The joint plenum of Parliament decided on Wednesday, with 208 votes in favour, 92 against and 3 abstentions, to set up the special committee tasked with amending the national security laws.
Thus, the committee has the following objectives: analysing the current legislative framework; drafting modifications; correlating and systematising the legislative texts that regulate the field; drafting bills in the analysed fields; centralising, for purposes of examination, the bills with an impact on the national security field, bills that are currently in the procedural circuit of the two Chambers of Parliament.
Likewise, “the committee can have the role of initiator of bills in the field of national security, organises debates on said bills, and drafts the reports that it will forward to the two Chambers of Parliament for debate and adoption.”
The decision to set up the special committee also states that the committee’s proceedings are usually public, and the committee will function for a period of 6 months starting on the date it is formed, with the Joint Standing Bureaus having the possibility to extend that period based on the substantiated request of the committee’s chairman.
PSD will have 8 members in the committee, PNL 3, while ALDE, USR, PMP and UDMR will each have one member.
During the joint plenum debates, PNL First Vice President Raluca Turcan stated that this committee is not necessary, considering that there are standing committees in the two Chambers of Parliament.
“Had you started your mandate now, we could have thought you are well-intentioned in setting up such a special committee, even though we don’t understand the necessity for such a special committee, considering that there are standing committees both in the Lower House and the Senate. Based on our experience so far, I have seen that all sorts of special committees have been put up for vote in two moments: when you had a problem to solve and you had to find a faster instrument to suppress public debate, or when you wanted to put up smokescreens against the backdrop in which the public space was full and was subjected to an inflow of information regarding the shortcomings of the governance you are exercising,” Raluca Turcan said.
House lawmaker Corneliu Bichinet (PMP) said that PMP also considers that the setting up of the committee is “useless.”
Likewise, House lawmaker Caludiu Nasui (USR) claimed that this committee is based on the model of the committee that amended the judicial laws, a means through which the “diminishing” of democracy is being sought.
“It’s a committee you are trying to form based on the model of the committee on the judicial laws. You are trying to diminish democracy and debate but, if you look at our working schedule, even [the one] yesterday, we didn’t have this joint plenary meeting at all. You showed up, as a perfect abuse of the majority you hold, (…) and you are going fast forward, to push forward your steamroller. Just like in the case of the judicial laws, what you want is to render these institutions subordinate to you,” Nasui said.
The setting up of the committee on national security laws was announced at the end of January by PSD President Liviu Dragnea. Back then, the PSD President was saying that there are 15 laws that concern this field.
The measure was also backed by ALDE President Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who stated that a special committee on national security laws is useful, arguing that the laws must be set in line with the new political realities and the threats our country must handle.
“I believe it is useful for us to have a committee that would analyse the proposed legislative modifications, considering that there are many laws that date back to the early 1990s I believe, and they must be set in line with the new political realities and the new threats that Romania, just like other European Union and NATO member states, must handle,” Tariceanu stated at the Palace of Parliament.
Tariceanu on amending national security laws: The laws are outdated, and we must adapt them to the realities we are facing, to hybrid threats, to issues concerning cyberattacks
Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu has stated that the national security laws must be modified because they are “outdated” and they must be adapted to the realities we are facing, “to hybrid threats and to issues concerning cyberattacks.” He claimed that the issue of national security does not concern a single institution, and the institutions must collaborate in this sense. He also mentioned the period in which Traian Basescu was President, back when “too many powers were concentrated in the hand of a single person.”
“So far we cannot talk about a bill amending the security laws because what has been decided at this moment is the setting up of the joint committee tasked with drafting the amendments to the security laws. It’s obvious that the national security laws are outdated, having been devised in the early 1990s. A series of security changes have occurred. We must adapt these laws to the realities we are facing, to hybrid threats, to issues concerning cyberattacks, and that is why I believe it was time to start carrying out these modifications now,” the Senate Speaker said.
He said that the national security issue does not concern a single institution, and that institutions must collaborate in this sense.
“That these modifications will affect in a way the role of some of the state institutions… we’ll see. What is very important, of course, is that the national security issue is not an issue that pertains to a single institution, collaboration between institutions is needed, in the institutional and constitutional architecture there must be respect for what we call checks and balances, but I’ve pleaded for a very long time in favour of considering Romania’s constitutional organisation and architecture as close as possible to what we define a parliamentary republic,” he explained.
The ALDE leader mentioned the period in which Traian Basescu was President and said that back then “too many powers were concentrated in the hand of a single person.”
