The Senate and the House started their first ordinary session of 2018 and the third of the legislature’s 2017-2020 term.
Modifying the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, a new law on pensions and salaries, modifying the national security legislation – which concerns the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) – and the Administrative Code, which has a series of controversial articles that establish, for instance, that the assessment of the necessity and advisability of issuing Government administrative acts is carried out exclusively by Government members, are among the PSD-ALDE ruling coalition’s priorities during this session.
The session that started on Thursday will tackle an important set of measures that must be taken, and the modification of the Criminal Codes is one of the immediate priorities of the PSD-ALDE majority, as recently announced by the leaders of the main ruling party.
PSD House lawmaker Catalin Radulescu stated that the members of the special committee amending the judicial laws, a committee chaired by former Justice Minister Florin Iordache, will start to modify the Criminal Codes and to decriminalise abuse of office, adding that the European directive on the presumption of innocence should have been transposed two years ago.
PSD Deputy Secretary General Codrin Stefanescu stated in his own turn that PSD will modify the Criminal Codes “a lot.” Asked why persons with legal problems of a criminal nature will be part of the Dancila Government, he said “because we can.” Likewise, he said that the protesters who disagree with these changes “should form a single party with Kovesi as President, Prime Minister and Emperor.”
Florin Iordache, chairman of the special parliamentary committee on the judicial laws, gave assurances that Parliament “will fulfil its role” and will transpose the European directive on the presumption of innocence by April 1. “I assure you that, by April 1, Parliament will carry out its role and will transpose the directive. We are talking about principles. The principles from the directive… the Government has transposed a part of them via the bill tabled in the Senate, but for the rest of the articles that must be transposed via the initiative of parliamentary groups and of professional associations… that’s precisely what we are doing. Through transparent debate involving all those interested. But I assure you there will be no need for an OUG [Government Emergency Ordinance] because in February we will forward to the Senate a bill on transposing the directive,” Florin Iordache said, referring to what the special committee will do about the transposition of the European directive on the presumption of innocence.
Likewise, the controversial pension law will also be on Parliament’s agenda. Labour Minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu said that this law must be adopted as fast as possible. According to the legislative act, the pension point will be hiked to RON 1,775 by 2020. The minimum guaranteed pension will stand at RON 550, and the minimum pension at RON 650. Likewise, the salary law, which entails income drops for those who earn more than RON 7,000 per month, is another measure expected in Parliament.
On the other hand, PSD President Liviu Dragnea announced on Wednesday that he wants modifications to the national security laws brought during the new parliamentary session, because the intelligence services need “a modern legislation.” The national security laws concern the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE).
Another important bill on the agenda of this parliamentary session is the Administrative Code bill tabled within the Senate in December, a legislative initiative undertaken by PSD House and Senate lawmakers. The bill was promoted in an urgent procedure. The Administrative Code bill has a series of controversial articles that establish, for instance, that that the assessment of the necessity and advisability of issuing Government administrative acts is carried out exclusively by Government members. The Code also stipulates that the member of Government who finds himself/herself in conflict of interest must abstain from taking the decision that could bring about benefits to himself/herself or to his/her spouse and second-degree relatives, but not when it concerns the issuance, endorsement, or adoption of legislative acts. According to the bill, if an administrative act had harmful consequences, the responsibility belongs exclusively to its signatory. The Code also stipulates that, by way of exception, the members of Government can also be members of General Assemblies of Shareholders or Administrative Boards of autonomous administrations, public companies of strategic interest, including banks and financial institutions, or in case a public interest demands it. The bill also stipulates the number of jobs available within the cabinets and chancelleries of dignitaries and local elected officials, the highest number being allocated to the Prime Minister (18) and the Bucharest Mayor (13).
On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) decided that the law modifying and supplementing law no.303/2004 on the statute of judges and prosecutors contains unconstitutional provisions, and asked that judicial error, ill faith, and grave negligence be redefined. On January 22, the CCR declared unconstitutional some provisions of the law on the statute of civil servants, following a notification lodged by President Klaus Iohannis. The aspects declared unconstitutional will be re-discussed in Parliament.
New Standing Bureau voted within House. Tomac: PMP was abusively deprived of a representative within the SB
On Thursday, at the start of the parliamentary session, the House voted on the makeup of the Standing Bureau (SB). The Popular Movement Party (PMP) stated that it was abusively deprived of a representative within the SB, even though it has more House seats than ALDE.
“PMP was abusively deprived of a representative within the Standing Bureau, even though we have more seats in the House than ALDE; it’s an abuse and a grave matter for the functioning of this institution,” PMP Executive President Eugen Tomac stated at the plenary meeting.
PMP has 16 seats in the House, while ALDE has 15, according to the data posted on the Lower House’s official website.
PSD backed Florin Iordache, Carmen Mihalcescu and Gabriel Vase as Standing Bureau Vice Presidents, Mircea Draghici and Georgian Pop as Standing Bureau Secretaries, and Marcel Ciolacu as Quaestor.
PNL nominated Ben Oni Ardelean as Standing Bureau Vice President, and Cristian Buican as Standing Bureau Secretary.
USR’s Cristian Seidler will hold the office of Standing Bureau Secretary.
UDMR nominated Seres Denes as Quaestor, while ALDE nominated Andrei Gerea.
The group of lawmakers representing ethnic minorities nominated Dragos Zisopol as Quaestor.
The makeup of the Standing Bureau was adopted with 218 votes in favour and 34 against.
Senate votes on new makeup of the Standing Bureau
On Thursday, during the first session of 2018, the Senate adopted the new makeup of the Standing Bureau for the new parliamentary session. The Standing Bureau will consist of one President, four Vice Presidents, four Secretaries and four Quaestors.
During the first session of 2018, the Senate’s Standing Bureau will consist of: President – Calin Popescu Tariceanu (ALDE); Vice Presidents – Adrian Tutuianu and Claudiu Iulian Manda (PSD), Cornel Popa (PNL) and Nicu Falcoi (USR); Secretaries – Emilia Arcan and Marian Pavel (PSD), Mario Oprea (PNL) and Gheorghe Baciu (PMP); Quaestors – Doina Elena Federovici and Nicolae Marin (PSD), Eugen Tapu Nazare (PNL) and Tanczos Barna (UDMR).
The makeup of the Standing Bureau was adopted unanimously.
The decision to convene the Senate’s first ordinary session this year was signed by Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu on January 25.
At the end of the previous session, the Senate had 136 members, but it will start the new session with 135 members, following the death of UDMR Senator Verestoy Attila (63) on January 24.
Antal Loran, who ran for the Senate on UDMR’s list in December 2016, could replace Verestoy Attila.