In an Opinion adopted on Friday, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission expresses concern that many draft amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code in Romania seriously weaken the effectiveness of its criminal justice system to fight corruption offences, violent crimes and organised criminality. The Venice Commission recommends that the Romanian authorities conduct an overall re-assessment of the amendments in both codes through a comprehensive and effective consultation process in order to come up with a solid and coherent legislative proposal benefiting from a broad support within the Romanian society and taking fully into account the applicable standards, and to follow the guidance of the Constitutional Court. On 12 October the Constitutional Court of Romania established that over 60 articles of the draft law amending the Criminal Law Procedure were unconstitutional and is expected to examine the constitutionality of the draft amendments to the Criminal Code later this month. The Commission also adopted with some amendments the preliminary opinion issued in July on three drafts laws amending existing legislation on the statute of judges and prosecutors, judicial organisation and the Superior Council of Magistracy. This opinion criticises that these laws would adversely affect the efficiency, quality and independence of the judiciary, with negative consequences for the fight against corruption. The three laws have already been promulgated and entered into force. The Opinion notes that the two government emergency ordinances just recently adopted by the Romanian government address issues covered in this opinion. Whilst the Commission welcomes as a positive step the postponement of the entry into force of the early retirement scheme for magistrates, which will provide Parliament time to reconsider this scheme, it did not examine other parts of this ordinance and reserves its position in this respect. With regard to the draft amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, the opinion underlines that although the public debate has focused on the risk that they may undermine the fight against corruption, their impact is much wider. According to the Commission, the reform could significantly affect the criminal justice system and its effective and efficient operation, in particular the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of other serious and complex forms of crime. The opinion criticises the excessive speed and the insufficient transparency of the reform process, especially because there were more than 300 amendments, many of them radically reforming criminal policy. The haste in their adoption had a negative impact on the quality of the legislation, which contains contradictions that could cause legal uncertainty in the future. The Commission also stresses that a more comprehensive process of discussion with legal practitioners and society at large would have been necessary, in particular taking into account that the amendments were questioned by actors such as the High Court of Cassation and that they were very divisive in Romanian society and institutions. In addition, considering the clashes between institutions (for example, the President of the Republic, the High Court of Cassation and the Prosecutor General versus the Parliament), the Commission highlights the need for more time to search for a broader support for the legislative package. The opinion does not provide a detailed analysis of all amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, but only those which raise the most serious concerns. The Commission in particular recommends to the Romanian authorities: Criminal Procedure Code to thoroughly review the amending law as a whole to ensure that the reform will not have a negative impact on the functioning of the criminal justice system. While all the amendments should be thoroughly reviewed, to amend in substance the rules on communication on on-going criminal investigations (Article 4), starting a criminal investigation (Article 305), evidentiary thresholds and inability to use certain forms of evidence (Articles 139, 143, 153, 168), and the right to be informed of and participate in all prosecution acts (Articles 83 and 92) to reconsider the final and transitional provisions. Criminal Code to reconsider and amend the provisions regulating corruption-related offences, in particular bribery (Article 290) – the Opinion stresses that the draft amendment would discourage bribe givers from co-operating with law enforcement -, influence trading and buying (Articles 291 and 292), embezzlement (Article 295) and abuse of service (Article 297); to reconsider and amend some other provisions with a more general impact, such as those on the statute of limitations (Articles 154-155) – according to the Opinion, the proposed amendment creates a high risk that in complex cases the crimes at issue be time–barred before the investigation and trial can be carried out-, false testimony (Article 273) and