The initiation of a challenge procedure in a contentious administrative court of the decree to extend General Nicolae Ciuca’s mandate as Chief of General Staff is being prepared at the National Defence Ministry (MApN), official sources confirmed for Agerpres.
According to the sources, the challenge will be most probably filed on Wednesday.
President Klaus Iohannis announced on 28 December 2018, after the meeting of the Supreme Council for National Defence (CSAT), that he signed a decree extending the mandate of General Nicolae Ciuca at the helm of the General Staff of Defence, pointing out that the proposal made by the Defence Minister, Gabriel Les, for filling in this position wasn’t approved.
On the same day, PM Viorica Dancila said that President Klaus Iohannis hasn’t the prerogative of extending the mandate of the General Staff of Defence chief, maintaining that the decree announced by the head of state doesn’t comply with the legality requirements and creates the premises for a judicial conflict of a constitutional nature.
Later, President Klaus Iohannis stated he decided to extend General Nicolae Ciuca’s mandate as the chief of the General Staff of Defense (SMG) because the law allows him to do so, and it would have been “inadmissible and impossible” for the Romanian Army to remain without a head. Besides, the head of state claims that there is no constitutional conflict on this issue.
Asked how he sees PM Viorica Dancila’s action on a possible challenge before CCR as a result of signing the decree extending the mandate of the Chief of General Staff, Iohannis stated: “My understanding is that the Constitutional Court cannot be notified. I have signed that decree because the law allows me to do so. The law provides, it clearly says. The mandate of the Chief of General Staff can be extended. Firstly, there is no provision saying that the President has to wait for the Minister’s proposal on the extension. Secondly, you can imagine what would have meant that Romania doesn’t have a chief of the Army. This is inadmissible and impossible.”.
“I cannot stay in Romania without of a chief of the Army, which is the reason for which I have extended General Ciuca’s mandate, since he did a great job during these four years. I am very relaxed with him as the chief of the Army one more year. It seems to me a very good solution, a perfectly legal and constitutional solution. (…) Of course, there is no conflict, there is absolutely no conflict and no discussion on this issue”, the head of state also said.
DefMin says he tried to talk with Iohannis on the SMG leadership: It’s obvious that there was an ambush attempt; fortunately, I have the legal ways to bring things back in their legal place
Minister of Defence Gabriel Les says he appreciated that the extension of the mandate of the current leadership of the General Staff of Defence would have been “a negative signal related to the military elite, since it would insinuate the existence of a leadership crisis”, and tried to talk with President Klaus Iohannis on this issue, but he was told the President “is busy”. “Once I was appointed as the Minister of Defence in the second half of November 2018, I took note that the mandate of the current leadership of the General Staff is coming to the end, so the best solution had to be identified in a very short time. The mandate extension would have been a negative signal related to the military elite, since it would insinuate the existence of a leadership crisis. Human resource is the most important asset of the Ministry of National Defence, and as a Minister, I reject any political interference which is likely to affect these values of the Army”, Gabriel Les wrote on Tuesday in a Facebook post.
He says he brings punctual clarifications “because there was an attempt to circulate fake arguments and information in the public space”.
Les says that from a legal point of view, there was a speculation on the fact that the Defence Minister didn’t observed the requirement that the proposal has to come from the chiefs of the force categories or from the SMG deputies.
“On this occasion, I would like to make it clear once again that I didn’t go to Cotroceni with a proposal in an envelope. In fact, I requested CSAT approval to appoint a General of the Romanian Army with an international recognition as the chief of the General Staff of the Land Forces, and after that I was going to issue the relevant Minister’s order. Only after these preliminary steps, the proposal could have been forwarded to the President in order for him to issue the appointment decree, this one being the final procedural step The president rejected as a reflex, with no arguments, the original request (which is in fact the Minister’s attribute), thus annulling the whole scaffolding on which the legal appointment procedure was based. The thesis according to which I went to Cotroceni to request for the issuance of an appointment decree (or more) for a non-eligible person is profoundly untrue”, Les claims.
According to him, the lack of dialogue was “the second line of argumentation by which there was an attempt to blame those who are involved in the procedure”.
“I can tell you that I had many initiatives to dialogue on this issue with the Cotroceni Palace. Although the tension between the Government and the Presidency is notorious, I did my best to avoid a state of hostility, and subsequently a blockage. I understand the role of the Defence Minister as a discreet, but active person, who is not turning the Army into a tribune from where he optimizes his electoral score. Specifically, I have contacted the President directly and in a timely manner, to talk openly, in order for me to know his view on this issue, but the reaction came promptly: ‘President is busy!’”, the Defence Minister says.
He also says that “it is obvious that there was an ambush attempt”.
“In a retrospective view, it is obvious that there was an ambush attempt meant to cause profit in the media, in electoral terms, but fortunately I have the legal ways to bring things back in their legal place. However, I take the blame of relying on the fact that the President will not afford to approach the defence and security field in a purely electoral key”, Les stated.
Referring to the decree to extend the mandate of the SMG head (for a maximum period of one year) issued by the President, Les says that “the situation is, in legal terms, unequivocal”.
“In an absolutely symmetrical manner, the extension proposal is subject to the same procedure as the appointment proposal. We have only one precedent in this respect, namely the Decree 882 of September 2010, where you can find the explicit phrase ‘Considering the proposal of the Minister of National Defence and the approval of the Prime Minister’, in the explanatory memorandum of the decree. I believe it is absolutely obvious that CSAT’s role in this procedure was vitiated, since the President informed us exclusively on TV, instead of doing it at the Council’s meeting, as the law and the operating regulations require”, he added.
He claims that he sent all the documents included on the agenda 10 days before, “so, if there was a minimum desire to solve the issue, the President or his counsellors (with whom there was a dialogue), could have issued objections or clarification requests, in a timely manner”.
“The situation is even more ambiguous from the perspective of the Ministry of Defence, since our institution has a military employee with a General rank who is delegated to Cotroceni as a CSAT Secretary, whose explicit role is to check the compliance of the procedure and of the documents included on the agenda. My understanding is that he didn’t do his job, since he didn’t report any of the so-called legality problems invoked by the President. In fact, these problems do not exist, and the President approached the situation exclusively in terms of politics, to the detriment of the most elementary legal norms”, Les also says.