The Romanian Parliament convened on Friday afternoon to vote on a request to impeach President Traian Basescu. The votes of 217 members are needed to suspend the President, and the governing alliance of Social Democrats and Liberals (USL) hold by themselves 212 votes. The Constitutional Court issued an advisory ruling on the request earlier today, but gave no final ruling whether the arguments including in the impeachment request were valid. The vote comes as EU pressures intensify on USL, an alliance accused of threatening the rule of law. In his speech at the beginning of the Parliament session today, Basescu pointed out that, for USL, more important than his suspension the interest to take hold of all reigns of power, including justice.

UPDATE 8.10 p.m. Parliamentary debates are over. Voting on President Basescu's impeachment has started

Basescu dismissed claims that he breached the letter of the Constitution in a manner that would validate an impeachment procedure. And he rejected all arguments against him as presented in the impeachment request.

He warned that the maneuvers of the governing alliance over the past two weeks in an concerted effort to impeach him "will be an obstacle in Romania's attractiveness for foreign investments".

He said that while he has commented on the decisions of the Constitutional Court, he did not violate any Court decision such as PM Ponta did last week, when he attended the European Council despite the Court saying it was the President's job to represent Romania there.

And he said he has not critized the Judiciary for the past two years because finally the Justice system started functioning properly.

"Your main purpose is to take justice under control", he said, pointing out that the governing alliance's moves have already helped a former Senator get rid for the moment of a court verdict against him in a corruption case.

And Basescu said he regretted the incidents for which he was accused of xenophobia.

UPDATE Senate speaker Crin Antonescu - a Liberal who is due to take over as interim President if Basescu is suspended, said in a speech during impeachment debates that he would witdraw from politics if Basescu is not dismissed in a referendum