In less than 24 hours, Premier Victor Ponta, who is also interim Justice Minister, changed his mind and sent to the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) a list of 6 proposals for the positions of general attorney, head of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) and head of the Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT). Overruling his Liberal coalition partners, the Premier proposed Laura Codruta Kovezi as Daniel Morar’s successor at the helm of the DNA.
Tuesday, April 2, 1 PM. Things were clear in what concerned the future chief prosecutors: they were about to be selected through a procedure handled by the future Justice Minister. At least that was according to the statements that the Premier made at the end of his meeting with the CSM prosecutors. Wednesday, April 3, 10 AM. Spectacular turnaround. As interim justice minister, Premier Victor Ponta sends a letter with the following proposals to the CSM President: Laura Kovesi for the position of chief prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Office (DNA), Tiberiu Nitu for general attorney of the High Court of Justice’s Prosecutor’s Office (PICCJ), Bogdan Licu for first deputy and Codrut Olaru for deputy of the general attorney, Alina Bica for chief prosecutor of DIICOT and Elena Hosu for deputy of the chief prosecutor of DIICOT. The letter shows that Daniel Morar’s interim term at the helm of the General Prosecutor’s Office expires on April 3 and the law does not stipulate the possibility of it being extended by the CSM, something that can lead to the non-legality of the acts issued from then on by the Public Ministry.
The latter invokes the fact that legally all these prosecutors are appointed by the President, at the justice minister’s proposal and with the CSM’s green light, from among prosecutors that have held the position of judge or prosecutor for at least 10 years. “On the basis of the strictly limited mandate that I have assumed, having as a goal solving the Public Ministry’s situation of instability and identifying solutions for ensuring the Public Ministry’s stability and predictability, as well as making sure that Romania’s external commitments are respected, and in order to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, I want to make this proposals,” the Premier wrote in the letter addressed to the CSM.
The Premier justified his decision yesterday morning by stating that he noticed that the Prosecutor’s Office has become Daniel Morar’s “fiefdom and monopoly,” which is “unacceptable.
” “I noticed last evening that the Prosecutor’s Office has become Mr. Morar’s fiefdom and he decides whom he appoints, whom he doesn’t appoint, how he appoints, and that basically we note a monopoly in Romania. The monopoly over prosecutors belongs to Mr. Daniel Morar. As interim justice minister and prime minister I cannot passively watch these things,” Ponta said during yesterday morning’s government meeting. Several Liberal ministers did not attend the government meeting yesterday morning. According to Mediafax, some of them had left the Victoria Palace in order to go to the USL headquarters while others, although present within the government’s building, had remained on the hallways.Before the afternoon USL meeting, Ponta had said he would explain to his USL colleagues that Daniel Morar ‘thinks that all prosecution units are his personal monopoly’, pointing out that he could have not accepted such thing. ‘I will explain to my colleagues in USL how I see things, namely that, from today on, we no longer have a prosecutor general, that Mr. Morar has no more legal grounds for heading the Public Ministry and, very seriously, all acts signed by Mr. Morar can virtually be disputed in court from now on’, Ponta said.
The premier pointed out that he would continue making proposals for the vacant positions to replace the people currently occupying them and who are appreciated by Morar, as he thinks that those offices can be taken by different people. Victor Ponta also said he had not informed Crin Antonescu before making the nominations for the heads of DNA and Prosecutor General, but that he had informed President Basescu on the phone.
What Morar thinks about Kovesi
Daniel Morar, former National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) chief prosecutor and current first deputy prosecutor general, on a Romania TV program Tuesday evening, described as “unacceptable” if former prosecutor general Laura Codruta Kovesi were appointed for head of the DNA given this position should only be occupied by a person who has worked in that institution. Morar holds that the next DNA head should have anti-corruption expertise and performance, yet “Mrs. Kovesi has no such thing, she doesn’t have a CV”.”I don’t say she cannot hold such position, yet, the idea is, we should choose those who have anti-corruption performance at the DNA (…) I can speak about it, since I have run the DNA for the past seven and a half years, I know what I’m talking about and have no personal stake in the issue ,” the former DNA boss explained, who went on explaining that the Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Directorate (DIICOT), too should be run by somebody with relevant experience, and the Prosecutor General’s Office by “anybody”.
Brussels awaits CSM’s reaction
The European Commission took note of the government-proposed nominees for prosecutor general DNA head and won’t abandon its view on their being chosen following a selection process, yet, it awaits the Superior Council of Magistracy’s opinion on the issue, Mark Gray, European Commission spokesman, told Mediafax on Wednesday. He outlined he would not comment on the political situation created in Romania with respect to the issue concerned. Gray told HotNews.ro that no contacts have been established between President Traian Basescu, PM Victor Ponta and the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, over the events in the past couple of days”.
CSM’s go-ahead in two months’ time
Even if the CSM’s green light on the proposals is consultative only, with the appointment decisions being strictly up to President Basescu, the Council announced that the six candidates would be interviewed in late May, according to the calendar set by the Prosecution Department. The documents required to accompany the candidacies will be requested and processed during April 3 – 30.By May 21, the candidates’ management projects will be under public debate and verifications will be made of those registered for leadership positions.The public debate results and candidate verifications will be examined May 21-28 and candidate interviews will be held May 28-30. The CSM recommendations will be conveyed to the Ministry of Justice on June 3, according to the timetable.
Judges slam the ‘political bargain’
The National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) and the Association of Magistrates (AMR) consider that the top positions in PICCJ <Prosecutor’s Office of the Supreme Court>, DNA and DIICOT were negotiated on political criteria exclusively.
PSD takes over Justice Ministry from PNL
Wednesday was still a day of ‘surprises’. At the end of the USL leadership meeting, that PSD decided to assume the Ministry of Justice (MJ), and PNL consented. Ponta said no decision had been made on the ministry PNL would take in exchange for Justice. ‘It was decided that, if I assumed the field, I should also assume the ministry’, the USL leader said. Ponta noted that, with such solution, ‘there is no more difference in USL’. He said that, for the moment, he would continue as interim Justice Minister and then would nominate someone for the position. The premier avoided giving a name of the future justice minister, just saying he would prefer someone politically unengaged.PNL President Crin Antonescu said, after the USL meeting, that the decision had been to leave Justice in ‘Mr. Victor Ponta and his party’s political responsibility’. ‘And probably, from there on, also in the responsibility of Mr. Basescu, according to the agreements that have or have not been made’, Antonescu added. He noted that his party was not going to ask for another ministry in exchange for Justice and that he would continue to be PSD’s partner in USL, although the principle of ministry parity was not observed.