Basescu-Ponta row on representation to the European Council continues

The head of state rejected Parliament’s recommendation. Legal Affairs Committee decision could make President’s impeachment easier.

President Traian Basescu held a press conference yesterday evening, in his effort to ‘explain’ to the media and government officials the way European Union mechanisms are working.The head of state criticized PM Victor Ponta’s statements in May that it is time for President Traian Basescu to stop carrying on as a Government and Parliament official. ‘Ever since the Ponta government is in place, I have had the same attitude and kind of relations as with previous cabinets.’ Traian Basescu lashed out at PM Ponta, calling his attitude as demagogic and unfair, because he, as president, knows very well how the UE is working. “It’s not fair to say I want to cooperate, but on the other hand to misinform the public opinion,” he said.Basescu reproached the government that several EU meeting have not been attended by any of the Romanian officials, while the cabinet looks set and very interested in the European Council meeting on June 28. ‘It will not be a simple trip to Brussels, as Mr. Ponta is trying to make you believe,’ Basescu further said. He added that he already has an eight year experience and is not that eager to go to Brussels. ‘We should gather round the person capable to defend Romania’s interests,’ he said, adding he has a formidable experience in the relation with the EU. ‘I will respect any decision of the parliament, as long as it is legal and can not be questioned in any way,’ the president said.‘Nobody should ask me to infringe the constitution. Tomorrow (today – o.n.) I am going to have a meeting with PM Ponta and I hope we’ll settle the issue. This is not a conflict,’ Traian Basescu stressed.It was the second day in a row that the president held a press conference in order to explain the EU mechanisms and reply to PM Ponta on the issue of representation.On Tuesday PM Ponta demanded Parliament to settle Romania’s representation in EU meetings. The legislative decided the same day, by 249 votes for and 30 against, to support the Premier to represent Romania to the European Council on June 28.Although Parliament recommended on Tuesday that Prime Minister Victor Ponta should attend the European Council summit scheduled on June 28 in Brussels, the internal dispute between the government and President Traian Basescu is far from over. The Head of State came out immediately after the Parliament’s decision, stating that he does not recognize it and criticizing the Prime Minister. On the other hand, PM Ponta stated that he is justified to go to Brussels, pointing out that he will talk to Basescu by phone in order to solve the dispute so that Romania will not be embarrassed. In a statement he made on Tuesday at the Presidential Palace, the Head of State announced that he will make his return to public life, explaining that he did not do so during the local elections because he “didn’t want to give some the opportunity to fill up the campaign.” Basescu argued that the current Constitution stipulates that the Head of States represents the country abroad, including at European Council summits, pointing out that Article 80 clearly states that the Romanian President, not the Premier, represents the Romanian state and is its guarantor, adding that the Premier should attend Council of the European Union summits that are “more important” but that lack “family photo moments.” In Basescu’s opinion, headed by Victor Ponta “the political class offered the most embarrassing spectacle” in Parliament on Tuesday, showing a lack of understanding of how the European Union works. “Our politicians are confusing the European Council with the Council of the EU,” the President stated, adding that the same confusion is being made by professors and journalists. He pointed out that he will respect any legal act issued by the Romanian Parliament and proven to be constitutional, however the statement that the Parliament made on Tuesday concerning representation at the European Council is not a legal act and “cannot be opposable to the Romanian President, at any rate,” the Premier needing a law or a decision for that. The Head of State added that the Prime Minister will represent the Romanian state only if he delegates the prerogatives to him. “The fact that he is trying to up the ante not by discussing with me but through an act that lacks legal value shows weakness. (…) Prime Ministers should be men, should stand up for what they want,” Basescu stated. After the press conference at the Presidential Palace, Basescu intervened by phone on B1TV and pointed out that he would accept delegating Premier Victor Ponta to attend the European Council “only in constitutional conditions.” “The legitimacy of one’s presence at the Council is not something to play with. (…) There are votes there, consensus. What would happen if a representative files a veto and he lacks legitimacy and that fact is discovered several years later?” he asked. Basescu also stated that he will not become a Head of State “that hides under the desk to avoid impeachment” and that he knows a USL bid to impeach him is “counterproductive.” “Remember that I won my term in office by playing everything on a single hand, on the Constitution,” he said. At the same time, the President pointed out that USL is trying to change the Constitution through a Parliament statement in order to prove that the Head of State is “conflict-prone.” Asked who will attend the European Council on June 28 if it is impossible for both him and Ponta to do so, Basescu answered: “I assure you I will never cover myself with ridicule, whoever wants that is free to do it,” adding that he hopes the Constitutional Court’s arbitration will not be needed on this issue.

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