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Although they see the rejection of Romania's Commissioner-designate Rovana Plumb by EP's Legal Affairs Committee for conflict of interest as a warning, the Social Democrat MEPs are satisfied that Romania cannot lose the Transport portfolio in the future European Commission; however, their Liberal and USR-PLUS colleagues have a different view, as they consider the portfolio could be lost if Romania proposes a candidate who may arouse suspicions, although this danger isn't imminent yet.

PSD MEP Maria Grapini told a meeting with Romanian journalists in Brussels on Wednesday that Rovana Plumb's rejection by the JURI Committee is a warning given to Romania. Other PSD European lawmakers share her opinion, many of them considering that if it hadn't been for the conflict of interest, another pretext would have have been found to sink Plumb.

"I think this was yet another warning given to Romania. In other words, know your place, don't insist on certain subjects. Don't insist on joining Schengen, having the CVM lifted, just stay as you are or we'll tax you," said Maria Grapini.

Asked if Romania risks losing the Transport portfolio if the new nomination does not sit well with European Commission's President-elect Ursula von der Leyen or the MEPs, Grapini however answered in the negative.

"In my opinion it's a no, because this would be the second faux pas of the Commission head. What could she say if she withdraws the assigned portfolio? What will Mrs. President publicly say? She would deprofessionalise herself," said the Social Democrat MEP, who sits on the EP's Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN).

Maria Grapini also believes that keeping the portfolio should not depend on the person of Romania's new candidate, and that the fact that the Romanian nominee is a male cannot be a reason for rejection.

"Let's not forget that Romania has been very disciplined and very flexible and presented two candidates. Please check whether the other states have met Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen's wishes and fielded two candidates - a man and a woman. I don't understand why Romania should once again pay the cost of gender equality. Why couldn't Hungary have a woman and Romania a man?," she inquired.

Liberal MEP Siegfried Muresan has a different opinion, stating that both the identity and the gender of the new candidate are very important.

"What kind of proposal should we make? The entire EU will be watching us. The second proposal must be faultless in order to pass the first trial in the legal committee and the expert committees," Muresan told the briefing with Romanian journalists.

Secondly, he added, "a female candidate must be appointed to maintain gender equality."

"We cannot nominate a male. This summer, when other European states were negotiating their portfolios with the President of the European Commission, Viorica Dancila was late. (...) Romania was the last country to nominate a candidate, after Italy," said Muresan, who is also Vice-President of the European People's Party Group.

As for Romania possibly losing the Transport portfolio, Muresan says that this depends on how the other hearings of the Commissioners-designate will unfold.

"As long as there are not several rejected candidates, there is neither the problem of obtaining another portfolio, nor is there an imminent threat of losing the current portfolio. But if several candidates are under question, there may be portfolio swaps and then one can get a better portfolio if one has a credible candidate (...) or conversely, one can lose the initial portfolio," said Siegfried Muresan.

"At this time we haven't lost Transport, but there is a risk that we lose it if more commissioners are swapped," he said.

Liberal MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu, who is also a member of EP's TRAN Committee and rapporteur for the Connecting Europe Facility, which includes a consistent allocation for transport, does not show an equal concern that Romania might lose this portfolio.

"I wouldn't be sorry if we lost Transports. For two reasons. One is personal, because in the next five years I would probably work with a real commissioner who is really knowledgeable about transport. The second is a political reason. There is nothing extraordinary about Transport. It has a certain budget and the priorities are already set," said Marinescu.

In his opinion, the best political move for Romania would be to swap portfolios with Hungary, which has an "extraordinarily important" portfolio.

"The neighborhood policy in the next five years is very important. Unfortunately for us - and this is a personal opinion - considering [Viktor] Orban's relations with Putin, I don't see very positive outlooks for Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. Looking at their minority policy, I do not see the Balkans faring very well with a Hungarian commissioner handling the neighborhood policy and who might even deal with accession," added Marinescu.

On the other hand, leader of EP's Renew Europe Group Dacian Ciolos says that "Hungary is hardly waiting for a swap for Transports".

"The assignment of the portfolios is the responsibility of the Commission President. How do we get out of the gridlock if we change the portfolio? Do we have the impression that Enlargement and Neighborhood requires less competency? Or Agriculture? I don't think Romania is unable to put forward a very good commissioner for Transport," Ciolos told the meeting with Romanian journalists in Brussels.

Also, the former European Commissioner for Agriculture emphasized that in the end, the portfolio is assigned to a person, not the country he or she comes from.

"The portfolio isn't assigned to the PSD government, or to Romania as a state. It is assigned to a commissioner who comes from the respective country. And the portfolio can be changed, this is not at all excluded," he warned. AGERPRES (RO - author: Florin Stefan, editor: Mariana Ionescu; EN - author/editor: Simona Klodnischi)

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