Senate Speaker and Co-President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) Calin Popescu-Tariceanu announced on Thursday that he has drafted a law “meant to take the judiciary out from under political influence.” Tariceanu wants to file a draft law that would cancel the Romanian President’s prerogative to make key appointments within the judiciary, such as appointments for the office of President of the High Court of Justice (ICCJ), Attorney General, Chief Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Chief Prosecutor of the Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT). The appointments would instead be made by the High Court (ICCJ) and the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM).
“I want us to change the mechanism through which the President and the Justice Minister – in other words political factors – were intervening, to fully take it from under the influence of the political factor and to leave it up to the CSM – for prosecutors – and the ICCJ – for High Court judges – to choose the presidents, vice presidents and section presidents. I believe it’s a proposal that would consolidate confidence in these institutions, would strengthen the sentiment, the perception and reality of the total independence of the judiciary. Eliminating political decision-makers from the making of these appointments, so as to consolidate the progress made so far and to remove certain weaknesses that are currently observed,” Tariceanu stated at a press conference, Agerpres informs.
Tariceanu proposes the modification of Article 53 of Law no.303/2004 on the statute of judges and prosecutors, in the sense that the High Court of Justice should appoint, from among judges that have worked within the High Court for at least two years, its president, vice president and section presidents.
At this moment, Article 53, Paragraph 1 stipulates that the High Court President, Vice President and section presidents “are appointed by the Romanian President, at the proposal made by the Superior Magistracy Council, from among ICCJ judges that worked within that court for at least two years.”
Pointing out that “there has to be symmetry – those who appoint to office should also dismiss from office,” Calin Popescu-Tariceanu also proposes the changing of Article 53, Paragraph 6 of the law, so that dismissal from office would be made “by the ICCJ, which can take note ex officio, at the request of one third of its members or at the request of the court’s general assembly, for reasons stipulated by Article 51, Paragraph 2, appropriately applied.”
Their dismissal is currently made by the Romanian President, at CSM’s proposal.
Calin Popescu-Tariceanu explained that the draft law “does not include stipulations that would contradict Constitutional stipulations,” adding that the proposal will be put up for public debate.
“I expect the proposal to be discussed, amended in the process of debate within Parliament, improved through the contributions of my colleagues. I will receive with all openness also criticisms, if they exist, not only from fellow lawmakers. I expect a public debate. (…) In a way, this will be the moment of truth because there are many politicians – but not only politicians, I have seen NGOs too – who have pleaded on this topic, and I want to see how they relate to it when there is a concrete and real proposal on completely removing the political influence – whether they will endorse it or not. (…) It is my interest to discuss with all parties in order to form a majority,” the Senate Speaker added.
Asked whether the Head of State’s presence at the CSM meeting that decides on the appointments to the offices of Attorney General and Head of the DNA can be interpreted as possible political influence, Tariceanu replied: “It (the draft law – editor’s note) does not go into the Constitutional sphere, and I haven’t proposed the cancelling of the President’s prerogative to take part in and chair CSM meetings. (…) It is very difficult to quantify how great the influence may be. Strictly legally speaking, the simple presence is not an influencing factor.”
PSD’s Dragnea has “great reservations” about Tariceanu’s proposal concerning the appointment of chief prosecutors
Social Democrat Party (PSD) President Liviu Dragnea claims that Calin Popescu Tariceanu’s proposal seems similar to the intention of modifying the electoral law, adding that he has “great reservations” in what concerns the changing of the procedure before new appointments are made.
“I’m trying to abstain, but I want to make a single comment: it looks a lot like the intention to modify the [electoral] law. From what I know, some appointments are about to be made there too in a few months’ time,” Dragnea said when asked for his opinion on the Senate Speaker’s proposal. Asked whether PSD will back such a proposal in Parliament, the Social Democrat leader stated that “for the time being we are not talking about backing some intentions.” “I have reservations because appointments are about to be made over there too (at the Prosecutor’s Offices – editor’s note) in a few months’ time and it’s similar to what is being planned for the local elections law, namely to change the rules very fast before making these appointments. I’ve seen this before too, in 2005, back when the PSD Government, the Nastase Government had introduced this system agreed with the European Union and Basescu’s and Monica Macovei’s ultra-Democrat Government came along and made these appointments political. I am not talking about which option is better, but we have great reservations when the desire to modify procedures right before the appointments concerned are made appears,” Liviu Dragnea added.
PNL’s Predoiu: A completely fanciful and inappropriate proposal
The legislative proposal concerning the appointment of chief prosecutors by CSM, a proposal announced by Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu, is “completely fanciful and inappropriate,” against the backdrop of the publication of the CVM report, National Liberal Party (PNL) First Vice President Catalin Predoiu stated on Thursday evening.
“It is completely fanciful and inappropriate. (…) We recently received, two days ago, a report on the state of the judiciary, the progress made within the judiciary, authored by the European Commission, the famous CVM report, which is the best so far,” Predoiu stated on Realitatea TV. The former Justice Minister added that it is “unexplainable” why the changing of the judiciary system’s architecture has been proposed and that such a project should not be made “on a piece of napkin.”
“It is unexplainable why, at such a moment, you come up and say the architecture of the judiciary system is not right, we have to change the nominations. (…) Such a project is not done on a piece of napkin, even if it’s a Senate napkin. It is a project that has to come as a result of studies, analyses, simulations, debate forums within the judiciary system, without the judiciary system, with our partners from the European Commission, who have supported us in reforming the judiciary. You can’t come up today saying tomorrow we have to do this and that,” Predoiu added.
Likewise, in his opinion the draft law is an attempt to divert public attention away from the results of the CVM report, which scold Parliament. “I don’t believe it deserves too much attention, it’s rather an attempt to shift attention away from the conclusions of the report, which in my opinion are positive. In-between the positive conclusions, there are some negative ones that concern not the judiciary but the political system, the Parliament in particular,” Catalin Predoiu stated.