Romanian President, Traian Băsescu says the CVM report ”is a correct one, based on facts”
“Good afternoon. It has been long since I made a press conference on Sunday but it was necessary. The reaction could not be delayed any longer. Of course, my goal is to give you an opinion on the MCV Report. Maybe I would not have done this if the official reaction, the reaction of the representatives of the most important Romanian state institutions had been correct. Unfortunately, the report has been deeply politicized and the public approach has been dishonest several times. And here I would like to draw your attention on one thing: the Romanians could be tricked by TV, but the Westerners watch our TV programmes only to monitor things; so they look at the facts, at what the Government, the Parliament, the President, the state institutions do. All that those who delude themselves that we can use propaganda and trick the European Commission or the Member States do is to take a stance against the national interest. This is why I hope that this press conference will give the official note of Romania’s reaction to the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism Report. And it cannot be otherwise because this is the stance expresses by the head of state. So today I am expressing Romania’s official position on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism.
The report is a correct one, based on facts, events and political actions of the Romanians in top positions in the state. The report is also a correct mirror of the actions of the state institutions since July the 5th – the date of the latest report – till today. Therefore, what we have to do is to take into consideration the opinions expressed in the report and act to eliminate what is considered negative, for one reason only: not because this is what the European Commission asks us to do, but because these are the standards of the European Union, the standards that we committed ourselves to meet and to become a constant line in our political life and in our institutions’ activities, be they the Presidency, the Parliament, the Government, the institutions related to the judiciary or anything else. We have committed ourselves to meeting the standards of the European Union. This entire report of 13 pages is nothing but a call for us to meet these standards.
I admit that I have closely watched the public debate and I have noticed that the approaches to the report were deeply politicized. Any bald man – well, I am bald as well – so any bald man is trying to reach for his head and find the hair and I mean anyone, be they politicians or even the press. I will clarify these things as the European Union and the European Commission understand them. And please believe me when I am saying that the over eight years I have spent representing our country in the European Council have given me the necessary experience to understand what their demands are and I can easily see how far some approaches are from the European approach. This also means that we have a problem of education when it comes to knowing the European standards. When reading the report – here it is – we should understand that it cannot be read alone. The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism Report was released on 30 January, but before that was the Report of the European Commission for Democracy through Law – the Venice Commission – on 17 December, and the OSCE Report on 9 December. So, the remarks, the conclusions of our CVM also include the part that referred to the judiciary system from the other two reports, from the Venice Commission plus the OSCE Report. Please believe me that no matter how much somebody would try, unfairly indeed, to prove that this report was written under the counter, with influence from Romania, with I don’t know what people accused by one or the other, it would be childish anyway and any European official would laugh when he or she saw such an approach.
I understood that the USL (Social-Liberal Union) is determined to launch a campaign in the European Parliament. I have a request: before launching this campaign, I ask them to look, to read the report because I believe many have not read the report. It is my opinion that many of the politicians who spoke out have not read the entire report. They should also read the report of the Venice Commission and the OSCE report, especially as the report of the Venice Commission stems from a request made by the Prime-Minister of the Romanian Government. So I am making a public call that this report should be taken seriously. It is thorough and correct. What I notice when reading it carefully – and believe me, I have a copy in front of me, which I will use and which I have marked with post-its, but it is the copy that I have read. You may take it and see that it is thoroughly underlined sentence by sentence and that it has been read several times to avoid any doubts about the way I understand it – this is why I have said it is a correct report.