compromising the interests of justice (Article 277 CC); to reconsider and amend the provisions on extended confiscation measures (Art. 1121) and the definition of public servant (Art. 175), ancillary penalties (Article 65), in order to bring them in line with the country’s international obligations. The as-adopted opinion will be made available electronically on the Venice Commission website by Monday afternoon 22 October. President Iohannis requests Parliament to take account of Venice Commission’s opinions, reevaluate amendments to Justice laws President Klaus Iohannis calls for Parliament to take into account the Venice Commission’s opinions and reevaluate the amendments brought to the Justice laws but also to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Code, because “the negative impact on Justice and the rule of law must cease.” According to the Presidential Administration, President Klaus Iohannis believes that the very serious aspects shown by the Venice Commission regarding the amendments to the laws of justice and the criminal codes represent an absolute signal the current government and the parliamentary majority have to take into account so that they don’t push Romania in a direction incompatible with the European Union’s values. “The two opinions of this European forum are extremely critical and prove, predictably, all the irregularities shown for more than a year by the President of Romania, the parliamentary opposition, the civil society, the Superior Council of Magistrates, the justices and prosecutors,” a release issued on Friday by the…
Venice Commission expresses concern that proposed reform of criminal justice legislation in Romania weakens the fight against corruption
More than 600 people participated in the fourth edition of the “Together for the Safety of Women!” march on Saturday, the event being attended by several ambassadors, including those of the US, Germany, France, Finland and Sweden. The US Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm underscored the importance of combating violence against girls and women. He said that governments, the leaders of communities and the church have a role to play in the fight against this type of violence that can be found in all societies. He voiced his hope that actions such as Saturday’s march will raise the degree of awareness regarding this issue. Germany’s Ambassador to Romania Cord Meier-Klodt affirmed that violence against women constitutes a painful issue, that is not specific to a certain country, as it has a global character. We are not here to teach lessons (…) but to offer international support, Meier-Klodt added, considering the march a very good initiative. France’s Ambassador to Romania Michele Ramis stated that violence against women and girls is universal, unacceptable and represents a worrisome aspect. She affirmed that through activities such as Saturday’s march mentality can be changed. Finland’s Ambassador to Romania Paivi Pohjanheimo underscored that violence against women represents a global challenge. We think it is important to be here today to show our respect and solidarity (…) it is important we talk about the issue, acknowledge that all our countries share the same issue, Ambassador Paivi Pohjanheimo said, according to Agerpres. Sweden’s Ambassador to Romania Anneli Lindahl Kenny said she came to the event out of solidarity with women and highlighted that this march represents a very good awareness-raising method. She mentioned that violence against women should not be tolerated and everybody should take a stand against it. Participants in the march held placards with such messages as: “Love doesn’t give rise to violence”, “1 in 4 women, physically or sexually abused by partner,” “Stop the violence!,” “It kills me. Your slap!,” “Spare the rod and spoil the child but where does love come from, then?” “Your reaction can save you.” The participants chanted among others: “The indifference feeds the violence!,” “Solidarity!,” “We want safety in the streets and at home!,” “Shelters for all and adequate budgets,” “I don’t feel flattered when I am aggressed,” “We want justice and confidence in the Police!.” The director of the Filia Center, Andreea Braga, part of the Network for Prevention and Combating Violence Against Women, the organizer of the march, said that this edition is taking place against the backdrop of the rights and freedoms of women in the region being under attack. “I have recently heard in the public sphere that the Istanbul Convention is being attacked and we are taking to the streets today in sign of solidarity with the survivors of violence (…). We cannot give up on the rights we have won in the last years,” Braga stated. She mentioned that through this march, the Network for Prevention and Combating of Violence Against Women requests the authorities for more measures for the women’s safety. According to her, the fact that more and more violence cases are being registered with the police is a positive signal, because there are many unreported cases.
