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Guy Verhofstadt, message to the Gov’t in Bucharest: Romania is at a crossroad

Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE Group Leader has sent the same message in two days to the Romanian Government, warning that Romania is at a crossroad and urging the rulers to choose: either to respect the rule of law or the illiberal path.

„At this hour I am in a meeting with the Romanian government, My message to them is that Romania is at crossroad: it either chooses to respect and defend the democratic principles in compliance with the rule of law norms, or it chooses the illiberal way. I will encourage them to make the first choice, but if they opt for the second choice my message is clear: Not in our name, and above all, not with our name!”, reads a message Guy Verhofstadt has posted on his Facebook page today, in the Romanian language.

The same message, but in a more extended way, has been delivered by the ALDE group leader in the European Parliament to his counterpart in Romania, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, chairman of ALDE party in Romania.

More precisely, Verhofstadt has answered in a letter to the criticism launched by Tariceanu, also Senate speaker, after the EP resolution on the rule of law in Romania.

Addressing Tariceanu with „Dear Calin,Guy Verhofstadt voiced his surprise that Tariceanu claims that the EP resolution has been prepared „without consultations” and based on „biased” information.

„As you are well aware, the opposite is true: this resolution was the outcome of intensive communications between European Parliament interlocutors and the Romanian government, as well as the ALDE Group in the EP and your party,” ALDE leader in the EP retorted.

Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu has sent a letter to the ALDE European group on Monday, stating that the EP Resolution on the rule of law is based on biased opinions and that the Romanian Liberal-Democrats are „deeply concerned” about the setting of an action following the prosecutor’s office pattern.

Read the entire letter written by Verhofstadt below:

„Dear Calin,

thank you for your letter reacting to the resolution on the Rule of Law in Romania, adopted last week by the European Parliament, with the support of two-thirds of the ALDE Group. I was surprised by your complaint that the resolution was prepared „without consultations”, based on „biased” information, in pursuit of “prosecutorial performances” by the European Parliament.

As you are well aware, the opposite is true: this resolution was the outcome of intensive communications between European Parliament interlocutors and the Romanian government, as well as the ALDE Group in the EP and your party:

Over the past weeks, we have discussed our concerns regarding the Rule of Law in your country with Prime Minister Dancila, where both your MEPs – Norica Nicolai and Renate Weber – were present (26 September). You yourself addressed the full ALDE Group on 25 September. The resolution was elaborated following a nearly 90-minutes plenary debate with Prime Minister Dancila on 3rd October. Most importantly, both MEPs representing your party were involved in the adoption process of the resolution, with the possibility to amend the initial motion and influence the final voting list, before the vote of 13 November.

In all those meetings and encounters with you and representatives of the Romanian government, our message was always the same: Romania is at a crossroad. There are several legislative reforms pending or concluded, which raise serious concerns regarding their compliance with democratic checks and balances and the rule of law. And this not from our own – partisan, biased – perspective, but based on a thorough analysis by the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe composed of independent experts in the field of constitutional law and respected by governments all across the continent. The issues of concern are well known to you:

  • the judiciary reform, which risks to undermine the independence of the judiciary;
    · the reform of the criminal code and the criminal procedure code, which was, to a great extent, found unconstitutional;
    · attempts to decriminalise corruption by officials in office;
    · cooperation protocols between the Intelligence Service and judicial institutions;
    · law on NGO financing, organisation and functioning, which risks to have an intimidating effect on the civil society and disproportionally restrict the freedom of association.

From this crossroad, the government can choose to go the illiberal way, use the current parliamentary majority to amend the basic framework and remove the checks and balances for a partisan political gain and move Romania towards an illiberal state.

Or it can choose the path of engagement with the Venice Commission, to implement the above mentioned reforms in full compliance with their Recommendations. Choosing this path, the government can reinforce the vitality, coherence and stability of the Romanian society and strengthen its place inside the EU and, in your case, the ALDE family.

The European Parliament resolution simply encouraged you and the government to choose the second path, in compliance with the principles and commitments you and your country decided to respect when acceding to the European Union in 2006. Principles designed to guarantee one EU-wide framework of the Rule of Law, guarantee all EU citizens and businesses equality before the law.

When meeting you later this week in Bucharest, I hope to hear your answer to the question I keep asking since our first encounter on this issue earlier this year:

Will you fully implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission and seek their second assessments, so as to guarantee full compliance of the critical reforms mentioned above with the democratic checks and balances and the EU-wide Rule of Law?

Because, all depends now on your answer. As I already stressed in the 3rd October EP Plenary Debate: do not pursue the illiberal path. Not in our name, and certainly not with our name!

Best regards,

Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE Group Leader
Sophie In’t Veld, ALDE Group, First Vice President”

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