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March 27, 2023

Antonescu harshly slams Ponta in sacked prosecutors’ row

The Premier does not respond, pointing out solely that he wants to maintain USL united.
PNL President Crin Antonescu launched a harsh attack against his alliance partner Premier Victor Ponta, on the issue of the decision to replace National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Section I head Lucian Papici. Antonescu stated on Friday that Victor Ponta spoke in the name of the attorney general, which “is unacceptable.” “The Head of Government, Mr. Victor Ponta, talked in the name of the attorney general, explained why he was replaced, how he was a Basist (Basescu’s yes-man) , how he came up with political cases and how they – I don’t know exactly who – no longer keep Basists in office. It’s unacceptable. The Prime Minister, through his constitutional prerogatives, cannot and is not allowed to offer explanations or to issue messages on behalf of the attorney general. The Head of State intervened too and, very emphatically, in his characteristic style, accused, of course entirely disproportionately, the Prime Minister’s intervention, but informed us that he picked up the phone, called the attorney general and, using a formula endowed with symbolic meaning, a formula that has already entered political folklore, told him: “this is not good, Mr. attorney general.” It’s just as unacceptable,” Antonescu stated during a press conference. He pointed out that in what concerns Victor Ponta he keeps hope “it was just a mistake.”
The PNL President also told Ponta that whoever tries to intimidate, influence or control the judiciary will have a determined opponent in the person of the PNL President. Consequently, the PNL President announced that he will ask for “a serious debate on the state of the judiciary” to be held within the Senate.
The proposal however was criticized by the Democrat-Liberals, PDL President Vasile Blaga labelling it as “cheap populism.” In fact, Antonescu criticized the cohabitation pact between Basescu and Ponta. “There is no point prolonging the comedy around this political document. It’s embarrassing. This political document, the so-called cohabitation pact, has placed Romania in the position of a semi-banana republic in Europe, because in such countries there is no Constitution, there are no laws, there are no democratically relevant elections, but there are agreements between tribal leaders,” Antonescu stated.
Yesterday Antonescu readdressed the issue on Pro TV, stating that the dissatisfaction he expressed the days before concerned the public messages given by the Premier and President, messages that can “give people the impression that above their heads the judiciary is divided between two packs and two pack leaders are making shows of force.” Nevertheless, the PNL President opined that suspending President Basescu solely based on statements is not called for, the suspension being called for the moment the attorney general complains of pressure from the Head of State.
Ponta keeps mum
On the other side, Premier Victor Ponta stated on Friday in Focsani that he wants to make efforts in order to maintain USL united, and that he does not want to offer a public answer to the PNL President. “I always make efforts in order to have a dialogue, to respect our national values, and I never give public answers to things that concern politics,” the Premier answered. He revealed that on Thursday, during the national day reception at the German embassy, he discussed “very amicably” with his colleagues. “I can discuss both with Mr. Basescu and Mr. Antonescu.” “I want us to have peace and to be able to accomplish what the people are asking us to accomplish, even here in Focsani, to create jobs, to make investments, to develop ourselves economically. I believe this is important,” Ponta added. During the national day reception offered at the German embassy Ponta talked for over fifteen minutes with U.S. charge d’affaires Duane Butcher, their talks also touching on the situation created by the decision to replace Papici. Asked by Mediafax whether he talked with the American official about the new appointments within the DNA, in the sense that their terms had expired, Ponta pointed out that he explained the situation.
Foreign reactions
Later, the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest answered in a press release that “as a NATO ally and close partner, the United States shares the Romanian government’s goal of ensuring the independence and professionalism of the justice system and fighting corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Directorate is a vitally important institution in these efforts”. “We express our admiration and appreciation for the excellent work done by Mr. Lucian Papici and Ms. Mariana Alexandru. The critical appointments of their replacements must be the result of correct procedures and consultation to ensure that the DNA continues to be led by the most competent, courageous prosecutors with strong records of fighting corruption. We urge cooperation and consultation on this issue among all parties involved: the Chief Prosecutor of DNA, the Prosecutor General, the Justice Minister, the CSM, and the Presidency”, U.S. Embassy also said.
The reactiuon of the U.S. Embassy follows that of the Ambassador of Netherlands in Bucharest, Matthijs van Bonzel, who on Thursday launched an appeal to refraining from any comment and interference “with the policies of the General Prosecutor’s Office.” The Duth diplomat stressed “the curcial role of the independence of the Prosecutor’s Office” and reminded that Romania made a commitment to respect this independence, as part of the MCV.
In his turn, European Commission spokesman Mark Gray said that the situation of the National Anticorruption Directorate will be reflected in the MCV report that will be released in December. “The situation of the DNA will be reflected, as usually, in the next MCV report, but we do not comment the individual nominations,” Gray said, quoted by Mediafax.
Another reaction came from the leader of Socialists in the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda, who considers that PNL president Crin Antonescu should show more respect to the premier and the ruling coalition, whiel USL leaders should settle their issues in private.
PSD compares Antonescu with Basescu
On the domestic political stage, the social-democrats gave a tough answer to Crin Antonescu. The leader of PSD senators, Ilie Sarbu said that he saw “another Traian Basescu” and that Antonescu made an electoral statement, adding that “this was the toughest attack so far.” In his turn, PSD senator Mircea Geoana mentioned that the PNL leader “suddenly” took a liking for the independence of justice after attacking magistrates and accused DNA of investigating only the cases against PNL, so there is actually no difference between Antonescu and Basescu, he added. PSD spokesman Catalin Ivan said that Crin Antonescu’s attack against Premier Victor Ponta is unfair and the PNL leader should make clear whether PSD and PNL will continue together, or if the liberal “has somethign different in mind.” Antonescu promptly answered Ivan, asking him what connection there is between this and the support for the presidential elections.
The president of the Conservative Party, Daniel Constantin intervened in the dispute, saying that “things reached an incredible situation,” with certain partners within USL “stalking and attacking, so they can capitalise on the political statements made by the others.” He also called for an emergency meeting of USL.
Meetings in support of the two dismissed prosecutors
Social networks yesterday carried calls for meetings in support of prosecutors Lucian Papici and Mariana Alexandru, revoked last week from the positions of chief, respectively deputy chief of Section 1 of DNA, by general prosecutor Tiberiu Nitu. According to announcements posted on Facebook, a rally was due for yesterday, at 5.00 PM, in front of the DNA headquarters, followed by a protest against “the interference of politicians” in justice, starting at 6.00 PM in the Piata Universitatii Square of Bucharest.

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