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Liberal Senator Sorin Citu and Minister Teodorovici argue over state budget funds and unkept promises
FinMin admits document sent to EC, says tentative budget scenarios include freezing public sector wages, earlier enforcement of wage law Minister of Public Finance Eugen Teodorovici and Liberal Senator Florin Citu traded fire over the next state budget draft, following a document the Ministry of Public Finance sent to the EC listing a set of measures pondered in order to keep the budget deficit within the limit of 3 percent of GDP. Senator Florin Citu published a fragment of the document on his Facebook account, blaming the government that it plans to default on its promises. In reply, Finance Minister Teodorovici on Saturday told Digi24 TV channel that the document on the tentative freezing of public sector wages, presented by Liberal Senator Florin Citu, is public and was sent to the European Commission as a working document, as a variant to consider. According to the document sent to the European Commission and that was also posted by Liberal Senator Florin Citu on his Facebook page, the measures contemplated for drafting the 2019 budget blueprint include freezing wages in the public sector at the level of 2018 (the uniform wage law would no longer be applied) and keeping the value of holiday vouchers the same as in 2018, respectively at 1,450 lei / employee. Another possibility is to keep the average number of employees in the public sector the same as in 2018. Florin Citu posted on his Facebook page on Saturday that PSD and ALDE are thus no longer enforcing the unitary salary law and are admitting the failure of the governance programme. “PSD has betrayed and lied to Romanians. Romania in economic crisis – PSD introduces austerity measures in 2019. In a document remitted to the European Commission a few days ago, PSD+ALDE promise the freezing of public sector salaries in 2019 at the level registered in December 2018. PSD+ALDE are no longer enforcing the unitary salary law (thus admitting the failure of the governance programme and confirming me). This means salaries are cut by the equivalent of the inflation rate. Moreover, the interest rate hike will also cut the purchasing power even more,” the Liberal Senator said. Florin Citu also claims that the pensions law is a lie. “It’s clear that the pensions law is nothing but a lie. There isn’t money to enforce the unitary salary law and PSD+ALDE lie that they will double the pensions,” the PNL Senator writes. The document excerpt presented by the Liberal Senator points out that the Romanian Government is taking these measures “to ensure a cash deficit of 2.58 percent of GDP in 2019 and, implicitly, to correct the deviation from the medium-term objective (by lowering the structural balance from 3.17 percent of GDP in 2018 to 2.71 percent of GDP in 2019).” The Medium-term Objective (MTO) represents the budget deficit target of 3 percent that Romania committed itself to observing at the European Commission’s request. This target was established as a result of the imbalances registered by several countries during the recent economic crisis, its purpose being to maintain government expenditures as low as possible, especially during other economic crises. Last year, Romania registered a budget deficit of 2.96 percent of GDP last year, and the budget deficit was close to 3 percent in 2016 too. The Liberal added that, given the PSD-ALDE promise included in the document remitted to the European Commission, the ruling coalition will in fact cut salaries by the equivalent of the inflation rate. “This means salaries are being CUT by the equivalent of the inflation rate. Moreover, the hike of interest rates will lower the purchasing power even more. In the picture, the measures that PSD promises to take when forming the budget for 2019. It’s clear that the pensions law is nothing but a lie. There isn’t money to enforce the unitary salary law and PSD+ALDE are lying that they will double the pensions,” the PNL Senator explained. Florin Citu also announced that in the following days he will make public a report on the country’s economic situation. The public sector salary law was adopted by the House in early June 2017, during the Grindeanu Cabinet. Teodorovici: The authorities are also weighing in on enforcing the wage law ahead of term, by 2020 instead of 2022 In response, Teodorovici says that the authorities are also weighing in on enforcing the wage law ahead of term, by 2020 instead of 2022. “It is a document sent to the European Commission, a working document, so to say, a possible variant sent to the European Commission because this is the way the government has been working for years, and all member states are doing this: send the European Commission debates, scenarios, calculations for a final decision to be made one way or the other. In a few weeks we will table to the government the 2019 budget bill where the final version will be put on paper. This is a discussion, a scenario proposed by the Ministry of Finance, based on calculations, and there is even a proposal to apply the wage law not until 2022, but by 2020, just to clearly show that we are very sure of what we are doing, that we are not applying measures beyond the term of this government, ie 2020. Moreover, I must emphasize once again that the PSD-ALDE government has put into practice everything it promised. It didn’t cut the Romanians’ incomes,” Teodorovici explained. With regard to the possible freezing of public sector hiring, the Finance Minister said that freezing the number of employees in the central public administration is indeed a working scenario, as a way to resettle, restructure, render efficient the central public administration, because a long-term common sense observation is that a much more efficient administration is needed. “As an example I gave in previous interventions, I said that in the Ministry of Finance, support jobs are somewhere at 18 percent of the ministry’s personnel, and in other ministries they are somewhere at 30 percent…
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PM Viorica Dancila, meeting with Emir of State of Kuwait: Positive trend of bilateral relations, appreciated
