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Romania's proposed government faces confidence vote key for EU policymaking

Romania's proposed government faces confidence vote key for EU policymaking
FILE PHOTO: PNL (National Liberal Party) president Ludovic Orban looks on during a news conference held by EPP leaders and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Sibiu, Romania, May 9, 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS -
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By Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romanian lawmakers will hold a vote of confidence on Monday for the centrist minority cabinet of Prime Minister-designate Ludovic Orban, the outcome of which risks extending a policymaking vacuum in the European Union.

The new European Commission team had been due to take over on Nov. 1, but a political tug-of-war in Bucharest that prevented it from nominating a viable commissioner risks pushing that missed deadline beyond the start of December.

The Commission comprises one representative from each member state and it holds powers including negotiating trade deals, policing members states’ finances and proposing bloc-wide laws on a range of topics including the environment and migration.

Should Orban lose the vote, the country’s president would have to nominate a new premier, likely further delaying Romania’s pick for the Commission – jeopardising the timely approval of the entire new team.

Orban’s opposition Liberal Party spearheaded the no- confidence vote which led to the collapse of the Social Democrat government on Oct. 10.

While Orban said late on Sunday he was confident his government would be approved, the vote yet might be postponed because the ousted Social Democrats and smaller Pro Romania grouping have said they will boycott the meeting.

Without them, not enough lawmakers would be present and the vote would have to be postponed until after a two-round presidential election on Nov. 10 and Nov. 24.

“We do not understand the PSD boycott,” Orban told reporters late on Sunday. “Despite it, I am confident that tomorrow we will give Romania a legitimate government.”

The two-house parliament is due to start the debates at 1200 GMT, followed by the voting session.

Aides to Orban told Reuters on Tuesday he would name his country’s candidate for the Commision after the vote, if successful.

If Orban’s cabinet is not approved, some analysts expect President Klaus Iohannis and the outgoing Prime Minister Viorica Dancila to compromise on a Commission proposal.

“I would expect the two main political forces in Bucharest to try to reach a compromise on this issue in order not to damage the country’s image,” said Paul Ivan, a policy analyst in Brussels at the European Policy Centre (EPC).

“Blocking the rest of the EU is not a desirable position for Romania and Bucharest knows this.”

If approved, Orban’s cabinet would be in place until a parliamentary election next year but is likely to struggle to gain support from opposition lawmakers for its measures.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Alison Williams)

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