The National Liberal Party (PNL) is fighting for the European destiny of Romania in the May 26 election to the European Parliament, says PNL national leader Ludovic Orban, who argues that the political forces with Eurosceptic tendencies have to be diminished.
"There are many emerging political forces, many of them recently established, fishing in troubled waters, appealing to populism, displaying Eurosceptic tendencies, and such forces must be diminished as much as possible. There is a fight going on in the European Parliament for the pro-European forces to be as strongly as possible represented, and the fight is also taking place in Romania, because while PNL is fighting for the European destiny of Romania, so that Romania may enjoy as many advantages as possible deriving from its EU membership, Dragnea's latest speeches show increasingly clearer that he wants to take Romania out of the European Union or marginalise it in such a way that Romanians will no longer benefit from the advantages of their presence in the EU," Orban told AGERPRES in a recent interview.
Orban also underlines that Romania needs quality representation in the European Parliament, saying that a vote for the current governing parties would be of great disservice to the country.
He also talks in the interview about the no-confidence motion to be tabled by PNL after the May 26 elections to the European Parliament, claiming that his approach enjoys the support of the lawmakers who "no longer endlessly accept being likened to Dragnea and Tariceanu."
AGERPRES: There is an electioneering campaign going on for the European elections. What are your advantages to your opponents before the electorate and what score are you angling for in this election?
Ludovic Orban: PNL is the most respected, most influential, most appreciated party in Romania and at a European level, and by voting PNL, Romanians are guaranteed to vote for some people who can influence the decision at the level of the European institutions in favour of Romania. More than half of the laws that affect our lives are decided at European level through the co-decision mechanism between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Much of the rules that affect our lives are established at European level, but for these decisions at European level to create advantages for Romania, Romania needs quality representation that has a word say, that is appreciated and capable of influencing these decisions in favour of Romania. The other parties, PSD-ALDE, are about to be chased out of their political families. The Sibiu Summit clearly showed that while the President of Romania and PNL were at the forefront of the European People's Party (EPP) summit and later at the European Council, PSD [Social Democratic Party] and ALDE [Alliance of Liberals and Democrats] were not even called to attend, although Romania holds the presidency of the Council of the EU, and the summits took place in Romania, in Sibiu. No Social Democrat leader among the European parties and no ALDE leader agreed to sit down with Dragnea and Tariceanu because they are ashamed of them and because they consider them unfriendly.
Any vote for PSD and ALDE is a vote that rather does Romania disservice than bringing benefits, because the entire artificial conflict created by Dragnea and Tariceanu with the EU institutions, with European leaders, non-observance of values, principles, rules at the European level by PSD and ALDE leaders have shaken Romania, have weakened their capacity for representation. PSD and ALDE are unable to get things for themselves, let alone getting something for the Romanians.
AGERPRES: Any electoral score for PNL?
Ludovic Orban: I do not make percentage forecasts. We strive to get the best possible score, to outperform voter intention, which is encouraging, and, if possible, to be able to outperform PSD. PNL is the only party that has the power to fight PSD on an equal footing and who really has the strength to fight PSD. A massive vote turnover would secure us the chance to win these elections.
AGERPRES: If you do not outperform PSD, will you take that as a failure? Will you take responsibility for that?
Ludovic Orban: For the time being, we do not have to declare what we think. The entire PNL is fully mobilised to get the best possible score. This is the last week of the campaigning. We have intensified our campaigning, in direct interaction with citizens, (...) to make them turn out to vote, vote PNL for the European Parliament and vote in the referendum convened by the president of Romania.
AGERPRES: Is there a special stake at the European level, and also internally, over these elections to the European Parliament?
Ludovic Orban: Certainly there is a huge stake. There are many emerging political forces, many of them recently established, fishing in troubled waters, appealing to populism, displaying Eurosceptic tendencies, and such forces must be diminished as much as possible. There is a fight going on in the European Parliament for the pro-European forces to be as strongly as possible represented, and the fight is also taking place in Romania, because while PNL is fighting for the European destiny of Romania, so that Romania may enjoy as many advantages as possible deriving from its EU membership, Dragnea's latest speeches show increasingly clearer that he wants to take Romania out of the European Union or marginalise it in such a way that Romanians will no longer benefit from the advantages of their presence in the EU.
AGERPRES: Last week, the political programme of the PNL for the elections to the European Parliament was presented. Why didn't you come up with this programme in the beginning?
