Tuesday

24th Apr 2018

Romania defies European Commission and weakens court

Romania’s parliament passed a law on Wednesday (18 July) limiting the jurisdiction of its constitutional court in an apparent contradiction to promises made to the European Commission by Romania’s prime minister Victor Ponta just a few days before.

Speaking to EUobserver on Thursday, commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde said “if limitations are being made now, we must look at it.”

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Romania's parliament passed a law on Wednesday that limits the jurisdiction of the constitutional court (Photo: Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Ahrenkilde said the Commission had previously been given promises that Romania would abrogate decrees limiting the court’s competences and had been satisfied with Ponta’s lettered commitments.

The court saw its powers to review decisions passed by parliament revoked on 4 July in a decision that was published and passed into law on the same day, causing concern in Brussels. Romania's action, said the Commission, was contrary to its own constitution.

But Ponta assured European Commission chief Barroso during a telephone conversation and subsequent letter that he would review the decision and respect the rule of law.

Romania’s parliament then voted through a new decree just hours after Barroso warned the country to stop undermining the court's jurisdiction.

The new law allows the court no jurisdiction over the internal decisions of the parliament. This means that the recent sacking of Senate and lower chamber chairpersons can no longer be challenged in court. The sacking of the ombudsman - strongly criticised by Brussels - can also not be challenged.

The chair of Romania’s chamber of deputies, Valeriu Zgonea, told this website that the new law respects Ponta’s promise. “The new law does not attack the heart of the constitutional court in anyway,” said Zgonea.

He explained that the constitutional court had itself recommended that it should not rule on the internal decisions of the parliament. “What we have done is copy-pasted the courts recommendations into the new law. In my opinion, the new law is constitutional,” he said.

Romania’s ombudsman is empowered to conduct investigations on alleged illegal acts of the administration. As an independent body, it must report to the parliament or the prime minister if it discloses cases of “grave corruption” during its investigations.

The ombudsman is the only institution that can directly challenge government ordinances in front of the constitutional court.

Ponta’s government had prematurely ended the mandate of the ombudsman on 3 July. A day later, Ponta’s parliamentary majority submitted a 17-page document that claimed the president, a long-time rival, had violated the constitution and should be removed from office.

It is up to the constitutional court to decide on whether or not there is enough evidence in the case to warrant a presidential impeachment.

On 5 July, the court decided that the allegations levied against the president by Ponta’s parliamentary majority did not clearly warrant impeachment. Ponta claimed the court was biased and then put the issue to parliament anyway, which voted in favour of impeachment.

The European Commission, for its part, has recommended that Romania repeal its emergency ordinances and ensure the constitutional court rulings on the quorum for a referendum are sustained. It also wants Romania to ensure the entire scope of the court’s responsibilities are respected.

Romania and Bulgaria continue to flout rule of law

Contract killings in Bulgaria and a direct affront to the rule of law in Romania are some of the major concerns underlined by the European Commission in its progress reports adopted on Wednesday.

EU commission still 'very worried' about Romanian democracy

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Wednesday said she remains "very much worried" about the state of democracy in Romania. Meanwhile, there is intense political infighting in Romania ahead of Sunday's impeachment referendum.

Romanians prepare for divisive referendum

The Romanian government's campaign ahead of a referendum on Sunday on removing the president from office resembles a personal vendetta, amid EU worries about democracy eroding rapidly in the country.

Feature

Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack

Immediately after Orban's landslide victory in April, a list of so-called 'Soros mercenaries' was published by pro-government media. Those on it - mostly human rights defenders, activists and Orban critics - are now anxious but vow to continue.

Feature

'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole

Project Safte, an international research project funded by the European Commission, has revealed a loophole in the EU firearms directive that is being exploited by criminals and possibly terrorists.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  2. Spain makes bid for EU anti-pirate HQ
  3. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  4. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  5. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  6. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  7. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack
  8. European Commission proposes whistleblower protection law