The European Parliament debated on Wednesday, in a plenary session in Strasbourg, the situation of the Romanian judicial system following the modifications that the PSD-ALDE ruling coalition brought to the judicial laws, in a debate titled “Threats to the rule of law by the Romanian justice system reform.”
The decision to hold a plenary session debate on the Romanian justice system was taken on January 18, at the conference of presidents in which the leaders of the political groups and the President of the Parliament took part.
JusMin Toader, EC First Vice-President Timmermans discuss in Strasbourg about amendments brought to justice laws
Prior to this debate, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader arrived on Monday in Strasbourg. He discussed the judicial laws and the current stage they are in with European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans and with members of the Group of European Socialists.
“As regards the justice laws, the Justice Minister presented the current stage and the steps covered in relation to the three bills, the laws adopted and the legislative solutions found to be unconstitutional. As regards the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, the Justice Minister presented the amendments consisting of transposing into the national legislation Directive 2016/343/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 9 March 2016 on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings and Directive 2014/42/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 3 April 2014 on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the European Union, as well as the amendments intended to reconcile the provisions of the Codes with the decisions of Romania’s Constitutional Court,” a Justice Ministry release issued on Tuesday after Toader’s meeting with Timmermans specifies.
Moreover, with regard to the provisions of the Law amending Law No.176/2010 regarding integrity in exercising public positions, for the amendment and completion of Law No.144/2007 on the setting up, organisation and functioning of the National Agency for Integrity (ANI), as well as for the amendment and completion of other legislative acts, Tudorel Toader mentioned that the law was adopted so as to reconcile the legal provisions with the Constitutional Court jurisprudence on the matter, the release further reads.
After his meeting with the European socialists, Toader declared himself convinced that there is disinformation at European level on the topic of the judicial laws and pointed out the meetings would continue on Wednesday too.
Tudorel Toader: I’m convinced there is disinformation at European level in what concerns situation in Romania
In an interview for RomaniaTV private broadcaster, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader revealed what he discussed in his meeting with European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
“Although planned to last 30 minutes, the meeting lasted more than an hour, which means it was consistent. There were several topics of discussion. The stage of the judicial laws, the stage of the criminal codes and the modifications to the laws on the incompatibilities of House and Senate members. In brief, the judicial laws observed the legislative procedure. The CCR has reference to the standards of the Venice Commission,” Tudorel Toader stated for RomaniaTV private broadcaster.
“The general preoccupation is the adoption of laws that would not infringe upon the autonomy of magistrates in general. I will have several meetings with the group leaders or with the groups in Parliament. I’m here to explain that the judicial laws were adopted with the observance of constitutional norms and European provisions. I’m trying to bridge the gap between public perception and the reality of the adoption of the laws, because there are many who comment on the laws but often without reading the said laws. Let’s get over this ‘I don’t like it, I don’t want to’ moment. Let’s get to the moment of arguments.”
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Tuesday, in Strasbourg, that he is “convinced” there is disinformation at European level in what concerns the situation in Romania, stating he does not know its source.
At a press opportunity with Romanian journalists, when asked if he feels there is disinformation at European level in what concerns the situation in Romania, Tudorel Toader said he is “convinced” such disinformation exists.
“It’s not a feeling, I’m convinced. I don’t know its source, but surely – since many are discussing the same issue and their understanding, their perception differs – there’s something there. Out of lack of knowledge, or disinformation, maybe because of other considerations too,” Tudorel Toader told Romanians journalists after meeting the European Parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), in the context in which the European Parliament was scheduled to discuss the modifications brought to the Romanian judicial systems and their potential threat to the rule of law.
The Justice Minister declared himself “honoured” and said he was “gladdened” by the fact that the MEPs he met on Tuesday “paid attention to my explanations, my statements, which I think it’s good, I believe it’s liable to lead to the better understanding of the modifications.”
“Our obligation is to explain in a fair and timely manner, that is why I will also form a communications department at the Justice Ministry, in order to communicate more, maybe better, to potentially answer – something we haven’t done so far – those messages that do not match reality, and I’m not referring to something in particular,” Toader added.
He also expressed his conviction that the activation of Article 7 of the EU Treaty is out of the question.
“In Romania nobody has put into doubt the decisions of the Constitutional Court. In Romania nobody has ever said we are not modifying the law – whether the Penal Code or something else – in line with Constitutional Court decisions. In Romania the decisions are final, generally mandatory, they generate effects from the date they are published in the Official Journal. You won’t find any decision, of admission or interpretation, that is not taken into account by the lawmaker, by Parliament or by the Government as delegated lawmaker, in the sense of modifying the law in line with the decision, in line with its considerations,” the minister explained.
Asked why he does not announce his decision concerning DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, Toader said such matters should be discussed in Bucharest.
