Romania’s Constitutional Court (CCR) ruled on Wednesday that the government’s state of emergency decree no 34/2020 issued on 26 March amending the article no. OUG 1/1999 on the state of siege and state of emergency had been found unconstitutional. According to the CCR, the government cannot restrict the exercise of rights and freedoms through an emergency decree. These decisions can only be taken by a law approved by Parliament.
According to the decision, the provisions of two articles of the Government Emergency Decree no OUG 1/1999 and no OUG 34/2020 concerning fines for non-compliance with restrictions during the state of emergency, “are characterized by a lack of clarity, accuracy and predictability”, which “encourages the police to arbitrarily punish offenders”. The CCR states in a press release that the law on infringement, like criminal law, is subsidiary, and should intervene only when other legal remedies are not sufficient to protect certain social values.
About 300,000 fines have been imposed since the state of emergency came into force, totaling more than 600 million lei (about 120m euros) for the violation of the restrictive measures.
Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said he was “shocked” by the Constitutional Court’s ruling, which justifies “a very small minority that does not respect the law” and ignores the “overwhelming majority, over 98%”, who behaved “responsibly during this period “. He added that the government would seek “a legal way to allow the authorities” to fight “effectively against those who do not respect the rules” and risk spreading the virus. “We will definitely find constitutional and legislative solutions”, said Prime Minister Ludovic Orban. He claims the CCR’s decision is an “invitation for every citizen to break the law” and the rules that were enacted during the state of emergency. “Basically, it’s a call for anarchy and it’s a call for misbehavior towards society”, Orban stressed.
Deputy Prime Minister Raluca Turcan regrets this “completely unusual” situation, and says she is disappointed with the “dangerous” decision of the Constitutional Court, which “destroys much of the efforts made by the Romanian authorities and the citizens during the state of emergency”. However, she stressed she was confident Romanians would continue to respect military decrees “on which the health and safety of their citizens depend”.
For her part, welcoming this success to the CCR, Citizen Advocate Renate Weber hopes the government can propose a “fiscal amnesty or find another formula to overturn these fines”.
Commenting on the CCR’s decision, the President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, took to Facebook to note that his party, as well as the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Pro Romania have drafted a law aimed at “automatically” canceling most of the fines imposed during the state of emergency, “without having to go through the courts and cost the Romanians money and time”.
Today, Raed Arafat, head of the Civil Protection Service and Undersecretary to the Interior Minister, posted on Facebook that last night he explained the impact of the decision on the unconstitutionality of fines imposed on non-compliance with the measures taken during the fight against COVID 19. “I made it clear that I am not discussing or commenting on the decision itself, but it is normal to point out that the lack of tools that discourage those who do not want to follow the rules easily creates a significant problem amid a battle in which complying with the measures is fundamental to prevent a huge impact on public health”.
The Constitutional Court found that the law providing for the abolition of special pensions was also unconstitutional. The law had been challenged by the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court of Cassation. The bill to abolish special pension systems that do not respect the principle of contribution was approved by the House of Representatives on 28 January 2020. The measure concerned MPs and senators, judges and prosecutors, public officials with a special status, parliamentary civil servants, members of the diplomatic service, members of the Constitutional Court, as well as flying personnel of the civil aviation, in addition to the military and the police. /ibna