Romania’s new government on Wednesday put forward two center-right MEPs, Adina-Ioana Vălean and Siegfried Mureșan, as candidates to be the country’s next European commissioner.
Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen will have to choose between the two. Vălean may be considered the front-runner as von der Leyen is under pressure to pick a female nominee, given her goal of a gender-balanced Commission. Her current team of commissioners-designate and nominees is made up of 15 men and 11 women.
The start of von der Leyen’s Commission, originally scheduled for November 1, has been delayed by the European Parliament’s rejection of the original French, Hungarian and Romanian nominees.
Von der Leyen last week backed replacement candidates from France and Hungary, leaving Romania as the last country still to propose a nominee acceptable to the incoming Commission chief.
Bucharest was able to move ahead after a new center-right government under Prime Minister Ludovic Orban was voted into office on Monday, following the collapse of a social democrat-led administration last month.
“After consulting with President Klaus Iohannis, we made the decision together to send to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, two candidates for the position of European Commissioner. They are MEPs Siegfried Muresan and Adina Vălean,” Orban said at the end of a government meeting on Wednesday.
If the new French, Hungarian and Romanian nominees are all approved by the European Parliament this month, von der Leyen’s Commission could take office at the start of December. However, some diplomats and officials say that’s a highly ambitious timetable and expect the new Commission to begin its work at the start of next year.
Vălean and Mureșan are both experienced MEPs from the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament.
The 51-year-old Vălean is one of Romania’s most senior MEPs. She first joined the Parliament as an observer in 2006, before Romania became an EU member, and then continued as an MEP from the following year.
She chairs the Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). She also chaired the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee between 2017 and July 2019. She also has experience of budget, transport, energy and digital policy.
Vălean is also a long-time member of the National Liberal Party (PNL), which has just assumed power in Bucharest. Before joining the party in 1999, she was a civil society activist. She started her professional career teaching math in Bucharest.
Mureșan is 38 and in his second term as an MEP. He was first elected to the European Parliament in 2014, on the list of the People’s Movement Party, founded by former center-right Romanian President Traian Băsescu. In 2018, he moved to the PNL and won another term in the European Parliament election of May this year.
Mureșan is a member of the Parliament’s Budgets Committee. He is also a chair of the delegation to the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Association Committee and a member of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, which brings together MEPs with MPs from the national parliaments of Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The MEP is a graduate of Bucharest’s Academy of Economic Studies and of Berlin’s Humboldt University. He had a three-year stint as an adviser to Gunther Krichbaum, the chairman of the European affairs committee in the German parliament.
With Wednesday’s decision, the new government is aiming to end a saga over Romanian nominees to the next Commission, which began when the previous Cabinet proposed social democrat Rovana Plumb over the summer. Von der Leyen assigned her the transport portfolio, but Plumb was rejected by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee over conflict of interest concerns.
Outgoing Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă then nominated Dan Nica, a social democrat MEP who had been put forward initially together with Plumb’s name. But von der Leyen did not accept his nomination and asked the Romanian government for a new nominee.
Dăncilă then nominated former social democrat MEP and EU affairs minister Victor Negrescu, sparking a dispute with Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis, who said she had no power to make a nomination after losing a confidence vote in the parliament in early October.
Von der Leyen’s transition team have said that whether Romania keeps the transport portfolio will depend on the background of its nominee.
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