Sven Gielgold says that the rule of law and freedom of the press are 'massively threatened' in Romania
Senior German MEP's comments come ahead of Romania taking its turn as head of the EU’s rotating EU Council Presidency on 1 January.
Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual
Giegold was also speaking in the wake of the European Parliament adopting a resolution on the rule of law in Romania stating that it is “deeply concerned” about the reform of the Romanian judicial and criminal laws, which, “risks undermining separation of powers and the fight against corruption.”
The cross-party resolution calls on the Romanian authorities to “put in place safeguards to avoid circumventing the system of checks and balances and to counter any measures which would decriminalise corruption in office.”
The text, passed with 473 votes to 151, points to the new legislation on the status of judges and prosecutors, on judicial organisation and on the Superior Council of the Magistracy.
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The toughly-worded resolution comes after recent similar warnings from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and its Venice Commission on Democracy through Law.
MEPs, in the resolution, caution that the new Romanian legislation could have an impact on the independence of the judiciary, its efficiency and its quality, including negative consequences in the fight against corruption.
The changes to the criminal code and the criminal procedure code - many of which the Romanian constitutional court considers unconstitutional- are, according to MEPs, another source of concern, with additional effects on the capacity to combat corruption, violent crimes and organised criminality.
The role of the Romanian intelligence service and its alleged interference in the activities of the Romanian judiciary are also questioned.
The Parliament’s resolution also goes on to condemn the “violent and disproportionate intervention” by the country’s police during the mass protests in Bucharest in August and calls on the Romanian authorities to ensure a transparent, impartial and effective investigation into the actions of the riot police.
“The Romanian government is abusing European data protection law to put investigative journalists under pressure. The threat to journalists shows that the government appears to have something to hide"
The resolution was backed by a broad majority of pro-European parties.
MEPs also warn that the legislation on the financing, organisation and functioning of NGOs could potentially intimidate civil society.
The European Commission is now being urged to resume its annual anti-corruption monitoring in all member states, including Romania.
A regular, systematic and objective process to assess respect of democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law is also necessary, according to MEPs.
Giegold told this website that it had also recently emerged that journalists in Romania who leaked documents on alleged corruption linked to Liviu Dragnea (chairman of the ruling Social Democrats) “are being threatened.”
“The European Social Democrats must not duck away when Europe's fundamental values are attacked from within their own ranks”
He said, “The Romanian government's data protection authority is pressuring journalists with a daily fine of €644 to force them to publish their sources. In doing so, the government invokes the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, the GDPR contains an exception for journalists.”
Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group, said, “The rule of law and freedom of the press are massively threatened in Romania. We will not stand idly by and watch the dangerous decline of European fundamental values in Romania.”
He said, “The Romanian government is abusing European data protection law to put investigative journalists under pressure. The threat to journalists shows that the government appears to have something to hide.
“The European Commission must strongly condemn the Romanian Government's attack on the freedom of the press.”
The MEP went on, “As Spitzenkandidat of the European Social Democrats, EU commissioner Frans Timmermans (a European Commission vice president) should put pressure on his party colleagues in Romania.
“The European Social Democrats must not duck away when Europe's fundamental values are attacked from within their own ranks.”
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