The message conveyed by European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans during his visit to Bucharest this week were “extremely encouraging”, and the trip of the EU official had been scheduled a long time before, Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Melescanu on Friday evening told private broadcaster Digi24.
“Timmermans’s messages were extremely encouraging as regards the CVM and the lifting of the mechanism by 2019, by the end of the Commission’s term, and he also made a clear-cut statement about Romania’s joining the Schengen, as it is fully entitled to and must get membership as fast as possible,” Melescanu said.
He underscored that Timmermans’s visit to Romania this Thursday is part of the “continuous dialogue between the Romanian authorities and the European Commission”.
“‘You are running a marathon, keep running (…), don’t stop, don’t stand still, and, for Heaven’s sake, certainly don’t run in the other direction’. These were the words of Timmermans and I find this is perfectly reasonable,” said the Romanian chief diplomat.
He also voiced his opinion that the message of the European Commission’s First Vice President was a “pat on the shoulder” for the Romanian leaders.
“He said ‘You have made very important progress’, he patted us on the shoulder, keep going, this is what I make out of Mr. Timmermans’s message,” added Melescanu.
The ForMin also revealed that the visit of the EU high official had been “scheduled long ago”, even if it hadn’t been officially announced.
“It may be and it may not be announced (…), it was discussed during the visit of Mrs. Prime Minister to Brussels and I discussed it myself too, so this is a project that has been going on for at least a month and half,” Melescanu also said.
Regarding allegations that tied Timmermans’s visit to Romania to the request of Justice Minister Tudorel Toader to have anticorruption head Laura Codruta Kovesi removed from office, Melescanu said: “If you think Mr. Timmermans knows when Mr. Tudorel Toader will come out with a public speech, you are wrong.”
First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said on Thursday in Bucharest that much has been achieved over the past 20 years in terms of reinforcing the judiciary.
“So much was achieved over the last 20 years in terms of reinforcing the judiciary, creating a really independent judiciary in Romania. So many things were also achieved in the last 11 years since Romania joined the European Union and with the CVM [Co-operation and Verification Mechanism] in force. It is like running a marathon and we are now in the final stretch of that marathon. My message today was: keep running; you’re not in the wrong direction! Keep running towards the end of this marathon; we are almost there. There is only a few [European] Commission recommendations that still need to be fulfilled. But don’t stop, don’t stand still, and, for Heaven’s sake, certainly don’t run in the other direction!,” Timmermans said at a news conference.
He also pointed out that the ambition of the European Commission is to finalise the CVM by the end of 2019, yet adding that there are still a few things to be done.
Romanian politicians’ statements after meeting Timmermans
Tariceanu tells Timmermans EC’s open approach to tackle sensitive issues with Romanian authorities recommended
Senate’s President Calin Popescu-Tariceanu on Thursday said during his meeting with the European Commission’s First Vice President, Frans Timmermans, at the Parliament’s seat, that the amendment of the criminal codes (Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, ed. n.) has been finalised at the Justice Ministry in accordance with the Constitutional Court’s decisions, a release by the Romanian Senate informs.
Popescu-Tariceanu specified that “it is intended for the institutions guaranteed by Constitution and laws to be granted a democratic functioning, beyond any interference from the force bodies or intelligence services.”
The Senate’s head stressed that “the open approach of the European Commission to dialogue on the sensitive issues with the Romanian authorities is recommended and appreciated, thus being avoided the partial, distorted information.”
“The working visit of the Commission’s First Vice President in Bucharest is therefore considered as a necessary element of the normal relation with the European bodies, enhancing the messages sent by both sides for a direct dialogue. The efficient coordination with the European bodies is, according to Mr. Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, useful particularly in this period when Romania is preparing to taking over the rotational Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the Commission is about to close the legislative agenda it took upon at the beginning of its mandate,” the source adds.
The Senate’s President appreciated the attention on the European Commission’s behalf to the institutional aspects, in the preparation of the changes to intervene as of the next European elections, saluting the EC’s preoccupation for a better regulation at European level so that the institutions run more efficiently and more focused for the member states’ citizens.