“During President Basescu’s time, too many powers were concentrated in the hand of a single person and we saw what the backsliding was and the grave excesses of power that occurred during that period, for which the President bears immense responsibility. What we are seeing today, protocols between state institutions – the prosecution, the intelligence services –, which were in force in past years, is the consequence of this way of seeing the exercise of power,” Tariceanu added.
Calin Popescu Tariceanu talked about the model of other European countries which have a single Executive.
“I believe that, just like all other countries in Europe are relying on a model that is the model of the parliamentary republic, in which there is a single Executive, not two centres of executive power, we too must think. Of course, our Constitution introduces a series of supplementary elements that also give the President wide prerogatives, but, through what we will be doing next, I want us to think and learn something from the unfortunate experience of President Basescu’s two terms in office and find the possibilities for balance between state powers,” he added.
Asked whether he would accept taking part in talks with President Klaus Iohannis in order to find a common denominator on the modifications to be brought to the national security laws, he replied: “I’m always open to dialogue and the fact that I invited the President today at the high-level summit – Bucharest 9 Parliamentary Format – is proof of my openness to permanent dialogue with state institutions.”
President Iohannis: A coalition that understands the need for upgrading national security legislation is what I wish
President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday stated that “a responsible coalition” that understands the “need for upgrading” legislation in the national security field is a scenario he wishes for and he hopes to become reality.
“National security is such an important topic that it cannot be covered by one institution. Which is why, including in the Constitution, all the large institutions are given a part in ensuring national security, starting with the President, the CSAT (Supreme Council for National Defence), Parliament, the Government and the specialized entities, like the armed forces, the intelligence services etc. Therefore, I believe it is important to understand that any attempt made by one of these parties to change or improve the general framework needs the collaboration of all the others,” specified Iohannis, with respect to Parliament’s attempt to set up a special committee in charge with the modification of the laws in the national security field.
In his opinion, there could be two scenarios in respect to this attempt of setting up a dedicated parliamentary committee.
“One scenario would be that the PSD (the Social Democratic Party) wishes to occupy all state institutions, to take them over, to push for changes in the national security legislation in the sense of political control, without collaborating with the Presidency, without collaborating with the CSAT, without collaborating with the armed forces and the intelligence services. This is the bad scenario. And another scenario will be that a responsible coalition would understand the need for upgrading legislation in the national security field and will start working on these very important topics, while collaborating with the presidency, with the President, with CSAT, and including with the representatives of the involved services and, in the end, we will obtain what we all wish for – an upgraded legislation, a European legislation, which will truly result in a framework that will allow us to have modern national security and to tell the citizens: “Yes, the Romanian state is capable of having all the necessary instruments and the related legislation to defend you as you all wish to be defended.” This is the scenario that I wish for and I hope that it will become reality,” the head of the state said at the Palace of Parliament.
He specified that he would not agree with removing the services from under the authority of the Presidency and CSAT.
President Iohannis also mentioned that he has not been contacted by anybody to collaborate in improving the legislation in the national security field.
“So far nobody has contacted me, but I believe that after setting up the special committee they will start taking notes of who are the important partners they need to have these talks with,” showed the head of the state.
PNL brings constitutional challenge to decision to set up special cttee on national security laws
PNL announced on Wednesday that it will challenge at the Constitutional Court the setting up of the special committee on the amending of the national security laws, stating that this committee is “a screen for the PSD-ALDE leaders’ sick obsession with decapitating the intelligence services.”
“This structure impermissibly copies the prerogatives of the standing committees of the Lower House and Senate, representing only a screen for the PSD-ALDE leaders’ sick obsession with decapitating the intelligence services and with having the state taken over by persons with underworld behaviour,” reads a PNL press release.
The Liberals claim that Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu want to take control of the Romanian intelligence services too, and the setting up of the committee leads to “the capture of the institutions.”
“The proposal to set up this special committee represents nothing but the desire to carry out an ample plan to capture absolutely all institutions, and not one to bring about a necessary modernisation of legislation. In fact, had that been the goal, it could have been attained very well through the standing committees that have prerogatives in these fields,” reads the communique.
PNL reminds that the way the committee on the SPP was set up was also declared unconstitutional.
“They tried it out with the SPP so brutally that the procedure was declared unconstitutional. Now they are following the well-known scheme: they modify the law in order to replace the leadership. They are currently doing it with the Competition Council, they did it with the law on the Court of Accounts, on ANCOM, on TVR. They tried it with the Prosecutor General’s Office and the DNA too. They are yet to succeed. We will continue to fight to uphold the European rule of law that serves Romanians instead of persons convicted for corruption,” the Liberals claim.