Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Daily News – April, 23rd.

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Basescu assures Barroso: Romania will have a functional integrity agency

President Traian Basescu assured European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, yesterday in Brussels, that Romania will keep its commitments in the fight against corruption, by assuring the functionality of the National Integrity Agency (ANI), whose activity is discontinued now, after the Constitutional Court declared as non-constitutional two articles of the ANI law. “With regard to ANI, which was simply disbanded through a decision of the Constitutional Court – not literally disbanded, but deprived of its attributions, I assured the Commission president that Romania will keep its commitments of having a functional integrity agency, capable to meet its targets of controlling the wealth of dignitaries and the source of their financial resources,” Basescu said, quoted by Mediafax. According to Agerpres, the head of state told the EC president that the Romanian government will issue an emergency ordinance regarding the National Integrity Agency, after it sees how the Constitutional Court justified its verdict.

The president added that Romania considers as “correct” the targets set by the EC in the Justice system. “We support without reserve the correctness of the targets imposed by the EC in modernising Justice and increasing efficiency of the fight against corruption,” said the president.

After attending the working lunch with Barroso in Brussels, the president also stated that he asked for the extension of deadlines for implementing ex-ISPA projects so that the loss of EUR 600 M would be avoided. The sum represents EU funds that were earmarked but were not spent on time.

I have asked for an extension of deadlines for implementing ex-ISPA projects so that we would prevent the loss of European funds worth approximately EUR 600 M, funds that were earmarked but were not spent on time. And it seems we are having a pleasant surprise,” he said. “This is another example of the degree of perfectness that our civil servants have reached,” Basescu added. Before leaving for Brussels, the president announced that the meeting’s agenda would also include the Common Agricultural Policy where Romania faces a series of problems considering that the country will have to pay penalties of approximately EUR 42 M for 2007 and EUR 42 M for 2008.

Another topic on the agenda was ‘the Republic of Moldova’s European roadmap.’ “On this issue we will initiate talks about the possibility of financing some projects within the Eastern Partnership, projects that concern the interconnection between the infrastructure of Romania and that of the Republic of Moldova – natural gas infrastructure, railway infrastructure, the Ungheni-Chisinau line and the 400-KWh line that would also allow the transfer of electricity from the Russian Federation to the European Union market,” Basescu said. Other topics on the agenda included the Europe 2020 Strategy, climate change, energy issues, the economic situation at EU level and the manner in which European institutions will function after the Lisbon Treaty came into force. Basescu presented Romania’s list of priorities in European Affairs to the European Commission president.

The head of state was accompanied to Brussels by Transport Minister Radu Berceanu, Minister of Rural Development and Tourism Elena Udrea, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Mihail Dumitru and presidential advisor on European affairs Leonard Orban. Source: Nine O’Clock

Gov’t Constitution review draft

The government’s own Constitution review draft has triggered a flurry of criticism from the opposition but also confusion on the political stage, spurring from the fact Parliament has already set up a special commission to deal with fundamental law amendments. The government’s draft was sent to President Traian Basescu for approval and the head of state must now send it to Parliament for further debates. The move was deemed chaotic by the opposition since the ruling Democrat Liberal Party (PDL) has already filed a similar project with Parliament’s review commission.

In the context, is it unclear how much of the government’s project can actually make it into the final Constitution version, since the draft would first have to be passed by the commission and then by plenary session of both chambers and the ruling coalition does not have the necessary two-thirds majority to assure safe passage of the bill. As daily ‘Evenimentul Zilei’ noted yesterday, the project would need 314 votes to pass in plenary session and the ruling coalition – comprising of PDL, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) and a group of independent lawmakers – only has 258 votes. Similarly, in the Constitution review commission, the ruling coalition has 13 seats and the opposition has 12. But even these numbers are uncertain, as UDMR is reportedly not too keen on the government’s draft and is known to oppose the main provision of the project – switching to a one-chamber assembly.

