SRI Committee regulations, modified: Anyone will be obligated to go before Committee if summoned

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The regulations of the parliamentary committee for the oversight of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) were modified on Wednesday, during the Lower House and Senate’s joint meeting, with 226 votes in favour, 43 against and two abstentions, one of the most controversial provisions being that anyone is obligated to go before the committee when summoned.

“In the decision, we also introduced the provision that any person – because until now only SRI officers [were concerned] –, any person deemed by the committee to hold data that concern our activity, is obligated to come before the committee,” SRI Oversight Committee Chairman Claudiu Manda stated.

Asked what will happen to those who refuse to go before the committee, Manda said no penalties are stipulated.

PNL Lower House member Cezar Preda, member of the committee, criticised the amendments brought to the regulations.

“So, you can summon anyone you like, whom you think they may have documents, not that they want to. And not only that. (…) The persons mentioned in paragraph 4 have the obligation to show up for hearings. It’s the second time we are making this mistake with which we shaped the public agenda for four months. We are obligating someone – via committee’s regulations – to show up, but if they don’t we have no sanctions because they aren’t entailed. So, we want the SRI Oversight Committee to in fact become an “apartment committee.” Is this the desire? We vote against,” Preda said.

The Liberal MP also criticised the committee’s latest activity, stating it is taking the route of politicisation.

“You too have seen, just like all of us in fact, the great problems on the media channels, regarding the way this committee functions. It no longer has time to handle terrorism threats, migration that explodes every day, and it no longer has time to handle the problems strictly concerning our blue security code. It becomes a bubble of secrets, to which those with problems come to communicate them. (…) If this committee is walking on the route to its politicisation, I want to tell you we all have a very big problem. (…) In general, this committee didn’t have Ruling Power and Opposition, for 20 years it had a consensus in what concerns the security needs. But we mustn’t make this committee the politicisation of the SRI – this is the worst thing a Romanian MP could do,” Cezar Preda said.

SRI Oversight Committee Chairman Claudiu Manda also said that another amendment aims to force the Service to answer the committee’s requests within a period of seven workdays.

“A second amendment was that the SRI must answer within a period of seven workdays the requests or information or reports that the committee requests. If the information we request entails a larger volume of work, they should tell us within a period of seven days that they cannot answer in seven days and what is the deadline that they propose,” Claudiu Manda added.

Another amendment to the regulations of the parliamentary committee overseeing the SRI stipulates that the committee’s proceedings are taking place in line with the law on classified information.

“We changed a provision dating back to 1993, which said that the committee’s proceedings have the character of classified information and that’s all. We didn’t know whether we were talking about work secrets, state secrets, secrets of special interest, and we changed [it], stating there that the committee’s proceedings are taking place in line with the provisions of law no.182, the law on classified information. It very clearly says there which is the classified information, who can have access to it and, of course, that this classified information cannot be made public,” Manda pointed out.