The official ceremony for the launch of the Romanian presidency of the EU Council, scheduled in Bucharest with the participation of top EU leaders, will be missed by House of Deputies speaker Liviu Dragnea, the de facto leader of the governing Social Democrats (PSD). Dragnea, a politician who has received a suspended conviction for electoral fraud and faces other corruption cases, has delegated his tasks as speaker to vice-speaker Florin Iordache, also of the PSD.

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Dragnea has come to prominence for his iron first rule over the PSD and the government, which is currently led by Dragnea's loyal PM Viorica Dancila. As he and other top politicians have been facing corruption charges, he has spearheaded a PSD campaign to change the rules of Romanian judiciary for the past couple of years, when the fight against corruption in the country was largely brought to a halt. Dragnea has also taken a more nationalistic and populist approach to politics, increasing his anti-EU rhetoric lately.

Unofficial information point to Dragnea being abroad, possibly on vacation with his partner, for the time being. He has delegated his tasks for the whole month of January to deputy House speaker Florin iordache, who on Thursday confirmed he would represent the House of Deputies at a meeting with Jean Claude Juncker.

The ceremony for the launch of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, due to take place at the Romanian Athenee, a venue downtown Bucharest, later on Thursday will be attended by Juncker, EP President Antonio Tajany and Council head Donald Tusk. All three, as well as Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, will hold speeches on the occasion.

A protest in support of EU and against PSD cooling policies towards the Union is also expected to take place before the Athenee.