In order to secure UDMR support, PDL might seek to offer the ethnic Hungarian party some incentives, according to parts of the media quoting Democrat Liberal Deputy Ioan Oltean. More specifically, Oltean said the new Constitution might guarantee UDMR’s presence in the future Chamber of Representatives, but the head of PDL’s group in the Chamber of Deputies, Mircea Toader had a different stance on the matter. Toader told Agerpres yesterday that Oltean’s statement was just “a personal opinion” which did not reflect the entire party’s position. Toader however said PDL was willing to have negotiations on all Constitution article changes, including the one referring to one-chamber assembly, but he did not provide further details.

On the other hand, PDL insists that the government’s Constitution review project would not hamper the activity of Parliament’s own commission in any way. “The government had the right to put together such a project. If the president thinks the project is good enough to send it to Parliament, then this would be a very positive thing for Constitution reform,” said Chamber of Deputies Speaker Roberta Anastase, a PDL member. She added that the Parliament commission was set up especially in order to gather as many ideas as possible on fundamental law amendments. Toader too dismissed criticism of the government’s project, saying that it would be very helpful in shaping the future Constitution.

The commission’s president, Democrat Liberal Daniel Buda, also said the government project will be discussed together with all other proposals. The commission, which was given no deadline to come up with a unitary amending project, will convene for the first time next week.

Greek workers strike, challenge EU/IMF talks

ATHENS – Greek public sector workers walked off the job on Thursday to protest against austerity measures and press the government not to agree to further cuts as it discusses an aid package with the EU and IMFDoctors, nurses, teachers, tax officials and dockers stopped work, paralysing public services, while thousands are expected to march to parliament at midday as European and IMF officials meet for the second day of talks that could lead to a financial bailout for Greece. Workers are protesting public wage cuts, a pensions freeze and tax hikes imposed by the government to try to pull Greece out of a fiscal crisis that has shaken markets worldwide and driven Greece’s borrowing costs to a 12-year high.

These bloodthirsty measures won’t help Greece exit the crisis. A tragic period begins,” said Ilias Iliopoulos, secretary general of public sector union ADEDY, which represents half a million workers. Many in Greece fear strings attached to the 40-45 billion euro ($53.8 to 60.5 billion) aid package, if the cash-strapped nation decides to tap it, will hit living standards in a country where one person in five lives below the poverty threshold, according to EU data. “We won’t tolerate any more measures because we cannot make ends meet. I have a mortgage, two children, I have cut down on every luxury,” said 38-year old civil servant Pavlina Parteniou. “Why don’t they catch those who stole the money? Is my salary or my mother’s pension of 300 euros going to save the country?”

Parteniou said she agreed with the strike but would not take part because she could not afford to lose a day’s pay. The socialist government, pressured by markets and EU policymakers to tidy up its finances, has vowed to go ahead with reforms but Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Wednesday no more austerity measures would take place this year. Newspaper editorials showed little sympathy for the strike, saying the government had no choice but to enact austerity measures and tap the aid package after the yield on Greece’s 10-year bond jumped to 8.4 percent on Wednesday. Source: Reuters

Biden: Iran sanctions soon, Israeli strike unlikely

Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday he expects new UN sanctions on Iran by late April or early May and dismissed the notion that Israel might attack the Islamic Republic before first allowing sanctions to take their course. Biden issued the latest US warning to Iran, which is locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program, in an appearance on ABC television’sThe View” talk show.

Everyone from the Israeli prime minister straight through to the British prime minister to the president of Russia, everyone agrees the next step we should take is the UN sanction route,” Biden said.

I believe you will see a sanction regime coming out by the end of this month, beginning of next month,” he said.

 Asked whether Washington was concerned that Israel might attack its arch-foe Iran without US consultation, Biden said, “They’re not going to do that.”  He said Israel had agreed to await the outcome of tightened sanctions against Iran, an effort being led by President Barack Obama.

 “They’ve agreed the next step is the step we — the president of the United States — have initiated in conjunction with European powers, the NATO powers,” he said.

 Israel, the only assumed nuclear weapons power in the Middle East, has made clear it is keeping open the military option against Iran even as Washington proceeds on the dual diplomatic and sanctions track.

Biden reiterated the administration’s view that China, one of five veto-holding members of the UN Security Council, would support new sanctions on Iran. Beijing has softened its resistance to new measures but has been reluctant to accept punitive steps as severe as Washington wants.

The West accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says it only wants peaceful civilian nuclear power. Source: ABC

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Written by Theophyle

April 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

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