Ludovic Orban: We had it drawn up. It was submitted for consultations and even the programme we presented is open to any proposal, any suggestion that the Romanian society might make through employers' associations, professional organisations, unions, academia, because we want to ensure the best possible representation of Romania in the EP [the European Parliament] and we want to endorse all those ideas and proposals which can bring advantages for the Romanians.
AGERPRES: How achievable are these commitments? In the Schengen case there is a political decision.
Ludovic Orban: We tied Romania's accession to Schengen Area to the takeover of the government by the PNL. The fact that, today, Romania is not a Schengen member country is exclusively the fault of the current power. After the 2016 elections, had the power refrained from starting this conflict with the EU, made only out of the fear of punishment which Dragnea and other important leaders of the PSD and the ALDE have, had the governments done what they should have done, Romania would have been a member country in Schengen. As long as there is a Government endorsed by these parties, that are increasingly more anti-European, just like the PSD and the ALDE, Romania's chance to be a Schengen member, Romanians' [chance] to move freely just as all the other European citizens, is diminishing. For this reason, we conditioned Romania's accession to Schengen to PNL's taking over governance. We know what we need to do, where the opposition comes from, we know what are the reasons at the base of the opposition and we have the ability, through an intelligent governance, to remove all the resistance existing today, in order to get the decision of Romania joining Schengen. (...) The same applies for the CVM [the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism]. We've also linked the CVM to the our taking governance over, because there's only one thing to do: follow the recommendations included in the CVM, transpose these recommendations and good practices in the Romanian legislation.
AGERPRES: Beyond the opinion polls, the speech, what were the reasons for which you decided to place Rares Bogdan at the top of the list of candidates in the elections to the European Parliament?
Ludovic Orban: Rares Bogdan is a champion of the fight against the PSD in the media, a courageous journalist who disclosed all the slippages, all the abuses, all the law breaches, all the corruption acts. In addition, Rares Bogdan was in the PNL. It is not such a big surprise. Basically he came back in the PNL. Rares Bogdan's sharing the National Liberal values is well known, as such, it was extremely simple to unite the champion of the fight against PSD in media with the champion of the political fight against the PSD. It fit like a glove. Since Rares Bogdan accepted to return to the PNL and run for the PNL, he stands beside us in the front line with a determination and a combativeness out of the ordinary.
AGERPRES: Do you believe that, at a certain point, Rares Bogdan would be suitable to take over the leadership of the PNL?
Ludovic Orban: I don't think that you should ask me. I was elected chairman of the PNL with 80 percent. I was the one who proposed Rares Bogdan, because through the decision of the National Council regarding the procedure to make up the list, I was charged with the responsibility to propose the first seat on the list. Rares Bogdan was proposed by me. Between me and Rares Bogdan there is a particularly good relation, a partnership which is governed by a team spirit and our commitment for achieving the same objectives, namely to manage to put an end to this governance, to defeat the PSD in all the elections to come from now on.
AGERPRES: You announced that after the elections to the European Parliament, you will file a censure motion. What other formations are you counting on to remove the PSD-ALDE coalition from rule, in the context in which, for instance, the UDMR [the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania] chairman stated that he doesn't see a political leader from the Opposition who can coagulate a new majority?
Ludovic Orban: Mr Kelemen Hunor should change his glasses and stop being an accomplice with Dragnea and Tariceanu. Then, we will be able to talk, because when there is taken into account what the Romanian electorate of Hungarian ethnicity - which is overwhelmingly over 90 percent against the cooperation of the UDMR with Dragnea and the PSD, when the will of the Hungarian voters is listened to, then we can talk. Today, the UDMR leaders are acting against the will of the citizens who sent them to Parliament. I tell them very clearly: Don't stand beside Liviu Dragnea! Otherwise, Kelemen Hunor only does favours to Liviu Dragnea, by systematically attacking the PNL and questioning the PNL's ability to form a Government or to take on the responsibility of governing. I don't believe that the most suitable man to make remarks about the PNL is Kelemen Hunor, who, for two and a half years, has been an accomplice to this profoundly harmful governance for the Romanian society.
AGERPRES: PRO Romania leader Victor Ponta said he didn't believe PNL and USR could govern better ...
Ludovic Orban: Victor Ponta knows nothing.
