On Thursday, March 1, the entire Romanian political class received from Europe another extremely important and valuable lesson on what the political act really means when translated into simple, natural, precise, and extremely objective gestures.
And this open lesson was conveyed by European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, who paid a 10-hour marathon visit to our country and who managed to tackle, during this record time, and not just formally or informally, the most important points on the map of Romanian state institutions – the Presidency, the Government, the Parliament and, last but not least, the Justice and the hottest topics and sore points on the current political agenda.
A lesson that was not intended to be either punitive or coercive. Like certain political and media circles would most probably have been tempted to believe and interpret. But just a sign and proof, as neutral and diplomatic as possible, that Europe and its leaders are directly and carefully interested in and well informed about what is happening in and with Romania. And particularly about what our politicians are doing or not doing in line with the precepts of rule of law and democracy, precepts they committed themselves to following and observing, as representatives of a European Union member state that has both rights and obligations, in perfect agreement with the other members and with the world Romania is a part of.
Frans Timmermans did not come to Bucharest to give a lecture on morality, superiority, or political parenting. Frans Timmermans came to Romania to dispel any trace or shadow of doubt that could have existed in what concerns the way Europe correctly and objectively understands what is happening in the Romanian political and social reality and the way those who rule us manage to relate to the interests of the country and of those who elected and mandated them.
The messages that Frans Timmermans conveyed during his brief but extremely suggestive visit must be translated in the key and note that primarily concerns the entire Romanian judicial system.
It is already known that the EC First Vice President is one of the most careful, objective, and competent observers of our political evolution and, in an entirely special way, of the evolution of the Romanian judicial reform and of the undeniable and indubitable observance of the fundamental principle of the separation of state powers. And what has been happening with the Romanian judiciary for some time now has already become a topic of global – not just national – notoriety.
That is why Timmermans’s visit to Bucharest was not at all by chance or random. Especially if seen from the standpoint and in light of the series of domestic politics events in recent weeks. Just the day before Frans Timmermans’s arrival, in the political arena, the level of tensions at the heart of Justice escalated and reached a new level of gravity. Almost two weeks ago, after reading more than 30 pages of conclusions and an uninterrupted indictment before the whole media for almost two hours, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader demanded – in a manner as categorical as possible – the dismissal of DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi. This new point of critical mass in the fight between the current ruling power and the bastion of Justice appeared against the backdrop of the immense and never-ending scandal triggered by extremely grave suspicions whose substance this time around is the alleged corruptness and subjectivity of the magistracy system in what concerns the correctness of the way DNA prosecutors carry out the act of justice.
Consequently, this visit paid by the high-level European official, as well as the essential message he conveyed as clearly and directly as possible, made a special and prompt mention of the way in which things are currently going in the Romanian judiciary and especially of the way in which today’s ruling power sees fit or will see fit to relate to this vital state domain.
“In the last 20 years you’ve obtained so many things in what concerns the independence of the Romanian judiciary. It’s as if you are running in a marathon and now you’re on the last stretch. My message is keep running. But don’t start running in the wrong direction, run toward the finish line. Don’t stop, don’t stand still, and for God’s sake, don’t run in the opposite direction. The attacks on Justice, in the press and in the debates, risk creating the public impression that there is a problem with Justice.”
That is why the conclusion of Frans Timmermans’s visit can be summed up to the following essential ideas:
The European Union member state position and status that Romania obtained with a lot of effort and a lot of good-will and tolerance on the part of our external partners entails a sine qua non condition – that of the observance of the fundamental rules of rule of law through the observance of the separation of powers principle.
These rules are not debatable, nor negotiable, nor open to interpretations that have temporary political hues, interests, or passions!
Romanian politicians must understand and accept once and for all that democracy entails, first of all, the observance of fundamental rules and precepts in which the act of Justice, its people and its institution must remain definitively and undoubtedly outside any political game or interests.
Justice, in any democratic system in the world, imperatively demands independence and autonomy in its relations with the state and its institutions. That is why it must be allowed to solve on its own any possible problem appearing at its heart.
Moreover, any legislative act or legislative reform must be carried out with maximum transparency and objectivity, not to the benefit of a group of persons and political interests that are in power one moment or another.
Likewise, Romanian politicians must understand that any of the bodies based in Strasbourg and Brussels are informed as correctly, precisely, and impartially as possible about what is happening in Romania. None of these European bodies represents a secret ear or a private confessional for someone to be able to go there and whisper defamatory, misinforming or diversionist things about this or that ruling politician or about the aspects and problems that concern the domestic politics of the Romanian state and of any of its parts.
All the bodies and mechanisms that make up the European Union represent officials levers and instruments that deal, in a manner as transparent and unbiased as possible, with the balancing, maintenance and improvement of the whole set of democratic rules that form the basis of the EU’s functioning principles and reasons for being. And these bodies serve – equally, unbiasedly and with full neutrality – any of the Union member states.
Being a small country at the periphery of the borders of the European Union does not mean being unseen, unheard, unknown, and especially not integrated to the rules that govern the whole structure of the great democracy whose member you are. And one of the proofs that speak volumes, coming to support this reality, is Frans Timmermans and the 10 hours he spent in Romania on Thursday.