Debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Romania
The rule of law in Romania has been discussed in the European Parliament this week, with focus on the recent changes brought to the justice laws by the ruling coalition formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila too was invited to Strasbourg for talks. The European Commission has been following with concern the latest developments in Romania, said the First Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans at the start of the debate. He said that the country had taken steps backwards as regards the reform of the judiciary and the fight against corruption, speaking of the controversial changes brought by the left wing ruling coalition in Romania to the justice laws and the sacking of the head of the Anticorruption Directorate Laura Codruta Kovesi, although the directorate’s activity had brought about a positive evaluation in the latest CVM report. In reply, Viorica Dancila said that a viable justice system must be built first for the citizens, and not for magistrates, politicians and institutions. She also said she did not come to Strasbourg to account, but out of respect and appreciation for the European forum, and called for a similar attitude towards Romania, just like the other member states.
Viorica Dancila: “This mechanism has failed to meet the aim it was created for and I officially request for us to be told who drew up the CVM reports, who provided the data and failed to mention, out of negligence or in bad faith, these realities which are unconceivable in the European Union”.
Viorica Dancila also defended the Romanian Gendarmerie, accused of acting disproportionately at the anti-Government protest on August 10th in Bucharest. In her opinion, the gendarmes intervened just as other similar structures from other European countries have done. We recall that following the gendarmes’ brutal intervention, 770 criminal complaints have been filed by people who suffered during the protest, and several gendarmerie chiefs are being prosecuted. The debates in Strasbourg have triggered different reactions from the Romanian EMPs, who have criticized Frans Timmermans for his opinion or blamed one another or the current government. In Bucharest too, the stands taken by representatives of the various parliamentary parties have been different. The leaders of the ruling coalition hailed the prime-minister’s speech, while the opposition National Liberal Party and Save Romania Union believe that Viorica Dancila presented a parallel reality.
The EU chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, on a visit to Romania
The European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, had a meeting in Bucharest with key Romanian political leaders. They looked at the current stage of the Union’s negotiations with London, and at the next steps to be taken in Britain’s withdrawal from the European bloc. President Klaus Iohannis has underlined that preserving the unity of the 27 member states in the Brexit talks is extremely important. In turn, Michel Barnier emphasized that Romania, as the holder of the rotating presidency of the EU Council, will play a key role in the negotiations on the future relations between the EU and the UK. In turn, the Romanian PM Viorica Dancila underlined that Romania pays special heed to the Brexit file, given that a large Romanian community is living in the UK. Dancila also said that Romania will closely monitor the implementation of the exit agreement, so that all the Romanian citizens residing in the UK may continue to live, work and study in the same terms as they have done so far. Romanians make up the second largest foreign minority in the UK, after the Polish one.
A former tourism minister and a former head of the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism in Romania (DIICOT) have been detained in Costa Rica
The Romanian police have confirmed that the former tourism minister Elena Udrea and the former head of the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), Alina Bica, have been detained in Costa Rica. They have been placed under pre-trial arrest for two months. The two women have applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Udrea and Bica were under investigation, surveillance and monitoring by the Costa Rican authorities, as they were wanted internationally by Interpol, following the sentences they had received in Romania. For a long time seen as the most influential character in the former president Traian Basescu’s entourage, Udrea received from the High Court of Cassation and Justice a final 6-year prison sentence for bribe taking and abuse of office. The same court sentenced Bica to 4 years in prison, in a case in which she was accused of aiding and abetting a criminal.
Referendum to revise the Constitution
Some 19 million Romanian voters are called to the polls on Saturday and Sunday to vote in a referendum on redefining family in the Romanian Constitution, to say whether they agree to see the definition in the Constitution, which currently reads “the consented marriage between spouses”, changed into “the consented marriage between a man and a woman”. The draft has been voted in Parliament. Over 18,600 polling stations are set up at national level. 378 other polling stations have been opened for the Romanians living abroad. More than half of them have been set up at the diplomatic missions, consular offices and cultural institutes abroad, and the rest of them in other locations. Most polling stations have been opened in Italy, Spain, the Republic of Moldova, the US, Great Britain, France and Germany. For the referendum to be valid, at least 30% of the voters registered on permanent electoral lists must take part, and at least 25% of the votes must be valid.
(translated by: Mihaela Ignatescu, Diana Vijeu)