AGERPRES: After all, whom do you count on in the censure motion demarche?
Ludovic Orban: Our initiatives have been supported by the MPs who left the PSD to escape Dragnea. And there are still a lot of MPs, even more in the PSD and the ALDE, who won't accept to be in the same boat as Dragnea and Tariceanu forever and to bear all the consequences of the foolish acts of these anti-Europeans and anti-democratic leaders, who seem to act against Romania's general interest. We count on any MP who cares for his country and who wants to act as Romanians would like him or her to act. It's clear that more than 80 percent of the Romanians don't trust Dragnea, that 83 percent believe Romania is heading in the wrong direction. We only need to listen to what Romanians have to say to know what to do. And this is valid for all the MPs in the majority coalition.
AGERPRES: In the event that the motion succeeds, will you remain as a proposal for PM?
Ludovic Orban: This is again something that the National Council must decide, it's only natural. In all the democracies in this world, the leader of the party winning the elections is the one who makes the Government. Dragnea wasn't able to do so because he wasn't allowed to be member of the Government, because of the law, for he has a conviction already, given by a court, which is final, for committing crimes of a electoral nature in a referendum. For my part, I am the candidate of the party. And it's clear that the PNL has the greatest chance to win the next parliamentary elections, regardless if they are going to be early elections or normal ones, namely in November 2020, and we work very hard to repair all the damage done by the PSD and to prepare a governing programme to provide the best answers to all the problems faced by the Romanian society.
AGERPRES: On the same day with the elections to the European Parliament, there will also take place the referendum on Justice. What do you think about the fact that the ALDE leader, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, tells voters not to vote in the referendum?
Ludovic Orban: I am positive that Romanians know what to do. Obviously, Tariceanu, who has been blocking a solution to criminal proceedings against him for six months now, is afraid of the Romanians' will, who want a honest Romania, to be headed by people who are not corrupt, who don't want to allow amnesty and pardon of those who committed corruption crimes to be granted by precisely those whom they elected to represent them and work for them, under no circumstance they want that, which means that the chances for this referendum to succeed are high. This is a desperate attempt to block the exercising of the right to vote of the Romanian citizens in an essential topic for the Romanian society. I am positive, however, that Romanians will show zero tolerance when it comes to corruption and they will answer "yes" to those questions and that, by saying "yes" they won't ever agree that amnesty and pardon of corruption crimes becomes possible and they won't accept that the Government issues emergency ordinances in the justice field that favour the offenders.
AGERPRES: President Klaus Iohannis participated in the PNL meetings in support of the referendum. Will the head of the state be on Sunday, May 26, at the headquarters of the party, alongside the PNL members?
Ludovic Orban: I don't know what he will be doing on Sunday. He is involved in the campaign, he initiated the referendum. It's only normal that he supports the referendum and publicly plead for the reasons having determined him to call the Romanian citizens to decide the fate of their country and understand that it's essential for them to come to vote and vote in favour of the referendum, for this is how they can stop the entire attack of the current power against the justice independence and the desperate attempts of the offenders to escape punishment.
AGERPRES: This year we also have presidential elections. How do you see a possible competition between Iohannis and Tariceanu?
Ludovic Orban: He doesn't even know if he will run in the elections. Can't you see that Mr Tariceanu says that he will run today and that he won't tomorrow, today he says he will run for ALDE and tomorrow for PSD-ALDE, he doesn't even know what he will do himself. But we know this very clearly instead: we know that President Iohannis announced very clearly, a while ago, that he will run again, that he wants to continue his mandate and have the second mandate given by the citizens. The PNL decided in the National Council, unanimously, to support the Romanian President's candidacy to win a second mandate. We will get involved with all of our forces to win the presidential elections alongside President Iohannis. He is by far the leader enjoying the most trust right now among the population and the most chances to gather the votes of Romanians. We are certain he will win the elections.
AGEPRES: On Friday, the PNL celebrates 144 years since establishment. You announced that you also invited President Klaus Iohannis. Where will this event take place?
Ludovic Orban: Here [at the headquarters of the party - editor's note]. It will be a garden party. We are welcoming our guests in our garden. We also invited the President and I will be very glad if he joins us in this important celebration. The PNL is a historic party, the oldest in Romania, with the richest history, a party that has always taken part in the most important achievements in the modern history of Romania and that continues its mission to develop Romania and bring it among the most developed European nations.