First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans pays official visit to Bucharest : I’m positive that after CVM process ends, Romanian people continue anti-corruption fight

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“The best warranter of the rule of law is the Romanian people, who will continue the fight against corruption after the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) process is ended in Romania”, on Thursday asserted in Bucharest the visiting First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans.

“Our fight for the rule of law and for the human rights is not a fight for ourselves. We believe that every European citizen, no matter where they live deserve a rule of law”, Frans Timmermans told a joint press conference with the Romanian Prime Minister, Sorin Grindeanu and the Justice Minister, Tudorel Toader at the Victoria Palace.

Timmermans added that the enforcement of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in the last 10 years has brought achievements to Romania. At the same time, the European official referred to the changes in the judiciary which gave “emotions” to the officials in Brussels.

Some of these achievements did not look possible ten years ago. Now we are on the last hundred meters of this long marathon. We had emotions a few months ago, when we had the feeling that the entire process will be stopped or the direction will be changed. We had fruitful meetings with Premier Grindeanu. (…) I’m positive that the best warranter of the fight against corruption is the Romanian people. It is a strong feeling in the Romanian society that this is the right fight. The people wish (…) for this fight to go on. I’m certain that after all these recommendations will be fulfilled and the CVM process will be closed, the anti-corruption fight will be in fact furthered by the Romanian people . (…) This is the best guarantee (…) that the process will go on after the CVM process is ended, assessed Timmermans, adding that he is “absolutely confident” in the plan of the Romanian Government and in the projects of the Justice Minister.

He wanted to underline that the Romanians are those who want the fight against corruption to go on, that they do that not only because Brussels is telling them so, but because the people wishes it, for themselves.

As for the date the CVM process is to be ended, Timmermans said he couldn’t forward a deadline and called for the Legislative to support the Government.

“I never give deadlines. The government’s programme is very clear and everything depends on the public consultations, on the talking with all of the people involved and on the vote in the Parliament. (…) The path followed by the Government is heading to accomplishing the recommendations. The Parliament is sovereign, but I would ask the Parliament to support the Government in the latter’s approaches and to never choose another way. (…) These are our last recommendations. We won’t change them, we won’t add anything new. (…) Hopefully this Government will have the Parliament’s strong support to fulfill this goal, and from the Romanian society, too, because once this goal attained, it will come to an irreversible point”, stressed Timmermans.

Frans Timmermans, who was on an official visit to Romania, has had meetings with the Senate’s Chairman, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and with the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Liviu Dragnea. By the end of the day, the European Commission’s First Vice-President had  a dialogue with the citizens at the National Art Museum on the White Paper on Europe’s future, the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties’ inking and 10 years’ celebration since Romania’s accession to the EU.

 

 Frans Timmermans encourages Romanian Parliament to support Gov’t to reach CVM objectives

 

European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, while on an official visit in Bucharest, on Thursday encouraged the Romanian Parliament to support the Government’s efforts for reaching the objectives under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) in the justice area.

“To be successful in the CVM process, I encourage the Romanian Parliament to support the Government in the final stretch of the marathon,” Timmermans wrote in his Twitter account.

 

“I don’t see why Romania cannot be Council of EU President and continue under CVM”

 

The EC high official also said that in his opinion Romania can be President of the Council of the EU in 2019 and continue under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), taking into account that there is no connection between the two.

I understand that the Prime Minister says that the CVM conclusion before taking over the Council of the EU presidency is a matter of prestige, but honestly, there is no connection between the two, the European official told a press conference in Bucharest.

He added that if the Romanian authorities hurried to fulfill the 12 requirements in the report, the situation is a beneficial one.

If the Romanian Government sees a connection and wants to move fast, so much the better. I personally don’t see why Romania cannot be Council of EU President and at the same time have a dialogue with us, under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. It is about cooperation, Timmermans showed.

 

“I believe member states should decide on admitting Romania to Schengen”

 

“It is high time that the member states made a decision on Romania’s admission to Schengen, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans also said in Bucharest on Thursday.

In respect to Schengen, he said, Romania is a very important partner to us. It is one of the leading countries in respect to border security, not only in terms of quantity, but in the first place in terms of quality and I believe it is high time that the member states made a decision concerning Romania’s admission to Schengen, the European high official said.

He underscored that this opinion was voiced on several occasions by EC representatives.

It is the decision of the member states, not of the Commission, he said, adding that the Commission has very clearly stated its opinion on several occasions.

Timmermans added that Romania is one of the leading states in Europe in respect to the judiciary system.

 

PM Grindeanu: My goal is to end CVM before Romania’s taking over EU Presidency

 

Premier Sorin Grindeanu said on Thursday that his goal is to make sure that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) is ended before Romania takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“My and the government’s goal is to complete the CVM before Romania takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It is a matter of prestige and not only, I am very particular about this,” Premier Grindeanu told a press conference delivered jointly with European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Justice Minister Tudorel Toader at the Victoria Palace of Government.

The head of the government mentioned that Romania has had four consecutive positive CVM reports.

“I’d like us to have by the end of 2017 a final positive report that lays the foundation for the conclusion of this mechanism. (…) I must emphasize the major progress we have made so far in the field of justice and we won’t take one step back from what guaranteeing a fair and independent act of justice means,” Grindeanu said.

According to the Prime Minister, the government will fully use the dialogue, transparency and consultation instruments at hand, so that both the Romanian judiciary and the society support its actions.

“Romania’s economy cannot grow without the investors’ confidence that their money is protected by a predictable and efficient judiciary. (…) Society cannot advance without ensuring protection for interests, but also for the citizens’ fundamental rights,” Grindeanu said.

The Premier went on to say that the government’s priorities for the coming period were presented to Timmermans.

