Hot debates in the specialized parliamentary committee for amending the justice bills

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The president cannot refuse any longer the appointments to the ICCJ positions* The procedure for appointing the Prosecutor General and the heads of DNA and DIICOT remains the same* Iohannis is decided to intervene by constitutional means: “It won’t stay like this”

 

The specialized parliamentary committee decided on Friday, after hot debates, that the president of the country cannot refuse any longer the appointments of the president and the vice presidents of the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ), being obliged to accept the proposals made by the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM). The specialized parliamentary committee for the Laws on Justice also decided to keep the current procedure of appointing the Prosecutor General and the heads of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) and the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), but Steluta Cataniciu (ALDE) presented amendments in order for the president not to be able to refuse the appointments. They were rejected by the committee, but they can be resumed in the plenum of the Parliament.

The amendment, which was proposed in the summer by CSM, was adopted with 11 “pros” from PSD and ALDE, 5 “cons” from the opposition and one abstention belonging to Marton Arpad (UDMR).

The opposition advocated for keeping the current form of the law, which provides that the president of Romania cannot refuse the appointments to the leading positions of ICCJ unless he has reasons for the refusal, and the Superior Council of Magistracy must be informed about these reasons; Marton Arpad submitted an amendment establishing that the president can refuse these appointments only once.

The amendment saying that the president cannot refuse the appointments was also supported by Victor Alistar, who is a member of CSM, and who said that “the president’s decree only gives the formal nature of the procedure, ensuring its solemnity”, and that “there is no way to consider it an element of opportuneness”.

Alina Gorghiu stated that the National Liberal Party (PNL) supports the current legislative provision.

“Judicial power is independent, but in its functionality we cannot eliminate the head of state from this act which is not only solemn, but it is also related to the functionality of the state as a whole (…) However, the president is the person in the state which has the largest legitimacy given by the people. Making him an ordinary notary which only has to sign, not being able to refuse a proposal of CSM, is to deprive him of an essential attribute of the presidential power. We reject the idea to force the president’s hand” Catalin Predoiu also stated.

The Save Romania Union (USR) Senator George-Edward Dirca mentioned that the decision of the Constitutional Court (CCR) no.1375/2005 explains that if this prerogative of the president is removed, the provisions of Art.94 let. c in conjunction with Art.125 of the Constitution.

Ion Stelian (USR) also stated that maintaining the president’s attribution to be able to reject these proposals is exactly a guarantee of the respect of the judiciary’s independence.

Initially, the Chairman of the committee, the Social Democrat Florin Iordache wanted to allow each member to speak only once, but the opposition asked him to allow debates at least regarding the sensitive articles.

Alina Gorghiu warned on the fact if the majority will decide to remove this attribution from the president, PNL will notify CCR on the amendments of the law.

Steluta Cataniciu (ALDE) said that that she cannot understand what reason can be invoked by the Romanian president to reject a candidacy that was accepted by CSM.

Dirca (USR) replied that the reasons can be related even to CSAT and they could lead to the president’s refusal.

The PSD-ALDE parliamentarians on the one hand and the USR ones, on the other hand, had several exchanges; Iordache intervened asking for the limitation of the interventions and cutting off the opposition’s microphone.

Daniel Fenechiu (PNL) also stated that, for instance, between the acceptance of the candidacy by CSM and the actual appointment made by the president, there are issues that can appear and which no one expected, and if the president cannot refuse the appointment, the problem must be solved later.

In return, Oanea Florea (PSD) replied that if a judge fulfills all the conditions and the president still rejects his appointment, the magistrate has no right to appeal. But Dirca (USR) told her that the rejection goes to CSM, which can resume the proposal.

“What do we want to do with the head of state, do we want to turn him in a simple label, a door, to take away from him essential and system attributes, and attributes related to the system’s functioning? Do we want to take away from him a minimal right to refuse a proposal when he has reasons? What reasons could they be? They could be various reasons. No only those related to national security, but also related to the behavior of the candidate in question towards certain values, towards a certain perspective of the state (…) Isn’t it the head of state’s right to say: please, think about it?” Predoiu also stated.

