A review of the most important events of the past week.
Constitutional Court presents its statement of reasons for the dismissal of the head of the National Anticorruption Directorate
On Thursday the Constitutional Court made public the statement of reasons behind its decision forcing president Klaus Iohannis to dismiss Laura Codruta Kovesi, the head of the National Anticorruption Directorate. The document points to the existence of a constitutional conflict generated by the president’s refusal to dismiss Kovesi. Court judges say that, under the Constitution, the Justice Minister has decision-making power over the activity of prosecutors, saying that he plays a key role in this procedure, also impacting the career of prosecutors. Additionally, the president does not have the constitutional power to oppose the Justice Minister’s proposal to remove Kovesi from Office. The Court’s decision has stirred harsh criticism from the opposition and civil society, fueling speculations that the Court’s decisions might be politically biased.
Final sentence in the “Bute Gala” case
The Bucharest-based High Court of Cassation and Justice on Tuesday issued a final ruling in the so-called “Bute Gala” case. The former Minister of Regional Development Elena Udrea was sentenced to six years in prison for bribe-taking and abuse of office. Udrea will also have to pay 3 million euros in damages. In the same case, the former president of the Romanian Boxing federation, Rudel Obreja, was sentenced to five years in prison, while the former Minister of Economy, Ion Artion, was acquitted. According to the National Anticorruption Directorate, Udrea was at the top of a system through which people in her entourage received money from certain companies, to guarantee them the payment, on time, of the works funded by the ministry she headed. Currently Elena Udrea is in Costa Rica where she has applied for political asylum.
OLAF Report on European Funds Fraud
Romania tops the classification of the countries with the highest number of investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office - OLAF in 2017. Romania is subject to 11 such investigations, eight of which resulted in recommendations. Illustrative of the situation are 2 investigations related to projects financed through the European fund for regional development. The representatives of a city hall, which was the beneficiary, made an understanding with the company that had drafted the engineering projects for the building of a road, according to which they established restrictive criteria in the documents to be used at the tender. This gave an advantage to a certain company, which actually won the tender, with the rest of the participants in the tender being rejected from the very start of the initial assessment stage. The sides involved forged a large number of documents, including the technical project of the road, OLAF concluded. The prejudice brought to the EU budget stands at 21 million euros.
President Iohannis travelled to Poland, while Prime Minister Dancila had official talks in Lisbon
Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis met his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Warsaw. The excellent bilateral relations, in particular in the economic and military areas, were highlighted on this occasion. Also, Iohannis and Duda attended the opening of the exhibition “A centenary of the Alliance. Romanian-Polish diplomacy 1918-1939.” The exhibition was organised by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Warsaw in collaboration with the Romanian Embassy and with support from the foreign ministries of the two countries, and forms part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of modern Romania and the centenary of Polish independence. Also this week, the Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila travelled to Portugal. During talks with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and her counterpart Antonio Costa, Dancila proposed the creation of a roadmap as an operative working tool and means of stimulating common projects. The talks were aimed at intensifying economic relations and cooperation in the military field, as well as that of cyber security.
Romania’s and Montenegro’s foreign ministers meet in Bucharest
Romania views Montenegro as a friend, close partner and important ally in the region, said the foreign minister Teodor Melescanu during a joint press conference with his Montenegrin counterpart Srdan Darmanovic, who travelled to Bucharest on Tuesday. The Romanian foreign minister recalled that for Romania and the region, Montenegro’s accession to NATO, which Romania has constantly supported, contributes to a large extent to the security and stability of the area. The Montenegrin foreign minister was also received by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, who emphasised that the enlargement policy will feature on the agenda of the Romanian presidency of the EU Council and that during its term, Romania would be an active and constructive partner for the states in the Western Balkans.
The Sovereign Fund for Investment
The Chamber of Deputies in Bucharest on Wednesday adopted a bill on the creation of the Sovereign Fund for Development and Investment. The Fund is a financing mechanism meant to identify investment opportunities that can lead to sustainable economic development and the creation of new jobs in the long run. The bill was adopted after the Chamber’s committee on economic policy introduced several amendments providing for an increase in the cash contribution to the equivalent of some 2 billion euros and the expansion of the list of economic operators. The Opposition says it will challenge the bill before the Constitutional Court and that it can undermine the national economy.