The president to refer the state budget bill to the Constitutional Court
President Klaus Iohannis has decided to refer the budget bill for 2019 to the Constitutional Court before signing it into law. He says the bill drawn up by the ruling coalition formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats is a threat to the Romanian economy and that it appears that some of its provisions are unconstitutional, preventing Romania from fulfilling its commitments before the European Union. He also says the budget is unrealistic, overvalued and delayed considering it should have reached Parliament by 15th November last year. According to the president, it is ridiculous to characterise the 2019 budget as investment-orientated in the words of prime minister Viorica Dancila, when the figures in the bill itself point to what can more accurately be described as an austerity budget with subsistence financing, zero investments in some areas, the need for reorganisation and even redundancies owing to the lack of funds for current expenses. The president has accused the government of not having money for investments but allocating large sums for political parties, mainly the Social Democratic Party, the senior partner in the ruling coalition. In response, the speaker of the Senate and leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats has said the president’s gesture is inopportune.
New changes in the judiciary and reactions from Brussels
The Government in Bucharest this week issued an emergency decree to bring new changes to the justice laws referring, among other things, to the appointment of top level prosecutors and even the responsibilities of the head of the investigation department. Toader explained that these positions can also be occupied by prosecutors who have not worked as judges, and the people currently delegated to occupy them can only do so for a period of 45 days. The National Anticorruption Directorate says there is no extraordinary situation to justify issuing an emergency order to adopt provisions referring to the dismissal of magistrates or changing the organisation of the prosecutor’s offices. The DIICOT anti-mafia prosecutors have also criticised the decree saying the changes run counter to the constitutional architecture and place the public ministry in a position in which it will be impossible for it to carry out its specific responsibilities. The Superior Council of Magistrates through its department for prosecutors has warned that the changes made by the government to the justice laws will seriously affect the activity of the prosecutor’s offices. The European Commission has also reacted. Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said the community executive is monitoring with great concern the latest developments concerning the rule of law in Romania, both with respect to the content and the procedure of the latest changes, through the use of emergency decrees and without any prior consultations with the representatives of the judiciary and stakeholders. These changes, the Commission official went on to say, seem to run counter to the recommendations made under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, backed by all member states. The main opposition parties, the National Liberal Party and the Save Romania Union, have tabled a simple motion in the field of justice, in the Chamber of Deputies. The changes have been criticised by the Romanian President. The magistrates took to the street in large numbers, to protest against the changes which, they say, deeply affect the independence of the judiciary.
New ministers in Romania
President Klaus Iohannis on Thursday signed the decrees appointing Vasile-Daniel Suciu as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development and Public Administration and Alexandru-Răzvan Cuc as Transport Minister. Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă has said she made those nominations to put an end to a deadlock, which hindered the proper activity of the government, the more so as the interim period at the two ministries has expired. “Regional Development and Transports are two key domains, for which we have provided the necessary sums of money in the state budget law, to be able to make the investments Romania needs. The ministers with full responsibilities in carrying out their prerogatives should coordinate themselves for a better implementation of investment projects,” the Prime Minister has also added. Olguta Vasilescu and Mircea Drăghici had earlier been nominated at the two ministries. They have been however rejected several times by President Klaus Iohannis and in the end they decided to withdraw their candidacies.
Meeting of the EU trade ministers in Bucharest
The EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström and the director general of the World Trade Organisation, Roberto Azevędo, attended the informal meeting of the EU Trade Ministers, held in Bucharest earlier this week, under the auspices of the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union. Talks focused on the modernisation process of the World Trade Organisation and on trade relations between the EU and the US. Also this week, the EU member states validated, during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee, the political agreement secured by Romania and the European Parliament on the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market. The directive offers correct payment to copyright holders and takes into account private users’ interests. The directive will have a positive impact on a large category of actors, such as press publishers, cultural institutions, education institutions, artists, performers and professionals in the field of culture.
(translated by: Diana Vijeu, Cristina Mateescu)