Budget bill, resent to the President for promulgation
Romania’s state budget for 2019, a source of major dissensions between the PSD-ALDE government on one side and the country’s president Klaus Iohannis and the opposition on the other, has this week been sent back to the president, who had no means left to challenge it and had to promulgate it. Submitted to parliament for approval very late, in February, the bill was subsequently sent by the president to the Constitutional Court, which declared it constitutional. Next, Iohannis decided to send the bill back to parliament, describing it as ‘a budget of national shame’. According to the president, the budget was based on unrealistic figures and provides no guarantees for implementation. According to the presidential administration, the budget bill puts a question mark over the compliance with the international treaties that Romania is a party to, as well as the legislation in the field, and was designed to mainly serve the political interests of a small group. According to the Social Democrats though, the 2019 budget bill provides for the resources needed in various major fields of the economy, being a revolutionary bill meant to support health and education whereas the president’s decision to delay it is purely a political move.
The First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans in Bucharest
The Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and the First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans met in Bucharest on Monday, against the background of Romania’s holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. The talks, which focused on several important topics, such as the state of democracy and the rule of law, also addressed the latest amendments brought to the justice laws - first in Parliament and then through an emergency decree – amendments which are questionable to say the least. After the publication, last autumn, of a report unfavorable to Romania, under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) on justice, Frans Timmermans now says that there’s been no progress, only a refusal by the Romanian Government to consider the Commission’s document.
The EU official hopes that experts on both sides will find quick solutions for the implementation of the recommendations made part of the CVM. “When the rule of law is put under threat, corruption automatically increases”, Timmermans said, adding that this is the reason behind the European Commission’s intention to condition in the future the process of granting EU funds on the observance of the rule of law in the member states.
US Department of State report on human rights in Romania
The justice system in Romania is of main concern to the US Department of State, as reflected in the report on human rights in Romania in 2018. Washington believes that corruption is still endemic in Romania, in spite of the large number of criminal prosecutions, and there are many reports on such practices at government level. The lack of staff, of physical space and of technology needed by the judiciary to act swiftly and efficiently is persistent, resulting in excessively long trials, the report reads. According to the document, corruption was widespread in public procurement as well, and bribery was common in the public sector, especially in healthcare. According to the US Department of State, discrimination against the Roma continued to be a major problem. As regards freedom of the press, the report reads that independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without overt restriction. Conversely, media outlets closely linked to or controlled by politicians and political groups presented news and editorial stances that frequently reflected their owners’ views and targeted criticism at political opponents and other media organizations.
Consultations in Bucharest on Brexit
The EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier came to Bucharest on Thursday for high-level talks on Britain’s leaving the European Union. The discussions he held with high-ranking Romanian officials, Prime Minister Dancila included, focused on defining the EU’s strategy for the period to come. According to Barnier, the Parliament’s second negative vote on Prime Minister May’s negotiated agreement is complicating things even more. The EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit delivered a speech at the European Summit of Regions and Cities held in Bucharest ,during which he also referred to the EU’s future policies aimed at building a stronger Europe after Britain’s leaving the bloc. Barnier also said that he was backed by an extremely competent team and that during the 18 months of talks he strove to reach an agreement with the British and not one against them. According to the European official, the fate of the 4.5 million people directly affected by Brexit should be a priority. Out of these, 3.5 million are citizens of the EU 27 living on British soil and roughly 1 million Brits currently living in EU countries.