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October 25, 2020

Review of 2015 : Iohannis, after the first year of his presidential term – “a different manner of doing politics”, awards and international visibility

The requests filed by Justice of ceasing the immunity of MPs, special pensions, the Tax Code, Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s resignation were among the topics approached by President Klaus Iohannis in relation with the representatives of the Government and of the Parliament during the first year of his term. The Head of the State also had institutional counseling with the Prime Minister, members of the Government and parties, shows a review published by Agerpres.

The President and the Parliament had different points of view on certain projects, regardless of whether they were the special pensions, the changes on the Tax Code or he postal voting. Klaus Iohannis did not hesitate to send back to the Parliament or to file appeals to the Constitutional Court on draft laws when his vision was different to that of the Parliament or of the Government.

2015 was also the debut of a “different manner of making politics”, as the Head of the State declared; it was the year when the High Court decided that Iohannis, as Mayor of Sibiu, was not in incompatibility, and a year of premieres – for the first the time in his history of discussions dedicated to choosing a Prime Minister, the Head of the State wanted as well to find out the opinion of the civil society.

On a personal scale, Iohannis launched his book “The First Step”, a follow-up to the volume “Steo By Step”, at the Bookfest International Book Fair.

The start of his term and the verdict on incompatibility

President Klaus Iohannis started his term on December 21, 2014, after winning the elections to former Prime Minister and PSD President Victor Ponta.
Iohannis had not yet been granted a verdict from behalf of the High Court concerning the file that included charges of incompatibility against him, during his term as a Mayor.

In April 2013, the National Integrity Agency considered that Iohannis was under incompatibility for simultaneously holding a position as Mayor of Sibiu and representative of the municipality in the General Assembly of Stockholders in the companies SC Apa Canal SA and SC Piete SA. In January, nonetheless, the High Court overruled the appeal filed by ANI and decided that Iohannis had not been in a state of incompatibility.

* Consultations with parties, the business environment, labour unions confederations and, for the first time, with the civil society

Last December, during his appointment speech in the Parliament, the Head of the State declared that he wished a thorough change in the country, so that Romania would get rid of sensationalism and cheap circus.

“We all want a thorough transformation of the society we are living in, of Romania in its ensemble. The changes in the law are just one step. They need to be accompanied by a change in mentality, practices and working manner. I want a Romania that would be free of the sphere of sensationalism, that has become an everyday occurrence, a Romania that has no time for circus because both the Power and the Opposition are busy. The President, the Parliament and the Government are all working”, Iohannis had stated at that time.

Then, he announced that he would call political parties to counseling, on fundamental topics connected to the grand political public systems: education, health and the system of pensions.
On January 12, President Klaus Iohannis had the first consultations with Parliamentary parties. As a result, he gained consensus that the budget granted to Defence would be 2 per cent of the GDP for the year 2017.

By the end of January, the Head of the State had consultations with parties and Parliament groups on legislative priorities, respectively the package of electoral laws, as well as the simplifying of procedures for the requests to approve the detaining, arrest and search of members of the Parliament. He suggested an agenda concerning the package of electoral laws, showing that they had agreed finally that, by the end of the Parliament session, they would have a legislative solution in this case.

In April, Iohannis invited parties to discussions referring to the status of electoral legislation and to Parliament procedures destined for the approval of Justice demands. After the counseling, the Head of the State announced that there was an agreement on the laws concerning local elections, party financing, parliamentary elections and voting in the Diaspora.

In May, President Iohannis promulgated the package of laws regulating the financing of the activity of parties and of electoral campaigns, the law on political parties and the one on electing local public administration authorities; although he declared these laws were not perfect, but admitted that they represented a gain.

The postal voting law, which only targets parliamentary elections though, was only adopted in October and it was promulgated only in November by the Head of the State, after the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) overruled the complaint by ALDE and UDMR on this draft law.

In May, the President discussed with parties and parliamentary groups about the legal frame of processing personal data and the protection of private life in the field of electronic communications. Leaders of political parties signed, after these discussions, a legislative initiative to change and develop Law 506/2004 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of private life in electronic communications field.

In June, discussions concerned the National Strategy of Country Defence, which was introduced to the Parliament.

At these discussions, the representatives of Power and those of Opposition entered separately after Liberals announced at that point that they no longer acknowledge the legitimacy of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, under the circumstances of DNA starting to investigate his case.

After Prime Minister Ponta’s resignation, on the background of street protests caused by the tragedy at Colectiv Club, the Head of the State had two more rounds of discussions with parliamentary groups, in order to designate a Prime Minister and, in premiere, there were representatives of the civil society, as well, invited to Cotroceni.

President Iohannis also had discussions with the leaders of labour unions confederations, with the representatives of the business environment, in order to establish the priorities in this field, but also with members of the Parliament representative the electoral circumscription of Diaspora and with the Deputies of national minorities.

