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EU Leader Expresses Doubts About Romania's Ability To Take Over Bloc Presidency


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (file photo)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has voiced doubts about Romania's ability to take over the EU's six-month rotating presidency next week.

Juncker was quoted on December 29 as telling Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Romania was "technically well-prepared.”

"But I think the government in Bucharest hasn't yet fully understood what it means to take the chair over the EU countries," he added.

Romania assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union on January 1 for the first time since it joined the bloc in 2007 amid political divisions at home.

Juncker said the EU Presidency "requires a willingness to listen to others and a willingness to put one's own concerns in the background. I have some doubts about this."

He also questioned the capacity of the country, faced with internal political tensions, to appear as a "compact unit" in Europe.

"There needs to be a united front at home to foster unity in Europe as well during the presidency," he said.

In November, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said his country was not prepared to fulfill the task.

He referred to a situation which has led to the most powerful politician in Romania, Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea, being unable to become prime minister because of a conviction for election fraud.

The president has since struck a more optimistic note.

"We are well prepared and I'm confident that we'll handle [the presidency] in a suitable way," Iohannis said on December 21.

Meanwhile, Maria Grapini, a European Parliament lawmaker with Romania's Social Democrats, said Juncker was being "duplicitous."

She told the private Mediafax news agency that, during a recent meeting with Romanian officials in Brussels, Juncker had said it was "clear...that Romania was up to the presidency."

"You can't say it's black today and tomorrow it's white," she said.

With reporting by AP, dpa and AFP
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