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Is #AlexanderAdamescu yet another victim of #Romania rogue intelligence services?

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As the case of Alexander Adamescu (pictured), the most high-profile example of the failings of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system in the UK, rumbles on, new evidence of the corruption endemic in the Romanian justice system continues to come to light, writes Emily Barley.

Adamescu has been fighting extradition from London to Romania since June 2016. He is charged with bribery, but the EAW system means that the existence (or not) of evidence against him is completely irrelevant – it is simply assumed that justice systems across the EU are of the same quality and so can be trusted without question.

It turns out that in the case of Romania this assumption is deeply flawed. Squalid prison conditions have received perhaps the most attention from the international community, having been censured by the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the UN, and countless NGOs, including in a report for Due Process written by myself. But the problems do not start and end in prison – they stretch across the entire Romanian criminal justice system.

Since the Adamescu case began in British courts, revelation after revelation has told the story of the corruption and interference by government intelligence services running through prosecutors’ offices, law enforcement, and the judiciary.

A Romanian Parliamentary investigation revealed the existence of secret protocols between the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and every single branch of the Romanian justice and law enforcement system. This was significant, not least because after the country threw off communism it banned intelligences services from interfering in the judiciary. In January of this year the Romanian constitutional court ruled these secret protocols ‘unconstitutional’, leading to a major crisis as observers began to understand the full extent of interference in the justice system.

This has raised serious questions over the fairness of trials and the safety of convictions, leading to calls for reviews of cases and retrials where there was illegal intelligence service involvement.

Only a minority of the secret protocols between the SRI and other agencies have so far been published, but just these few show a shocking level of interference in the criminal justice process, from illegal wiretaps to exerting pressure on judges to make particular decisions. SRI activities have included planting evidence, falsifying witness statements and blackmailing witnesses. Concern has also been fuelled by comments from the legal director of the SRI, General Dumitru Dumbrava, in which he called the courts a ‘tactical field’.

In January of this year, Ovidiu Putura, a former Romanian judge and Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, revealed that the SRI had specified in advance who should be targeted for prosecution and even the sentences that they should receive. He described General Dumbrava putting pressure on judges directly, asking them to pass certain key decisions, and claimed that anyone in an important position in Romanian society was routinely wiretapped.

A myriad of organisations and individuals have raised concerns about this manipulation and what it means for people facing trial in Romania. For example, MEDEL (European Magistrates for Democracy and Liberty), an association of judges, said that SRI involvement means there are ‘serious doubts’ about trials being ‘fair and just’.

It is difficult to disagree with this conclusion. Indeed, some judges have already risked retribution from the state secret services by acquitting people accused of corruption in cases marred by collusion between the SRI and DNA (National Anti-corruption Directorate).

Adamescu has long alleged that the security services are involved in the case against him, pointing to the murky activities of the Romanian state which have been compared to the Securitate (communist secret police). This activity has spread to the streets of London, with allegations of Adamescu’s partner being followed by Romanian speaking men using walkie-talkies, and a kidnap attempt.

Though we cannot know for sure if Adamescu is an SRI target, we do now know that the type of activities he alleges are well within the realms of what that organisation has been proven to have been involved in over many years, targeting similar people with similar charges.

We also know that Adamescu and his family’s claims of SRI involvement pre-date this proof – starting in 2014 with the prosecution of his father Dan Adamescu, who subsequently died after being refused medical treatment while languishing in a Romanian prison – showing that Adamescu is not merely jumping on a bandwagon.

The implications of Romania’s descent into corruption and illegal intelligence activities are important. This growing body of evidence undermines the very foundation of the EAW system – parity of justice – and necessitates an urgent review of the extradition process. Romania is currently the President of the Council of the European Union, a position it is wholly unfit to hold. Until it deals decisively with its rogue intelligence services, it cannot be trusted as a full EU member state. The Adamescu case demonstrates the danger of countries closing their eyes to the abuses being meted out by the Romanian state for the sake of EU ‘solidarity’. They will live to regret it when Romanian injustice arrives at their doorstep too.

Brexit

Brexit - EU starts infringement process for UK's failure to act in good faith

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As anticipated, the European Commission today (1 October) has sent the United Kingdom a letter of formal notice for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the United Kingdom. It has one month to reply to today's letter.

