Juncker on Brexit, Romania’s presidency and Orbán in Die Welt interview

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The European Union is not trying to keep Britain in and wants to start discussing future ties the moment the UK parliament approves Brexit, partly to focus on its own unity ahead of May elections, the head of the bloc’s executive said.

“It is being insinuated that our aim is to keep the United Kingdom in the EU by all possible means. That is not our intention. All we want is clarity about our future relations. And we respect the result of the referendum.” Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag in an interview.

Juncker said the EU was ready to start negotiating a new deal with Britain right after the British parliament approves the divorce deal. A vote is now due in the week starting Jan. 14.

He also said Britain should get its act together.

“And then tell us what it is you want,” he said.

Juncker also voiced doubts on Saturday about Romania’s ability to take over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency next month, amid tensions between Bucharest and Brussels.

Even if the country is “technically well prepared”, the “Bucharest government has not fully understood what it means to preside over the countries of the EU,” Juncker said in an interview with the newspaper die Welt.

He said the EU presidency “requires a willingness to listen to others and a willingness to put one’s own concerns in the background. I have some doubts about this”.

He also questioned the capacity of the country, faced with internal political tensions, to appear as a “compact unit” in Europe.

Romania assumes the EU’s rotating presidency on January 1 for the first time since it joined the bloc in 2007, succeeding Austria.

It comes as the EU is at loggerheads with the increasingly populist government in Bucharest on multiple fronts.

The Commission chief also argued in favor of excluding the Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán from its continent-wide political family.

“I have asked the European People’s Party to exclude the Hungarian Fidesz party,” Juncker said, adding: “I think the Christian democratic values on which the EPP is based are no longer compatible with Fidesz’s policy.” However, Juncker said his motion was rejected.

Juncker also warned against following the rhetoric of populists. “I think it is a big mistake that in the traditional party families, the number of those who blindly follow.

Politico, Reuters, France24

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