Weeks of clashes between Romania's new prime minister Victor Ponta and President Traian Basescu over who should represent the country at the European Council came to a last minute conclusion on Thursday. Despite a Constitutional Court decision that going to the European Council was the President's job, Ponta went to Brussels anyway today and was admitted as Romania's representative. After a tense first half of day, President Basescu made press statements saying that he didn't go to Brussels in order to avoid "an awkward position" for Romania". And he said Romania was "legitimately present, but illegitimately represented at the European Council" this week.
Romania has been represented by the President at the European Council since it joined the EU. But after a new government formed by the previously in opposition Union of Social Democrats and Liberals (USL) came into office, its PM Victor Ponta has been pushing for a change.
As part of a wider political struggle with President Basescu, he's tried his best for the past several weeks to have himself represent Romania at the Council, saying that the Council discusses issues which fall under the competence of the government and ministers, not of the President. And he pointed out that most European countries are represented at the Council by prime ministers.
Basescu has rejected the claims. And this week the Constitutional Court decided that the President is the one to represent Romania at the European Council. But Victor Ponta decided he would go to Brussels no matter what the Constitutional Court says, pointing out he had the support of the USL dominated Parliament - which only has a consultative say in the issue - and of his own Government.
Ponta said today he went to Brussels with a mandate from the Romanian Parliament.
On Thursday, while Ponta had already went to Brussels and had been welcomed there as head of Romania's delegation, Traian Basescu made a press statement showing that "it is the first time in the eight years of my terms when I'm prevented from exerting my Constitutional dues".
While rejecting claims circulated by the media previously that he would submit a criminal complaint against the PM, President Basescu said Romania was legitimately present, but illegitimately represented at the Council.
He said the Foreign Ministry had refused repeatedly to send Brussels the list of the delegation which had been submitted by the Presidency, a move which prevented him to do his job.
And he showed he refused to go to the European Council as showing off a such a split, at an European level, would have been speculated by those interested in taking note of every sign of dissension in Europe.
Basescu said he received a phone call from the prime minister at noon on Thursday and that Ponta was asking him to approve him to represent Romania. But he said he such a move was complicated and considered that Ponta and his delegation were not ready to fully understand the scope of their representing Romania at the European Council.
Romania faces a situation where question marks are raised about the state of law, considering the prime minister's attitude toward Constitutional Court decisions and the pressure on Justice over the past two weeks, Basescu said.