Romania will send to EU states’ leaders a letter on Schengen

PM Victor Ponta and the president of the EC, Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday held a joint press conference at the conclusion of a meeting that referred, among others, to the EU budget for 2014-2020 and the recently unveiled EC report on the Romanian judiciary.

Premier Ponta yesterday informed the president of the European Commission (EC) about his intention to send to all the heads of state and government of the EU a letter co-signed by him, President Basescu and the speakers of the two Houses of the Parliament in view of a decision favourable to Romania’s accession to the Schengen Zone.The announcement about the intention to send EU member countries a common letter of the Presidency, Government and Parliament on the Schengen accession was made by PM Victor Ponta, who was in Brussels on Monday, during a joint press conference with the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.“I informed the president of the European Commission that we intend to send a common letter, signed by the president of the country, by me as prime minister and by the speakers of the two Houses of the Parliament, regarding the accession of Romania to Schengen, possibly in March,” Ponta said.He added that he hopes that the support of the European Commission for Romania’s accession to Schengen will have positive results in March.In the press conference, the premier also referred to the other topics approached during the meeting with Barroso. He said that four important matters were approached.

The first referred to improving the absorption of European funds and reaching an agreement on the multi-annual financial framework at the European Council of this week. “There is a need for increasing the cohesion funds and payments in agriculture. I am sure that the final accord will take into consideration the interests of Romania, while also observing the EU objective about the existence of more cohesion and narrowing the gap between older and newer states,” the premier said. He went on by presenting the second point of the meeting with the president of the EC, which refers to the CVM report. “Even without the CVM, as a politician and former prosecutor, I am deeply committed to the independence of justice, the effort of making the system work much better than before, I will strive to keep all the commitments made by the government and I am sure that the next report will not only reflect the improvements, but will also include clear recommendations which the Government, the Parliament will be able to enforce in order to demonstrate that Romania respects all European standards,” Ponta said.The premier added that he talked with President Barroso about the point referring to the press: “I am sure that the freedom of the press will be respected same as in the whole Europe, as it represents a fundamental value, naturally in balance with the independence of justice.”Last but not least, according to Ponta, during the meeting it was also discussed about how prepared Romania is to accede to Schengen. In this context, the premier mentioned the letter that will be sent to all the leaders of EU states.

Barroso warns Romania: ‘Example has to be given where there are corruption cases’

The European Commission is expecting to continue to witness progress in what concerns the independence of the judiciary, but also for politicians to offer an example “by stepping down” when there are charges of corruption or decisions concerning integrity, EC President Jose Manuel Barroso stated.“I appreciate the efforts that Prime Minister Ponta has made over the last six months to deliver on the commitments he made last July. The conditions now exist, with a more stable political situation, a new Government and Parliament, to make a real push on the reform process. We need to see further progress on the independence of the judiciary and the appointment to key posts. We will also look to politicians to set an example by stepping aside where integrity rulings or corruption charges exist,” Barroso said yesterday.The European official added that the EC is expecting to see progress in the case of appointments to “key offices” within the judiciary too. The EC modified the text of the CVM report published last Wednesday, the sentence “three of the newly-appointed ministers were criminally investigated for corruption” being replaced with “among the new ministers there are two confirmed cases of criminally investigated persons.” During the same press conference Barroso added that the EC is defending the free press and does not plan to propose the modification of media regulations, but it cannot disregard the complaints received from the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) and the Constitutional Court (CC) in relation to the existence of a campaign against magistrates. Thus, he explained that the EC officials did not recommend a concrete solution on this issue in the latest report on the situation in Romania, but they nevertheless considered that it is important to mention the existence of such a problem, in order for it to be “corrected” by Romanian authorities. At the same time, the EC President claimed that Brussels received complaints not only from CSM and CC, but also from numerous civic organizations. European Commission spokesperson Mark Gray stated last Wednesday that the EC received complaints from the representatives of the CC, CSM and the High Court of Justice (ICCJ), complaints that referred, among other things, to intimidation and harassment through the media. He stated that the cases in which high level officials were subjected to media pressure were numerous, not just one or two.


UNJR: Using country reports in the political battle is inadmissible

Against the background in which the EC published the CVM report on the Romanian judiciary last week and Premier Ponta met EC President Barroso yesterday, the two tackling this issue too, the National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) has taken a stand against the use of country reports in the political battle. Thus, UNJR considers that the use of country reports in the political battle is inadmissible and firmly asks the political class to treat the issues raised in the EC’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report with utmost responsibility. UNJR also points out that the CVM is an instrument Romania agreed to on the date of its EU accession, an instrument that has proven its use in supporting judiciary reform as well as in denouncing any form of pressure on the judiciary. “Apart from this technical aspect, the CVM is also a gauge of the way in which Romania’s respect of European values and standards is perceived in Brussels. From this point of view, the UNJR notes that, after five years, the Romanian political class’s respect for the independence of the judiciary is once again put into question. This thing alone is of an exceptional seriousness. Much more serious however is the way in which the political class has understood this signal.”

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