PSD Senator Nicolae Moga quoted the constitutional provisions saying that the proposals for the positions in magistracy are made by CSM; Daniel Fenechiu (PNL) replied that in this case, it has to be established to whom the decision belongs, since the president of the country is deprived of this attribution.

President of the National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) Dana Garbovan stated that since potential reasons related to national security which could be taken into account by the president’s refusal have been mentioned, then the law should transparently establish how the candidates to ICCJ should be checked by the intelligence services.

 

PNL’s leadership approves Venice Commission being notified of changes in justice legislation

 

The National Standing Bureau of the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) convened in Oradea on Friday to approve the Venice Commission being notified by the PNL parliamentary groups of amendments to Romania’s justice legislation, PNL national leader Ludovic Orban announced at the end of the meeting.

“A decision to notify the Venice Commission was approved today following the refusal by the majority in the joint meeting of Parliament’s standing bureaus to accept Parliament’s notifying the Venice Commission, as suggested by the European Commission in the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report. We have decided to send a notification to the Venice Commission from the PNL parliamentary groups to ask for a mission, if the plenary session on December 8-9 fails to consider the notification, for the Venice Commission to look into the amendments to the justice legislation,” Orban told the media.

He added that BPN decided to challenge with the Constitutional Court, on Monday, Parliament’s decision to set up a select committee to deal with the codes of law and other justice legislation.

Both decisions approved on Friday had been announced by Orban on Wednesday, when the standing bureaus of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate denied PNL’s request to ask the Venice Commission for an opinion on the contentious amendments to the justice legislation.

“Today [Wednesday], the joint meeting of the standing bureaus rejected our request to postpone the debates and ask for the Venice Commission for an opinion, as also suggested in the CVM report and by European officials as well. We will address the Venice Commission as parliamentary groups to ask for its point of view and perhaps to send a delegation or a mission to Romania, if possible. Also, we will challenge with the Constitutional Court Parliament’s decision amending the regulation of this select committee, which was turned into a firing squad for the execution of judicial independence,” Orban said at the Parliament House.

At the end of Friday’s meeting, he added that, at the proposal of the mayor of Oradea Ilie Bolojan, a proposal to change the tax legislation so that the entire income tax becomes a source of income to local budgets to compensate for the losses incurred on the local administrations by the latest amendments to the Tax Code will be submitted to the convention of the National Congress of the League of the PNL Locally Elected Officials, which takes place in Cluj-Napoca on Saturday.

PNL also decided to take part in the protests scheduled for Sunday against the amendments to the justice legislation and to the Tax Code. “We will urge all members and sympathisers of the National Liberal Party to participate in the Sunday’s protests throughout the country. The fight continues!,” said Orban.

 

 

Iohannis, asked about the vote in the specialized committee on the appointments to ICCJ: “I will involve into this process by constitutional means, correctly”

 

President Klaus Iohannis stated on Friday, referring to the decision of the specialized committee for the Laws on Justice that decided that the president cannot refuse any longer the proposals related to the appointments to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ), that he will involve into this process by constitutional means, correctly.

“You know that there will be all the kinds of things voted in all the kinds of committees. In the end, things have to be clarified and will involve into this process by constitutional means, correctly” President Klaus Iohannis stated.

 

“It won’t stay like this”

 

Asked on Friday by the journalists what is the message that he sends to the parliamentarians in the specialized committee led by Florin Iordache after the provision that allows the president to refuse the appointment of the prosecutors and judges was abolished, the head of state replied that “It won’t stay like this”.

“It is an inappropriate attempt and it won’t stay like this” President Iohannis stated.

Asked about what he will do, Klaus Iohannis said: “I intend to do everything that a president can do in a legislative process established by the Constitution”.

The decision to abolish the provision in question from the Law 303/2004 on the statute of judges and prosecutors has been taken in the Thursday meeting of the specialized parliamentary committee for the Laws on Justice.