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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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Op-ed | President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee: Without critical raw materials resilience, there will be no green or digital industrial revolution

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© EESC

Opinion by  Pietro Francesco De Lotto, President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee

Whether we are talking about a fourth, fifth, or even sixth industrial revolution, we often see public debate take place. Despite the different views on the issue, one thing we can say with certainty is that our industry is undergoing a profound revolution, which comprises a twin challenge: becoming greener and more circular, as well as going through a digital transformation. It is a revolution that is driven by several factors: our commitments under the Paris Agreement, the pursuit of global competitiveness, the need to adapt labour markets, consumer sensitivity and, last but not least, public opinion.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the fight against climate change are clearly essential pillars of the EU’s action, and we need to ensure that they are perceived and experienced more and more as an opportunity rather than a burden by all parts of society and industry. The European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the recently updated New Industrial Strategy for Europe, the Fit for 55 package presented in July, and the related activities and legislation are essential tools to transform public debates into an everyday reality, everywhere in Europe, leaving no one behind in this collective effort.

Raw materials, and especially critical raw materials, are at the core of this process. Digitalising and greening EU industries and society require technologies that depend on raw materials. Wind power, for instance, comes from turbines that contain, among other materials, rare earth elements. The EU relies almost 100% on China to supply such elements. Similar scenarios exist for many technologies that are essential to the green and digital transition, from batteries to photovoltaics, from robotics to fuel cells. The EU Critical Raw Materials Action Plan and the Updated Industrial Strategy identify 30 materials and 137 products respectively that are essential for our industry and society and on which the EU is highly dependent.

These are worrying figures, but they also provide a necessary reality check. The past few months have brought these dependencies to the public’s attention even more clearly, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for EU industry and society overall to become more resilient and strategically autonomous, especially in areas such as vaccines, medicines and medical devices. The time to act on these critical factors is therefore ripe, and we must make use of all instruments to address our dependencies with a strategic vision.

The Commission’s Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, on which the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) recently published its opinion CCMI 177, is a good instrument that combines measures to fix current shortcomings with actions to mitigate possible future problems. The EESC believes that the actions envisaged by the European Commission are essential if we are to maintain and strengthen the EU’s industrial base. This is a very important first point: for too long, we have left this issue up to the free market and industry, hoping that it would regulate itself. We must however now acknowledge that, as much as companies should be free to build their supply chains, we need to secure some parts of these chains that we deem of strategic importance to the European Union.

More specifically, the EU needs support instruments for sustainable primary sourcing in Europe. Financial instruments for sustainable projects, as well as streamlined authorisation processes are needed, as is the greater involvement of and public acceptance by citizens and local communities. This is also very much linked to the need to maintain extractive and processing capacities in the EU. We need to support workers and regions through better training and a deeper link with higher and vocational education, including investment in training and retraining workers, and in the teaching of specialist disciplines such as geology, metallurgy and mining, even at undergraduate level.

At the same time, and this is the second point, we need to invest in activities that can foster substitution; something that will only be possible with significant, constant investment in R&D programmes to discover new materials and processes for ensuring justified substitution.

Together with primary sourcing and substitution, the third key element is that of circular reuse and secondary sourcing from waste. To do this, we need to invest in research and development, but we also need to carefully assess the waste we ship outside Europe, while at the same time mapping – as soon as possible – the potential supply of secondary critical raw materials from EU stocks and waste.

As for the external dimension, the EU needs to diversify its trading relations, while supporting developing countries. These two objectives go hand in hand, as our efforts should be aimed at forging strategic partnerships with like-minded nations in a multilateral framework, which can both help avoid supply disruptions for EU industry and contribute to the well-being and development of developing third countries. In this regard, there are three very specific elements to be underlined: the mutual advantages of integrating the Western Balkans countries into the EU supply chain; the urgent need for an increased role for the Euro in critical raw materials trading and the need to take greater account of the ethical dimension when drawing up Europe’s critical raw materials list.

Overall, we want to see EU industry flourish in a green and digital way, but we do not want to see our industry and society shift from one dependency (for instance on certain fossil fuels) to another full reliance on certain critical raw materials. To avoid this, and to ensure that the green and digital transitions increase resilience, competitiveness and social justice, we need to invest in research and development, sustainable domestic mining exploration, recovering valuable materials from waste, training and retraining a skilled workforce and creating a multilateral level playing field. This is essential in order to ensure that the green and digital revolutions are successful and benefit EU industry and society as a whole, and do not leave any worker, region and country of the world behind.

Pietro Francesco De Lotto

President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee

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MEP Vasile Blaga: Romania has fulfilled for 11 years all the Schengen requirements and our acceptance is still delayed

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© Vasile Blaga/ Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga, member of the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament, took the floor during today’s reunion of the LIBE Committee, June 15, and with this occasion touched, during his intervention, upon a “political aspect” throughout the debate on CMV.

“This political aspect refers to the integration of Romania in the Schengen area and the connection between CMV and the postponement of our entry into Schengen. I was the Minister of Internal Affairs who dealt with the removal of the safeguard clause and securing the frontiers regarding Romania’s adherence to the EU”, mention the MEP during the reunion.

Moreover, the liberal MEP pointed out that Romania administers almost 2000 kilometres of EU borders and has fulfilled for 11 years all the Schengen criteria: “nevertheless, Romania’s admission is delayed without openly specifying why. Of course, it was denied on multiple occasions that the integration in the Schengen area would be related to the criticism from the CVM reports. However, reality contradicts this. I believe that the postponement of a decision regarding Romania’s admission to Schengen is an unfair treatment which the European Union applies to my country”, he added.

“I would like to express my hope that the finalization of the CVM for Romania will remove any obstacle, declared or undeclared, to Romania’s integration into Schengen”, concluded Vasile Blaga.

The entire intervention of the MEP can be followed here.

The European Parliament adopted on July 8, with 505 votes for, 134 against and 54 abstentions, the annual report regarding the functioning of the Schengen area which claims, again, that Romania and Bulgaria have to be integrated with full rights into Schengen, while a specifying that Croatia meets all the technical requirements as well.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The Romanian Government, determined to finalize all the necessary reforms for the suspension of the CVM

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) participated today, July 15, at the reunion of the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament and specified Romania’s direction following the last CVM report.

“The last CVM report for Romania clearly shows that in Bucharest exists political volition the effective implementation of the last steps towards reforms which will lead to the suspension of this mechanism for Romania. During the 14 years of evaluation, we found ourselves in the thankless position of repairing the inherited matters from the previous governments, the case being the same today. The last CVM report puts forward Romania’s positive progress from the last 2 years. I emphasize the fact that in Bucharest we have a governmental coalition determined to finalize all necessary reforms”, explained Vasile Blagato his colleagues.

Moreover, the liberal MEP notes that Romania still campaigns for averting the double evaluation regarding the Mechanism of the rule of law: “I want to point out the fact that there is a true expectancy for the finalization of the Mechanism for cooperation and its verification and evaluation based on the same criteria applied to all member states, meaning through the Mechanism regarding the rule of law. Romania still pleads for the prevention of this double evaluation.”

The entire intervention of the MEP can be seen here.

The European Commission adopted on June 8 its most recent report regarding the evolution of the situation in Romania concerning the reforms of the judicial system and fight against corruption, in the context of the responsibilities assumed within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), noting that Romania registered developments regarding all the recommendations of the CVM and that the fulfillment of all recommendations is essential for the closure of this mechanism.

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