Romania's Constitutional Court has declared as anti-constitutional the main prerogatives of a body established on Brussels' recommendation. But parliamentarians warned that this could have a negative impact on the country's access to EU funds and upset plans for Schengen accession. EURACTIV Romania reports.
Two chapters of the law on setting up the National Integrity Agency (ANI) were declared unconstitutional on 15 April, the Romanian press reported, warning of far-reaching consequences for relations between Bucharest and Brussels.
The Constitutional Court had been approached by a lawyer for Serban Bradisteanu, a former senator. The ANI had asked a Bucharest court to seize four million euros' worth of his property be seized, upon accusations of corruption and embezzlement. Bradisteanu is accused of taking a four million euro bribe to help a pharmaceutical company receive a public procurement contract.
According to the Constitutional Court, the ANI no longer has the right to seize the prosecution on signs or suspicion of corruption and cannot request the courts to seize properties. Moreover, the ANI can no longer investigate senators' income statements and declarations of interest, members of parliament or ministers.
The consequences of the court's decision will have an impact on the country's access to European funds and Romania's plans to accede to the Schengen space, ANI President Catalin Macovei and General Secretary Horia Georgescu warned in a press conference on Friday.
Catalin Macovei says he found out about the Constitutional Court's decision from "press sources". Meanwhile, the agency is continuing to perform its duties, as the court's decision has not yet been officially published. According to Macovei, the Constitutional Court has 30 days to publish the decision in the Official Gazette. ANI then has 45 days to revise the incriminated law articles.
"Everyone is waiting for the Romanian Constitutional Court's justification. Reactions will not be positive. Reactions [in Brussels] will not be positive," the ANI leadership warned.
Romanian daily Gandul reported that, according to ANI sources, seven out of nine constitutional judges have been investigated by the service.
"If there was a debate in parliament, the result would be very interesting to follow, knowing that 100 parliamentarians are under investigation by ANI," Macovei told Realitatea TV.
Asked to comment, European Commission spokesperson Mark Gray said:
"At this time, we are not aware that the decision of the Constitutional Court has been published. I do not want to speculate on the basis of press reports."
Gray added that the Romanian authorities were committed to ensuring that the integrity agency has the ability to verify assets, incompatibilities and potential conflicts of interest and is able to issue decisions on the basis of which dissuasive sanctions could be taken.
"The Commission is confident that this commitment will be honoured," he concluded.