“We are in Strasbourg to talk about the matters that were on the agenda discussed today, the one that will be discussed tomorrow. The other matters, those regarding the judiciary, regarding the Justice Ministry, regarding the decision we did or did not take, we did or did not communicate, we will discuss them back home, at the Justice Ministry,” he said.
“In my opinion, it was a good day, with many meetings. Personally, based on the meeting with Vice President Timmermans, I believe there were clarifying talks in which I tried to bring that added understanding regarding the legislative mechanism in Romania, regarding the judicial laws, regarding the modifications to the Criminal Code, regarding the modifications to the conflict of interest and the incompatibilities. Personally, I believe it went well,” Toader added.
Asked whether he talked with Frans Timmermans about the recent exchange between the European Commission on one hand and House Speaker and PSD President Liviu Dragnea and Senate Speaker and ALDE President Calin Popescu Tariceanu on the other, concerning the way the European Commission is informed, Toader said that each person must “act within the limit of their prerogatives.”
“With Mr Timmermans I talked for 70 minutes instead of 30. It was an applied discussion, it was a discussion concerning the judicial laws. I repeat what I’ve told you many, many times: each person should act within the limit of their prerogatives,” Toader stated.
MEP Siegfried Muresan complains that the minister’s official schedule is not known
Toader’s presence in Strasbourg was criticised by MEP Siegfried Muresan, who complained that the minister’s official schedule is not known, deeming that the minister wants to hold meetings behind closed doors in order to convince his interlocutors that the judicial laws are good, but will fail in his attempt.
MEP Siegfried Muresan stated that “it is a clear signal that PSD and ALDE’s attempts to control and weaken the judiciary are not going unnoticed and the fact that the European Parliament decided to hold a debate, in the second plenary session this year, on the situation of the Romanian judicial system shows the serious concern that exists at the level of the European Union toward the attempts to weaken the Romanian judicial system.”
Prior to this debate, the ‘Initiative Romania’ civic movement announced on Monday that it sent all MEPs, and also the European Commission, a report on the events that took place in Romania in the last year, in view of the European Parliament’s debate on rule of law in Romania.
‘Initiative Romania’ is asking MEP to ask Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova and the European Commission to ask the Venice Commission for an opinion on the compatibility of the package of reforms adopted or proposed by Romanian authorities with the standards of the rule of law. Likewise, they should ask Romanian authorities “to immediately cease the adoption of legislative modifications or to postpone it until the Venice Commission expresses a juridical opinion on them.” The civic movement also asks MEPs to ask the European Commission to accelerate the creation of a mechanism for monitoring the member state’s observance of the fundamental principles of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.
PSD sends all MEPs a Luju analysis on the judicial system, translated in English and German. MEP Norica Nicolai sends report to ALDE group
On Wednesday morning, before the European Parliament’s plenary session debate on the Romanian judicial laws, Dan Nica, leader of PSD’s MEPs in the group of European Socialists, sent all members of the current legislature a document presented as an analysis on the Romanian judicial system, covering the 2005-2017 period, authored by ‘Lumea Justitiei’ – luju.ro – and translated in German and English.
Here is what Dan Nica says in the English-language e-mail obtained by HotNews.ro:
“Before the plenary session debate – “Threats to the rule of law by the Romanian justice system reform” – I would like to share with you, in the name of transparency and fairness, an analysis prepared by the ‘Lumea Justitiei’ specialised platform, which concerns the activity of the judicial system in 2005-2017.
“Allow me to emphasise in this context that Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, member of the Romanian Government, was not allowed to officially take part and intervene in the plenary debate, thus being denied the possibility to shed more light on this debate.”
The title of the English version of the report is: “REPORT on the subversive activity conducted between 2005-2017 in the sectors of Justice and intelligence services, to enable political-judicial-economic interest groups to exercise state power. In addition to the above, the Romanian-language version of the title goes on to read: “The list of secret documents that undermined Romania with handcuffs used as a weapon. The Report will be sent to all international bodies that were systematically disinformed and must find out the truth about Romanian inJustice (the Report).” The report was published on luju.ro on 9 November 2017.
In her turn, ALDE MEP Norica Nicolai sent her colleagues in the European Parliament’s ALDE group a report on the reform of the judicial system.
The report’s conclusions
“All amendments to the three judicial laws answer the urgent problems and needs of the Romanian judicial system and are in line with European standards on this issue.
“Most of the amendments came from the Supreme Magistracy Council and the magistrates’ professional associations.
“These amendments are the first transparently brought via parliamentary procedure, with the involvement of all those concerned.
“At present, the new legislation is subjected to the Constitutional Court’s constitutionality review, as was the case with the previous legislation, all filters needed to ensure the independence of the judiciary being used.”