Sunday

18th Feb 2018

'Crucial moment' for Romania as MEPs debate judiciary

  • Commissioner Jourova said the EU executive is open for dialogue with the Romanian government (Photo: European Parliament)

EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova told MEPs on Wednesday (7 February) it was a "crucial moment" for Romania, as the country's parliament is deciding on two controversial laws concerning the judiciary which have been deemed unconstitutional.

"The European Commission considers it is still is possible for the laws to be improved, become good laws and strengthen the independence and professionalisation of the judicial system," Jourova told MEPs in the evening debate.

  • Tens of thousands of protestors demonstrated against the laws in Romania (Photo: Reuters)

"This is a crucial moment now that the first two draft laws are back in the parliament following the rulings of the constitutional court," she added.

Romania was the latest country whose controversial reforms of the judiciary were discussed by MEPs after the commission last month rang alarm bells over laws that critics say weaken the country's anti-corruption drive, risks putting the judiciary under political control and keeps ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) politicians shielded from prosecution.

The new amendments were passed last December and are under review by the country's top court which ruled parts of the controversial reforms unconstitutional.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned that if Romania does not amend these laws, it could risk losing its chance to become a member of the passport-free Schengen zone.

Juncker has previously said he wanted both Romania and Bulgaria – which joined the EU in 2007, but was not allowed to join the Schengen zone due to concerns over corruption and the judiciary – to become Schengen members by 2019.

The EU has been monitoring judicial reform in Romania, as well as Bulgaria, since they joined the bloc in 2007.

Jourova urged Romania's government to "rethink the course of action proposed, to open up the debate, to build a consensus on the way forward and safeguard the independence of the judiciary and step up the fight against corruption".

The commissioner praised Romania's earlier judicial reforms and anti-corruption drive.

"Romania has been running a marathon. The finish line is in sight ... to step backwards would be a major disappointment for the many friends of Romania and Romanian citizens," she said.

Family affair

Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola of the European People's Party (EPP), herself an anti-corruption campaigner, said Romanians deserve a country where rule of law is respected.

"We have seen attempts by the government to suppress the judiciary, to water down anticorruption legislation, and to use its electoral majority as an excuse to do it pleases," she said.

"The EU cannot look away, the EPP will not," she said, prompting shouts and laughter in the plenary chamber, as the EPP is a staunch defender of Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban, who has cracked down on the media and the judiciary in his own country.

Metsola recalled that the issue is not only about Romania, as what happens in one member state effects all EU countries.

The Socialists & Democrats group, where the Romanian ruling party is a member, tip-toed around the issue and defended their political family.

MEP Josef Weidenholzer said: "We have been assured by the fact that the ongoing reforms are fully in line with the rule of law and European values. The political stability of eastern Europe is crucial."

Poland's nationalist ruling party – whose own judicial reforms have been deemed a systematic threat to the rule of law – stepped up to defend Romania's socialists.

"Commissioner Jourova should not appearing here as a professor, dishing out lessons to a democratically-elected government in Romania, that is not how the EU should work" MEP Kosma Zlotowski of Poland's Law and Justice party said.

"If society is not happy with what is happening, they will be able to hold the government accountable at the next elections," he added.

MEP Victor Bostinaru of Romania's ruling party argued that Jourova is not pointing out any specific paragraph in her criticism, and claimed that there have been abuses carried out by Romania's anti-corruption directorate.

PM 'missing' row

MEP Dan Nica from Romania's ruling party argued at the beginning of the debate that while the new prime minister, ex-MEP Viorica Dancila could not be in Strasbourg, the country's justice minister should be able to address MEPs.

Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld recalled that the leaders of the parliament's political parties along with the parliament president decided to invite the Romanian PM for the debate, and listen to the minister in the civil liberties committee.

"In this kind of debate we invite prime minister, but the PM could not be here today. We should not change the rules and the traditions on the spot," she said.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses 'no danger'
  2. Spanish king in Barcelona next week
  3. Turkey jails journalists for life
  4. Make budget cuts in farm and regional funds, the Dutch say
  5. UN: Hungary's anti-migration bill is 'assault on human rights'
  6. Journalist Deniz Yucel freed in Turkey
  7. New organic farming bill not ready until late spring
  8. Commissioner: Western Balkans in EU is 'obvious'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  2. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  3. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  4. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  6. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  7. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  8. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  9. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  10. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  11. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  12. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections

Latest News

  1. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  2. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK
  3. EU states stay mute on implementation of mercury bill
  4. Baltic states demand bigger EU budget
  5. Germany raises concerns over Hungary's 'Stop Soros' bills
  6. EU ties Brexit transition talks to divorce agreement
  7. EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement
  8. Facebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  4. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  6. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  8. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  10. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  12. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%