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President’s spokesman Bogdan Oprea says the head of state is not going to state his opinion on the opportunity and constitutionality of the bill, because, under the Constitution, the president may only give his opinion on adopted legislation, ‘not on draft laws’.
The controversial draft law changing the Statute of Senators and Deputies which, among other things, includes a provisions according to which the minister of Justice is supposed to send a range of additional documents when asking for the arrest, search or detention of a member of Parliament, was sent to the Presidency, Government, National Integrity Agency (ANI) and Prosecutor’s Office at the end of last week, with an invitation for each of the institutions to give an opinion or propose amendments. Sources from the leadership of the Chamber of Deputies say the amendments made to the Statute of MPs are a result of the criticism made by the EU regarding the absence of explicit regulations on the lifting of immunity from prosecution and other sensitive legal issues concerning the members of Parliament. The idea to refer the draft law to the mentioned institution has, however, caused some serious questions, especially the fact that the bill was sent to the president before its formal approval. Lower Chamber President Valeriu Zgonea says in a letter to President Traian Basescu that sending the draft is ‘extremely necessary’.‘The observations and suggestions you will send to the Chamber of Deputies will contribute to an optimisation of the time table for the promulgation of the 2013 State Budget Law,’ reads the letter quoted by Mediafax.The presidential spokesman, Bogdan Oprea, confirmed the receipt of the draft law changing Law no. 96 of 2006 on the Statute of Senators and Deputies, however noting that the president was not going to give an opinion on the opportunity and constitutionality of the bill as, under the Constitution, the head of state may only issue a position on adopted legislation, ‘not on draft laws’. Previously, Oprea had said that ‘Traian Basescu warns that a consolidation of parliamentary immunity from prosecution would be a grievous error’. Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu said he could not understand why the proposed changes of the MPs’ Statute had to be sent to the Presidency and Prosecutor’s Office. ‘Regarding ANI, there could be some logic, as ANI, dealing with relevant aspects in its work (…) might have something to say about it. But what could, and in what capacity, the president of Romania or the Prosecutor’s Office say I cannot imagine and clarification will probably have to be looked for elsewhere,’ realitatea.net quotes Antonescu as having said. Asked if he had been informed on the intention to send the documents to the Presidency, Antonescu answered: ‘No, I had no such intention and no one in the leadership of the Senate, the Standing Bureau, ever proposed such thing. (…) Of course that you can ask for the opinion of anyone you think is wise enough, but only in an institutional way, and the president and least the Prosecutor’s Office in my opinion do not have competence or capacity in the matter.’
ANI and Prosecutor’s Office agree to Statute changes, Zgonea says
On the other hand, Valeriu Zgonea claims ANI has agree to the changes of the Statute in the area of the conflict of interests and incompatibilities, and the Prosecutor General’s Office to those changes in respect of the requests for arrest, searches and detention. He pointed pout that all those modifications were introducing a unitary and correct procedure meant to show the EU that the RomanianParliament has become ‘a more mature parliament,’ that sets some rules at the beginning of its term and respects them during the entire term. Moreover, Zgonea said the changes of the Statute did not create ‘a super-immunity’ for MPs, as it had been suggested by the mass-media, but lays down a procedure for the enforcement of existing legislation. ‘The Parliament may not judge a matter on its merits. We are not a court of law. We are just part of the immunity lifting procedure. The request sent to us by the minister of justice does not need to contain any elements pertaining to the substance of the case. We are not interested in such substantive elements. Regarding a detention or domiciliary search request, we need to know the elements behind it, because this is what we judge on and we tell the Chamber to either grant or decline such request,’ the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies explained. NGOs also criticise the proposed changes of legislation, warning about the fact that the Parliament is not a court of law. ‘Practically, prosecutors should put the entire indictment on the table. That would made an already very complicated process even more difficult’, said Septimiu Parvu, Executive Director of Pro Democratia Association. He added that the provision might be a deterrence factors to prosecutors in sending such requests to Parliament.