Well over a year and a half after losing his seat within the Lower Chamber, on account of incompatibility problems, Petre Roman could return to Parliament. In this sense, the Lower Chamber’s leadership plans to introduce a decision on the plenum’s agenda. Roman, elected PNL MP in 2012, lost his seat in February 2015 after the National Integrity Agency (ANI) ruled he was incompatible.
The Roman-ANI litigation dates back to March 2014. There is no final ruling in this case since the Court of Appeals ruling issued in April 2016, a ruling that settled the litigation in the ex-Premier’s favour, was challenged by the National Integrity Agency.
ANI inspectors ruled in March 2014 that Petre Roman was incompatible because he was simultaneously Lower Chamber MP and authorised natural person. Several months later (January 2015), ANI noted that the MP had not challenged the ruling at the Bucharest Court of Appeals and concluded that the ruling remains final, asking the Lower Chamber to revoke his tenure. A ban to hold any public office – elected or appointed – for a period of three years was added to this sanction.
At first, Lower Chamber MPs tried to postpone a decision, their PNL colleague claiming before the Lower Chamber that he had in fact challenged the ANI report. Subsequently, under the spectre of being sanctioned by ANI, on 9 February 2015, Lower Chamber MPs took note of the fact that Petre Roman’s tenure had ended and that his seat was vacant.
The MP had indeed challenged ANI’s assessment report, but had erroneously done so at the Bucharest Court instead of the Bucharest Court of Appeals.
Almost a year after losing his tenure, Petre Roman won the litigation at the Bucharest Court of Appeals. While ANI hurriedly filed an appeal against the verdict, at the High Court of Justice, the ex-Premier asked the Lower Chamber to reinstate him. Moreover, in a letter sent to the Lower Chamber’s Standing Bureau in June, Roman talked about an abuse that former Lower Chamber Valeriu Zgonea had allegedly committed in his case.
National Integrity Agency (ANI) representatives claim that the favourable decision that Petre Roman won at the Bucharest Court of Appeals does not expunge the state of incompatibility ascertained, hence his request to resume his tenure is allegedly groundless. “The Bucharest Court of Appeals ruling is not final. Bearing in mind ANI’s appeal, we opine that Mr. Petre Roman’s incompatible status has not been irrevocably invalidated, so that his request is illegal because it invokes the ruling of the court of first instance,” reads an ANI document sent to the Lower Chamber.
“A dangerous precedent would be created. It would mean that all MPs who lost their tenures due to incompatibility could demand their rights reinstated,” sources from ANI’s leadership stated for digi24.ro.
Lower Chamber Quaestor: “There’s a legislative vacuum”
The Liberals would like to see Petre Roman reinstated as quickly as possible, but state that the Social Democrats keep postponing the issue. “There is a legislative vacuum problem, one that those at the helm of the Lower Chamber don’t know how to solve. Petre Roman lost his seat through the Lower Chamber’s vote, after which the court (the Bucharest Court of Appeals – editor’s note) decided to reinstate him. The problem is there is no law that would say what happens after you lost your seat. How do you reobtain it? Because a seat is won, by law, only as a result of elections,” PNL MP George Ionescu, Lower Chamber Quaestor, stated for digi24.ro.
Asked what would happen if Roman resumes his tenure and the High Court of Justice rules several months from now that ANI was right, the PNL MP pointed out that the ex-Premier would lose his seat again. The problem is the current Parliament is set to end in around three months’ time.
At any rate, if he is reinstated, under the argument that his revocation in February 2015 was illegal, there are high chances Petre Roman would also ask to be paid his salary arrears.
Draft bill on limiting ANI’s prerogatives
Several PSD MPs want to protect local officials from incompatibility situations. A draft bill has already been filed within the Senate. The draft entails amendments to the ANI law, amendments that would allow local officials to be part of commercial companies subordinated to the institutions they lead. This is basically the limiting of ANI prerogatives.
The PSD MPs, headed by Lower Chamber Speaker Florin Iordache, thought about the local officials’ problems and are determined to abrogate an article from the law on the incompatibility of local officials. The move would allow local officials to be members of the general assemblies of companies of local and national interest. Water and sewerage companies would be such companies, for example.
Most incompatibility cases registered among local officials concerned precisely this problem.
The article concerned was analysed by the Constitutional Court too, Constitutional Court judges ruling that it is constitutional.