“Our priorities are (…) getting the legislation in line with the rulings of the Constitutional Court, making sure that the fundamental rights are fully observed, guaranteeing the efficiency, predictability and quality of the act of justice, and bringing justice closer to the citizen,” Grindeanu explained.

He also thanked Timmermans for his constant principled approach to keeping the CVM file unconnected to other files, such as structural funds or Schengen membership.

“Technical talks are currently underway on all aspects we were still unclear about, as the European Commission sent the Ministry of Justice the necessary CVM-related clarifications. In today’s discussion, Mr. JusMin Tudorel Toader also detailed the subject tackled in Brussels at the beginning of the year, related to the situation of penitentiaries and the measures we are considering to address the issue,” added Grindeanu.

 

Dragnea, after meeting with Frans Timmermans: No objective to prevent anti-corruption fight

 

Parliament and the Government want the withdrawal of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) Romania and there is no objective in preventing the fight against corruption, Chamber of Deputies’s Speaker Liviu Dragnea communicated to the First Vice-President of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans.

“The Government is encouraged, is supported. I explained to him that we did not have, we do not have nor will we have an approach or an objective to prevent the fight against corruption. And we will continue to strengthen the rule of law and the law enforcement in Romania, but at the same time I told him that we will continue to implement, to enforce the Romanian Constitutional Court (CCR) decisions that are mandatory. And we have also discussed the parliamentary impunity. I told him what my position has been for a few years, and if we ever get to change the Constitution, or to remove this immunity, or to make it clearer, and I told him something that he could not but agree with – it happens anywhere in any country : parliamentarians vote as their conscience dictates. There were situations when they voted in a certain way, and other situations in which, for different reasons, they voted in a different way. As long as there is this constitutional competency, there will probably be votes that disturb some, but do not bother others,” Dragnea stated in Parliament, after the meeting with Timmermans.

Asked if the CVM report in 2017 will be the last one, as Senate President Calin Popescu-Tariceanu has announced, he replied that Parliament and Government want this report to end.

“The Government and the Parliament, as institutions, we want this report to cease, because we have drawn a parallel with our accession to Schengen, all that Romania has set out to do, and from the technical, investment and legislative point of view, it has been accomplished, however, each time it was said that it still wasn’t enough, that something still needs to be done, never finding out clearly what these other things are, what is the roadmap that needs to be accomplished. This confusion does not help. If he believes or whether the European officials believe that in the increasingly complicated international situation both in Europe and in the world, a good and correct attitude towards Romania is not beneficial, it may be a mistake, but I am telling you that it was, from my point of view, a positive discussion and I hope it will achieve good results, ” the Chamber Speaker said.

Liviu Dragnea affirmed that the CVM report should contain clear recommendations.

“In case the Commission’s last requests to be fulfilled by Romania will be very clear, then it means that we can realistically talk about witnessing the closure of CVM in our life time; if things are not clear, then we can consider it as a political tool that has little to do with what is happening in justice, ” the Chamber’s Speaker further showed.

He argued that he had asked the European official to talk with the members of the Commission to inform them about what is going on in Romania.

“He told me that he greatly appreciates our governing programme and that he would be very happy for it to be implemented. I gave him the good news, which I will also introduce today, that the programme has been implemented as it was established the one approved in Parliament and that the economic and macroeconomic data are even better than the ones we had estimated and that the Government and Parliament will go further with the implementation of this programme, ” Liviu Dragnea added.

At the same time, the Speaker of the Chamber asked the European official to support Romania in absorbing European funds and for Romania’s access to the Juncker investment plan.

“I also told him that we appreciate (European Commissioner for Regional Development) Corina Cretu very much and because there were discussions in the press at one point, she still benefits from both the Government and the Parliament’s support – the parliamentary majority – as well as the political support of the party she was part of, ” Dragnea mentioned.

He stressed that Romania’s accession to the Schengen remains categorically a priority.

“Our priorities are from the governing programme. And with the accession to Schengen, if there is anything else to be done, they have to say it, just that it has become somewhat of a ‘never in this story.’ I also told him that in Romania it was a matter of concern how the Commission presented the Minority six pack, the way the Luxembourg Court’s decision was presented, but he assured me that the Commission had to take note of the Court’s decision and could not do more, since Romania had no problems with regard to minority rights observance, but there were some fears in the Romanian society, ” concluded Liviu Dragnea.

 

 Senate President: 2018 will probably be year when CVM is lifted

 

Senate President Calin Popescu-Tariceanu on Thursday after the meeting with European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) will be most likely lifted next year.

“I discussed this thing [the CVM lifting] including in Brussels with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, who once more committed, in the discussion we had, to make all efforts for the mechanism to be concluded in the period in which he holds the mandate as President of the Commission. Most likely, the time horizon we expect is this year’s end, the CVM report and, based on it, 2018 will probably be the year when the mechanism is lifted,” Tariceanu said, at Parliament, at the end of the meeting with the European Commission First Vice-President.

The Senate President added that also tackled in Brussels was the CVM report at the end of this year and the conclusions that might lead to the mechanism being lifted.

“In the discussions I had with the officials of Brussels, with Mr Juncker, the report for this year is being drawn up and I mean here the end of 2017, in order to establish the conclusions for lifting the report,” Tariceanu said.

Tariceanu pointed out that he drew Frans Timmermans’ attention on some errors in the CVM report.

“I have drawn Mr Timmermans’ attention, in a friendly manner (…), on a series of errors that come up in the monitoring report setup under the CVM, such as, for instance, the request that Parliament motivate its decisions. In no country in the world has there been a Parliament motivating its decisions. One cannot ask the Senate or Chamber members to motivate their vote. Only courts motivate their decisions. Mr Timmermans asked me to send him the observations on this report, which I will do, to draw his attention on the errors in the report,” the Senate President mentioned.