November 4, 2019 / 3:42 PM / 14 days ago

Romanian government wins confidence vote, key for EU policymaking

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The centrist minority government of Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban won a vote of confidence in parliament on Monday, improving the prospects of filling a policymaking vacuum in Bucharest and the European Union.

Newly appointed Romanian PM Ludovic Orban attends the validation session of his cabinet in Bucharest, Romania, November 4, 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS

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 commissioner risked pushing the start date into December.

Orban, who would not elaborate on the commissioner’s name, is expected to make a quick nomination for Romania’s spot on the Commission, the EU executive, as soon as his cabinet is sworn in.

“We will take this decision as soon as possible, after talking with the president. It (the proposal) will be the best one for Romania,” Orban told reporters after the vote.

His cabinet was backed by 240 lawmakers, seven votes above the required 233.

The Social Democrat Party, which was ousted from government in a no-confidence vote led by Orban’s Liberal Party on Oct. 10, and the smaller centre-left grouping Pro Romania largely boycotted the vote.

Orban said he would undo some fiscal and judicial measures approved by the Social Democrats that have been criticised by diplomats and investors.

“We must assume the responsibility of making the justice system ... independent in Romania, without interference from politicians and other institutions,” he told lawmakers.

The new cabinet will be in place until a parliamentary election is held next year, but is likely to struggle to win support from among the fragmented opposition to secure majorities for each bill.

“Today’s vote is a guarantee we will not remain uncaring,” said Dan Barna, the leader of the opposition Save Romania Union (USR), which backed Orban. “We expect the measures we have agreed to become clear objectives of your government.”

The leu currency was steady against the euro on Monday, but it has fallen 2.1% so far this year - making it central and eastern Europe’s worst-performer - as widening deficits and delayed policymaking take their toll. Bucharest’s blue chip index was down 0.2%.

The Social Democrats’ expansionary fiscal and wage policies have increased Romania’s budget and current account deficits, while changes to judicial legislation seen by Brussels as endangering the rule of law have dented investors’ appetite.

Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alex Richardson

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