Referring to the CVM (Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, ed. n.) the Senate’s head reminded the importance of the European Commission’s support and cooperation in “closing without delay this stage that acts like a lien on Romania’s status as full member of the EU,” the release says.
“The decision of the Commission to lift the CVM is awaited to put an end to the current situation in which Romania is assessed in parallel through several same goals tools,” Popescu-Tariceanu said.
He also specified that “the Commission’s reports issued in the last years have confirmed that most of the CVM’s objectives were appropriately internalised in the national policies and strategies, a situation also confirmed by the conclusions of the Research on the evaluation of the 10 years of CVM in BG and RO (Bulgaria and Romania, ed. n.) carried out by the Committee for budget control (CONT) with the European Parliament, presented on 29 January 2018.”
Calin Popescu-Tariceanu told Frans Timmermans the wish to continue the dialogue, in Bucharest and Brussels, and expressed confidence that through a tight coordination with the EC, the Romanian authorities will be able to successfully fulfill their role at European level through exercising the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2019, the release concludes.
Alina Gorghiu: Regarding the CVM, there is strict oversight from the EC – everyone underscored Romania’s progress in Justice, his recommendation being not to stumble on the threshold
PNL Senator Alina Gorghiu stated on Thursday, after European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans’s visit to Parliament, that his advice was for Romania not to avoid asking the Venice Commission for a point of view on the three judicial laws, stating that the European official wants our country to draft laws that “would not intimidate the judicial system.” The Senator explained that, in what concerns the CVM, there is strict oversight on the part of the Commission, and everyone mentioned the progress that Romania made, however “he recommended we shouldn’t stumble on the threshold.”
“It was a meeting in the parameters you know, a natural meeting, of information between the members of the special committee regulating the judicial laws and the EC officials. Each group expressed its point of view, there was an information that the chairman of this committee made, and our group expressed its opinion on the judicial laws, about the need to collaborate with the judicial system, about this obsession with the judiciary that PSD has had since the start of last year, since it formed the government,” Alina Gorghiu stated.
She claims that Frans Timmermans wants Romania to draft laws that “would not intimidate the judicial system,” stating that “there seems to be a war between Parliament and the judicial system.”
“The position you will find out later today from the Vice President of the Commission is one that encourages us to draft laws that would not intimidate the judicial system, I can’t recall exactly the term he used – but I surely remember an expression, that there seems to be a war between Parliament and the judicial system and it’s recommended to fix this problem (…) PSD-ALDE shouldn’t wage this war with the judicial system through the press,” the Senator added.
Gorghiu states that the First Vice President of the European Commission also stated that the Europeans are keeping a close eye “on the situation in Romania” and his advice is that we should not avoid asking the Venice Commission for a point of view.
“Another remark I consider relevant is the one concerning the way Europeans see us at this moment and the EC Vice President said that after a long time the eyes of the European states are fixed on the situation in Romania, however of course the recommendations are that we should cooperate with the judicial system, we should cooperate and communicate as constantly and as often as possible with the EC, the Commission shows great openness to help. The advice is not to avoid the Venice Commission. (…) In what concerns the CVM, obviously there is strict oversight on the part of the Commission – everyone mentioned and emphasised the progress that Romania has made in recent years on the topic of justice, however he recommended we should not stumble on the threshold,” she went on to say.
Expert Committee chairman Florin Iordache says Venice Commission’s opinion on Justice package to be sought if necessary
Chairman of the expert Committee on the justice package Florin Iordache said on Thursday, after meeting with EC First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, that if necessary, the Venice Commission’s opinion will be sought on the amendments to the judiciary laws.
“I think it was a good meeting. I made the following points: firstly, the Court’s decisions are generally binding, and as regards the laws of justice, we will bring them in line with the rulings of the Court. As far as the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism is concerned, we, all those involved beginning with Parliament, the government and other institutions, will make every effort to meet the observations that have been included in the latest report this year and for the CVM to be closed. (…) We did not get into details, we discussed general issues, and I believe that through this continuous dialogue that is a must between the Commission and the Parliament of Romania, all those queries will be settled,” Iordache said at the Palace of Parliament after the meeting with Timmermans.
