The new parliamentary majority's quest for expanded immunity is drawing concern in Romania and abroad.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 08/03/13
Romanian MPs debate with President Traian Basescu. [Octavian Cocolos/SETimes]
Romania's parliament is drafting a new law that covers the immunity of the country's MPs after the Constitutional court struck down the assembly's previous attempt as unconstitutional.
The nine judges opposed the article in the draft law law, which many said shielded MPs from criminal prosecution. It would have extended the period a lawmaker can contest an incriminating report of the National Integrity Agency from 15 to 45 days.
"The final form of the law will be in accordance with the court's requirements," Crin Antonescu, speaker of the Romanian Senate, said. "We, who voted for this amendment, never started from the idea MPs are above the law, but they are not equal to public employees either. MPs have never been and will never be civil servants. This is the basis upon which we [based] our amendment."
The process of lifitng immunity for MPs in Romania prompted calls for more comprehensive legislation from watchdog associations and the European Commission.
The commission recommended in its January 30th report that parliament issue comprehensive justifications in cases when it rejects a prosecutors' request to strip an MP of immunity.
Meanwhile, civil society is taking action to stem what they call alarming tendencies to turn MPs into an over-privileged class protected by super-immunity.
"It has prompted us to restart monitoring the way politicians observe the proposals included in the White Charter of Good Governance and periodically issue reports on the stages of their fulfillment," Simona Popescu, co-ordinator of the Alliance for a Clean Romania, an anti-corruption think-tank, told SETimes.
Popescu said the previously proposed draft was worrying because it made Romanian MPs the most shielded in the EU.
"If a prosecutor requests a lawmaker to be searched or arrested, this would be hard to do because the new status imposes new and more restrictive rules," she added.
The proposal was a step backwards for the judicial-democratic processes, according to Ioan Oltean, MP from the main opposition Democrat-Liberal Party.
"It turned parliament into a court since it asks for evidence and strong reasons behind a prosecutor's request for arrest. The bottom line is the new status does not allow justice to [be achieved] rapidly and encourages conflict of interest among lawmakers," Oltean told SETimes.