The special pensions for MPs and the Tax Code

In the first ordinary session of the year, the Parliament adopted the law on the special pensions for the members of the Parliament. The Head of the State demanded the reexamining of this draft law. He explained that reexamining was necessary under the circumstances of the excessive and arbitrary character of the new allowance due to be received by Deputies and Senators, but also due to the fact that this right would be granted to all members of the Parliament, even to those who have committed corruption crimes according to the old Tax Code and to those whose term was stopped due to incompatibility.

In December, the Parliament approved the President’s request of reexamining concerning the draft law of MPs’ pensions, adopting the legislative proposal with amendments. The draft, a modification to the Statute of Deputies and Senators, stipulates that the members of the Parliament who meet the conditions of the standard retirement age are entitled, at the end of the term, to an age-related pension, if they are not re-elected.

The Head of the State demanded the reexamining of the Tax Code, too. “We support tax relaxation and simplifying by the cut of certain taxes, under the circumstances that conditions are granted for financial consolidation and predictability. From this perspective, we think that the new Tax Code may only be applied after a rigorous and solid analysis of the implications of the entire set of financial and budgetary measures upon the construction of the generally consolidated budget, both for the year 2016 and for the years to follow, and only by respecting obligations assumed by Romania and of the internal legislation referring to financial-budgetary discipline”, the Head of the State pointed out in the request of reexamining.

He pointed out that the application of the new Tax Code “would generate major implications at the level of budget construction for the next years, from the perspective of the objective to maintain tax consolidation.”

The re-examining of the Tax Code was adopted by the Parliament during the second Parliament session.
Among the reexamining requests demanded by the Head of the State was the one including the one on debt to equity swap.

Relation with Ex-Prime Minister Ponta, from an institutional one to requests of resignation

During the term of former President Traian Basescu, the relation with the Prime Minister was based on a pact of cohabitation. Instead, Klaus Iohannis started since the third day of his Presidential term institutional discussions with the Prime Minister of that time — Victor Ponta. Thus, the Head of the State had several encounters with the latter, concerning, among other things, the appointment of new Ministers, new Romanian Ambassadors in various countries, the process of our country joining the Euro Zone and various laws.

Moreover, he also had institutional meetings with the Ministers on the fields the Head of the State was responsible of.

After DNA announced that Victor Ponta was accused of criminal offences, President Iohannis demanded him to resign: “In my opinion, it is an impossible situation for Romania that the Prime Minister would be accused of criminal offences. On the other hand, the worst thing that could happen to Romania today was another political crisis. Considering all of these, I request Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s resignation”.

Even after Ponta resigned as leader of PSD, the Head of the State maintained his position, mentioning though that he would collaborate with him institutionally, as before.
When the Parliament rejected the demands of Justice in Ponta’s case, the President accused the Legislative of being a “shield”, emphasizing that Romania’s image was affected.

Prime Minister Ponta chose several times not to inform President Iohannis on his visits abroad, a fact questioned verbally by the Head of the State. Thus, in June, the President declared that he had heard of Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s visit to Baku after he had left to the capital of Azerbaijan.

“No Baku, no ‘Happy Birthday’, no Turkey. He did not call me at all”, the President pointed out.

On former PM Ponta’s visit to Sofia, where he discussed the issue of immigrants, the President pointed out that he had no approval.

The Head of the State advised former Vice-Premier Gabriel Oprea to resign following the death by accident of a police officer in his accompanying political convoy.
As a result of street protests against authorities, sprung after the fire in Colectiv Club, Ponta resigned.

Despite of having revealed during the first year of his Presidential term that he wished PNL to overtake the Government, the Head of the State changed his vision radically and announced after

Victor Ponta’s resignation that he proposed Dacian Ciolos as Prime Minister, in the lead of a technocrat Government. He thus overruled the proposal launched by PSD – Liviu Voinea. The Head of the State was present among protesters against authorities under the circumstances of the Colectiv Club tragedy.

During Ponta’s term as Head of the Government, the Head of the State rejected Mihai Fifor’s nomination at the Ministry of Transportation, after Ioan Rus resigned. The Head of the State demanded the ex-Prime Minister to nominate somebody else, who would meet “required criteria”.

Messages issued in the Parliament and criticism concerning the Legislative

The Head of the State held five speeches in the Parliament since having won the Presidential elections.

The first message was occasioned by the start of his term. After came the speech in February, in which he demanded the existence of a new legislation regulating elections by the end of the parliamentary session; the presentation of the National Defence Strategy; the speech at the beginning of the autumn parliamentary session on refugee crisis, postal voting, a code of incompatibilities and regulations on local elections and finally, the speech at the end of his first year as President.

On December 16, after one year of his Presidential term, he announced that the greatest stake of the year to come was to rebuild confidence in politics.

Throughout the year, President Iohannis criticized the Parliament several times for rejecting requests by Justice to cease the immunity of Parliament members, pointing out that they persevere in obstructing trials.

“It is only a Parliament that can respond promptly and correctly to the demands of Justice may regain the trust of citizens”, the Head of the State declared in March, under the circumstances of the Senate overruling the request on Dan Sova’s detaining and preventive arrest.

