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May 16, 2022

Head of state launches new attack on magistrates

“One of these days you may decide (…) who the Romanian president is.” “You cannot play all the parts – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary!” –Traian Basescu told judges yesterday.

President Traian Basescu launched yesterday a new attack on the magistrates, this time “face-to-face”, during the meeting of the Commission monitoring Romania’s progress on the reform of the judiciary and the anti-corruption battle, which he attended in the first half of the day. The president ironically commented on the assertion that sentences pronounced by the judges are above any other authority. “You cannot play all the parts, folks – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary! (…) Soon enough magistrates will tell us whom we should appoint at the helm of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). Who knows, one of these days you may decide by a court ruling who the Romanian president is,” Basescu told the participants in the meeting, quoted by Mediafax.

The president’s remarks referred in particular to the courts’ common practice of appointing back in office heads of inspectorates or police chiefs who had been dismissed, invoking as an example the case of the Giurgiu Police Inspectorate chief.

The head of state argued that the Government had taken responsibility on legal pieces of legislation, which had been declared constitutional, concerning public sector wage cuts, but “courts ruled against them”, and called on the magistrates to indicate the source of funding when pronouncing such rulings.

According to Basescu, total RON 9 bln-compensation was granted by these rulings. “(…) It’s a ball. How exactly should the Government come up with RON 9 bln to abide by the court rulings? Perhaps you could suggest a source of funding as well (…) This is one thing I ask of you as it’s constitutional,” Basescu added. In this context, the head of state warned that Romania would be in a very tight spot if these court rulings were enforced.

Another count on which the president called the magistrates to task had to do with auction winners established by court rulings.

The head of state argued he had received on Wednesday a letter from the EC informing him that the Commission would no longer allot European funding to a project to build a segment of the Pan-European Corridor IV highway as the project had been contested by one of the bidders who lost the contract, but was granted the bid in court. “We will no longer provide funding for projects in which the winner was pronounced by courts. (…) Brussels said ‘You can do whatever you want with winners established in this way!’” the president summed up the message sent by Brussels. He qualified this situation as most worrying, given that it is the second such warning from the European Commission.

At the same time, the president warned we may be faced with a “paradox” in which Romania would meet all the targets set under the Mechanism for Verification and Cooperation (MCV) without enhancing the efficiency of the justice system. The head of state further argued that the growing number of pending suits was the result of the judges’ practice of adjourning suits rather than trying them, warning that endless procrastination equals an ineffective justice system. To sweeten the pill, Basescu concluded by saying that his remarks did not refer to all the judges or prosecutors, but underlined “there are plenty of magistrates who may be found wanting”. At the same time, the head of state gave assurances that the judiciary would be allotted all the resources it needs to enforce the two new codes, but argued these would not solve the problems within the system.

On the other hand, President Basescu asked Interior Minister Traian Igas, also present at the meeting, to find headquarters for the Prosecutor’s Office with the Bucharest Court of Appeal, as they don’t have one: “Mr. Minister, the Prosecutor’s Office with the Bucharest Court of Appeal has been asking for HQs on Calea Victoriei from you for two years. I would be glad to hear the building had been given to them in the next Wednesday’s Government session.”
In response to president Basescu’s dissertation, the spokesperson for the Social-Democrat Party (PSD)’s internal departments Olguta Vasilescu stated yesterday in a press conference that the head of state’s allegations concerning magistrates were irresponsible, encouraging the citizens to act in defiance of the law and court rulings. “Mr. Basescu called on the judges to pronounce sentences no longer guided by law, but by whatever ideas may pop in his head,” Vasilescu argued.

Predoiu: Decisive judiciary reform progress report by end of the month

At the beginning of the meeting, Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu announced that the mission to review progress made by the Romanian judiciary would take place November 21 to 25, the longest mission of its kind, given that preceding visits lasted only three days. In minister Predoiu’s opinion, this is a decisive report as regards the state of MCV, calling on the representatives of state institutions to “close the ranks and to focus on the joint agenda”. Predoiu also explained that Basescu attended the meeting as a mediator. “I think that the president’s presence here acts as a balance factor and, at the same time, pleads for increased dynamism and harmony between our mutual agendas,” he argued.

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