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Op-ed Nicolae Ștefănuță, vice-chair of EP Delegation for relations with the US: A character clash – Who will be the next president of the United States and why does it matter?

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© European Union, 2020 - Source: EP

by Nicolae Ștefănuță

After all’s been said and done, after the candidates’ personalities have been thoroughly analyzed in all their complexities, the battle that will be waged today in the US is one for role models, character and the kind of person that will lead the free world.

This has been and will remain the main feature of this campaign.

The Democrats have tried to show America that Joe Biden is a decent human being. That he’s emphatic. That he’s someone who cares. And above all, that he’s humane.

That’s because the incumbent president is, in his own words, a shark, an unscrupulous winner-takes-all, a hard-nosed negotiator and someone who is fearless in the face of the pandemic.

Will America choose humane liberalism over stone cold wins, insularism, alternative “truths” shouted at the top of one’s lungs in spite of the actual facts, a lack of compassion? That’s today’s question for Americans.

For us, Romanians and Europeans, today is also about something else: it’s about the future of democracy. Basically, the way in which the United States will conduct themselves will be crucial for democracy’s credibility throughout the world.

Whether we like it or not, by ourselves, we Europeans lack the strength and the moral authority to fight and advance around the world a system that’s based on the rule of law, parliamentary democracy and a free society and economy, if we don’t have by our side the very symbol of these values: the United States, along with their president.

Who will win and why?

The winds of change may be blowing: by Monday morning, about 94 million Americans had already cast their vote, either in person, via early voting (34 million), or through the mail (60 million).

On the other hand, had the vote taken place back in February – before the pandemic – we would have almost surely witnessed a solid victory for Trump. His administration’s policies, coupled with deregulation, have fueled strong economic growth.

7 million new jobs were created during Trump’s first 3 years in office. Certainly, there was already a well-established positive trend by the time Trump took office. For comparison, 8 million new jobs were added during Obama’s last 3 years in office.

What set Trump apart however was that he brought back jobs in the industrial goods and manufacturing sector. For instance, thanks to a protectionist policy that also affected Romanian companies, Trump made possible the survival of steelworkers. Furthermore, some jobs that were written off as having been permanently offshored in the era of globalization actually started popping back up across American companies.

Lots of business people and workers praise the value of the policies promoted by the Trump administration and show understanding towards the inevitable economic fallout during the outbreak, something that The New York Times, a publication considered close to the Democrats, also recognizes.

This economic favorability, coupled with the possibility that some of Trump’s supporters may not be forthcoming about their preferred candidate when asked by pollsters, contribute to a certain degree of uncertainty when it comes to forecasting the election results.

On the other hand, it’s also worth pointing out that in the months leading up to the elections, the share of undecided voters has consistently been significantly lower than in previous election cycles and that the polls have been remarkably stable.  That’s in spite of tumultuous news cycles and the record shattering $14 billion that will have been spent on the White House, the Senate and the House races by the end of these elections.

The US Postal Service and the mail-in ballot: Trump’s thinly veiled plan B in case of failure

60 million have already cast their ballots through the mail. By the time the polls close, it’s estimated that over 100 million will have voted in this manner. This is significant, given that in 2016, there were 126 million total votes, nearly a quarter of which were cast by mail.

Trump has already trumped up suspicions and unfunded accusations regarding the security of the mail-in voting process. This is hardly surprising, as mail-in voting doesn’t seem to favor him, with polls showing that Republicans prefer casting their vote in person. This comes after teams of Republican affiliated lawyers across many states have eroded the public’s (Republicans in particular) credibility in this type of vote.

Some states, such as Pennsylvania, mandate that two envelopes be used. The inner one, called the privacy envelope, is meant to separate the voter’s identifying information – used to confirm the eligibility of the voter – from his/her ballot, which shows how the person voted. For those voters who forget to use the inner envelope, their vote will be rejected.

Other states have shortened the deadline by which envelopes have to be delivered by the US Postal Service in order to be counted, irrespective of the fact that those envelopes were postmarked on time, a decision recently upheld by the US Supreme Court. It’s worth noting that the USPS has made major operational changes this year, including the removal of a number of mail sorting machines, changes which have adversely affected the on-time delivery of first-class mail.

Furthermore, certain states mandate that processing the mail-in ballots must not commence before Tuesday morning. This is in spite of states’ general lack of adequate funding and resources to quickly process the unprecedented volume of such ballots, given the strain on their budgets due to the pandemic.

It’s thus possible that we may face a scenario where Tuesday night’s presumptive winner, according to the exit polls and the partial counts of those ballots cast in person, may be different than the one resulting from the final tally, after all the envelopes have been opened and counted. We should also be prepared for intense, highly contested and unpredictable legal battles, especially if the margins in key battleground states like Pennsylvania or Florida turn out to be razor-thin.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Trump has declared on Monday that he won’t accept too long of a wait for the official results. The pressure being put on the mail-in ballot system is tremendous, and in a country with around 400 million guns being owned by private citizens, the potential for civil unrest and violence is high.

What will a new president bring for Romania and Europe?

We know what Trump brought to the table. He brought a transactional model based on barter and negotiation, which he applied across the board, internally and externally. The core of the NATO alliance was called into question. Europe was no longer seen as a strategic ally. The Paris Agreement was abandoned and doubt was cast over climate change itself.

The World Trade Organization is in chaos and lots of other international organizations have been weakened. Practically, no one knows what international law is worth nowadays or the amount of power still held by those institutions tasked with enforcing it.