The Withdrawal Agreement states that the European Union and the United Kingdom must take all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations under the Agreement (Article 5). Both parties are bound by the obligation to cooperate in good faith in carrying out the tasks stemming from the Withdrawal Agreement and must refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of those objectives.

The UK government tabled the UK Internal Market Bill on 9 September the Commission consider this a  flagrant violation of the Protocol on Ireland Northern Ireland, as it would allow the UK authorities to disregard the legal effect of the Protocol's substantive provisions. Representatives of the UK government have acknowledged this violation, stating that its purpose was to allow it to depart in a permanent way from the obligations stemming from the Protocol.

The UK government has failed to withdraw the contentious parts of the Bill, despite requests by the European Union. By doing so, the UK has breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Next steps

The UK has until the end of this month to submit its observations to the letter of formal notice. After examining these observations, or if no observations have been submitted, the Commission may, if appropriate, decide to issue a Reasoned Opinion.

Background

The Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by both the EU and the UK. It entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law.

Following the publication by the UK government of the draft ‘United Kingdom Internal Market Bill' on 9 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to request the UK government to elaborate on its intentions and to respond to the EU's serious concerns. The meeting took place in London on 10 September between Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

At the meeting, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law. He called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month of September.

At the third ordinary meeting of the Joint Committee on 28 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič again called on the UK government to withdraw the contentious measures from the bill. The UK government on this occasion confirmed its intention to go ahead with the draft legislation.

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that during the transition period, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction and the Commission has the powers conferred upon it by Union law in relation to the United Kingdom, also as regards the interpretation and application of that Agreement.

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Cyber-espionage

EU countries test their ability to co-operate in the event of cyber attacks

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EU member states, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Commission have met to test and assess their co-operation capabilities and resilience in the event of a cybersecurity crisis. The exercise, organized by the Netherlands with the support of ENISA, is a key milestone towards the completion of  relevant operating procedures. The latter are developed in the framework of the NIS Co-operation Group, under the leadership of France and Italy, and aim for more coordinated information sharing and incident response among EU cybersecurity authorities.

Furthermore, member states, with the support of ENISA, launched today the Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network (CyCLONe) aimed at facilitating cooperation in case of disruptive cyber incidents.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The new Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network indicates once again an excellent cooperation between the member states and the EU institutions in ensuring that our networks and critical systems are cyber secure. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we should work collectively in preparing and implementing rapid emergency response plans, for example in case of a large-scale cyber incident or crisis.”

ENISA Executive Director Juhan Lepassaar added: "Cyber crises have no borders. The EU Agency for Cybersecurity is committed to support the Union in its response to cyber incidents. It is important that the national cybersecurity agencies come together to coordinate decision-making at all levels. The CyCLONe group addresses this missing link.”

The CyCLONe Network will ensure that information flows more efficiently among different cybersecurity structures in the member states and will allow to better coordinate national response strategies and impact assessments. Moreover, the exercise organized follows up on the Commission's recommendation on a Coordinated Response to Large Scale Cybersecurity Incidents and Crises (Blueprint) that was adopted in 2017.

More information is available in this ENISA press release. More information on the EU cybersecurity strategy can be found in these Q&A and this brochure.

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coronavirus

Commission approves €32 million Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for damage suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a PLN 142 million (approximately €32m) Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on 15 March 2020, Poland banned all international and domestic air passenger services at Polish airports. The flight restrictions were progressively lifted as of 1 June 2020, but certain travel warnings, travel bans and restrictive measures remained in place until the end of June 2020.

This resulted in high operating losses for the operators of Polish airports. Under the scheme, the Polish authorities will be able to compensate airports for the revenue losses suffered during the period between 15 March and 30 June 2020, as a result of the restrictive measures on international and domestic air passenger services implemented by Poland. The support will take the form of direct grants.

The scheme includes a claw-back mechanism, whereby any possible public support in excess of the actual damage received by the beneficiaries will have to be paid back to the Polish State. The risk of the state aid exceeding the damage is therefore excluded. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors (in the form of schemes) for the damage directly caused by restrictive measures taken in exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the  scheme notified by Poland will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the aid is in line with EU state aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.58212 once confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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