So generally speaking we can see in this report that, first and foremost, it has a positive approach on the institutions subjected to the supervision by the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. Progress is acknowledged at the Superior Council of Magistracy by the progress made by the Judicial Inspection and the inquiries into the activities of judges and prosecutors are positively highlighted. In just a few months, over 21 cases have been solved. The reports presents positively the activity of the High Court of Cassation and Justice and particularly stresses the unification of jurisprudence, communicating the decisions of the High Court as guidelines for the lower courts, the selection of the new judges for the High Court of Cassation and Justice. So there are very many positive elements related to the functioning of the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
Also, the activity of the National Integrity Agency is hihglighted and appreciated as an activity on a positive trend. The report also appreciates the growing efficiency of this institution. Positive appreciation for the National Anticorruption Directorate, the General Prosecutor’s Office, and the Public Ministry remain. The extremely important observation that the report is making on these institutions I have talked you about is that these institutions have continued their activity, even though since last summer the rule of law has been questioned. Moreover, they have improved it all this time which also testifies to the efficiency of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and to the solidity of these institutions. They were not affected by the political turmoil and this is of utmost importance. If I were one of the officials who took a stand in this period, I would have underscored this thing because the report itself does so. This shows that throughout the five years since the CVM has been applied, these institutions have acquired independence on the one hand and substance, might, and the capacity to do their job under any political circumstances on the other hand. This justifies our request to maintain on the agenda the discussion about our entering the Schengen area in March – and I will support this viewpoint unreservedly. Apart from some observations that I will not even mention because they are not worth taking into account, I saw some comments according to which we have returned to the pre-accession period. I am asking the person who made this comment to tell me if during the pre-accession period we were getting the same remarks about the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the National Anticorruption Directorate, the National Integrity Agency – which did not even exist then – about the General Prosecutor’s Office or about the Judicial Inspection. Nobody can say that the institutions have taken a step back. The political circles made mistakes and the politicians need to understand that they only have one rule, the rule that we have committed ourselves to respect related to the rule of law.
And this leads me to the negative part of the report, which, I must admit, as a man who is used to reading European documents, is apparently a contradiction to appreciate these institutions that partain to the rule of law and on the other hand to question the very functioning of the rule of law. But the realities of the summer of 2012 could not be avoided and the message that this report is conveying to us is something like: “Do not play with the rule of law; your institutions have endured, but straighten up the approach of the politicians”. This is the call made on us: “Straighten up your approach as politicians.” We are not living the 1947-1948s when the communists clubbed their way up to power or raised to it by infringing upon the Constitution. It is 2013 now and everybody expects a NATO and EU Member State to have responsible politicians.
Because I have seen a debate that seemed to me to step away from the meaning of the report, I would try to clarify somehow what the report says about the castigation of some judges from the Constitutional Court, the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the Superior Council of Magistracy, or wherever. The report does not ask for a law on the press. On the contrary, the report underscores the need to maintain the freedom of the press while at the same time asks for solutions to punish and force to pay reparations to those who are unfairly attacked, castigated, and discredited. The same goes for denying, challenging the final decisions by courts and I would like to quote the report here because we had quite a number of public statements and the public opinion, maybe the journalists who have not read the report too, were disinformed about what the report requires us to do when it comes to our behavior to the magistrates. The report mentions the following – I am not going to read all that part but only the conclusion: “The situation suggests the need for a review of existing rules, to ensure that freedom of the press” – so the report does not question the freedom of the press – “to ensure that freedom of the press is accompanied by a proper protection of institutions and of individuals’ fundamental rights as well as to provide for effective redress”. So I believe that the approach is not at all “pass a law on the press and curtail the press, put it on a leash”. As a matter of fact, I think that if they had made such a remark, I at least would have firmly rejected it because I do not want to burden my conscience with such regulations during my tenure. However the report says: in what concerns the freedom of the press, find a way so that when they go too far and magistrates are pilloried, institutions are discredited there should be a solution for reparations. And then the report goes on with its conclusions and reads: you should give the National Audiovisual Council assurances about its effective independence and it should completely fulfill its role by putting in place and enforcing a code of conduct in this regard. In other words, the institution that regulates the audiovisual should make some rules and communicate those rules to the TV and radio stations so that media lynching is avoided as much as possible. I do not want to get into the details of this topic but I am only reading the report correctly. However, let me tell you that there were people for whom there was no reason to be pilloried. Weeks on end we had shows aiming to put pressure on them, to discredit them and maybe make them pick up the phone and say: “Hello, Mr. Owner, what should be my decision so that you stop hashing me?” This is what Brussels understands and such acts should be prevented. The institution in charge of this is the National Audiovisual Council and the judiciary, of course.
