“I was not correctly informed,” the Liberal leader said, admitting that foreign embassies are right to criticize the Lower Chamber’s vote on the amendments brought to the Criminal Code. Basescu says Parliament should be dissolved. The High Court of Justice (ICCJ) decided to notify the Constitutional Court about the changes brought to the Code, while PDL has already attacked them at CC on Thursday.
PNL President Crin Antonescu wants to re-discuss the amendments brought to the Criminal Code, amendments that offer super-immunity to the MPs and exonerate them from conflicts of interests. The amendments were introduced on Tuesday within the Lower Chamber and have been harshly criticized by the EU and U.S. “The information on the basis of which I commented was incomplete. I started off from the premise that this package of amendments to the Criminal Code, although they remove MPs and officials in general from the category of public servants, nevertheless surely maintain them in a category that allows them to be investigated, sued and convicted for breaking various laws. I have to admit this, although it gives me no pleasure that I was not sufficiently informed,” he said, according to realitatea.net. Moreover, Antonescu claims that the position expressed in recent days by several embassies in Romania is “correct” and worthy of being taken into account, stating that unlike what happened in 2012 “today they have reasons to express their concern.”
The Senate Speaker pointed out that he takes “full responsibility” for his prior statements, pointing out that what matters for him is for things to be done correctly. “What matters is for the legislation that we are voting not to be preferential. I propose to the Lower Chamber Speaker to bring the law back for debate in case he did not sign it. A transparent, open, thorough, argumentative discussion. If this is not possible or Mr. Zgonea disagrees with my position then when the draft is sent back for re-examination by the President I will propose to PNL Lower Chamber MPs to vote against all those amendments,” the PNL President said.
He pointed out that he has convened the party’s Political Bureau, which will meet today in order to take a decision on this issue.
On the other hand, Antonescu stated that the Liberals will ask again for the amnesty law to be removed from the Lower Chamber’s order of the day, pointing out at the same time that he upholds PNL’s position of asking for an open vote on this project.
In reply, Zgonea pointed out that the PNL President signed, as Senate Speaker, the law that modifies the Criminal Code, ironically pointing out that Antonescu could write to President Basescu and ask him to send the laws back to Parliament.
Basescu says international reactions forced MPs to back down
“Thank God! They are starting to wake up,” President Traian Basescu stated yesterday on “Adevarul Live,” referring to the fact that PNL President Crin Antonescu announced that he will ask for a repeat of the debate on the Penal Code in Parliament. Basescu criticized harshly the changes brought to the Penal Code, pointing out that what happened “is an attempt of ordinary thievery.” “I believe the reaction of the mass-media, of our allies, of the European Commission, will determine them to back down. These guys are like the thief caught stealing watches from a house. What should he do? He leaves the watches and flees. I hope they will take a step back,” the Head of State added.
According to Basescu, what happened on “Black Tuesday” is a serious reason to dissolve Parliament, the President emphasizing that if the changes to the Penal Code and the amnesty law were to come into force Romania would have stepped outside the Copenhagen criteria. Basescu explained that the sanctions that Romania risks in case it breaks the Copenhagen criteria consist of the suspension of her right to vote within the European Commission, the European Council and possibly within the European Parliament too. “Investments would very rapidly fall to zero, Romania becoming not credible,” Basescu pointed out, adding that “things would go as far as the suspension of European funds.”
“Ponta, Antonescu-weak leaders”
Traian Basescu claims that it would have been impossible for Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu to have been unaware of the changes brought to the Penal Code and of the amnesty law, pointing out that the pressures exerted by the barons are showing that the two are “weak leaders.” He pointed out that the “weak political leaders,” not the local barons, are the problem because they lack the power with which to keep the barons “in their place.”
Attack against Zgonea
Basescu’s criticism did not spare Lower Chamber Speaker Valeriu Zgonea. The Head of State launched a harsh attack against Zgonea, stating that he “behaved like a swindler.” “Zgonea should resign. (…) This man has put Romania in a difficult situation. Ponta feigns being in hiding. Antonescu comes out and talks nonsense,” Basescu stated on Wednesday evening on B1 TV. “Any mayor, advisor, can attempt to steal half a million Euros. “If they catch me I’ll get a fine, if not(…) To me this seems rare hideousness,” he added.
The Lower Chamber Speaker’s response was not late in coming. Zgonea stated that “a person who was sacked by 7.4 million Romanians cannot ask for resignations, especially when he lies and disinforms.” “The MPs can still be investigated, both for corruption and conflict of interests. I explained all these elements to the President in the letter I sent to him, hoping in good faith that he will drop the attacks the moment he notices they are not justified,” the Social-Democrat pointed out. Moreover, Zgonea on Thursday said the Romanian president is deliberately misinforming in order to divert the public’s attention from a parliamentary inquiry into the plot of land deals done by Basescu’s family.
Oana Schmidt Haineala, President of the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM), claims that the changes brought to the Penal Code include in the category of public servants also the MPs accused of committing penal offenses during the period in which they were at the helm of ministries, thus being possible for Chiuariu, Ridzi and Seres to evade responsibility. In her opinion, these changes represent “a major throwback in what concerns the penal legislative framework in Romania, starting from the manner in which they were adopted and finishing with their content.”
Government and MAE react to embassies’ positions
Government spokesperson Mirel Palada stated that the Western embassies’ reaction to the changes brought to the Penal Code represents a misunderstanding and faulty information gathering. It’s “an over-inflamed issue in Romania,” Palada explained on Digi24. The government official stated that the changes in fact seek to bring the Penal Code in line with European laws.
In his turn, Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean on Thursday said that he had ‘a clear expectation’ that when certain embassies accredited in Bucharest had ‘concerns’ or ‘cares’ concerning developments in Romania, they communicated them first to the Romanian diplomacy, not to the media, showing that he did not understand and did not approve of this practice. The comment came after the Embassies of the US, Germany and the Netherlands showed their ‘concern’ with the amendments brought to the Criminal Code, through which the Deputies’ Chamber removed the president and the parliamentarians from the category of public servants.
Premier Victor Ponta also reacted, for the first time, to the scandal over the changes brought to the Penal Code, stating that both the draft concerning the Code and the one concerning the amnesty should be discussed with the Justice Ministry, the CSM, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the European Commission alike, before being adopted by Parliament, in order to establish whether they violate any of Romania’s international commitments. On the other hand, Ponta criticized the US embassy for its harsh reaction, stating yesterday, according to Hotnews, that “the reaction was a mistake and I will tell them this.” In what concerns the mining law, the Premier’s criticism targeted his alliance partner Crin Antonescu, whom he accused of “playing for offside trap again” but this time “he left himself in an offside position.”