The first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, told the EP plenary sitting addressing the situation on Romania that the Romanian Parliament had shown no sign of answering the recommendations received on amending the justice laws. On the other hand, Timmermans added that an investigation on the SRI-justice secret protocols is needed.
Timmermans argued that the reforms of the justice laws and criminal codes have produced many concerns in the EU, and that many of these amendments could undermine the judiciary. He added that the EC is sharing these concerns, while having an unbiased, clinical approach.
The EC high ranking official further argued that the justice laws had been challenged to the Constitutional Court of Romania many times and that the European Council, through GRECO, and the Venice Commission had had critical reports about these laws. Despite these recommendations, Timmermans said, the Parliament in Bucharest showed no sign of answering these signals.
Timmermans somehow revealed the line of the upcoming CVM report in November, stating that the criminal laws would jeopardize the independence of justice on countering corruption if adopted without corrections. He stressed that the situation has deteriorated. You’ll see what has been written in the CVM report in November, compared to January 2018, he underlined.
Timmermans recommended Romania to preserve an open dialogue with the European bodies, warning that, if necessary, the European Commission will not hesitate to take actions in this respect, as it is „the guardian of democracy”.
He assured that if the European officials talk about these issues is because they care about the Romanian people and its European path. Timmermans argued that the Venice Commission recommendations are important, but advised Romania to also remember the CVM recommendations of last year and to pay attention to the ones coming the next month.
The EC first vice-president said he would continue dialogue with Romania and he will be extremely precise and meticulous in sending these very detailed questions to the Romanian Executive, underlining that the stake of this process is huge for the the EU future and as important, or even more important for the Romanian people.
In the end of the EP debate, Timmermans pointed out that if the EC has to be brutal in assessing Romania, it will do it and this must not be taken as a threat, but is what the Commission is doing as a „guardian of democracy”. He concluded by asking the Government in Bucharest to maintain an open dialogue and to accept the recommendations.
Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE leader: Weakening of prosecutors are in the Orban-Kaczyński style
The leader of ALDE group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, has told the plenary sitting of the EP that is debating the situation of rule of law in Romania, that the weakening of the prosecutors is in the Orban-Kaczyński style.
Romania has two problems, corruption and intelligence service, Verhofstadt said, adding that Romania must counter the old intelligence mentality.
ALDE leader stated that PM Dancila had an inappropriate reaction to this situation and advised Romania not to take the wrong path and follow Hungary’s and Poland’s way, but to follow the Venice Commission’s recommendations, for „the anti-corruption fight must be strengthened”.
In his turn, Josef Weidenholzer, vice-president of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, voiced concern about the reports they are getting about Romania. „We are not against the country. We also expect Romania’s President to tell us more things. We want to collaborate in order to draft the resolution in the LIBE Committee,” he pointed out.
Esteban González Pons, from the European People’s Party Group had a harsh stance against PM Dancila in the EP plenary session: „Mrs. Prime Minister, who don’t you listen to your people? To what is swarming behind your Government? What are you hiding? Listen to the people’s voice for all it wants is transparency. You can listen to the European Commission, the Romanian Parliament, the people or you can ignore all democratic forms. We have no other options. You must understand that,” Pons said.
Romanian MEP, Monica Macovei slammed the leaders of the Romanian ruling coalition in her speech, arguing the mass media is threatened and people are leaving Romania, while the judiciary is the first enemy of PSD-ALDE coalition. „Dragnea and Tariceanu are attacking Europe now, for their lie has been discovered. Romania is not a group of corrupt politicians, Romania is a place of people, and many have left the country, but they want back home. The press is threatened by a man who has been criminally convicted. Dragnea decided to bury the mass media. The justice is the first enemy of PSD-ALDE, they have amended the justice laws to get rid of charges. PSD and ALDE are just taking advantage of the protocols. Romanians are protesting. They are not inert. Romania is a people that is alive and will always fight back to defend its democracy,” Macovei stated.
Another Romanian MEP, Laurentiu Rebega, who ran on the PSD lists for the EP elections in 2014 and who later on joined former PM Victor Ponta’s camp, also criticised PSD chair Liviu Dragnea in his speech. “There are decisions taken by Dragnea to solve his personal problems. I will not agree that Romanians should be punished for what politicians are doing in their country and the Romanian must not be sanctioned for not endorsing the strings pulled by Dragnea. I invite my Social Democrat fellows to take attitude and to sanction the guilty politicians, and not the Romanians and the entire country,” Rebega stated.
Romanian MEPs representing the ruling coalition fire back
In retort, ALDE MEP Norica Nicolai, has accused her MEP fellows that they had not made an assessment on the corruption in all EU member states, saying they have a double meaning language.
“As a pro-European people, we are very constructive. Mr. Timmermans, one doesn’t need any permit to protest in Europe. This is the standard you are imposing in Bucharest (…) The double standard is becoming a reality within this debate. This does not bring more unity to Europe, it’s a lack of cohesion and objectivity. I would like to ask why haven’t we had an assessment on the corruption in all EU member states? Or, do you like only those three countries?” Nicolai stated.
A cross talk took place between Krzysztof Hetman, member of the EPP group and Romanian Social Democrat MEP Dan Nica, after Hetman said it is concerning that the Romanian Government is fighting the ones who fight corruption. Nica replied that it is just a fake news campaign.
“I noticed that Social Democrat Group is defending the extremists… Are you not concerned that you have a Government that is fighting those who fight corruption?“, Krzysztof Hetman asked.
“This is part of a fake new campaign. Did anyone tell you that all those sent to court in the past 5 years had been acquitted? Did anyone tell you that there are over 200 acquittals? Justice for one means Justice for all,” Nica retorted.
MEPs assessed the state of democracy and separation of powers in Romania on Wednesday morning, in the presence of Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă.
A resolution will be put to a vote in the November I session (12-15 November). The EP already discussed the rule of law in Romania last February, following massive street protests after the Romanian Parliament approved an overhaul of how the judicial system is organised and changes to rules about conflicts of interest. The Constitutional Court is currently reviewing additional changes to the criminal code and the criminal procedure code.
Ahead of the discussion in plenary, Frans Timmermans, first Vice-President of the European Commission, met on Monday with Civil Liberties MEPs to discuss the situation in the country.