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Democracy under threat in Romania?

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Alongside the conflict between the governing parties and the president, the government's threat to remove some members of the constitutional court over the outcome of the EU summit matter, and the threats to the independence of the Ombudsman have triggered alarm bells in Brussels.

Last week the European Commission expressed its concern about political developments in Romania, as the country's parliament prepared to take a vote on suspending beleaguered president Traian Băsescu.

The country's Prime Minister, Victor Ponta of the Social Democratic Party, has with his centre right allies in the Social-Liberal Union (USL) moved to increase the government's control over nominally independent institutions, namely the country's Ombudsman and judiciary. Since the fall of the previous Băsescu allied Democractic Liberal Party government earlier in the year, the new Prime Minister has engaged in a number of worrying and seemingly politically motivated moves to gain a stronger hold on power. The two men engaged in a public spat over who had the right to represent Romania at the recent EU summit (traditionally it is the president that has represented the country on the international stage), and the government passed a motion attacking the president for his attendance.

This has come to a head with Friday's vote to suspend the president for 30 days on grounds of overstepping his authority in the areas of government business and legal affairs, the first move in a full impeachment that could remove Mr. Băsescu should the electorate agree in the referendum on the issue that will now follow. Alongside the conflict between the governing parties and the president, the government's threat to remove some members of the constitutional court over the outcome of the EU summit matter, and the threats to the independence of the Ombudsman have triggered alarm bells in Brussels. The Prime Minister has issued a statement this week laying out his party's position on the issues, in response to criticisms of the Party of European Socialists' silence on the matter. The Social Democrats allege that the President has acted outside of his remit and engaged in politically motivated conflicts with the government.

The EGP will be carefully monitoring the situation in Romania as it develops. EGP General Secretary, Jacqueline Cremers, is in Bucharest this week as part of the EGP membership review process, and will be discussing the political issues with Romanian Greens and relevant experts while there.

For more information, you can see the coverage from the BBC and Euractiv.com, as well as the blog of Paul Krugman in the New York Times. Marina Barbalata of the Green European Foundation has also written an informative analysis of the situation for the Green European Journal.

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