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila had a meeting on Sunday with the Emir of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, in which the positive trend recorded in the last period at the level of the Romanian-Kuwait relations was appreciated, informs a press release of the Executive. Topics of interest on the bilateral agenda were tackled at the meeting. “The positive trend recorded in the last period at the level of the Romanian-Kuwait relations was also appreciated as well as both states’ political will to strengthen the bilateral dialogue on all levels of interest,” the cited source mentions. Premier Dancila highlighted the fact that an important moment is marked this year, the completion of 55 years of bilateral diplomatic relations, and emphasized the importance of further intensifying the political dialogue and strengthening the bilateral cooperation in the political-diplomatic, economic and sectoral fields. Viorica Dancila reiterated the commitment of the Government of Romania to strengthen relations with the State of Kuwait, “an important partner of our country in the Gulf region, both as Romania’s foreign policy objective and in the context of its holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2019,” reads the press release. The high dignitaries agreed to organize in 2019 the first session of the Joint Romanian-Kuwaiti Cooperation Committee, coordinated by the Foreign Ministers. At the same time, the Kuwaiti side voiced their interest in collaborating with the Ana Aslan Institute, the Romanian Center of Excellence in Gerontology and Geriatrics. The talks between Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and the Emir of the State of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah also occasioned an exchange of views on topics of interest on the international and regional agenda, focusing on recent developments in the Middle East. In the context, Prime Minister Dancila stressed that Romania will continue to attach special importance to the Southern Neighborhood of the European Union, while at the same time promoting the political settlement of the Middle East and North Africa disputes. According to the press release, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila also had a meeting on Sunday with the Chairman of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry Dr Ali Mohammed Thunayan Al-Ghanim. The premier expressed the appreciation for the high level of the bilateral and sectoral cooperation between the two countries as well as the convergence of the two countries’ interests in economic and commercial terms. In this context, the head of the Executive underlined the interest of the Romanian side in deepening the economic cooperation, so as to contribute to a substantial increase of economic exchanges, direct investments by both parties, as well as to the development of the relations between the two countries’ sectoral contacts, for the benefit of both countries. The prime minister presented the main investment opportunities in Romania, focusing on the critical infrastructure, transport, energy, IT, research and development, financial-banking and health sectors, considering that the State of Kuwait is one of Romania’s major trading partners in the Gulf region. “At the same time, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has appreciated that Romania’s relations with the State of Kuwait have a tremendous potential for developing new converging projects, including on third markets, especially in the Arab world, in areas such as: road infrastructure, oil and gas, hydrotechnics, telecommunications and high-voltage lines,” the cited source further mentions. PM Viorica Dancila, Prime Minister of State of Kuwait; talks focus on security developments Romanian PM had a meeting with the Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on Sunday, the two officials’ talks focusing on aspects related to the strengthening and deepening of the economic and sectoral bilateral cooperation, as well as on aspects of security developments at regional and international level. According to a press release of the Government, the two prime ministers voiced appreciation for the upward trend of the Romanian-Kuwaiti relations and discussed future projects aimed at strengthening the bilateral political-diplomatic dialogue. They also explored the possibilities of expanding cooperation in various areas of mutual interest, depending on the priority spots identified in the governmental dialogue and at the level of the business environment of the two states. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila reaffirmed her commitment and that of the Bucharest Executive to strengthen Romania’s relations with the Arab world in general, an objective highlighted in the Governing Program 2017-2020, which envisages intensifying diplomatic efforts in this direction. She also pointed out that the State of Kuwait is a key partner of Romania in the Gulf region, all the more so since, starting January 1, 2019, Romania will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, the cited source specifies. The two officials also referred to the good bilateral cooperation within international bodies, as well as to the possibility of supporting projects of interest to both states within these organizations. They also analyzed ways of developing the Romanian-Kuwaiti bilateral economic and trade relations, by boosting the private sector, in particular by actively encouraging Kuwaiti businessmen to invest in Romania. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila conveyed the Romanian side’s availability in developing a number of concrete projects in areas such as agriculture, transport, investment, industry, critical infrastructure, energy, health. On the occasion of Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s visit to Kuwait, two cooperation agreements were signed: the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait and the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of tourism between the Romanian Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Information – the tourism Sector of the State of Kuwait. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila also had on Sunday a meeting with Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Marzouq Al Ghanim. According to the cited source, during the discussions, the status of the bilateral relations was reviewed and the progress registered for their consolidation was appreciated. Particular emphasis was placed on parliamentary cooperation. In this context, both officials stressed the interest in intensifying the dialogue between the…