PDL will attack the changes at the Constitutional Court.
President Traian Basescu raged against Parliament on Tuesday evening, accusing it of making a mistake and of compromising the country through the laws it recently discussed. First, he attacked the changes brought to the Criminal Code which was introduced on the Lower Chamber’s supplementary order of the day and was voted without the commission’s report being published and without a debate taking place within the plenary meeting. The changes brought remove the President and the MPs from the category of public servants. “I really fear that the atmosphere created around the amnesty and pardoning law and the mining law were exactly the manoeuvre meant to allow Mr. Zgonea (Speaker of the Lower Chamber) to insert these changes within the Penal Code.”
According to the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), as a result of these changes, the MPs sent to court for corruption or actions assimilated to this crime could be acquitted, while those currently in jail as a result of final sentencing could be released. President Basescu labelled the changes adopted by the MPs on Tuesday as “dramatic” and denounced them for “tearing down ten years of work and activity on the part of the anticorruption institutions,” arguing that as far as he knows “over 30 MPs are breathing a sigh of relief, 8 of them being already in court as a consequence of ANI investigations.” “I believe Parliament has made a fundamental mistake and has compromised Romania,” he said. “The legislative power is not a boutique; it’s a fundamental institution of the Romanian state. We cannot take the Parliament, the Presidency, for a train station boutique and say they are not public servants, and yet they have personal cars, drivers, housing facilities, diplomatic passports, because they are high officials, but the MPs want to be taken for salesmen,” the President added.
The president sarcastically thanked those who thought about him too when they removed him from the category of public servants.
“I have no other solution than to reject this law, to attack it at the Constitutional Court, and if not, to find a formula that would restore the Penal Code’s provisions as they are now. You cannot say you are a mayor, an MP, but you are not in the public service. You obey the rigors of the law when it comes to incompatibilities and bribery because this is one of the stakes too, not just the incompatibilities are the stake, malfeasance in office is at stake too,” the Head of State commented. He added that the changes brought to the Penal Code lower by half the period in which a crime is written off, a fact that helps many state officials involved in ongoing lawsuits. “It seems to be a provision included with its beneficiaries in mind,” he said.
Consequently, the President pointed out that the CVM report will be very bad in what concerns the Parliament and that the lack of political will against corruption will be mentioned. The Head of State said that the CVM report will be poor also as a consequence of the fact that there are four or five MPs that have not received the Parliament’s green light for the start of the criminal prosecution. “The USL parliamentary majority is continuing the attempted coup d’état that failed last summer, but is now using different methods under the guise of the sceptre of democracy. (…) Politicians are once again lifting themselves above the law,” Basescu said.
In what concerns the CVM report, European Commission spokesperson Mark Gray stated yesterday, according to Mediafax, that the amendments brought to the Romanian Penal Code will be reflected in the CVM report in January, adding that all officials have to obey the rules concerning corruption and conflict of interests.
PDL waves CC threat
In line with the President’s statement, Cristian Radulescu, the leader of the PDL group within the Senate, announced yesterday that his party will attack at the Constitutional Court the Lower Chamber’s amendments to the Penal Code. “I am of the opinion that any stipulation that could create any shadow of doubt concerning the creation of a different status for MPs compared to regular public servants is a bad stipulation that should be avoided. Because of this, the stipulations that were adopted yesterday will be attacked by us at the Constitutional Court,” Radulescu said, pointing out that the party has collected the signatures needed.
The Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) pointed out too that the removal of the President and MPs from the category of public servants, through a draft law adopted on Tuesday, “basically results in exonerating them from being held legally accountable.”
In reply, Senate Speaker and PNL President Crin Antonescu said that President Traian Basescu’s statements concerning the changes brought by the Lower Chamber to the statute of MPs and the coup d’état are “amusing,” the Liberal stating that they represent “anti-Parliament hysteria.” “If there are things needing to be revised we can go back to them. Nobody plans to break the law, neither to protect the criminals,” Antonescu stated. In his turn, Lower Chamber Speaker Valeriu Zgonea (PSD) stated that the changes that concern the MPs will be adopted after the European Commission’s and the Venice Commission’s favorable response is received. “It’s a fairytale, the President is a very good diversionist,” Zgonea pointed out.
“Ombudsman not doing his duty, obeys ruling power”
President Traian Basescu also criticized the Ombudsman, stating that although he represents the only institution that can attack emergency ordinances at the Constitutional Court, he is not doing his duty and he is “the ruling power’s vassal.” “Eighty simple ordinances and 105 emergency ordinances, in total 185 ordinances, were issued since the Ponta Government came to power, while having a 70 per cent majority in Parliament. This shows that the priorities of these people are to get out from under any control, considering that the Ombudsman, the only one that can attack ordinances and emergency ordinances, is not doing his duty. He is the ruling power’s vassal and certainly not in the service of the people,” Traian Basescu said. In reply, PM Ponta replied that next year the government will adopt fewer ordinances provided the President will no longer create blockages.
The president also criticized the protocol that the Agriculture Ministry signed with TVR, stating that through it “the public television has been handed over to Antena 3, to Constantin, whose master is Voiculescu.” Basescu also addressed the health system scandals, arguing that Health Minister Nicolaescu was lying when he said that he can do nothing in the case of Ploiesti hospital, and that transferring the health directorates to local authorities shows “Dragnea’s error.” Last but not least, the President criticized the ruling power for not signing “any contract for the construction of highways, since April,” sarcastically stating that in exchange “they now want to build highways to Bombonica, Alexandria.”
European diplomats voice concern
US Embassy in Bucharest yesterday released a press release with the following content: “A basic tenet of democracy is that all people are equal under the law. The amendments to the penal code passed yesterday in the Chamber of Deputies would represent a step backward for Romania. It is very discouraging that these revisions were passed with no consultation, no debate, and no opportunity for judicial authorities or civil society to respond to the proposed amendments. This move by the Parliament is a step away from transparency and rule-of-law and is a discouraging sign for investors, which will negatively affect Romania’s economy. Transparency, predictability and stability are critical factors for all investors, domestic and international, when they consider where to invest”.
The United Kingdom’s Ambassador in Bucharest Martin Harris also voiced concern about the changes to the Penal Code made in the Chamber of Deputies and he underscored that, in his opinion, the National Agency for Integrity and the National Anti-corruption Directorate are ‘the engine of the reform in the public life in Romania’. According to Agerpres, Harris said he hoped there would be ‘a consistent commitment from the Parliament for the support for the fight against corruption’. In its turn, at the request of Mediafax the Dutch Embassy pointed out on Wednesday that it is following with concern the amendments brought to the Penal Code. The German Embassy also pointed out for Hotnews that the activity of certain institutions like ANI, CSM, DNA or Constitutional Court should not be put under political pressure.
On the other hand, Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu said that the embassies should get informed about the amendments operated by the Chamber of Deputies to the Criminal Code and that in turn, the Lower House should make it clear that ‘there is no reason for concern.’