Victor Negrescu, the Romanian Minister Delegate for European Affairs, told a group of journalists on 8 December, that the Romanian Presidency will reach to the citizens, including to the diaspora, which in the case of his country is estimated to at least 4 million people.
Victor Negrescu, born in 1985, has spent his youth in France, where he became at the age of 17 a supporter of the French Socialist Party, before he became member of the Romanian Social Democratic Party (PSD). He has worked as journalist with Radio France Internationale and with Le Monde Diplomatique, as well as with the Regard magazine. When he was elected to the European Parliament in 2014, he was the youngest Romanian MEP. Active defender of the rights of Romanians abroad, Victor Negrescu has submitted to the European Parliament the petition “Romania deserves more” signed by over 20,000 Romanians, claiming equal rights for Romanians at European level and condemning the discriminations to Romanians in many European states. In June 2017 he took the job of Minister Delegate for European Affairs.
Negrescu received foreign journalists in the Romanian Ministry of Foreign affairs and stayed to answer their questions for almost two hours.
— Victor NEGRESCU (@negrescuvictor) December 7, 2017
He informed of the preparation of the Romanian presidency which will begin on 1 January 2019, its main priorities, and the broader EU agenda of his country. In particular, he said that Romania will organise a debate next month (January) in the spirit of the EU-wide ‘democratic conventions’ proposed by the French President Emmanuel Macron in his Sorbonne speech.
This could be the first such debate to be held.
‘Citizens’ and ‘values’
Negrescu said Romania was trying to evaluate what should be done in two main avenues of its presidency: citizens and values.
Regarding citizens, it is obvious many of the problems the EU faces today stem from the breach between decision-makers, at EU and national level, and the wider public. Regarding values, in the context of successive crises, the ‘interest’ appears to take precedence over the ‘values”. It is absolutely unclear how the two can be reconciled, but in any case this issue was not discussed during the meeting.
Negrescu said European affairs needed democratization, as for now only a professional elite had of understanding of its wheeling and dealing.
Countries and counties
Negrescu said that Presidency international events would be held in every county of Romania – meaning more than 40 cities.
This may look ambitious, but Negrescu said Romania will take advantage of its several airports. “Even Bacau is connected to Brussels”, he said.
60.000 of foreign visitors are expected to visit Romania over the occasion of the Romanian presidency. Bulgaria said 20.000 foreign visitors will visit the country on the same occasion. Often figures related to Bulgaria (population of 7 million) and Romania (20 million) are automatically multiplied threefold.
The minister said that local communities were enthusiastic about the chance of hosting such events.
“The EU is also for them. The Presidency is not about the minister, it’s not about the government, and Romanians citizens must feel this Presidency as theirs”, he said.
The Romanian minister also focused on the need to ‘upskill’ the Romanian civil servants, as many of them went to work for the European institutions, and those who are replacing them need training.
He said he personally met the 250 chairs and co-chairs of working groups under the presidency that have been identified. Also, he said that the Romanian human resources were being tapped in EU institutions, for work during the presidency.
Asked how the diaspora was approached, he said;
“Without being too pretentious, the diaspora has already a representive. I’m one of the Romanians that lived for many years abroad. For that, I want to make sure that the Romanian diaspora will be more involved in this process”, he said.
The minister added that on every of his travels abroad he made sure that meetings with the diaspora were organized, that he gave them his personal contacts, that he tried to be in touch with them , and that he was perfectly aware of their legitimate will to participate in identifying issues and priorities for the presidency.
“The consultation we are going to do about priorities is also going to be done through the minister for relations with the diaspora, in a public consultation with them as well”, Negrescu said, adding that the website of the Romanian Presidency, which will be online before Christmas, will have special features for reaching to the diaspora.
Websites and outreach
In comparison, the Bulgarian Presidency website was launched on 1 December, just a month before the Presidency, and it doesn’t contain any feature for reaching to the diaspora. In fact, this website receives reactions from representatives of the diaspora who deplore the lack of interest of the authorities in Sofia for their ideas.
The minister also informed about recruitment programs for Romanians living abroad to return and work for one year for the Presidency.
He admitted however it was difficult to develop tools to reach the entire diaspora, conveying the message that Romanians abroad should also actively be looking for those channels.
He was also asked many questions regarding the political situation in Romania, and I will reflect his answers in another publication.
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