These were the remarks I wanted to make about the report. And now I will try to give some examples that we find in the report and have the guts to say that the report is not correct. There was this famous Emergency Ordinance 38 aimed at impeaching the president. Obviously the report mentioned it. We had the Ordinance, it was found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, but to date the Executive has not repealed it although it had the obligation to do so in 30 days under the Constitutional Court law. Well, it is still not repealed. How can the European Commission look at this and not mention it? Because it happened in the time between the previous report and today.
And another thing that the report is mentioning – three ministers have been found incompatible by the National Integrity Agency but they were kept in the Government. How could the European Commission not mention such a thing that showed that the political stage in Romania, at Government level, does not meet the all-accepted European standards? We are not necessarily talking here about the principle that “it does not work until it is a final decision”. The European Union is asking of us to do something that works in all the Union Member States. The politicians are not above the law and they need to set an example, especially since the stress is – and you will see that the report does not say it about the elected people, you will never see the European Commission saying, “Why was this man elected mayor?”, “Why was this man with a criminal record elected?”. The European Commission respects the vote of the electorate but then, when you go to the top institutions, to the Government or the Parliament and your integrity is questioned, your reaction should be to resign, especially the Government should have resignation as the proper reaction. This is what the European Commission actually tells us in the report; these are the standards the European politicians live by.
Although the report is made after the elections, you see no criticism about the vote of the electorate. Nobody asks why Mr. Stan was voted although an arrest warrant had been requested on his name. They do not ask such things because they respect the people’s sovereignty to elect their own representatives. In exchange, they ask why the Parliament did not approve the arrest of Mr. Stan, why the Parliament rejected the investigation on Minister Borbély and Minister Dobre, why the Parliament opposed the final decision that acknowledged Mr. Mircea Diaconu’s incompatibility. This is what we find in the report and we cannot pretend they did not happen. And the European Commission just lists them without giving names but counting on the fact that we all know what they are about. And the message of the Commission is: “Don’t do these things anymore. Moreover, although you know that you are being monitored two ministers under criminal investigation were passed by the Parliament.” These things show that we do not meet the European standards at the level of top politicians. The report speaks about standards at the politicians level, not at the level of the Criminal Code, where the final decision is the one incriminating you.
The report is also expressing relative criticism about our hesitations in implementing the codes we passed in 2010 and 2011, believing that the continuous delay in the codes’ entering into force is quite unserious. We have de Commercial Code that entered into force; Mrs Minister Pivniceru went to Brussels saying she does not want the Civil Procedure Code to enter into force on February the 1st. Of course meanwhile I have managed to talk things out – at the famous four-party talk at the Senate – and I asked them to pass as quickly as possible the law referring to taking some of the workload off the Supreme Court, on the one hand, and enforcing the Civil Procedure Code, on the other. I can assure you that the report would have been much worse if these things didn’t happen and they happened in the nick of time and… because otherwise it would have really been a sign that we do not keep our word at all. We have already delayed the entering into force of the Civil Procedure Code, from July 2012 to February 2013. If we had not taken the necessary measures to enforce it, we would have been seen as unserious and lacking responsibility towards our own commitments. So, thanks God, it entered into force. But we still have the Penal Codes which have also been postponed for a year, namely for February 2014. I hope that the Justice Ministry, the SCM, the courts will prepare this moment because we cannot postpone it forever. It really gives the impression of utter lack of seriousness, I mean this process of endless delay, as you go there and say “sorry, I couldn’t do it”. What could you not do, Mister Government? What could you not do, Madam Minister? You couldn’t deliver on your commitments, is that it? Then why did you make them in the first place?
Another important thing that the report highlights is the one concerning the number of prosecutors and judges. We all know the approach we have here, in Romania – that is that we have too many cases for too few judges and prosecutors, which is true, but the Commission suggests something that can be drawn from a World Bank report on the judiciary showing that Romania currently has a number of magistrates per population which is in the range of the EU average. And the report is telling us that rearranging the magistrates in courts and the prosecutors with these courts is a solution to balance the workload of every magistrate – be that a prosecutor or a judge. So, from this point of view, we must first of all redistribute the workload and follow the law we have just passed this Friday to take the load off the shoulders of some courts and send the cases to lower courts with less workload. So this is the essence of the report; after all, it highlights the progress of the institutions pertaining to the judiciary system, it shows that there is still enough to be done and it is a review of all the trespassing of the political system against the rule of law.
