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October 20, 2020

A critique too far

In an editorial for European Voice, Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament, argues that the European Commission must do better in handling future constitutional crises than it has in the case of Romania.“José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, was certainly right to say in his ‘state of the Union’ speech last week that we need a more integrated and democratic Europe,” Swoboda writes.“That is why many of us are concerned about the Commission’s recent handling of the constitutional crisis in Romania.(…) Against that admittedly high standard, the commissioner responsible – Viviane Reding, the commissioner for justice and fundamental rights – has fallen short in her dealings with Romania and undermined the objectivity of the Commission’s handling of this issue. The implications are worrying. (…) But Reding reacted as if the government was the main and only cause for concern. She chose to ignore the abuses of office for which President Traian Basescu was found guilty by Romania’s constitutional court, his repeated attempts to influence the judiciary, his unwillingness to respect the limits of his constitutional authority and his refusal to accept the majority will of parliament.”Swoboda further supports the idea that the liberals and socialists followed the rules at every stage, securing a parliamentary majority, holding a referendum and respecting the result. For Reding to describe this as an attempted “coup” was irresponsible and insulting, especially as she repeated it days before the referendum, the head of the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament writes. “Those supporting suspension were exercising their democratic rights peacefully.”Hannes Swoboda considers that “one of the Commission’s main complaints was the use of an emergency decree to change the law on referendums by removing the turnout threshold of 50% plus one. The fact that it reversed a change made weeks earlier by Basescu, also by emergency decree, was not mentioned. This highlights a serious inconsistency. Whereas the issuing of a few emergency decrees by the new government was presented as a threat to democracy, the hundreds issued by Basescu during his period in office were considered unworthy of mention, let alone criticism.”“Despite an 87% vote in favour of impeachment, the Romanian people now find themselves saddled with a president they manifestly do not want and political uncertainly is likely to continue,” Swoboda concludes, adding that the Commission must do better in handling similar crises in the future.

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