A review of the week's most important events.
The Constitutional Court of Romania rules in the case of people with a criminal sentence
On Thursday, Romania’s Constitutional Court rejected as inadmissible the Ombudsman’s notification regarding an article in the law that forbids people with a criminal sentence to be members of the Government. The Court decided that, essentially, the reasons invoked in the notification, which was submitted at the beginning of the year, represented both issues related to the application and interpretation of the law by competent public authorities as well as aspects related to lawmaking which are Parliament’s prerogatives. Law no. 90 of 2001 on the organization and functioning of the Government and ministries stipulates that only the persons who have not received a criminal sentence and who are not in a situation of incompatibility can be members of the Government. The Constitutional Court was notified in this regard after, based on this law, the president of the Chamber of Deputies and leader of the Social Democratic Party, Liviu Dragnea, could not be designated prime minister, although his party had won the December 2016 legislative elections by a vast majority of votes. Dragnea received a 2-year suspended sentence in the case of the 2012 referendum on the impeachment of the then president, Traian Băsescu. Liviu Dragnea said however that the Court’s decision did not influence his political career.
The government’s draft law on pardoning
The Juridical Committee in Romania’s Senate on Thursday revised Wednesday’s vote and rejected all the amendments to the bill on pardoning certain acts of corruption that could have come under the incidence of this law. According to the amendment adopted on Wednesday, giving and taking bribe and influence peddling were some of the crimes that were to be pardoned on condition the damage was paid off. Thousands of people protested in Bucharest in front of the Government building and in other cities of Romania against these amendments. The protesters accused the corruption of the political class. The government, which initiated the bill on pardoning, as well as the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Liviu Dragnea, said they were against pardoning acts of corruption. Dragnea announced the pardoning bill, which in its final form will not include the pardoning of acts of corruption, would be dealt with in the national executive committee of the Social Democratic Party. The Law on pardoning is seen by its initiators as a possible solution to prison overcrowding. The European Court on Human Rights has called on the Romanian authorities to work out a plan of measures meant to improve conditions in penitentiaries.
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu's visit to Israel
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu jointly with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference in Jerusalem on Thursday during which the Romanian official said that Romania remains a staunch supporter of the counter-terrorist fight. He said the terror attacks in Europe are alarming and recalled that Romanian citizens are also among the victims. On the other hand, given that the two countries have had diplomatic relations for the past 70 years, Prime Minister Grindeanu said that Israel is Romania’s closest ally and partner in the region. In turn, Prime Minister Netanyahu underscored that the visit paid by his Romanian counterpart is a continuation of the great friendship the two countries enjoy. On this occasion, two bilateral documents have been signed: a declaration of intent on cutting international roaming fees and a joint statement on cooperation in fields such as electric power and gas transportation, research, development and innovation, high technologies and investment. The Romanian Prime Minister’s agenda also included talks with President Reruven Rivlin, as well as a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. On this occasion Grindeanu reiterated the government’s commitment to setting up a Museum of the Jewish History and Holocaust in Romania. According to him the Romanian authorities have already made available a building in the Bucharest’s historical center to host the museum premises.
Preparations for Romania's presidency of the EU Council in 2019
The Foreign Ministry in Bucharest has this week staged a conference on Romania’s upcoming presidency of the EU Council due in the first half of 2019. Romania has the chance of bringing a new dynamic approach to contribute to the renaissance of the European project during its mandate, Romania’s Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu said in his conference address. The head of the Romanian diplomacy, Teodor Melscanu has announced that Romania will be taking measures to step up the integration process of the countries in the Balkans and will stage a summit on the Eastern Partnership during its mandate at the helm of the European Council. Romanian Minister of European Affairs, Ana Birchall has said the EU presidency is a national project for Romania and although the mandate comes at a delicate time, the challenge could be turned into an opportunity.
Romanians can travel to Canada without a visa
As of May 1st 2017, Romanian and Bulgarian citizens who in the past ten years have had a visa for the USA can travel to Canada only by filling in a travel authorization form. This was made possible after the European Parliament’s approval in February of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada – CETA. This is the first stage of a visa waiver for the Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. Under the agreement signed by the governments of Romania and Canada, visas are to be completely eliminated for all the Romanians as of December 1, 2017.