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March 30, 2023

Lower Chamber Speaker addresses “Democratic oversight of intelligence services: challenges and successful models in the EU and Romania” Conference in Bucharest: Intelligence services operate based on 1990s legislation

Lower Chamber Speaker Florin Iordache stated on Monday that Romania’s national security institutions need a legislation adapted to the new realities, bearing in mind that they operate based on 1990s legislation.

“I can say that Romania is perfectly connected to international parliamentary oversight policies and systems, implementing models from Western countries.”

“However, to keep up with the realities of the new security context, Romania’s Parliament must adjust and upgrade the relevant law package on the process of security accomplishment. The institutions responsible for national security need adequate legislation adjusted to the new reality we live in. Unfortunately, these institutions largely carry out their activity in line with legislation from the early 1990s, which clearly affects their proper functioning. I hope that the parties that will form the future Parliament will sit down at the same table and come to a consensus on the promotion of a new legislative package on national security, involving in this process all the institutions with responsibilities in the field, civil society and academia.”

“It would be the best solution to provide intelligence structures with the necessary tools to render their activity efficient, but it would also be a way to strengthen the democratic levers for exerting oversight,” Lower Chamber Speaker Florin Iordache stated at the opening of the “Democratic oversight of intelligence services: challenges and successful models in the EU and Romania” debate organised at the Palace of Parliament by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation and the National Union of Romania’s Judges. An event aimed at bringing together Romanian and European experts, magistrates and political decision-makers to identify best practice models, standards for exercising democratic oversight, and to discuss ways to ensure a balance between the need for security and the need for oversight.

The Lower Chamber Speaker claimed that it is the duty of the future Parliament to adapt the package of national security laws, pointing out that a better democratic oversight of the intelligence services would be needed.

“We’ve all seen how the intelligence services are drawn into all kinds of controversial scandals, becoming the battleground of various political adversaries. (…) In my view, the talk should not be about this or that person who can use the intelligence services for their own political goals, but about how we can better exercise democratic oversight through the institutions capacitated in this sense, to make sure that these institutions are legally operating. That they are not infringing on the citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms. In this equation, Parliament is one of the indispensable actors which must ensure, through its special commissions, an efficient oversight of the intelligence services,” Iordache stated.

Apart from representatives of the Lower Chamber, of the Defence and Intelligence Oversight Commissions, holders of leadership positions within the judiciary and academia personalities took part in the debate.


Iain Cameron, Venice Commission: The number of employees of Romanian intelligence services should be cut down to 2,500 – 2,600 in order to reduce number of abuse cases


Corruption is a major threat to Romania and the intelligence agencies should deal with this problem, Venice Commission representative Iain Cameron told the “Democratic oversight of intelligence services: challenges and successful models in the EU and Romania” conference organised at the Palace of Parliament.

“Corruption is a major threat to Romania and intelligence agencies must deal with this problem. But how do we define and establish the limits of national security? This concept of national security can be extended. Let me give you an example, a great part of Iceland’s revenues derives from fishing, and this is a matter of national security. Therefore, corruption too is an issue the [intelligence services] are dealing with. They shouldn’t do it. Corruption is a major issue in Romania, an endemic one. Normally this should be a problem for the Prosecutor’s Offices and Police to handle, not for the intelligence services,” said Iain Cameron.

He added that an intelligence service should deal with facts that precede the threats, stepping in during the “pre-crime” stage, and to understand the threat [to national security] one must also understand the “normalcy” of the threat.

Tackling corruption also involves undercover operations, informants, so on and so forth, but the idea is that all these should be under the control of the police, and if police are corrupt, they should be controlled by a special unit. That’s why we have a criminal issue the prosecution and courts must look into, said Cameron.

In this context, he said that exceptional threats arise sometimes that need to be handled in an exceptional manner and failure to keep to this approach can result in abuse of power.

“Sometimes, intelligence services and their activity are used against political opponents and there is also an undeniable risk that intelligence agencies develop a certain pro-security way of thinking. A Praetorian mentality can also develop, practically intelligence services become a state within a state. Romania too has seen some of this because it has a rich experience in this field,” added the speaker.

According to him, the number of employees of Romanian intelligence services should be cut down to 2,500 – 2,600, proportionally to the country’s population, in order to reduce the number of abuse cases.

In what concerns the responsibility of the parliamentary system, Cameron said that politicians have the democratic legitimacy to exert oversight and the best mechanism to render them accountable is to blend the experts’ and politicians’ knowledge to create a hybrid mechanism.

Also taking the floor at the event was George Edward Howarth, member of the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

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