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Public Discussion: European integration in Constitution and in life
on the organization of the debate “European integration in Constitution and in life”. Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”
The 95th debate held on October 22, 2018 involved: Vitalie Gamurari, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Moldova; Vladimir Țurcan, MP of the parliamentary group of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova; Valeriu Giletski, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, MP of the Parliamentary European People’s Group; Grigore Cobzac, MP of the parliamentary group of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova; Igor Boțan, standing expert of the project. A representative of the Liberal Party was also invited to today’s discussion, but our invitation was received, but remained without an answer.
Why this theme and this format?
This theme was chosen because the October 19 failed attempt to insert the European course in the Constitution seriously shook the Moldovan political class and the parliamentary parties set the tone. That’s why we have this format. It is expected that this state of political spirit will continue to significantly influence Moldovan society for at least four more months, until the parliamentary elections arranged for February 24, 2019. That’s why it is normal to try and shed more light on the motives and effects of this not yet very clear theme. For example, IPN Agency in 2011 produced a broad series of features on the issue. We wanted these to be like a kind of opinion poll. The general conclusion then was that the European course deserves to be enshrined in the Constitution and a large number of important arguments in favor of this conclusion were provided. If IPN repeats the procedure now, in over nine years of pro-European government, the result will be completely different, at least hesitant, unclear and equivocal. We tried to see why it happens so and what can happen in this area in the future by discussing the issue with the participants in the debate.
The standing expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan said the constitutional amendment proposal was examined by the Constitutional Court and this approved of it. Consequently, the supplementing of the Constitution’s preamble and Article 8 was absolutely legal. “However, during the debates I followed in Parliament I understood from the speeches of the promoters of the bill, the MPs of the Democratic Party, that it is a symbolical thing, but symbolical and with repercussions for eventual cases when political forces of another orientation come to power so that they are unable to ignore these clauses inserted in the Constitution. So, we reach the conclusion that it was a political opportunity – to introduce this amendment in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, enshrining the Europeans development course of the county at constitutional level, or not,” stated Igor Boțan.
The expert also said that in the debates held in Parliament it was announced that 67 votes were needed to amend the Constitution and this is curious as 67 is smaller than 2/3 of 101 MPs. Sixty-eight is higher, but the Constitution, in Article 143, clearly says that the constitutional laws are adopted by 2/3 of the votes. “This was the only curiosity I had related to this amendment. A number of 54 MPs voted ultimately and we saw that the 13 MPs were somehow reproached for not voting as, if they had voted, there would have been 67 votes and the Constitution would have been amended. This is the only thing that seems very interesting to me and with an impact for the future. However, the Constitutional Court should tell us by what minimum number of votes the Constitution is amended,” stated the expert.
Vitalie Gamurari, spokesman for the PDM, said the proposal to insert the European course in the Constitution was formulated a year ago and this idea was clearly and categorically promoted. Furthermore, this idea was supported not only by the Democratic Party, but also by other pro-European parties. Besides the held debates, as the representative of the academia, he staged roundtable meetings on the issue with the involvement of constitutional law experts and experts in political sciences during which it was clearly noted that the insertion of this course in the Constitution does not run counter to the constitutional provisions.
According to him, the enshrining of the European course in the Constitution would have meant that the Republic of Moldova chose the European development course and this wouldn’t have implied the submission of an application for EU membership by the Moldovan authorities in a year or two years. The Association Agreement is the main document, the international treaty that produces mandatory legal effects for the Republic of Moldova, while the introduction of this formula in the Constitution does not run counter to the obligations assumed by the Republic of Moldova and does not imply the refusal to have particular relations with other states that are not EU members. “We speak about those good practices, markets where such key principles as democracy, human right, competition rights and all those elements in the EU that are attractive for the Republic of Moldova to develop in the same context as other states,” noted Vitalie Gamurari.
Socialist MP Vladimir Țurcan said the Party of Socialists’ position from the start was trenchant and unchanged. It is a political and juridical procedure for introducing in the Constitution a provision that derives from the programs of particular parties. This means that it was an attempt to introduce an ideological provision in the Constitution, the concept of a concrete party. Therefore, he and his colleagues not only once reminded of Article 6 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union, which contained a similar provision about the special and primordial role of the Communist Party.
