The decision, announced today (4 July), is the latest in a series of developments that started in May with a conflict between Ponta - leader of the Social Democrat party (PSD) and the USL coalition - and centre-right President Traian Băsescu over who should represent the country at EU summits.
Observers see the conflict between the two leaders as politically motivated. USL toppled a Băsescu-appointed government in April and Ponta acceded to the post of prime minister. Ponta faces parliamentary elections scheduled for November.
At the EU summit on 28-29 June, Romania was represented by Ponta, despite a ruling by the country's Constitutional Court that said the president should represent the country.
In an escalation of rhetoric, Crin Antonescu, leader of the liberal PNL party and Number 2 in the USL coalition, said Monday that parliament and the government can change Constitutional Court judges and that “the court is a disgrace” under its current structure.
Under Romanian law, three judges are appointed by the president, three by the Senate and three by the Chamber of Deputies.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding voiced her concern on Tweeter over the “attacks on the independence of the Constitutional Court of Romania”.
“For me, a well-functioning, independent judicial system is a pre-condition for mutual trust in the European area of justice,” Reding tweeted.
Mina Andreeva, Reding’s spokesperson, said today the EU executive had seen statements made earlier in the day that no efforts to change the court would be tabled.
Parliamentary leaders replaced
But USL moved to replace the heads of the Parliament’s two chambers, who are members of the opposition Liberal Democratic party. The Senate leader, Vasile Blaga, was replaced by Antonescu, while Roberta Anastase, head of the lower chamber, is due to be replaced by Valeriu Zgonea.
EurActiv Romania reported that Blaga warned of a coup d’état in the country.
The website Ziare.com reported that USL introduced in both chambers of parliament the papers for requesting a vote on suspending Băsescu for a month. The 17-page document spells out alleged infringements by Băsescu.
USL announced that a national referendum on Băsescu’s impeachment from office could be held on 22 July.