural Romania, told POLITICO that one of the things he was proud of was never having been a member of the Communist Party — even if most Romanians were obliged to under Ceaușescu. “Some of us were crazier and didn’t want to,” he said.
- Dragnea’s legal troubles date back to his time as a regional county leader. Prosecutors accuse him of having pressured the local director of social services to put two people working for the PSD on her payroll. They have asked that he be sentenced to 10 years in jail. In another case, Dragnea is accused of having fraudulently obtained national and EU public money while he was the president of the county council.
- The European Commission has expressed worries that Romania is backsliding in its fight against corruption.
- In his interview with POLITICO, Dragnea dismissed concerns that the overhaul was being done for his benefit. “We’re interested in people’s fundamental rights and liberties being respected,” he said. “We want every citizen in Romania to have a fair trial, and the right to defense and presumption of innocence to be guaranteed.”
- Dragnea said that there was no cause for Brussels to be concerned. “Under the PSD, Romania strongly respects European principles, follows the European interests, but — like any EU country — thinks about its own interests as part of the common interest.”
- Romania is now “a country becoming aware of its rights, which wants to be involved in the decision-making and to enjoy all the benefits of a member state, while respecting EU rules.”
- Dragnea said he didn’t mind not being prime minister and said claims that Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă is his puppet were highly offensive. “I generally don’t have any frustrations,” he said. “I live in reality.”
- Dragnea said Romania deserves more respect as it prepares to take over the Council presidency for the first time in 2019: “I don’t think it’s exaggerated for us to want Romania to become an important voice, to be a respected partner, at least to the extent that we show respect.”
Read the whole feature here.