“That’s why we noted once again that, if those who are the initiators indeed consider that this idea is major and very important for the people of the Republic of Moldova, let’s follow the path that is clearly stipulated in the Constitution – Article 75 of the Constitution – which provides that the issues of such a kind are put up for a referendum. This wasn’t done and no attempt in this regard was made. Moreover, I think in the discussions everyone could ascertain a moment – the hidden goal of this attempt to insert the amendment in the Constitution. Those who have a differing opinion or position, either a party or citizens, were considered elements that violate the Constitution, with all the consequences – starting of criminal cases, etc. That’s why our position was, is and will be that no notion about the European, Eurasian or other types of integration should be stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. The choice of any course should be made only by the people,” stated the Socialist MP.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Valeriu Giletski, of the Parliamentary Group of the European People’s Party, said the initiative to amend the Constitution was aimed at reaffirming the development course of the country. During the past few years, the European integration had been promoted in the election campaign. The idea of European integration appeared before the Alliance for European Integration came to power and society during all these years has been looking for an idea that could be the best county development model. The initiative was necessary and is beneficial to society even if today there are voices that oppose the insertion of this phrase in the Constitution.
The MP said the role of the preamble of the Constitution is important for the way in which the text of the Constitution is interpreted and therefore the given phrase has a particular value. He is further convinced that the pro-European forces must support the inclusion of this phrase in the Constitution. “I regret we didn’t reach that consensus that would have brought us a good result,” stated Valeriu Giletski. As to the number of votes to which Igor Boțan referred, the MP said it is the Constitutional Court that should decide what the majority is – 67 or 68 votes - and the figure cannot be simply determined mathematically, with a calculator.
MP of the Liberal Democratic Party Grigore Cobzac said the day this amendment of the Constitution was put to the vote, there was also examined another bill on which he delivered a speech and noted that the given bill directly violates the Constitution. “I cried about this from the rostrum and then sat down. The parliamentary majority voted this bill with this violation of the Constitution. Currently, when they try to persuade us that if we had the European integration enshrined in the Constitution, we would guarantee the European course, my question is why should we guarantee it? We have all the legal documents needed for implementing this course that would indisputably lead to better living standards for the citizens,” he stated.
The MP noted that during the past three years since the government has had only one color, the European course has been compromised. Now the government’s relations with the European partners are at a very low level. There are very great tensions in the relations with the International Monetary Fund. The displayed relations with the U.S. are fake. Practically everyone postpones the relations with the Republic of Moldova until after the parliamentary elections, expecting free and fair elections. “This means a compromised European course. Surely, this course that was first declared in 2009 will be inevitably used in the upcoming parliamentary elections and will be a heated topic for discussion. The Democratic Party anticipated this and, as in the case of the banking fraud, is looking for a scapegoat before the parliamentary elections,” stated Grigore Cobzac. As to the number of votes, the MP said the necessary number of votes couldn’t have been garnered then as not even all the members of the parliamentary majority were present in the hall. Therefore, the PLDM concludes that the PDM didn’t really want this phrase to be inserted in the Constitution and it was rather a primitive find of the PDM for the upcoming elections so as to shift the blame for all the failures on the PLMD and, eventually, on the PL.
A representative of the Liberal Party was also invited to the debate, but the invitation remained without an answer.
The debate “European integration in Constitution and in life” forms part of the series of public debates held by IPN News Agency and Radio Moldova as part of the project “Developing political culture by public debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.
The Agency published 6 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 22.10.18, „European integration in Constitution and in life, IPN debate” - http://ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/94284; „Igor Boþan: Vote on “European integration” was a matter of political opportunity” - http://ipn.md/en/integrare-europeana/94286; on 23.10.18, „ Vladimir Țurcan: European integration course derives from programs of a number of parties” - http://ipn.md/en/politica/94292; „Valeriu Giletski: Effects of non-voting of Constitution are negative at domestic and foreign levels” - http://ipn.md/en/politica/94289; „Grigore Cobzac: They didn’t really want European course to be inserted in Constitution” - http://ipn.md/en/politica/94288; „Vitalie Gãmurari: By amending Constitution, Moldova would have confirmed European development course” - http://ipn.md/en/politica/94290.
IPN promoted the debate before and after the event, in particular the ensuing news stories, using all the available channels, including social networks. Confirmatory materials of deliverables, as well as a media coverage dossier are attached.
Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN
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