Romanian leader says country not ready for EU presidency

Romania's president said Monday his country isn't ready to take over the European Union's rotating presidency on Jan. 1 and called for the government to step down.

President Klaus Iohannis said "things have gone off the rails," and that there was "a political necessity to replace the government," which he called "an accident of Romanian democracy."

Viorica Dancila, a little-known politician became premier in January, but has little executive power as Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party, basically runs the government. Dragnea can't be prime minister because of a conviction for vote-rigging.

"It's the 12th hour (and) we are totally unprepared," Iohannis said. "There's no chance of a good government ... or proper involvement in European affairs."

European Affairs Minister Victor Negrescu, tasked with preparing Romania to take over the EU presidency, unexpectedly resigned last week. Romania government officials were apparently dissatisfied with Negrescu's performance in building good relations within the EU's executive branch.

"It's unclear at the government who the responsible people are, "Iohannis said. "People who should be dealing with the EU presidency resign or they're dismissed." Dragnea called the president's comments "a major disservice to Romania."

Romania is already facing censure from the EU over a contentious judicial overhaul last year that the bloc says undermines the fight against corruption.

Last month, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova voiced concern about Romania potentially struggling to manage the presidency while it was weighed down by domestic concerns, in particular corruption.

The EU on Tuesday will present its latest report on the judicial systems of Romania and Bulgaria. The bloc monitors the countries, amid concerns about corruption, their justice systems and organized crime.


Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.