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News 29 May 13

Romania Knuckles Down to Changing Constitution

The team in charge of changing Romania's constitution has got down to business - but there is no agreement as yet on exactly what should be altered.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

The team tasked with revising Romania’s constitution started working on Wednesday, charged with proposing key changes to the country's fundamental law.

A possible referendum may be held on the issue by the end of October, the centre-left government of Victor Ponta has indicated.

“We have finished the first stage, namely receiving proposals from people, civic organizations and academic environment.

"It is now time for experts and politicians to create the project of revising Romania’s constitution,” Crin Antonescu, team leader and President of the Senate, said.

The parties of the ruling Social Liberal Union, USL, on Tuesday agreed that among the main changes envisaged will be revising the role of the President and the mechanism by which the President nominates the Prime Minister.

Further changes need to tackle the country’s administrative organization, to decentralise power and help Romania attract more European funds.

The USL can easily enact such changes to the constitution, as it holds two-thirds of the seats in parliament, and its plans look likely to win popular backing in a referendum.

Opposition parties want other changes, such as the transition to a unicameral parliament, a reduction in the number of MPs, the restriction of parliamentary immunity and the confiscation of assests acquired by deeds of corruption.

One proposal, supported by the USL, calls for the current 41 counties to be dissolved and replaced by eight regions, defined mainly by economic characteristics.

But such a change will meet strong resistance from ethnic Hungarians, the largest ethnic minority in the country.

The main Hungarian party in Romania, the UDMR, wants 15 autonomous regions, including a majority ethnic Hungarian one in Transylvania, which is where most Hungarians are concentrated.

Another demand of the Hungarians is the removal of the description of Romania as a “national state” from the first paragraph of the constitution.

Analysts agree that the constitution needs to be updated. “There are so many problems to be addressed. Hopefully the politicians will be able to reach a consensus on important issues and deliver coherent changes," political analyst Cristian Parvulescu said.

Romania’s post-communist constitution was adopted in December 1991. It was slightly revised in 2003 in order to allow the country to join NATO and the EU.

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