Trump’s term was a boon to those who wish for a return to the power of individual nation states and a nightmare for those who consider that we depend upon each other in the world.

Biden, for a change, offers a political program with renewed impetus for the multilateral world. He wants to strengthen the WTO, WHO and reform NATO, in order to be leaner and more adapted to the present challenges. Biden will continue the policy of strengthening the Eastern Flank, as well as the plans for military investment projects in Romania and the neighboring region.

Biden has also announced that, on his first day in office, he will take action so that the US rejoins the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, he’s going to organize a “summit of democracies” meant to bring fresh energy to human rights and strengthen democratic democracies throughout the world.

Virtually, tomorrow’s elections are also a test for the American soft-power, not just the raw power of guns and money.

We must not expect a Biden that brings back the Obama era policies. Joe is different and, in many ways, more conservative than the one whom he served as vice president.

At the same time, Biden would preside over a divided, highly polarized United States of America. Regardless of the outcome, the winner will also have to adopt policies for the almost 50% of the voters who made a different choice. And due to America’s somewhat quirky election system, that number could even turn out to be significantly higher than 50%, in the case of an electoral college victory that’s accompanied by a loss of the popular vote.

We, as Europeans, have to remember that this president is America’s president and not our own, so we must calibrate our expectations accordingly.

In a race of passions and of two antithetical models, we can only put our hope in the robustness of the democratic mechanisms and in the elegance of the competitors. Democracy is more than a set of laws, it’s also a certain type of behaviour displayed by the competitors.

Democracy is good enough if we choose to cultivate it, to make it a model for our conduct from today onwards. Truly, there can be no democracy without democrats (lowercase “d”).

What we’re about to see in the United States over the next few days and weeks days will be an important test of resilience, one that’s going to significantly change our lives.

I’m not judging. It’s not a matter of right or wrong. It’s the sovereign choice of the American people. Nonetheless, today’s choice is about a winning model in the world of tomorrow’s politics, one that’s going to stay with us for a long time from now on.


Nicolae Ștefănuță is a Romanian politician who has been serving as a Member of the European Parliament for the Save Romania Union since 2019 and is a part of Renew Europe, the third largest group in the House.

In the European Parliament, Ștefănuță serves on the Committee on Budgets and on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. In 2020, he also joined the Special Committee on Beating Cancer.

In addition to his committee assignments, Ștefănuță is part of the parliament’s delegation for relations with the United States as a vice-chair of the delegation.

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MEP Vasile Blaga, after the German Chancellor’s announcement: “Romania is closer to Schengen integration”

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomed on Monday the first announcement by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz supporting Romania’s accession to the free movement area in a speech given by the German leader in Prague.

“We have an extremely good signal coming from Germany today. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stated clearly that he supports the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia to the Schengen area. I hope that this signal coming from one of the main pillars of the European Union will create the basis for the support of the other EU states for the effective accession of Romania and the other two states to Schengen. It is the final element for the Romanians to gain full and equal rights with the other European citizens and, in addition, a historical reparation that Romania has been waiting for over 12 years”, the MEP said in a statement to CaleaEuropeana.ro.

According to the liberal MEP, “the postponement of a political decision on the acceptance of our country in Schengen is an unfair debt that the European Union has towards Romania and Romanians”.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: EU energy sector reform called for by the EC is a zero priority for electricity price control

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) argues that “the reform of the EU energy sector called for by the President of the European Commission is a zero priority for electricity price control”.

„Any decision at this point on the EU energy sector is better than no decision. Either way, the galloping electricity price increases must be stopped and the EU must rethink the whole energy system. The decoupling of electricity prices from gas prices, as called for by the Austrian chancellor on Sunday, may be part of the solution to calm the electricity market. In the same context, the decision to cap prices adopted in most EU countries is proving to be nothing more than a desperate solution that only works in the short term and leaves deep scars on national budgets – generalised compensation is not predictable when electricity prices are rising uncontrollably and unpredictably. In the long term, however, capping does not solve the underlying problem”, the MEP told CaleaEuropeana.ro.

He also welcomes the position of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: “This is a wake-up call that puts the urgency of reforming the EU’s energy sector on the agenda. We also expect urgent solutions to this problem from the meeting of energy ministers in Brussels on 9 September”, added the Romanian MEP.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: We cannot achieve the green economy goal without gas and nuclear energy as transitional fuels

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© Vasile Blaga / Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) argues that the goal of a green economy cannot be achieved without gas and nuclear energy as transition fuels. He also said it isimportant for Romania to support the European Commission’s proposal to include gas and nuclear energy on the list of transitional fuels.

According to the MEP, Romania, both through the voice of President Iohannis and Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă, has taken a position in favour of the European Commission’s proposal to include gas and nuclear energy on the list of transitional fuels.

“The context of the war in Ukraine, however, has given rise to voices in the European Parliament but also in other quarters who argue that the inclusion of gas in the delegated act would directly support Russia and its gas exports,” he added.

“It is an interpretation that creates a causal chain between two elements that are only circumstantially connected. The fact that gas is still considered a transition fuel to green energy does not mean that there is no gas other than that imported from Russia. Basically, the conflict in Ukraine is being used as an opportunity to reject a balanced and moderate vision of the transition to green energy”, said the Romanian MEP for www.caleaeuropeana.ro.

“Some colleagues who already had a position contrary to that of the Commission saw the conflict in Ukraine as an opportunity to argue. It is categorically false. We cannot achieve the goal of a green economy without gas and nuclear energy as transitional fuels. In any case, it is in Romania’s direct interest to support the European Commission’s proposal”, concluded MEP Vasile Blaga.

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