#Romania2019.eu/INTERVIEW Nathalie Loiseau: France closely, trustfully cooperated with Romanian authorities for EU Presidency takeover

France has worked very closely and trustfully with the Romanian authorities during the preparations for the takeover of the EU Presidency, and holding the helm of the Council of the European Union means being at the center of Europeans' attention, French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said in an interview with AGERPRES.

The French official spoke about one of the most important files to be mediated by the Romanian Presidency - the multi-annual financial framework.

"Let us not rush to broker a budget at any cost before elections. Given the unprecedented character of this budget, with new priorities and the exit of the United Kingdom, it cannot be completed under good conditions before the European elections," said Loiseau.

She also referred to the management of the migrants' crisis. "We rely on the Romanian Presidency for a European response to be provided as soon as possible," the French minister said.

The French official also spoke about Romania's aspirations to join the Schengen Area in the context of a need to reform the border-free zone. "Romania has its place in the Schengen Area," Loiseau emphasized.

In the context of the Romania - France Cultural Season taking place during the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the French official said that "for many French people, Romania means Ionesco and Cioran rather than vampires."
AGERPRES: France is one of the pro-European actors of the EU. With Romania having for the first time taken over the Presidency of the Council of the EU, which is, let's say, the advice your country could offer Romania in its capacity as a mediator for the next six months?

Nathalie Loiseau: Romania is chairing this semester the Council of the European Union at a very important moment for our common future. In March, the United Kingdom is supposed to leave the European Union and parliamentary elections of key importance will take place in May. The Romanian Presidency of the EU will also have the difficult task of advancing talks on the post-2020 European budget.

France, which has several times exercised the Presidency of the EU Council, has very closely and trustfully worked with the Romanian authorities during preparations for the takeover of the Presidency. Holding the helm of the European Union means being at the center of the Europeans' attention. This requires energy, a broad European vision, but also acting exemplarily both towards one's own and European citizens. The Presidency also implies being particularly careful to be impartial to allow overcoming cleavages and finding compromises that are beneficial for the entire European Union. Of course, Romania's determination to respect the European values within national legislation and make sure that they are also respected in the European Union during its Presidency will be essential. And this is one of the criteria the success of the Romanian Presidency will be assessed against.

AGERPRES: At the same time, the France - Romania Cultural Season takes place during the Romanian Presidency, an important step in the Romanian-French partnership. The Season's motto is one that urges "overcoming clichés." What are the clichés the French should get rid of when talking about Romania, and what are the ones Romanians should shake off when referring to France?

Nathalie Loiseau: The 2019 Romania - France Season has a special symbolic significance, as it is the first inter-country season organized by France with a European Union state. Beyond our common commitment to Francophonie, the links between our countries are extremely powerful, historically and culturally. We all have clichés with respect to each other. They are rooted in a certain lack of mutual knowledge. The host of events organized during this cross-season will allow the improvement of our countries' mutual image and perception. France does not mean just Edith Piaf or Napoleon, nor does Romania mean just Dracula or Maria Tanase: for many French people, Romania means Ionesco and Cioran rather than vampires!

AGERPRES: France is a supporter of Romania's Schengen bid, alongside a reform of the Schengen Area, as President Macron said during his visit to Bucharest. Will a successful Presidency of the Council of the EU bring Romania closer to this goal?

Nathalie Loiseau: We want, above all, a reform of the Schengen Area, which is currently not working as it should. Debates are taking place in Brussels in this regard, with Romania associated thereto. This shake-up process of the Schengen Area is not yet completed. As President Emmanuel Macron explained during his visit to Bucharest in August 2017, in the future, Romania has its place in the Schengen Area.

AGERPRES: The Brexit is one of the most difficult cases Romania will have to mediate when taking over the Presidency of the Council of the EU. You recently said that France is preparing for a no-deal Brexit variant. In the case of a no-deal Brexit, what is the key aspect the EU countries that remain in the bloc should come to terms upon?

Nathalie Loiseau: First of all, the agreement negotiated between the 27 member states and Theresa May is the best possible agreement and, actually the only one. It protects the interests and values of the Europeans and of the British and prepares a future close cooperation with the United Kingdom. We hope it will soon be ratified by British lawmakers.

In the face of the current uncertainty, it is the responsibility of the governments of the member states and of the Commission to prepare for the scenario of a no-deal Brexit. The key words in this situation are anticipation and coordination. Anticipation, so that we do not abruptly wake up on the evening of March 29. And coordination, because some measures will be of national, and others of Community scope; it is therefore a matter of coordination among the member states and with the European Commission. Anyway, the measures instated are temporary and aimed at limiting the consequences of the absence of an agreement. But they cannot be more favorable than those put forth in the withdrawal agreement that the European Council and the British authorities have approved.

AGERPRES: Other files on the table of the Presidency of the Council are the multi-annual financial framework and the Common Agricultural Policy. At the same time, we also have elections to the European Parliament. Do you think negotiations on these files could hit hardships in the sense that some debates could get electoral nuances?

Nathalie Loiseau: The goal is that we come to terms on a good budget that allows us to respond to the many challenges arisen at European level, such as the issue of migration, global warming or terrorism. Let us not rush to broker a budget at any cost before the election. Given the unprecedented character of this budget, with new priorities and the exit of the United Kingdom, it cannot be completed under good conditions before the European elections. Also, I don't think that from the democratic point of view, it would be a positive signal for the priorities and means allocated thereto to be decided before the voters' having expressed themselves, which is also the meaning of the conclusions of the European Council meeting in December that set the deadline in autumn 2019.

France is closely attached to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), because we believe it to be the prerequisite for the European Union's sovereignty in the food sector. Maintaining the CAP budget at the current EU27 level is essential for European agriculture to be able to answer the many challenges it faces in terms of environment, climate change, the protection of biodiversity or health. This is a priority for France, for many member states, but for Romania as well.

AGERPRES: France is an important player in the EU in terms of migration, which is another key file on the hands of the Romanian Presidency. What is France's position on shouldering the financial burden of migration management?

Nathalie Loiseau: Our next budget must allow the funding of the programs that will provide an adequate and joint response to the new European challenges, therefore it is perfectly justified for this budget to provide increased funding for meeting the challenge of migration. Strengthening external border control and cooperation with migrants' countries of origin and transit requires resources. In addition, we consider that a member state and, in particular, a community thereof that pledges to receive and integrate migrants, must be able to benefit from additional European funding.

AGERPRES: In the same context, how sharp is the debate on migrant quotas from the perspective of France? For example, France and Italy are having a very tough dialogue on migration.

Nathalie Loiseau: In Europe, solidarity is an essential principle, which also applies to migration. This solidarity implies taking up the relocated asylum seekers, even if other forms of contribution are possible as soon as enough member states are involved in relocation. We rely on the Romanian Presidency for a European response to be offered as soon as possible. European voters will consider this subject when they decide in May: let us show them that Europe can take action on concrete subjects, even the most sensitive ones!


French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau was on a visit to Bucharest January 9 - 11.

Romania marked on Thursday the takeover of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union through a ceremony organized at the Romanian Athenaeum, which was attended by President Klaus Iohannis, Senate Chairman Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Florin Iordache, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, and President of the European Council President Donald Tusk. AGERPRES (RO - author: Oana Ghita, editor: Mirela Barbulescu; EN - author: Simona Klodnischi, editor: Simona Iacob)

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