Furthermore, I would like to clarify one thing about the rule of law. I see that a new phenomenon has emerged in connection to impeaching the president: one says “we impeach him” and along comes a defender and says: “No, we don’t”. I want to tell both that they are ridiculous and all they do is to make a fool out of themselves. The President of Romania has a mandate he gets by free elections and the conditions is for him to garner 50% plus one vote. There is no condition that the President of Romania should keep more than 50% of the voters’ preferences during his term of office, especially when you are going through the crisis. But the Constitution says that if you get 50%+1 at the elections, your office is for 5 years. What would it happen if the elected heads of state – and you see that nobody wins by 70-80%, they are elected by 50%, 51%, 52% – were to be checked every year by referendum to see if they still have 51%? Instability would roam in all states of the European Union. Therefore, I describe as ridiculous all the approaches of these gentlemen who talk about impeachment out of the blue and every minute, and others jump in and defend “There will be no impeachment”. Gentlemen, you are ridiculous. Please, read the Constitution.
Allow me to make this last remark concerning the report and the activity of the judicial institutions. The appreciation is positive on the activity, but it highlights a lack which for the time being is in the records: no one has a record of what has been recovered from the damages following the decisions by the courts. So, all right, I sentence someone for causing damages, but we have no records of what we got back from those damages. Again, it is essential for the Romanian state to create an effective institution responsible of recovering the damage that the judiciary system established. Furthermore, the report talks about the effectiveness in establishing public acquisition offences. I think with this I have reviewed this report with all its good and bad things. I conclude by saying that the state judicial institutions, despite being subject to extraordinary political pressure, were not weakened, on the contrary, they emerged strengthen; they improved their activity all this time, showing they are not swayed in by politics. Please.
Question: I would like to ask you for a point of view and a short clarification: how do you comment on the fact that this technical report about state institutions, as you said, has included the media which is in the interest of the citizen, that’s right, but is fundamentally a private business after all?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I think the EU has seen a formidable battle for the freedom of the press. Of course, when a media trust has a potential criminal as its owner, someone who uses the media to challenge the credibility of the very people that are to bring him to trial, the EC reacts. This is my comment. I am talking about a potential criminal, who becomes criminal once the court establishes it, but a potential criminal nonetheless.
Question: You were saying…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I was saying it about the report.
Question: About pressure, about TV shows. The most recent report by Reporters sans Frontieres – a respected organization – places Romania between Papua New Guinea and the Niger in point of freedom of the press. How do you…?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: It is correct because a trust such as, let’s say, Intact, is controlled by a man who has difficult problems with the courts. This is how he seems to me, judging by the way he runs. Another trust, another TV station, the RTV, is controlled by a PSD Senator, right? So again, it is political. Both the Intact and RTV are under political control, so we can no longer speak about the private sector per se that is free of constraints and does not use the media trusts to serve political interest or to denigrate the judiciary system. So I think this observation is quite justified. I did not see this report you mention saying that the state is controlling the media. No, it is the private people the report is talking about, and they often use the media in their own interest.
Question: So you mean the owners, not the journalists when you speak about the press?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: Absolutely, I mean the owners and the journalists who obey; what can I do? It is the journalists who speak, not the owners.
Questions: Mister Minister…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: You have some premonition there.
Question: Mister President. Do you think so? Can we make this into news?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: It was a joke. You do have a sense of humour, I trust.
