Constitutional review, US missile defence systems, and the Danube Strategy

European Institute of Romania

Agnes Nicolescu and Mihai Sebe
 
A new Constitution – A universal panacea?
 
Among the changes brought by the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Romanian authorities are trying to modify the Romanian constitution in order to adjust its provisions to the new realities. The main argument is the November 2009 referendum in which “Romanians pronounced themselves for a unicameral parliament and for the reduction of the number of parliamentarians to a maximum of 300.”[1] Having those “red lines” in mind, which they cannot surpass, government officials launched on 21 April 2010 a project of law regarding the revision of the Constitution.[2] The main idea of the project, as stated by Emil Boc, the Romanian Prime Minister, would be the creation of a single chamber, the Chamber of Representatives, made up of 300 elected representatives. Other main ideas regarded the simplification of the legislative process and the establishment of a clearer relation between the President and the parliament. The project immediately faced staunch resistance from the opposition parties. One of the most criticised ideas was that of a unicameral parliament. The Social Democrat Party wants to maintain the bicameral system, claiming that the Lisbon Treaty stipulates the existence of an upper chamber made of representatives of the regions.[3] The dispute remains open, being recently overshadowed by the austerity measures announced by the Romanian President and government.
 
US Ballistic missile defence system in Romania – an ongoing debate
 
Romania’s decision on 4 February 2010 to host elements of the American ballistic missile defence system in Europe on its national territory has sparked off significant debates, which have highlighted both the benefits and costs involved. The Romanian President assured the public that the missile system was not aimed against Russia and that it was meant to protect the entire national territory against threats originating from the Middle East with land-based rocket systems.[4]
 
Reactions from the Romanian public opinion were also prompt. It has been highlighted that the authorities should have launched a public information campaign well ahead of the announcement of the actual decision was made. The mass media insisted that public opinion lacked important information on the details of the bilateral agreement. Questions were raised as to the financial and security implications of the decision, counterarguments pointing out the possible inconveniencies of a “freeze of relations with Russia, as well as the necessity to correctly evaluate Moscow’s response.”[5] As a consequence, national authorities and experts have gradually started informing the public with regard to details for understanding the need to enhance national security through a ballistic missile shield system, as part of international obligations (reference was made to the strategic partnership with the USA signed in July 1997),[6] and the agenda of specific bilateral negotiations. The implementation of elements of the US ballistic missile defence system on Romanian territory has therefore started being considered as a consolidation of national security, and in strong correlation with the establishment of a similar component in Poland and Bulgaria, both NATO member states with a relevant position in the Alliance’s eastern flank.
 
Danube Strategy: a regional instrument with benefits for local communities
 
The Danube Strategy has been important this year, considering that Romania is currently defining its position towards this document. In order to allow for contributions from regional actors, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited local communities to have their say on the Strategy. During a meeting with representatives of local authorities, the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Baconschi referred to the Danube Strategy as “a communitarian instrument with a regional profile allowing Danube’s transformation into a European connector.”[7]


[1] President Traian Băsescu, press release: Declaraţia de presă a preşedintelui României, Traian Băsescu, la finalul consultărilor cu partidele politice şi formaţiunile politice reprezentate în Parlamentul României, 15 March 2010, available at: http://www.presidency.ro/index.php?_RID=det&tb=date&id=11944&_PRID=search (last access: 17 May 2010).

[2] Romanian Presidency, Proiect de lege privind revizuirea Constituţiei României, 21 April 2010, available at: http://www.presidency.ro/static/Proiect_Revizuire_Constitutie.pdf (last access: 19 May 2010).

[3] Victor Ponta, SDP president, in a Press Conference on 15 March 2010: “First of all, the Social-Democrat Party wants that the structure of the Parliament remain in the form in which the Deputy Chamber, selected by uninominal vote by the citizens, trough a direct vote, to be supported, as the Treaty of Lisbon stipulates, by an upper chamber which will represent the local communities and that will be made of members elected by the local and departmental counselors, practically by our local elected people.” See: Victor Ponta: press conference, 15 March 2010, available at: http://www.psd.ro/newsroom.php?newi_id=3245 (last access: 18 May 2010).

[4] Mihail Ionescu: Country Reports, Ballistic Missile Defense System In Europe: The Romanian Component, available at: http://www.kas.de/proj/home/pub/29/2/-/dokument_id-18978/index.html (last access: 24 March 2010).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press release: Întrevederea ministrului Afacerilor Externe, Teodor Baconschi, cu reprezentanţii autorităţilor locale, pe tema Strategiei UE pentru regiunea Dunării, 12 May 2010, available at: http://www.mae.ro/index.php?unde=doc&id=43540&idlnk=&cat=4 (last access: 17 May 2010).

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