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News 19 Jun 17

Iohannis Assures Merkel of Romania's Stability

President Klaus Iohannis said Romanian foreign policy would remain stable despite the current government crisis, after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Romania President Klaus Iohannis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Facebook.

Romania has made progress in defending rule of law and in fighting corruption, and any sudden step back would raise questions in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday in a joint press conference in Berlin with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

The Romanian President was in Berlin, marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Romania and Germany, but his official visit was overshadowed by foreign policy issues related to the internal political crisis that has paralysed Romania for the past week.

"Romania is a stable country with a solid economy and I think I was able to pass the message that I asked the politicians [at home] involved [in the crisis] to solve the matter as soon as possible," he said.

Iohannis started a three-day visit to Germany on Monday amid a severe government crisis that has raised concerns over Romania's political stability and its economy.

Most ministers of the Social Democrat cabinet resigned last Wednesday following a row between party leader Liviu Dragnea and Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu.

The ruling Social Democratic Party, PSD, on Sunday moved for a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Grindeanu, who has refused to leave office and who on Friday sacked two ministers loyal to Dragnea.

The skirmishes that have split the ruling party over the PM’s impeachment vote, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, worry not only politicians but also the business community.

The Romanian currency, the lev, dropped on Monday to its lowest level in five years.

During an official visit to Romania on Friday Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel raised concerns over Romania's stability, saying during a press conference with the Romanian PM that he could not tell businesses in Luxembourg to invest in Romania at this time.

Germany is also Romania's biggest trade partner.

Iohannis, a former Liberal leader, asked the ruling PSD to solve the crisis as quickly as possible. Before leaving for Germany on Sunday he warned the PSD leadership that their internal skirmishes were damaging Romania’s regional and international image.

“This [crisis] is the last thing we need,” he said. “We have great friends in Europe. What we still need is a stable government. I hope this gets solved quickly," he added.

While Merkel refused to comment on the crisis, Iohannis explained that they had talked about it during their working lunch, where he tried to reassure the German Chancellor that Romania’s foreign policy would not be influenced by the PSD's internal rows.

On June 9, Iohannis met US President Donald Trump, the first working visit of a Romanian president to the White House, amid tense relations between many European countries and the Trump administration.

Iohannis said he had briefed had Merkel on his conversation with Trump and that they had reached the same conclusion: relations with the US need to go on, despite recent hiccups.

The Romanian President’s visit to the US came two weeks after the Brussels NATO summit where Trump criticised alliance member for not spending enough on their defence and for relying too much on the US.

The US President’s speech in Brussels led Chancellor Merkel to say after the NATO summit that Europe needed to focus on its own security.

“The times when we could completely rely on others are, to a certain extent, over,” Merkel said on May 29.

However, Iohannis has been the first EU leader to state that he does not agree with Merkel on this, and that he believes it is essential to continue the trans-Atlantic partnership.

He also told Trump that “Romania is an EU member and your best interest is to have a strong EU as a partner.

"Our trans-Atlantic link is not just about diplomacy, it is the basis of our Western civilization,” Iohannis told the US president.

Romania, the main NATO foothold in the Black Sea and the Balkans region, advocates an increased NATO presence in the region, as it sees Russian policy in the area as aggressive.

Romania just upped its defence spending to 2 per cent of the GDP this years, hosts US troops and a NATO regional headquarters and is also participating with 400 troops in the 4,000-strong NATO mission in Poland. 

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