Monday

23rd Oct 2017

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.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks