On 1 January, Romania took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for an exceptionally transformative and challenging period of six months that will mark the end of the current legislative term in the EU.
Holding the presidency means Romania taking charge of setting the EU’s agenda, advancing debates and chairing all the meetings in the Council of the EU and its preparatory bodies. The role also involves representing the Council in relations with the other EU institutions such as the European Parliament. For the next months, Romania will act as a broker in proposing compromises and concluding as many legislative files as possible in inter-institutional trilogue negotiations. Not an easy nut to crack!
Final push for legislation
Being at the end of the five-year EU legislative and policy cycle, Romania is in a difficult position to deal with the most controversial files left on the negotiating table. The ePrivacy Regulation is one such example relevant to agencies. It was rolled out almost two years ago by the European Commission, with a plan to implement it at the same time as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The ePrivacy Regulation would further specify the data protection rules of the GDPR, governing electronic communications, including targeted advertising. It has, however, faced a lot of controversy and the member states have so far been unable to find a common approach.
Given the fact that trilogue negotiations would have to be concluded in February in order for the European Parliament to adopt legislation in its last plenary session in April, it looks like several legislative files will be left for the next European Parliament, which will have to decide on their continuity.
However, the clock may be ticking just right for the ‘P2B’ Regulation to pass in time. Furthermore, the game is not over for the plans about European-wide Digital Tax, for which the Council is expected to come up with a proposal in March 2019 based on a suggestion of Germany and France. It remains to be seen whether such tax would extend to agencies placing advertisements online or providing ad space. In the meantime, several EU countries have started implementing their own national digital tax.
Sailing in deep political waters
Apart from the abovementioned legislative files, the Romanian Presidency is coinciding with the scheduled date of Brexit (29 March) and the next European Parliament elections (23-26 May) that will further set the tone for the Union’s future.
“A hard Brexit will benefit no one, and despite the gloom and doom, I believe that a last-minute compromise will be reached that will avoid a negative economic impact on Europe” comments Radu Florescu, CEO of Centrade Cheil communication network in South-East Europe and Vice President of the Romanian Association of Communications Agencies (Uniunea Agentiilor de Publicitate din Romania). “The Parliamentary elections will be another important milestone moving forward. Eyes will be upon the right-wing parties and their ability to increase their numbers from the past elections. A move to the far-right would worry investors”, he continues.
The Romanian challenge / opportunity
The Presidency will be a real touchstone for Romania that is holding this role for the first time since it joined the European Union. The current national administration has also been undergoing some national turbulences with the sudden resignation of the EU affairs minister in November and the government doubting their preparedness for the EU role. But despite these challenges, Romania goes ahead with more unity – “Cohesion, common European value”, as their official motto says.
“Romania’s Presidency provides a great opportunity to highlight Romania’s positives in front of the world”, Radu Florescu assures. “Romania, albeit with limited resources, can stand out and set an example for others. With a growing economy, a trusted NATO ally and geo-politically well-placed on the Black Sea, Romania has much to contribute. Disavowing populism (which it has done so far), adhering to the rule of law, ramping up EU absorption funds could encourage also others to punch above their weight and maintain the momentum beyond 2019.”
Promoting research and innovation, digitalisation and connectivity, in order to increase the competitiveness of the European economy and industry is one of the flagship objectives of the current Presidency. Similarly, Radu tells the private sector and advertising agencies to look for ways to reform their businesses. “It is important to move away from execution-approach solution to more strategic and business consulting roles that seem to be more in demand. In a world where clients are looking for simpler solutions, this new approach has legs to travel further”.
Find out more about the Romanian Presidency: http://www.romania2019.eu/
 Anca Gurzu and Lili Bayer, ‘Romania brushes aside EU concerns ahead of presidency’ (5 December 2018), Politico EU https://www.politico.eu/article/romania-george-ciamba-viorica-dancila-brushes-aside-eu-concerns-ahead-of-presidency/