Asked whether Timmermans recommended the parliamentary committee to also seek the Venice Commission’s point of view on the amendments to the laws of justice, Iordache said that if necessary, this will be done too.
“We have undoubtedly taken into account the opinions of the Venice Commission for now and for the future. We have not asked for an opinion so far, but we will discuss in the committee whether we should address such a request at the time we debate the amendments that have been ruled unconstitutional. We have not sought for the opinion of the Venice Commission until now because all the amendments we have made did not run counter to the decisions of the Venice Commission, and the Constitutional Court rulings clearly stipulate that our amendments do not contradict the decisions of the Venice Commission,” Iordache explained.
He added that through the amendments to the laws of justice, all premises are set in place for a real independence of the judiciary.
“In our addresses, me and my colleagues have made it very clear that since the most important amendments to all three laws have come from either the Supreme Council of Magistrates or from the professional associations, we don’t want in any case Parliament and the judiciary to be at war. At the same time, these amendments that came from the professional associations, are aimed at the real independence of justice and at preventing the interference of politics. It is precisely these amendments that make sure that there is no political interference and that create all the prerequisites for a real independence of the judiciary,” Iordache concluded.
Barna: Timmermans pointed an important thing concerning the rhetoric these days – that both he and the EC are very well informed about the situation in Romania
Save Romania Union (USR) President Dan Barna stated on Thursday, at the end of the meeting with EC First Vice President Frans Timmermans, that the MCV has no final deadline, supporting Timmermans’s point of view, according to which “the Venice Commission, GRECO or the European Commission mustn’t be seen as the Inquisition, as Iordache and the PSD are trying to convey.” Barna claims that Timmermans said that both he and the EC are very well informed in what concerns Romania’s situation.
“The messages are very clear and in line with what the USR has been saying for several weeks. The MCV has no deadline and this is an important thing. Timmermans has expressed very suggestively the idea that it is a desideratum, something we intended to try, lifting the CVM at the end of 2019, but it’s not a deadline for anyone. He conveyed a very political and polite message, trying to say that there is the need for more cooperation, more dialogue between the Government of Romania and European institutions, stating very suggestively that the Venice Commission, GRECO or the European Commission should not be seen as the Inquisition, as Iordache and the PSD are trying to convey, but are in fact institutions with specialists that really want to help out the states. From this standpoint, the recommendation was obviously a transparent one, that of consulting these institutions,” Dan Barna stated.
Likewise, Barna states that the EC First Vice President said that “pressure on the judiciary is not exerted solely through legislative amendment, which is a problem he is very concerned about, but also through the media’s constant pressure on the judiciary,” and gave as an example the public scandal regarding the DNA.
The USR leader explained that Timmermans’s perception that there is a conflict between Parliament and the judicial system is in fact “pure reality.”
“The perception Timmermans was talking about, that there is a conflict in Romania, (…) that from Europe one can see in Romania a conflict between Parliament and the judicial system, between the citizens who are in the street and the Government. It’s not just a perception, it’s pure reality and everything that has happened these months, since the end of last year and the start of this year, confirms this,” Dan Barna added.
He said Frans Timmermans pointed out that both he and the European Commission are very well informed in what concerns the situation in Romania.
“Timmermans also pointed out an important thing regarding the rhetoric of these days – that both he, personally, and the European Commission are very well informed. He even pointed out that, in general, they are very well informed in what concerns the situation in Romania. (…) He said that, in general, he is very well informed, and he said very suggestively that the perception is that ‘you’re in a marathon, you’re on the last stretch and you’ve stopped and somehow you start running back.’ From this standpoint, it’s very clear the CVM stays, we have no immediate outlook for its lifting, from any standpoint,” Dan Barna concluded.
EC First Vice President Frans Timmermans after tour of force through Romanian institutions: Keep running, but not in the wrong direction. Recent public attacks on justice have created a negative image for Romania