Thursday July 12, 2012
Romanian PM vows to respect any EU demands on rule of law
BRUSSELS: Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta vowed Wednesday to bow to any European Commission demands if his coalition's moves to oust the president are deemed out of step with the EU's democratic values.
Ponta spoke at the start of a two-day charm offensive in Brussels after the European Commission and the United States voiced concerns over moves to impeach President Traian Basescu and curb the powers of the constitutional court.
"I came here to assure our partners and friends in Europe that Romania is and is going to be a European and a democratic country respecting the constitutional rules and the rule of law," Ponta said after talks with European Parliament president Martin Schulz.
Ponta, who on Thursday meets European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and EU president Herman Van Rompuy, said he would agree to swiftly reverse any measures deemed out of line by the European Union's executive arm.
"If any of the decisions taken by the government or parliament are not fulfilling the European standards, we are ready to take immediate measures to get back on track," he said.
"We are not closed to any criticism, all we ask is just to have an analysis made by the commission and a fair treatment."
Ponta hit back at critics, saying he felt that he had been "treated unfairly" by those who listened only to his rivals and voicing disappointment that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had levelled criticism without speaking to him.
In a statement issued before his visit, Ponta recalled that the constitutional court had upheld a July 29 referendum on whether to confirm the parliament's bid to impeach of his centre-right rival Basescu.
"This is not about party politics. For my taste, in recent days we have seen too much political spin and too few facts, not only at home but also at European level," he said.
Ponta has been feuding with Basescu since his centre-left coalition took office in May from a centre-right government forced to quit by a no-confidence motion.
Basescu, who has been suspended from his functions by the parliament for now, has alleged the real goal of his opponents in the Social Liberal Union (USL) coalition is to bring the judiciary under its control.
But Basescu has himself faced counter accusations that he has tried to dominate the judiciary since he took over in 2004 as well as over-reach his powers.
After their talks, Schulz said he told Ponta that "important laws should not be changed by emergency decrees" but rather through "a proper democratic process involving a broad debate in the country."
But Schulz, who hails from the same political family as Ponta, said he was "optimistic" that the European Commission would not find violations of European standards.
Earlier, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding expressed harsher words, warning that moves to undermine the independence of the judiciary could slow Romania's bid to join the borderless Schengen travel area.
"Personally I see a great danger in the recent developments in Romania, which could call into question the progress that has been made during the last years," she said before talks with Romanian Justice Minister Titus Corlatean.
"If there are not very reliable reassurances and concrete actions by the Romanian government with regards to the reestablishment of the rule of law, then the country might lose the years in the progress of full integration into the European Union," Reding said.
Romania, a former communist bloc nation that joined the EU in 2007, has seen its bid to join Schengen blocked so far by the Netherlands over concerns about corruption and organised crime.
Ponta rejected any attempts to link the current political turmoil with Romania's Schengen bid.
"To connect Schengen accession with a political fight which is going to be solved on the 29th by the Romanian people voting, this is not something that we think is fair," he said. - AFP