Live discussion with vice-president Viviane Reding on the Romanian misuse of EU mechanisms to continue persecution of refugees

On 14th October Mrs. Reding visited the Citizens’ Dialogue in Stockholm. The Swedish representative of Soteria International, Mr. Konrad Swenninger brought up the issue of a human rights contradiction between the European Arrest Warrant and the International Convention for protection of Refugees. As an example, Mr. Swenninger mentioned the case of Gregorian Bivolaru, a Romanian political dissident continuously targeted by Romanian authorities and was given political asylum in Sweden. The asylum is now threatened by a European Arrest Warrant issued in June 2013 by Romanian authorities, as a result of a highly controversial decision of the Romanian Supreme Court against Bivolaru.

Acknowledging the case, Mrs. Reding stated that indeed the European Arrest Warrant has been a complicated subject in European politics. She and her team have insisted on precise procedures related to the warrant, so that it cannot be used by national authorities to pursue undemocratic interests. Referring to the situation in Romania, Mrs. Reding is concerned that indeed the country struggles with implementation and respect for democratic procedures. Mrs. Reding reminded the audience that in the summer of 2012, the Directorate General for Justice of the EC, which she conducts, severely criticized the attack on the constitution of Romania attempted by opposing Romanian governing parties.

In meetings 17th October in Brussels several Swedish MEPs expressed their concern and interest to work for the case, and the Romanian misuse of the European Arrest Warrant to pursue political persecution of the refugee Bivolaru.

We remind that earlier in October the case has been discussed at the Human Dimension Implementation meeting organized by OSCE in Warsaw, both in the plenary discussion on the protection of refugees and in the side-event conference organized by Soteria International. Representatives of the Swedish government assured Soteria International and the international community that Sweden takes its international obligations on Human Rights very seriously and reminded that Swedish legislation, as well as European law, foresee that national courts should take consideration of human rights implications in their rulings.

The statement of Swedish governmental representatives and the strong position of Viviane Reding in matters of defending human rights and democratic procedures bring confidence that human rights will be efficiently protected and countries such as Romania, still on their way to democracy, will be given a strong good example and will be prevented in their attempts to disregard or violate the rights of its citizens.

Here is Viviane Reding's answer at the question regarding the Romanian refugee in Sweden, Gregorian Bivolaru:

"Now, there is a very important question. It is a question – I do not want to speak about this particular case – but about the system. I am the first European Justice Commissioner with power to do things. The first thing I started to do was to create procedural rights for people when they are taken by Police or when they are brought in front of the court so that they have basic rights all over the place, because these rights did not exist. Why these rights did not exists? Because the EU could not make proposals before. And before, and think about the time, it was just after 9/11 and everything was about terrorism and criminality. And Ministers of the Interior created the European Arrest Warrant without any procedural right attached to it. I have attached the procedural rights to the Arrest Warrant and put the Arrest Warrant back on the table and gave out directions to the member states, how they should use it. For instance, many member states try to use it for petty crime as I always call ‘the picklet way’ of using the Arrest Warrant. They asked an extradition for somebody that has stolen something small. That is not the reason of justification. We need to have rules which go to the heart of the matter, which combine security on one hand with rights. Both have to be in equilibrium, both are both sides of the same medal, one without the other should not be allowed anymore. And that is the evolution we have had in the last years to bring the rights to questions of security.

And what do you do then to stop countries from using the system?

Because in the system already is included for what reasons a countries cannot extradite, so this is very much codified and very much included and the Courts also have to decide. By the way, when you are speaking about Romania, just to tell you that Romania had tried to eliminate its Constitutional Court and there again I have put the fist on the table and the Constitutional Court of Romania has survived. We have continuously, and the Minister said it very well, we have continuously attacks on what we consider as basic rights of a democracy. But to have a democracy is not a thing you can learn in some years. Sometimes you need a tradition to be established in order to learn about democracy, so we need to help some of the countries which have come out of dictatorships to democracy from one day to another, to interiorize also the rules of respect which need to be in a democracy. One of the basic rules is the full independence of the courts and the other basic rules and that goes for politics is the full respect of the opposition."