Controversial Romanian politician’s Swiss visit sparks protest

Liviu Dragnea answers reporters' questions as he leaves court in Romania this month Keystone

The visit of Liviu Dragnea, the Romanian parliamentary president convicted of electoral fraud, got off to a rocky start on Wednesday with some Swiss politicians voicing their concerns about his arrival.

This content was published on May 30, 2018 - 10:19
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Dragnea, one of Romania’s most powerful politicians, has been invited to Switzerland for talks with his Swiss counterpart, Christa Markwalder. He will also meet with Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis and Alain Berset, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year.

But in Romania, Dragnea is facing calls for a seven-year jail sentence for further alleged abuses of his office. Switzerland should never have extended its invitation with a court verdict hanging over Dragnea’s head, Swiss politician Carlo Sommaruga told Swiss public television SRF.

"The Romanian parliamentary president will use this visit to boost his image in his home country,” Sommaruga said.

But Swiss parliamentary ambassador Claudio Fischer, who helped organize the visit, defended the move, saying that it is necessary to hold talks on important bilateral issues such as the movement of Romanian workers to Switzerland.

This is all the more important as Romania will take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union next year, Fischer argued. "This is about the office, not the person Dragnea. We have a few open questions with Romania that we would like to discuss,” he said. “What the judiciary is doing in Romania is a Romanian problem. We don't have to get involved.”

Dragnea is not the first controversial political visitor to Switzerland. In February, Switzerland welcomed Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, despite a ban on him travelling to the EU.

This was also defended on the grounds that it is necessary to keep diplomatic channels open, even in times of dispute between countries.

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