He even observed a juridical conflict of constitutional nature between the Public Ministry ・ the Prosecutors’ Office of the High Court of Cassation and Justice and, on one hand, and the Romanian Senate, on the other, started by the latter’s refusal to edit and publish the decree that proves the result of the voting issued by the Senate plenum. CCR approved the complaint by the Head of CSM and established that there was a conflict of constitutional nature between authorities, determining the Senate to edit the decree referring to the request to approve Dan Sova’s detaining and preventive arrest.

At 100 days since the start of his term, President Klaus Iohannis declared that his greatest discontentment was still connected to the manner the Parliament continued to treat the requests of Justice and the fact that more simple and transparent procedures concerning the approval of requests were not approved.

* A new structure for Presidential Administration and issues with advisers

In February, the new organisation structure of the Presidential Administration, including 15 departments, was published.

There was a novelty to the old structure: the Department for the Issues of Diaspora, a newly founded department, during Klaus Iohannis’ term. The old organisation structure of the Presidential Administration had included 16 departments. At the same time, the domains the Presidential advisers were responsible of were also published.

In the second day of his term as a President, the Head of the State appointed five Presidential advisers: Dan Mihalache (PNL), Andrei Muraru, Cosmin Marinescu, Tatiana Niculescu Bran and George Scutaru (former PNL Deputy). Also in January, they were joined by Sergiu Nistor, former European Commissioner Leonard Orban, Elena-Simina Tanasescu, Mihaela Ciochina and Laurențiu Stefan.

In March, Presidential adviser George Scutaru resigned from his position. The Head of the State declared that he had resigned due to private issues. In April, DNA announced that George Scutaru, former adviser of President Klaus Iohannis, was investigated by them on probation and accused of complicity to bribe taking and money laundering. Scutaru’s position, that of advisor on national security, was granted to Ion Oprisor, who had held the position of CSAT Secretary.

The Head of the State lost his spokesperson as well, after Tatiana-Niculescu Bran resigned, explaining that she was unable to manage the relation with the media the way she wanted to. At the time being, state counselor Daniela Barsan coordinates the activity of the Presidential Administration Press Bureau, without being spokesperson.

For a few months, Iohannis had Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu as his personal adviser, and afterwards he appointed Ungureanu as Head of SIE. Also, this year, Liberal Eduard Hellvig was appointed manager of SRI by the Head of the State.

President Iohannis also lost his Presidential adviser on matters of foreign affairs, after Lazar Comanescu became Foreign Affairs Minister. As an interim, the foreign affairs department is led by Leonard Orban.

At the time being, the Head of the State has nine Presidential advisers and thirteen state counselors, two of whom were also members of President Traian Basescu’s team.

* Foreign politics

President Klaus Iohannis has completed 14 official visits abroad since he started his Presidential term. The objectives of these visits were, among others, Romania joining the Schengen space, NATO-connected topics or granting support to the integration of the Republic of Moldova in the EU.

The President’s first official foreign visit was to Brussels in January, where he met the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

Afterwards, he made visits to the Republic of Moldova and Germany, where he had his most important meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Ukraine, Poland — where it was decided that Bucharest would host a meeting of Presidents of the region to prepare the NATO Summit due in Warsaw, in 2016 – and in Italy.

The Head of the State was also received in Vatican by Pope Francis. During to his visit to the Holy See, the President also went to Milan to visit the International Exhibition.

President Iohannis also attended official visits in France, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, Austria and in the United States of America. In the US, the Head of the State attended the UNO reunion and was received at the White House by American Vice-President Joe Biden. He met American President Barack Obama at the official dinner organized by Obama to UNO attendants. The Head of the Romanian State announced that he had invited the American President to visit Romania.

The latest official visit abroad made by President Iohannis this year was in Slovakia.

The Head of the State also attended European Councils, yet, he enforced Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos to visit the one in December. President Iohannis was also present in Paris in January, at the “Solidarity March”, held after the terrorist attacks inflicted at the beginning of this year and also in reunions held in Europe.

*Premieres during the term of President Iohannis

The first year in President Klaus Iohannis’ Presidential term also brought a few premieres. Some of them were his attendances to religious services of denominations legally acknowledged in Romania, seeking the opinions of civil society when designating the Prime Minister, attendance to an official event at Peles Castle and not holding the traditional National Day reception.

During the first year of his Presidential term, the Head of the State has attended religious ceremonies of denominations legally acknowledged in our country.
Some of these were the Liturgical Mass of the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral in Sibiu and the ceremony at the Romanian Patriarchy.

In March, President Klaus Iohannis and his wife Carmen Iohannis have attended the official dinner destined to celebrate Princess Margaret’s birthday; thus, he became the first President in office in the history of Romania attending an official event at the Peles Castle besides the Royal family.

The Head of the State no longer organized the traditional reception at Palace Cotroceni to celebrate the National Day of Romania in the context of the tragedy at Colectiv Club and the killings in Paris.

The Head of the State will end his year on a vacation in Florida. This year, he had spent his vacations in Sibiu, in Neptun, as well as in Portugal.

On Monday, the day he celebrated one year of his term, the President offered to the personnel granting medical care to Colectiv fire victims a concert performed by Choir Madrigal at Cotroceni Palace.

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