Romania braces for a vote in the Parliament late on Friday afternoon on the impeachment of President Traian Basescu. Prior to the parliamentary session, the Constitutional Court gave its advisory ruling on the request to suspend the President, but the ruling was not clear and both supporters and opponents of the head of state gave their own interpretation of it. The Friday afternoon events were preceded by an announcement of the Constitutional Court that one if its judges received "threats", by PM Victor Ponta's statement attempting to assure European countries that they should not worry about events in Romania, but also by an European Commission statement showing concern about these events.
- UPDATE The parliament session to suspend President Basescu started at 5 p.m.
- UPDATE 2 Also on Friday, Hannes Swoboda, leader of European Socialists in the EP, commented on Twitter that events in Romania needed close monitoring and that measures should be taken if EU law is breached. For his part, European Council head Herman Van Rompuy also commented on Twitter that he was worried about the evolution in Romania regarding the independence of justice and announced he would contact PM Victor Ponta and President Basescu. And a spokesman for the Angela Merkel in Germany was quoted by AFP as saying that Berlin was very concerned about political reform in Romania and had serious doubts about their legitimacy.
The Constitutional Court gave an advisory ruling dealing with each of the seven counts based on which the governing alliance calls for the impeachment of the President - the climax of a political battle that questioned the rule of law and sparked concerns in Western countries about the independence of justice in Romania.
- The ruling does not have an overall positive or negative verdict on the constitutionality of the President's actions. Still, it shows that the President can be impeached in the case of "serious acts" against the letter of the Constitution, but it does not mention such "serious acts" for any of the seven accusations against the President.
- While Basescu's supporters in the Parliament said the ruling was a "negative" one, representatives of the governing alliance saw it as "positive".
Before announcing the verdict, the Constitutional Court published a press release reading that one of its judges, Aspazia Cojocaru, received "threats" prior to the Court debates on the impeachment request. The Court did not say who threatened her and what was the purpose of the threats.
- Judge Cojocaru had been named a Constitutional Court judge by the House of Deputies at the nomination of the Social Democrats (now part of the governing alliance opposing President Basescu) in 2004.
As the Court was yet to deliver its ruling, negotiations were in full swing in the Parliament with Basescu's main supporters, the Democratic Liberals (PDL), trying to obtain as many votes against the impeachment as possible. The governing alliance of Social Democrats and Liberals (USL) need 217 votes in the Parliament, but they only have 212 MPs and need votes from MPs representing the national minorities or independent MPs.
Also on Friday, the European Commission said in a press statement that it was "concerned about the current developments in Romania, especially regarding the actions that appear to reduce the effective powers of independent institutions like the Constitutional Court". It says "the rule of law, the democratic checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary are cornerstones of the European democracy and indispensable for mutual trust within the European Union."
- And the EC release says "the President of the European Commission spoke today with the Prime Minister of Romania and expressed the Commission’s concerns. Prime Minister Ponta will come to Brussels next Thursday to meet President Barroso to discuss these issues."
In the morning, following a wave of warnings and signs of concerns from European capitals, MEPs and European media, Romania's PM Victor Ponta made a statement saying his government will not agree with the change of persons running key judicial institutions. He said Romania will comply with the accord with the IMF and with the future EC report on Romanian justice and he said "Romania will remain a stable country, beyond the political conflict".