Question: Mister President, it follows from the report that the corrupt ministers should resign; you were saying earlier that we should have a reaction in the form of resignation. We saw what the Government’s stance was: on the one hand, the Prime Minister said that the report includes some material errors; the Prime Minister was also saying these last few days that he had no intention to give in, at least not for the time being, not in the case of Mr. Dragnea, or of Mr. Fenechiu…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: Madam, please. I am not a commentator, nor am I an “opinionologist”, so I do not make comments on the Prime Minister’s statements. Each of us fulfils a function in the state and each of us assumes his own statements. So ask him about what he meant. But I will tell you something else, something I have said many times before. The EU, when it comes to members of the Cabinet – they are not directly elected as ministers, right? They are appointed by the Prime Minister designate. So as long as they are appointed, not elected, here comes the EU and says: “Listen, folks, can’t you find a single one in 22 million, who would not have a case opened before a court? Don’t you have at least one who would not be criminally prosecuted?” This is what the EU is simply telling us because if you do not care about these criteria, all you do is to show the Romanians that it is nothing wrong in doing something illegal. So, this is somehow the message we should read in the stubbornness of the European Commission when it tells us “Folks, when you have ministers under suspicion” – they do not accuse them and neither do I – “when you have ministers under suspicion, why must they remain in the Cabinet? What, they only come in unique pieces? You can certainly find another minister”. That is roughly the message.
Question: Have you already or do you plan on talking with the Prime Minister on this subject, considering that so far it seems that this resignation will not come?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: No, I have not, I will not. It is the Prime Minister’s business. As for myself, if there were any legal way of blocking the appointment, I would have done it, but the law on ministerial accountability states very clearly “for offences committed during the minister’s term of office”. So, I had no legal way of not receiving the oath or not putting one or two ministers in the decree. There was no legal way for me to do this. But the call is on the Prime Minister to find a solution.
Question: And another thing concerning …
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: The call made by the report, of course.
Question: Another thing concerning the statute of the MPs. This topic too is reflected somewhat negatively in the CVM report. My question for you is whether you intend to challenge it before the Constitutional Court, considering that the opposition has lost this ground for the time being, and it can no longer do it.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: The opposition is losing all the opportunities to make opposition, but for the time being I have it under review and on Monday I will decide whether I pass this law or send it back to the Parliament or send it to the Constitutional Court. People are working on the analysis, the assessment is very thorough, because we cannot challenge the writings in the Constitution. What the Constitution writes must be respected. On the other hand, we must see whether the mechanism the Parliament proposed does not create confusion in the approach and obstruct the Justice.
Question: Do you think it will be a successful move to send it back to the Parliament, considering that the issue about taking some of the workload from courts…?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: This is the last question, yes.
Question: The last question. The thing about taking the workload off some courts – you sent it back to the Parliament exactly because the decisive House…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: They made a mistake on a technicality and yes, it was successful. I hope this move will also be because these people have no reason not to have…
Question: They did not take your advice into consideration; the House of Deputies was again the decisive House.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I don’t know. No, from all I know, it passed correctly, first in the House of Deputies and then in the Senate. From all I know. But, as for sending it back, eventually, I do not know whether I’ll do it or not. Right after we conclude our press conference today, I will start talking with the people doing the assessment. You must know that most often than not, the Parliament has taken into consideration the remarks I made, be they constitutional issues or opportunity issues. So, I believe they have no reason not to take it into account, considering that if I do send the law back for clarification, I will do so thanks to the experience I have garnered in working with the EU, not just for the sake of teasing someone.
Question: Mister President, you said twice that this report is fair and thorough.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: That is so.
Question: I would ask you, in this context, what is your take on this situation: first, the report said that three ministers of the Government of Romania are accused of graft, then, the European officials issued the errata specifying there were actually two ministers.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: This is a material error, I do not think we should spend too much time on it. A material erratum can also occur in normative papers in Romania, but it is then followed by an erratum for clarification. The same applies to the Constitutional Court and everywhere else. It is a material error.
