Press statement by President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis

13:00 | 10 July 2019

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, delivered a press statement on Wednesday, 10 July 2019, at Cotroceni Palace.

The translated transcript of the press statement can be read as follows:

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis:

The PSD-ALDE Government has received a red card again, this time from the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, the so-called GRECO.

The conclusions in the two Reports by the Group of States Against Corruption, shortly GRECO, which were adopted on 21 June 2019 and were published by the Government only yesterday - a considerable delay – once again reveal the numerous prejudices that the PSD-ALDE governing has stirred up in the last two years by changing the justice laws and the criminal legislation.

The conclusions fully embody the message sent by the citizens with their vote at the referendum on 26 May.

It is extremely worrying that, due to the current government’s own interests, Romania continues to be in the attention of the European bodies.

The law-making process in Romania has not improved, public consultations and transparency are still ignored by the ruling majority, who continues to adopt emergency ordinances in important areas. This is what GRECO notes in its Reports.

Aspects such as those related to the retirement of magistrates, the existence of the Special Section for the Investigation of offences in the judiciary, the possibility of the hierarchically superior prosecutors to invalidate decisions taken by prosecutors if ungrounded have not been solved, while the Romanian authorities are acting in direct contradiction to the recommendations issued by the European body.

The procedure of appointing chief prosecutors in courts is still non-transparent and based on personal criteria, while the Superior Council of Magistracy’s recommendations in this respect are merely decorative.

The PSD-ALDE governing has left a lot of issues unsolved, which I will not detail here, from aspects regarding corruption and integrity of the MPs to the National Agency for Integrity’s capacity to collect data, to prevent and sanction conflicts of interests and incompatibilities.     

While the PSD-ALDE Government affords to overlook the will of its own citizens, we should not wonder that only 4 out of 13 GRECO recommendations were assessed to have been acceptably implemented. 

GRECO's extremely harsh remarks are in line with the conclusions of the CVM report and to the Venice Commission’s Opinions.

While all the European bodies have been constantly warning the Romanian Government that the so-called justice reform is leading Romania on a wrong track, the PSD-ALDE majority has been continually disregarding them.

The Romanians decided by vote on the 26th of May that Romania shall keep its European course and the legislative interventions in the judiciary that serve group interests have to cease.   

The PSD-ALDE majority, by utterly disregarding the need to debate the controversial emergency ordinances in field of justice, is contributing to a long-term perpetration of their harmful outcomes.  

At the same time, we could notice that the Prime Minister, misusing the result of the referendum and pathetically trying to manipulate the public opinion, announces that she will not issue ordinances with reference to the judiciary.

The Prime Minister forgets that the Government has the right of legislative initiative, therefore it can draft a normative act to embody the required measures to harmonise the justice legislation with the citizens’ will and with the European bodies’ recommendations.  

Through its passivity, the PSD-ALDE majority continues to act against the will and the interests of the Romanians.   

In view of all this, I call on the Government to initiate a draft law that contains the required measures to bring the legislation again in agreement with the rule of law, with the citizens’ will and with the European bodies’ recommendations. It is also compulsory for the CSM to join this endeavour by assuming its role of a guarantee for the independence of the judiciary system.   

Thank you! You may have some questions.

Question and Answer Session:

Journalist: I understand your request, but we have already had a first point of view from the Social Democratic Party, voiced by Florin Iordache. It contradicts what you are saying today. What do you consider will be the next step, taking into account that the GRECO specialists insist that the Section for the Investigation of the Offences in the Judiciary be abolished as it is considered an anomaly?

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: Yes, this is my opinion too. I have said it before and I repeat it, it has to abolish it by law, not by an emergency ordinance. Everybody clearly understood that this Section is an anomaly and must not exist. Therefore, the Government must come up with a legislative initiative at once to put an end to this anomaly and to other problematic issues in this field. Of course, the debate will take place in the Parliament and the decision is with the Parliament and not with the Government, yet the initiative has to be launched by the Government. 

(…)

Journalist: Why do you think the PSD-ALDE majority will vote for such a law, which you request today, to abolish the special section, when it is the PSD that set it up by the law, moreover Florin Iordache announcing they do not intend to give up?

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: I demand, on the Romanians’ behalf, that the PSD come to its senses and proceed to redress the legislation they themselves have spoiled.   

Journalist: Mr. President, I would like to ask you about the negotiations in the European Council. There were rumours at home that you did not negotiate anything for Romania. Could you tell us whether you did negotiate something and what would be the portfolio our country could receive, considering that Viorica Dăncilă said she discussed this subject with you, as well?      

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: Well, it is clear that those who ask about these issues did not understand what happened there. No portfolio was negotiated, what was to be negotiated was a nomination for the top positions, namely the president of the European Commission and the president of the European Council. This is what we negotiated. Surely, we needed a larger negotiation package, to ensure a majority in the Parliament. This time, the situation with the European Parliament and the European Council is a little more complicated than during the last mandates, because, if until now two political groups managed to agree with each other and form a majority, this is not possible any longer. To ensure a steadfast majority three or four political groups are required. Which, added to the 28 members of the Council each of them willing to impose their opinion, led to extremely complicated discussions and negotiations that, I must admit, ended up in a consensus. Therefore, what we decided was a consensual decision. However, we did not negotiate national interests, for commissioners. I would remark that more “new” member states claimed that the absence of a person from Eastern Europe at the top of the European institutions should be fairly compensated with positions of Vice-President of the European Commission, when the membership of this Commission is to be discussed. But we did not negotiate portfolios this time. 

(…)

Journalist: Romania will appoint a European Commissioner. Have you discussed this issue with the Prime Minister? I know this is the Government’s job, but you may have some requirements or some criteria related to whom is going to get this position, especially when you say he or she could be accounted also for Vice-President of the Commission?   

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: It is good to throw more light on these issues related to the Commissioner, on who nominates him and how it works. The Prime Minister informed me she wanted to nominate somebody as interim commissioner, which she did. Next, after the candidate proposed as President of the Commission has been validated, Romania will have to nominate a European commissioner. I want to emphasize and make it very clear: the nomination and the responsibility to get a proper portfolio belongs entirely to the Government. This is how things work here. The Government appoints and negotiates the position of commissioner. Obviously, I have the legitimate expectation to be informed in due time about the person or persons who are taken into account to be nominated.

Journalist: Have you already asked Ms. Dăncilă this or has she informed you?

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: Yes, I have requested this but I have not received any proposal for the Commissioner position so far.   

Journalist: Did she agree to inform you and have a discussion?

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: She did.

(…)

Journalist: As you mentioned the possibility to abolishing the Special Section for the investigation of offences in the judiciary, I would like to ask you whether, nevertheless, a body investigating these offences in the judiciary would be necessary. 

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: The CSM will surely assess these issues and, together with the Justice Ministry, will issue an appropriate proposal. 

(…)    

Journalist: During negotiations in Brussels, at the European Council, will you endorse Kövesi for European chief prosecutor?

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: Let me tell you something about the position of European chief prosecutor. I endorsed Ms. Kövesi from the beginning and I told this to Ms. Kövesi and to several relevant leaders of the European policy, so this information is known in Europe, yet this position is not to be negotiated together with the commissioners or with the vice-presidents of the Commission or of the European Parliament. This is another chapter and I do hope Ms. Kövesi will be appointed for this job. It would be a very good result, which I would welcome!

(...)

Journalist: What would be, in your opinion, the chances for Ms. Kövesi to be appointed European chief prosecutor?

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis: She has good chances, but nothing is for sure! Thank you! Have a nice day!