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New Party Looming on Romania’s Political Stage, Not Surprisingly

On June 2, Dacian Ciolos, along with four other MEPs, resigned jointly from the opposition Save Romania Union (USR) at the end of May and filed an application for setting up a new party, REPER. The name is an acronym for Renewing the European Project of Romania also meaning benchmark.
This is yet another turn in the political career of the otherwise familiar Ciolos, who was prime minister in the Romanian caretaker government of November 2015 – January 2017, before that minister of agriculture аnd European commissioner for agriculture. Elected MEP in 2019, he also became leader of the Renew Europe political group in the European Parliament until he resigned in October 2021.
In 2019, Ciolos founded the Freedom, Unity and Solidarity Party (PLUS) which later joined the then Dan Barna led USR and formed the larger former political construction USR PLUS. This last was third in the December 2020 parliamentary elections and part of the coalition cabinet with the liberals headed by Florin Citu. In the fall of 2021 the government fell after a no confidence vote moved by the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD). 
Ciolos also became the single leader of the united USR, only to resign in February 2022, after disagreements about his reform programme with members of the USR leadership close to Barna.
The rift between the two camps deepened and on May 31 Ciolos and MEPS Ramona Strigariu, Dragos Pislaru, Alin Mituta and Dragos Tudorache left USR and announced the establishment of the new political project, REPER.
According to the press release of the founders, it is designed to be “a new political initiative for dialogue and interaction with the public and business, uniting human resources and solutions of the real current crises and challenges facing Romanian society: costs and quality of life, energy and food security, supremacy of law and respect of justice, climate and digital transformation”.
Strugaru, who temporarily co-chairs the new party with Pislaru, said they wanted to become “a benchmark of equality of sexes and opportunities” as demonstrated by them both. And they would like to see the model of consensual decisions and equal mandates continued after the first REPER congress that is to elect the party leadership. Women are not sufficiently well represented in Romanian politics, she finds, and intends to try and change that.
Pislaru, in turn, said he would like to attract more specialists to help solve social problems and that “surprisingly many enthusiasts” had joined the new formation from scratch.
Interviewed by Digi24 TV, Tudorache said REPER was to be the party of those who believed in the new political project which is committed to the doctrine of “ethical liberalism”. That part of society which believes in the so-called “post-materialist values” has been growing in Romania in the last ten years, he noted, adding that they wanted to make an offer to that part’s expectations, a part making up about 40% of the electorate.
The Adevarul’s Raluca Boboc comments that for most political analysts, the new political project of Ciolos is no surprise. True, REPER is not the first political project launched by the former Romanian prime minister, but the political context in which the PLUS party was launched (a project that never passed the test of an election) is much different from the current context in which a lot of external factors have come to influence domestic politics, and Ciolos is “like a fish in water in it”.
According to Boboc, REPER, which she designated as “radically pro-European”, will be the total opposite of Romania’s other opposition party, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR).  
As AUR is a Eurosceptic and anti-globalist party, becoming a flagship party of nationalism, national sovereignty, traditional family, etc., considering “gender ideology a theoretical aberration that descends from the current office of neo-Marxist activists “, so REPER will be the representative of the other extreme. Radical pro-Europeans, who support the surrender of national sovereignty, the European army, same-sex marriages, etc., thus being able to attract not only important parts of the USR electorate, but also among the undecided electorate, including segments of the PNL and PSD electorate, the author comments.
Most likely, REPER will act on the political scene in the mirror with AUR. The more AUR radicalizes in nationalist and pro-sovereignty messages, the more REPER will send radical pro-European messages in favor of ceding sovereignty, renouncing the rule of unanimity (loss of veto), etc. Thus, AUR and REPER will be the two extremes on the political scene that will enhance each other through messages as radical as possible, Boboc comments.
Other analysts define Ciolos as “leader of small parties with large personal projects” but anyway it is yet to be seen whether the former prime minister will succeed to reshuffle the political scene in Romania.