Question: We are talking about a very high level, the EU. Does it not cast any shade on the quality of the report you were talking about?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: No, no, this report is a mirroring reflection. You know, I have seen the ire of various politicians. When somebody puts a mirror in front of you and shows you exactly what you are, you do not like seeing yourself as you realy are. Of course, I could have used silence and avoided this collision with those who made a totally different kind of remarks on the report. But, as I also did in 2009 and in 2010, when Romania went through important moments, I took it upon myself to tell the Romanians and the politicians the truth rather than to choose the cowardice of silence so that people can say “aw, such a good boy, our President!”. We could not have let the chapter about this report close with a debate such as the one we all witnessed, which is twisted and simply harmful for us. It is harmful for us because it is easy to draw the conclusion that either we understood nothing, or we could not care less about the rule of law in our country. That is why our politicians reacted as ugly people who feel pretty would react when having a mirror put in front of them. Whining to “make them stop”. Yes, I can tell you that we were negotiating – and I’m saying it publicly, so any official in Brussels can contradict me – we were negotiating, we were discussing with Catherine Day and with President Barroso to move towards a process to end the CVM. The events of July 2012 put a stop to all discussions because we questioned the rule of law ourselves. These discussions were real, they were meant to find a solution to end the CVM, with the supreme argument being Croatia’s accession, with no mechanism, on 1 July this year, while Romania, an older Member State, still has a mechanism in place. With this argument in mind and based on the good report of February 2012, we had started the discussions for the transit solution so that the CVM for Romania stops once Croatia joins the EU. It was not Brussels who questioned the rule of law last summer, but it was us, the politicians. It is not the state institutions, which withstood the shock, but us, the politicians, who now have to make amends, not with arrogance, but by looking in the mirror. And we do not like that…
Question: It was precisely this issue of eliminating the CVM that I wanted to ask you about, because the Speaker of the Senate, Mr. Crin Antonescu, made a statement… We do not know whether you talked to him on this subject beforehand…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: You are turning me into a commentator or “opinionologist” again…
Question: No, we are not turning you into a commentator, no. Mister Antonescu’s idea was to have the officials of the Romanian state discuss with Brussels the end of this verification mechanism, which he said was disadvantageous for the Romanian state.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: It is obvious that we cannot discuss this until December this year. Considering what the report says now about the politicians, i.e. the Parliament, the Government, attitudes towards the judicial institutions, we cannot raise again the issue of eliminating the CVM. Only after the December report, if we manage to persuade that the approaches against the rule of law are behind us, shall we be able to raise the subject again. Until then, we shall stay as we are.
Question: And one last question, if you’ll allow me. You were talking about the situation of the vote in the cases of certain ministers, Laszlo Borbély, mister Dobre. Are you considering resuming this discussion with the Parliament, insisting on…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: There is no way for me to resume it. It is impossible for me to resume it. It was part of the observations that led to this quality of the report in terms of the Parliament and the Government. I can no longer resume it, I have written to them, they found no solutions. And that is that.
Question: Good afternoon, mister President. You talked about the official stance towards the CVM, about the consequences on the judiciary and ultimately on politics. I would ask you whether this report also has economic consequences.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: Not for now. But – mind you – our funds, such as those for transportation, have been suspended. I do not know how long it will take for them to be unblocked also due to what is written in the CVM report. It is a risk we are taking.
Question: And one more question, if you’ll allow me. You are getting ready to go to the European Council in Brussels. Before this trip, will you also have a discussion with the Prime Minister?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: We had a talk yesterday and we are going to have another one on Tuesday, before the CSAT (The Country’s Supreme Defence Council) meeting. But I would like to make one thing clear: there is nothing exceptional about it.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: No, yesterday we talked over the phone; I also sent him some documents. Right, not yesterday, but on Friday, excuse me.
Question: You proposed a possible solution for the appointment of the prosecutors: selected by the SCM, approved by the Minister of Justice and anointed by the President. Have you received any answer to the solution you proposed?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I received my answers publicly. I was told “Read the law, mister President!” I did not propose a solution consisting of the SCM selecting them, but the SCM suggesting, as far as its members know, the best and most renowned prosecutors, with the best professional track record. So the SCM would inform us about them, so that Mrs. Pivniceru and I – right? – can say what we have to say so as to avoid the unpleasant surprise of a unanimous vote against them in the SCM. It is obvious that the most credible moment in the process of appointing the prosecutors is SCM’s opinion. At least for the time being. We also had other situations, when the minister was extremely credible. Now, the most credible moment is SCM’s opinion. That is why I believe this is a solution that can help us make a rapid appointment. I have nothing else to comment on that. For now, my reaction is not positive, as you can tell. I was sent to refer to the law.
