Romanian President: EU Can’t Link Funding to Rule of Law
Restricting access to EU funds for rogue countries would break the bloc’s own laws, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said Wednesday, cited by Politico.
During a visit to Brussels in which he met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, Iohannis said any linking of funding to rule-of-law issues would go against the EU treaties and should not be taken into account when drawing up the EU’s next long-term budget.
He added that in any case, Romania had nothing to worry about, saying: “No one started to think that for some reason the rule of law stopped working in Romania. We cannot panic automatically about everything.”
Romania has come under fire from Brussels for making changes to a number of judicial laws, which led to mass protests due to concerns that they may allow corruption to go unpunished.
He put the problems down to “Romanian politics and I am optimistic that we can solve it.”
A member of the National Liberal Party before becoming president, Iohannis is seen as a foe of the governing coalition of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and its junior partner ALDE.
“The rule of law is vital for Romania and for Europe and there is no doubt about it at home or in Brussels,” Iohannis said.
The Romanian president did acknowledge that the judicial law debate hurts the country’s chances of joining the passport-free Schengen zone. The justice laws have to be “good, first for Romanians, not for others, and then we can continue with some success the discussions on Schengen,” he said.
“The independence of the judiciary in Romania is inviolable,” Iohannis said, adding that he would get involved to ensure the justice laws are improved upon.
During a press conference with Juncker, Iohannis said Romanians had to solve their own problems and not expect outside help.
Juncker said he planned to respect a promise he made to end the corruption monitoring mechanism imposed on Romania since it joined the EU, by the end of his mandate in 2019. “The rule of law made remarkable progress in Romania and it is not acceptable or foreseen that the rule of law achieved so far can go backwards. I have full confidence in the Romanian justice system,” he said.
Juncker did warn that if the changes to the justice laws remain unchanged from those passed by the parliament last year, it would pose problems in ending the monitoring mechanism or seeing Romania join Schengen. But he appeared convinced that Romanian authorities will make changes requested by the Commission and the Romanian Constitutional Court, which has struck down some of the more controversial changes.
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