Premier Victor Ponta said Monday evening, at B1 TV, that Romania would not join the Schengen area before the Euroelection because the so-called invasion of the Romanians in Europe might be used as a subject in the electoral campaigns. ‘The problem is that no, we are not going to join [the Schengen area] before the election for the European Parliament (…) What subjects do you think some parties will have in the European Parliament? The Romanians should not come. … The most important thing – and this is the merit both of Romania and of the European Commission – is that all restrictions for the labour market have been removed,’ the Romanian Premier. He said that, in order to support the Schengen entry, all political forces of Romania should have a common discourse on the topic.
On the other hand, Ponta said that he knows how the CVM report will look like, since the European Commission has already sent a first version to the Ministry of Justice, and specified that he was certain that the activity of this Ministry will be appreciated. ‘I only know one thing about the CVM report: no matter how it will actually look, everyone will have a different viewpoint. After you will read it, you will say that the situation is very bad; after I will read it, I will say that the situation is very good. What is truly important is to know what to do next, because if you don’t know, then it will really be very bad,’ the Prime Minister said. According to him, among the objectives of the Romanian officials there are the entry into force of the Criminal Codes on February 1, as well as the implementation of CVM at European level, to be valid for all the EU member states, and not only for Romania and Bulgaria.
He also voiced hope that the CVM report will appreciate the activity of the Ministry of Justice and of the government: “I’m certain that the CVM report will reflect the fact that the government has nothing to do with the Judiciary, apart from the Ministry of Justice,” the PM said.
Ponta said that the referendum for the new Constitution will take place at the same time with the elections to the European Parliament. ‘The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will translate (the amended text of the Constitution – n.r.) into English and French, as the procedure dictates, and then it will send it to the Venice Commission. Based on an informal discussion we already had with the Commission, if we send it early in February, (…), since they already saw it last year and had some opinions about it. Thus, we can have the Commission’s opinion by the end of March,’ he said. According to him, once the approval from the Venice Commission is obtained, the project will return to Parliament and it will also be sent to the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR). Asked whether the Constitution revision referendum will take two days, as the Social Liberal Union (USL, ruling alliance) announced, Ponta said that ‘this was not yet decided: ‘We are discussing the matter will all the parliamentary groups’.
Decentralisation process will go on
Ponta said USL will wait for the motivation to the decision of the CCR to continue the decentralisation process, a necessary measure that was also supported by the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL, in the Opposition). ‘In the first place, I do not know what the CCR decided: (…) Therefore, I do not believe we have done anything unconstitutional. I believe that it is a European trend to decentralise. Then, I find the idea of decentralisation absolutely necessary and as soon as the Court gives its opinion we should see what there is to be done. (…) obviously, in the draft for the Constitution amendment that we shall submit to a referendum at the same time with the elections for the European Parliament, we shall also include the text the Court recommends”.
Asked to comment the statements about disbanding the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), the premier answered that we live in a democratic country, where everybody can say his opinion, good or bad, without being “murdered” by the media. “The only thing I would truly find blamable would be for someone to demand banning the Church, which helped us to be born 2,000 years ago. As for the rest… We receive proposals to found and disband the Parliament, the Government or the televisions…”, Ponta said.
Asked about how he received the decision of the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM) on his statements in the case of the prison sentence of Adrian Nastase in the Zambaccian case, the premier said that he took act of the CSM decision, mentioning that he will continue to make political statements on this issue, but referring to cases that are not in trial: “I did not refer to any judge, any prosecutor, I spoke about Traian Basescu. I believe that the comments of the president who says: «I have the keys of justice!» are political statements as well, because he does not actually have such keys, everybody obeys him on their knees. I believe these are still political statements, I do not think that Justice was no longer independent because Mr. Basescu said that he has the keys.”
As for the information launched on Facebook by presidential aide Sebastian Lazaroiu about the USL preparing the suspension of the president for high treason, the head of the government simply said: “Don’t listen to all fools!” On the other hand, he added that he has information about Elena Basescu, the president’s youngest daughter, running for a new mandate in the European Parliament on the lists of the Civic Force, supported by the president of this party, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu.
CVM report: Progress in multiple areas, concerns over judicial independence
Romania has made progress in many areas, but concerns are lingering about the independence of the judiciary, reads the draft report authored by the European Commission under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), which was obtained by Agerpres. ‘The track record of the key judicial and integrity institutions has remained positive. Necessary and long awaited legislative changes have remained on track and a spirit of cooperation between judicial institutions and the Ministry of Justice is helping managerial issues to be tackled,’ reads the document. The draft report also remarks that Romania ‘has benefited from a calmer political atmosphere since spring 2013.’ ‘However, concerns about judicial independence remain and there are many examples of resistance to integrity and anti-corruption measures at political and administrative levels. The rushed and untransparent amendment of the Criminal Code in December 2013 sparked widespread concern as a fundamental challenge to the legal regime for tackling corruption and promoting integrity,’ the draft report further reads, mentioning also the that the Constitutional Court of Romania has ruled the attempted changes to the Criminal Code as unconstitutional. ‘The important measure of key appointments shows a mixed picture, with some procedures running in an open, transparent and merit-based way, whilst others are open to criticism on the grounds of political interference. This picture has consequences for the extent to which the reform process in Romania can be seen as sustainable,’ the draft report further notes. The document also mentions doubts about the depth of the commitment to tackling corruption and promoting an independent judiciary.
On the other hand, according to the draft, The National Integrity Agency (ANI) and the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) are the judicial institutions that earned commendation, while Parliament is subject to criticism and the Constitutional Court Romania (CCR) is seen as ‘a major arbiter at the heart of the rule of law.’ The document also mentions the debate over the amendment of the Constitution, underscoring that the opinion of the Superior Council of the Magistracy must be taken in consideration.