Question: For a rapid appointment, do you also plan a new discussion with the Minister of Justice on this matter?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: First of all, I shall discuss it again with the Prime Minister. But I can tell you one fundamental thing. If you have noticed, the CVM contains two extremely important remarks. With all the statements that have been made about loyalty to values, facts have yet to confirm the words. The double language has not worked. And then – excuse me, I really do not want to make a mistake here – here is what the CVM says: “The new government has already signalled its commitment to the independence of the judiciary and the supremacy of rule of law in the Institutional Collaboration Agreement between the President and the Prime Minister”. So, it is a written and signed document, it is a commitment. Furthermore, the report goes like this on the following page: “Ensure that the new leadership in the prosecution and the DNA are chosen from a sufficient range of high quality candidates after an open and transparent process, meet the criteria set out in the Institutional Collaboration Agreement” between the President and the Prime Minister. It is clear that the European Commission took this agreement very seriously, which is considered, for now, a document showing that the Government commits to pursuing the path of democracy and respecting the rule of law and the judiciary. That is why I believe that the attempts to toy with the prosecutors – either bringing over one that solved no case over one year and a half, or bringing over a friend, or bringing over a person we can discuss with…What is there to discuss with the General Prosecutor or with the Chief Prosecutor of the DNA? You only talk to him or her upon their appointment, when you wish him or her “Good luck!”. So these opaque criteria will pave the way to our failure and I can tell you we have two major credibility problems: one is appointing prosecutors, I repeat, appointing prosecutors, and the second one is the reaction to those whose criminal investigation is urged by prosecutors, be they members of the Government or of the Parliament. These are the two major credibility problems we have. I assure you things would become completely different and this was exactly my call at the four-party meeting. Knowing very well what the approach of the European Commission is, one of the proposals was “let’s make an appointment – discussed and to everyone’s interest – of prosecutors for the General Prosecutor’s Office and the DNA”. So it wasn’t just that, but this one, too, and none of the stories about negotiating prosecutors. I wanted to make this clear before the CVM report. I apologize for the long answer, but I have to give some explanations so that you can understand my thinking exactly. Please!
Question: One clarification, if you will allow me, mister President. You were saying you also sent some documents to the Prime Minister. Can you tell us what they are about?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: They were European Union documents, not… I did not declare my love for him, he did not declare his love for me, nor… Those were just documents to the interest of us both and the content of which we should both be aware of before the Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels, on Monday.
Question: During the meeting you will have…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I mean, they were not to our interest, but to the country’s, and to correlate our positions, I sent him those documents.
Question: During the meeting you will have on Tuesday, besides the economic issues on the Council’s agenda, will you also talk about…
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: No, on Tuesday we are going to have the CSAT.
Question: You were saying the two of you would meet before the CSAT.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: Yes, indeed. On the budget and the meetings he will have on Monday in Brussels.
Question: And also about the judiciary, the SCM, the appointing of the chief prosecutors, about…?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I don’t know if they are on the agenda. We’ll see.
Question: You said the report was a contradiction because….
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: Good for you! The OSCE passes you for….
Question: And we are indeed….
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: …. balanced. Congratulations!
Question: ….the report is contradictory, the state institutions are appreciated but the rule of law needs to improve. In conclusion, in your opinion, is this report a step forward from the latest report, or not?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: From the institutions’ point of view it is a step forward, but from the rule of law standpoint we have a problem that remained from the February report. In comparison with the July report, this is progress because at that time the rule of law simply collapsed. There was no Ombudsman, the Speakers of the two Chambers were knocked down, the President of Romania was impeached, the Constitutional Court was suspended as well for the decisions related to the impeachment of the President and also the Law on referendum was modified hastily so that the referendum can pass. So at that point in time there was a disaster in terms of the rule of law. Now the report, if you read it, acknowledges that the Government in the end recognized the decisions of the Court, that there are elements indicating progress from the July report but the contradiction does not reside in Brussels’s approach, but in what we are doing. On the one hand, and I said that, I repeat and I underscore this, the contradiction is on the one hand the top politicians whose foot slips away from the principles of the rule of law and on the other hand the judicial and integrity institutions that continued to make progress. Of course, they also underlined some things here as well, namely that this trend must go on, that some things must be improved, but it is clear that the atmosphere is positive for the institutions.
