President: Without me, the rule of law in Romania would have been broken
Romanian president Klaus Iohannis answered questions related to education, justice, transport infrastructure and foreign policy during his debate with journalists organized on Tuesday evening, November 19. He also said that he will communicate more with the citizens if he wins a second mandate, and presented a brief review of his first mandate.
Eight journalists and one political analyst attended the debate held in the Carol I hall of the Central University Library - BCU in Bucharest, and each of them asked president Iohannis questions. The Social Democrat leader Viorica Dancila, Klaus Iohannis’ counter-candidate in the presidential elections, was not invited and did not attend the debate, but she organized her own press conference almost at the same time with the president (see Dancila's most important staments here).
Iohannis said, at the beginning of the debate, that he intended at the start of his first term to be another kind of president, one that builds and generates solutions, but that he had to face a hostile PSD (Social Democratic Party) that “came with an approach that threw us all into chaos, threw Romania into chaos.”
“I managed to oppose the PSD long enough to keep Romania on the European path, in the area of European values. I managed to save Romania's image through foreign policy, to counteract the toxic effects abroad of a PSD government focused on capturing the state,” Iohannis said.
Answering a question about the judiciary system in Romania, the president said: “Without me, the rule of law in Romania would have been broken. It didn’t, it remained standing, the fight against corruption continued and I corrected the catastrophic image projected by the PSD governments abroad,” the president explained, adding that he managed to cancel 70% of the measures promoted by PSD that would have compromised the laws of justice.
Klaus Iohannis was also asked about his plans for the interim chief prosecutors currently leading top Prosecutor’s Offices in Romania, and he said that this issue has to be solved, but “not without finding a good solution.” He added that the justice minister is working on a new methodology to appoint chief prosecutors, which he would present soon.
Asked about his “Educated Romania” project, he said that he would go on with it, even if he doesn’t get re-elected. “The project goes on and will be implemented, I am firmly convinced that Romania without such a project will have a real problem in the future. Romania has only one chance: to create a high-performance education system that allows the education of generations that perform as people and as specialists, and I am fully involved in this.” Iohannis launched the “Educated Romania” report almost a year ago, a document that outlines the vision for the development of Romania's education system by 2030 and lists a series of solutions.
One of the journalists present at the debate also asked Iohannis about the transport infrastructure: He replied: “After 30 years of transition and deep disputes between various political formations, it’s time we reach the situation in which a president who knows what needs to be done together with a government that wants to solve these big problems get the job done. I will be very firm. These discussions must produce results.” He also said that projects such as the Sibiu-Pitesti motorway, the Craiova-Pitesti express road, and the Ploiesti-Brasov motorway would be done.
Asked what kind of president he considers himself to be, Iohannis said: “Sometimes the PSD calls me a spectator, other times they say I am a dictator that wants to have all the power. I am a president who really gets involved, who comes with solutions and perspectives, I don’t play, I don’t dictate, I preside.”
Referring to possible regrets he might have when it comes to his first mandate as president, Klaus Iohannis pointed to fact that he failed to communicate "at the optimum level" and said that he will improve this if he wins a new term. “I would communicate more, maybe the communication part has not reached the optimum level and we will certainly look for the best approach.”
Iohannis, who made a target of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in the last two years and in the presidential campaign, calling it the worst thing for Romania, was asked if he felt the same in 2009 when he sat alongside former PSD leader Liviu Dragnea to support PSD's candidate in the presidential elections that year. "That's how I saw things at that time," Iohannis answered. He was also asked why he didn't get involved in forming another majority without PSD sooner and said that the conditions for a new majority were not favorable until after the May 26 European elections.
The president, who, due to his German ethnicity, has been compared by PSD with Hitler or a "concentration camp leader", said that this was a sign that PSD needs to spend several years in the opposition to come back to the "European values area" and abandon this xenophobic hate speech. "I have never denied my ethnicity: I am a German ethnic, but I am a Romanian citizen one hundred percent. I don't even mind if someone compares me with former dictators, but I sound an alarm that this is not only inappropriate, immoral, but inadmissible," Iohannis said.
When asked by a student in the room if a president should speak several foreign languages, Iohannis said this has helped him. However, he avoided attacking his counter candidate on this topic (former PM Dancila has avoided speaking English during her mandate) and said that not all European leaders who participate in the European Council meetings speak foreign languages.
The president's full debate with journalists can be watched here:
Romania will organize the second round of the presidential elections on Sunday, November 24, with the Romanians living abroad having three days to vote (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). The two candidates are incumbent president Klaus Iohannis, supported by the National Liberal Party (PNL), and Viorica Dancila, supported by PSD.
(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea)
(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea)