President Klaus Iohannis announced on Wednesday that he has proposed to parliamentary parties to set up a special committee in the Parliament to draft a package of national security laws.
The President mentioned after two days of political consultations that his proposal concerns a second package of laws on national security; the talks covered a first package, comprising the law on fighting terrorism, the one on the prepaid phone cards, and the cyber-security law.
“The second package is way bigger. The legislation in the national security field is enough broad and complicated. The second package comprises laws that are at least as important, but are not yet in an advanced stage. Some of those are based on some thinking; for others a first updating draft exists, while nothing is yet available for others, but we need to update them,” Iohannis added.
According to the president, the committee would also include specialists from the government, “from institutions called to draft these bills.”
“The drafts should be prepared so that in 2017 most of these laws can be updated. This approach has some definite advantages that were understood and accepted by everybody. In this special committee, the parties will send their people capable of (…) discussing about national security. These people will certainly be among those who most probably will find themselves on the lists for the future Parliament, and this way we’ll have a big chance to solve two things: the professionalization of the MPs dealing with the national security laws and the setup of continuity from this Parliament to the next one, because a great part of the MPs who start working on the package of laws this fall will probably find themselves in the Parliament resulting from [this year’s] elections,” Iohannis explained.
He announced that the first package of national security laws could be adopted in June by both Parliament Chambers.
“The Prime Minister assured me that these three laws [on anti-terror security, cyber security and prepaid mobile phone cards] will go through the entire governmental and public consultation procedure, so that at the end of May they can be sent to Parliament as legislative initiatives. From the discussions with the parties we reached the conclusion that the completion of these laws in this parliamentary session is feasible. The Government sends the laws at the end of May and, if everybody collaborates, in June they can be passed by both Parliament Chambers,” Iohannis said at the Cotroceni Palace.
According to him, “everybody has accepted these things.”
Iohannis stressed that the national security is a “sensitive field, therefore those who draft legislation must be experts.
“This way, we’ll have the chance of an improved legislation assumed by a broad part of the political class, aware and accepted by the civil society,” he added.
The President said that the talks he had with the officials of the parliamentary groups did not refer to the contents of the laws, but to the way to approaching the national security legislation as a whole.
“We have, on the one hand, the first package to be drafted soon enough, and this year we’ll already have the laws finalized, thus giving the institutions a framework where they have the possibility to act very firm and prompt; and the second package to be worked on starting this year with a continuation next year, that will allow modernizing the entire legislation,” he reasoned.
Iohannis: National security laws must guarantee individual rights and freedoms
President Klaus Iohannis says national security laws must be drafted in a way that guarantees the individual rights and freedoms.
“On one hand, we have the civil rights and freedoms that must be guaranteed; on the other hand, we have the need for security – and I mean especially the citizens’ security, because the state security is not jeopardized. Thus, the whole package of laws must be drafted so that it guarantees the rights and freedoms, while reassuring citizens about the state doing everything it can to guarantee their security,” the President said in a press conference, after two days of consultations with the parliamentary party on these laws.
According to the head of state, the current legislation on security must be updated and new laws must be added.
“I don’t mean just laws on fighting terrorism or on the secret services, but also laws on the organization of the Army, on the implementation of the National Strategy for Country’s Defence. (…) Updated, clear and stable legislation is needed, which also generates predictability in this field,” he said.
UNPR’s Steriu on intelligence services’ oversight: One strong and well-organised committee needed
Chairman of the National Union for Romania’s Progress (UNPR) Valeriu Steriu on Wednesday said that a single strong and well-organised parliamentary committee is needed to oversee the intelligence services.
“Modernisation is needed at this level. We have an activity within the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) control committee, a part of the Defence committee also handles the matters related to the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE). We probably need a single strong and well-organised committee capable of truly ensuring transparency (…) in respect of intelligence services,” Steriu said at the end of the consultations the UNPR delegation had at the Cotroceni Palace with President Klaus Iohannis on the national security legislation.
The UNPR leader pointed out that the sides agreed to approach on a priority basis in the coming weeks the law on combating and preventing terrorism, the law on prepaid mobile phone cards and the cyber security law.
“We also need to update the legislation in terms of national security institutions. Both the SRI and the SIE laws were drawn up, drafted and approved in the ’90s, with very few improvements operated in 2015. We are open and we shall participate in any working group, we proposed a special parliamentary committee in this respect to come up with a modernisation plan for these institutions. UNPR has the necessary expertise, in recent years it showed openness to everything what support to the legislation on national security means,” Valeriu Steriu explained.
He pointed out that he forwarded to the head of state a position document on UNPR’s vision on these topics.
“We are very open and will cooperate with the Presidential Administration and with President Klaus Iohannis on any kind of project regarding national security. We want to really contribute to the completion of the Big Brother laws in this parliamentary session, that is by the end of June. (…) We are also aware of what the citizen’s freedoms mean, but also of the right of the Romanian families to live in security and comfort in their country,” Steriu added.
Asked if the UNPR would propose experts to support the Government in drawing up the three laws – on counter-terrorism, prepaid cards and cyber security – as the Social Democratic Party (PSD) did, Valeriu Steriu showed that his party will be able to make a contribution to these bills in Parliament, in the dedicated committees.
ALDE’s Popescu-Tariceanu: Citizen’s security must prevail, two intelligence service oversight committees preferable
Co-chairman of the Romanian Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) Calin Popescu-Tariceanu said that two parliamentary committees should further be in place to oversee the activity of intelligence services, and considers that the new legislation should focus on the citizen’s security, which is paramount.
According to him, ALDE suggests the demilitarization of the services and the setting up of a single national authority on interceptions.
“We too consider that both the existing legislation and the threats against Romania, the risks the country faces, call for the passage of additional legislation, but all this must be considered from a viewpoint I think is normal in a free and democratic state, namely starting from the premise that the citizen’s security is paramount, the element that must prevail, because up until now, as far as national security is concerned, I think we didn’t have major problems with intelligence services and other authorized institutions fulfilling their tasks. The new legislation must place at the center the citizen’s security with all the other national security matters subordinated and subsumed thereto,” said the ALDE leader at end of consultations with President Klaus Iohannis.
In his opinion, a solution must also be found for the parliamentary oversight of the intelligence services, given that currently this is still rather formal.
Popescu-Tariceanu explained that the head of the state proposed the creation of a single parliamentary committee tasked with the oversight of the services.
“We must find a solution for parliamentary oversight to be exercised efficiently, because otherwise there is a risk that the activity of the services gets out of civilian control, and slippages at such a moment are inherent. (…) My point of view, without having consulted with the colleagues, is that it is preferable to have two committees, because if one gets neutralized as the case is today, the other stays functional. I would prefer two committees instead of one, but the prerequisite is who sits on such a parliamentary committee, because members must also have relevant knowledge and be free of any vulnerability that could create inhibitions when it comes to the oversight of intelligence services,” he said.
According to him, “the slippages and abuses relating to the citizens’ rights and freedoms of citizens, the way justice is done” were presented to President Iohannis at the meeting.
“We must have realistic expectations, given that Parliament is nearing the end of its term. I think these subjects are important and must be presented in the public debate, and especially to the attention of policy makers, who must bring the necessary corrections so that we restore the fair balance between the state powers and ensure their operation under the mechanism of mutual control and balance of powers,” he added.
ALDE proposes the creation of a single national authority on interceptions, reporting to the government and Parliament so that slippages like those already sanctioned by the Constitutional Court of Romania are no longer possible.
Former Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) head Teodor Melescanu said that ALDE proposed the demilitarization of the intelligence services, arguing that the advantage would be getting them in line with EU and NATO. He argued that intelligence service employees should be hired under a special regime.
“This would require the swift adoption of a law to regulate the statutes of the intelligence officers,” said Melescanu.
National minorities’ leader: Oversight of intelligence services by single parliamentary committee possibly good solution
Leader of the national minorities’ group Varujan Pambuccian said on Wednesday that it would probably be better to have a single parliamentary committee to oversee the intelligence services.
“We had a very good and applied discussion. The parliamentary group of national minorities agreed with this calendar of proposals. There are some detail issues we will signal at the moment the respective legislation enters Parliament, but broadly we have voiced our agreement with the structure and calendar of the two law packages,” Pambuccian said at the end of consultations with President Klaus Iohannis on the national security legislation.
Asked if there should be a more efficient parliamentary control over intelligence services, he said that there are very many different proposals on this topic.
“We would agree to such a formula. In fact, we would also agree to a more simplified formula, because we currently have three committees in charge with this parliamentary control. Maybe it would be better to have a single committee,” Varujan Pambuccian pointed out