Question: You have also talked about the NAC (National Audiovisual Council) that should set clear rules for the media trusts.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I have read what the report says.
Question: Do you have a suggestion?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: I don’t. But they know what to do and if they don’t they could talk to the experts in Brussels to get help to draw out a code of conduct. The ideal solution is for the journalist guild to have its own system of quality control. But I am not telling you what you have to do.
Question: Mister President, will this CVM Report of the European Commission influence Romania’s prospects to join the Schengen area in any way and how?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: As I have already told you, it is obvious we have made progress when it comes to the functioning of the institutions. When it comes to the rule of law, we have seen events that showed the propensity of the political class to step away from the European rules. I believe there is ground, there is ground stemming from the positive approach that the report has to the progress of the institutions, for us to say: “Gentlemen, the judicial institutions are working”. If in the meantime we could manage to solve the problems of the gridlocks caused by the interference of the political class in the approval of certain ministers or parliamentarians, I believe we could stand good chances for March. I can tell you that any changes in the approach are not taken into consideration, or they are only if they are mentioned in the December report. But we can make them known before that. Look, the Parliament has changed its stance, look, the Government has changed its stance, look, the president of I don’t know what institution no longer attacks the magistrates or the SCM, we are solving out our problems. If I were in the position to clarify things, I would write an official letter about the negative parts that the report mentions and that come from the political class, I would write this letter to Brussels, to all the heads of state and government in the Union, and say “Look, these are the things we are set to sort out”. Because they would be listened to and nobody in the EU would think that you could write something to all the Member States and then not deliver on it. And I would take the sensitive points that refer to the activities of the political class – and the USL is the main player here – I would take these points that refer to the activity of the political class – either the Parliament or the Government – and I would send the governments of the Member States a letter in which I would say: “This was so, but we will solve this problem here”, “This was so, but by this and that deadline we do the following thing”, so that the debate in the Justice and Home Affairs Council in March, that will discuss Justice and Home Affairs, should not be made without this letter. This is my opinion.
Question: Mister President, one single question.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: Please, go ahead.
Question: Since the USL did not agree to that proposal of simultaneous resignations, thinking about a review of the Constitution, what do you think about the idea of a parliamentary republic and should the office of the President remain of 5 or change to 4 years?
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: Madam, no change in the Constitution is relevant for me anymore; the new Constitution cannot apply to me. I saw both naïve and serious approaches to the Constitution. I will sit back and watch them. I cannot have a say in what concerns the solutions. The Romanians gave the office to a majority of almost 70%. The only thing that this majority should do is to avoid writing a Constitution for a temporary situation, because this situation will change. There have been people who fooled themselves; they wrote the office for 5 years thinking they were writing it for themselves. It is good to write the Constitution for the country, not for a party or for one or two people and the CVM Report warns even now: “Beware, you are speaking about reviewing the Constitution, but pay attention to respecting the principles”. So I cannot comment more than that on the review of the Constitution. I made these remarks because they are on the margins of the report as the report refers to the review of the Constitution.
Question: Pardon me, but I was not asking about a solution, I was asking from your experience as head of state.
President of Romania Mr. Traian Băsescu: My experience as head of state tells me that the offices should overlap because in Romania we cannot go to a president elected by the Parliament. The people will not accept such a solution. They want to elect their President, they are the ones who elect the President, they are the ones to spit on the President afterwards, but he is their President nonetheless. Good or bad, he is their President and they will not accept a president elected by Parliament shenanigans. Do you remember how the chairs of the county councils had been appointed before we put them on direct election? Money was paid, other things were made so that they could get the vote and become chair. The Romanians will not accept such a risky procedure in Romania but I believe that the new Constitution must solve two fundamental things: making the state more functional and taking into account the 2009 referendum when the Romanians voted for a single-chamber Parliament. That’s all that is to it. The rest is to comply with the European principles, maybe consult with the Venice Commission.
Thank you very much. I wish you a pleasant Sunday and the conclusion is that the CVM is our mirror but some people do not like to look in the mirror, they have this problem.