On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) organised a debate titled “Democracy and justice in Romania”, following the scandal generated by the government emergency ordinance (GEO) 13. MEPs wanted to hear the views of those directly involved in the events that took place against the backdrop of the adoption of the said legislative act. The speakers included Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu and journalists Liviu Avram (‘Adevarul’ daily) and Attila Biro (Rise Project). Likewise, around 20 representatives of the protesters who took to the streets in Romania’s main cities were present at the LIBE Committee debate on democracy and justice in Romania.
Present at the European Parliament JusMin Tudorel Toader explained the stage the Romanian judiciary finds itself in. He opened the debate, offering the same arguments that the Grindeanu Government has presented in what concerns the status of the judiciary. Namely the situation in penitentiaries, the fact that unless Romania solves this problem it will end up paying a fine issued by the ECHR.
The debate had extremely strict rules, which led to an exchange between Committee Chairman Claude Moraes (PES) and Gabriel Liiceanu, concerning the time the latter had at his disposal to address the proceedings.
Moraes was inflexible, so the debate continued with the representatives of civil society, and journalists such as Attila Biro and Liviu Avram.
Ex-Premier Dacian Ciolos, who paid a discrete visit to Brussels, was also present in the room.
JusMin Toader: GEO 13, not a problem itself, civic society reacted to unnatural adoption way
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Wednesday, at a debate organised by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), that the problem was not government emergency ordinance no.13 (GEO 13) which decriminalised several offences but the fact that the legislative act was adopted at night.
“The emergency ordinance itself was not a problem. The problem was maybe procedural: when and how it was adopted. Society reacted to the fact that the ordinance was adopted at 10-11 p.m., which is very true and very unnatural. It’s just that the Government could have allowed the ordinance to come into force on the day it was published in the Official Journal. The Government gave a ten-day deadline for the ordinance to go into force, hence I personally suspected lack of ability in legislative technique rather than an intent to legislate at night,” Tudorel Toader stated during the debate within the LIBE Committee.
Tudorel Toader criticised the probe that the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) carried out into the way GEO 13 was adopted, stating that the Constitutional Court of Romania’s (CCR) decision that notes the existence of a juridical conflict between the legislative branch and the judicial branch was very much on his liking.
“The Constitutional Court adopted a decision that I like very much, a principled decision through which it decided that the legislator has the competence to appreciate the advisability of a law, that the prosecutor doesn’t have the competence to criminally probe the ministers who have the liberty to deem when and how to adopt a legislative act. Through its ruling, the CCR decided that there was a juridical conflict. The important thing is what it decided for the future: that the prosecutor cannot investigate ministers who adopt legislative acts,” Toader added.
The Justice Minister warned that all three branches of government “should remain within their constitutional channel” and should no longer interfere in each other’s prerogatives.
“I’ve asked and I’m asking each of the three branches of government to remain within their constitutional channel. The rule of law’s architecture is well-conceived, it also needs to be well-known and well-observed. If that doesn’t happen, the branches risk exceeding their constitutional channels and entering other authorities’ area of competence, as happened with the now famous GEO 13/2017,” Tudorel Toader concluded.
“We face legislative inflation, have started a project to transpose all CCR decisions”
Romania is confronted with a “legislative inflation” said on Wednesday in Brussels the Justice Minister, Tudorel Toader, adding that at the relevant ministry’s level a project is kicked off to transpose all the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR)’s decisions.
“Legislation in Romania has known a dynamic, a continual evolution, an irreversible dynamic. Although at some point syncope in the regulation occur, the dynamic and standard the legislation, the regulation have touched has an irreversible character. Unfortunately, we have a legislative inflation, we have – and this is my personal opinion – very many laws, too many laws hard to have knowledge of, hard to enforce, sometimes hard to be interpreted by the jurists, let alone the citizen who is called to observe the law,” the minister said.
In the context, he said there are a lot of Constitutional Court’s decisions that have never been transposed into legislation.
“There are decisions by the CCR yet never transposed into legislation, I mean they are pronounced, but the legislator did not adjust the legislation to the CCR decisions yet, and I, as a minister have started to crayon a draft law to transpose all of the CCR decisions. We still have several directives that have reached their deadline and are not yet transposed. I’ve started to make a draft law so to transpose the not yet transposed directives, of course within the acumen of the national legislator,” added Toader.
“I’m not getting orders from anyone; I was given full guarantees of independence”
Present in Brussels on Wednesday, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader also stated that he was given “full guarantees of independence” when he was asked to take over this portfolio, so that he does not receive orders “from anyone.”
“I was asked to take over the Justice portfolio and I was given full guarantees of independence. I’m not getting orders from anyone, I have full freedom in appointing the secretaries of state, I have full freedom in saying ‘we won’t adopt emergency ordinances,’ I have full freedom in tabling bills,” Toader said.
“Granting of pardons is not the miracle solution to the problem of overcrowding in penitentiaries”
At the same time, Tudorel Toader also stated that the granting of pardons is not a “miracle” solution to the problem of overcrowding in penitentiaries.
“We have 27,234 convicts in penitentiaries, we have the not at all pleasant outlook of a pilot-decision from the ECHR, a not at all pleasant outlook of being condemned for the violation of detention conditions. In the Romanian Parliament, there is a bill on the granting of pardons. Yesterday I went to Parliament and asked the postponement of the debate on the bill, in order for the Government to catch up with complementary measures, because the granting of pardons is not the miracle solution that would solve, now and in the future, the problem of overcrowding in penitentiaries, and the Judicial Committee agreed and postponed the debates in order for us to come up with that bill,” the minister said.
Likewise, he emphasised that all efforts are being made for Romania to no longer be under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
“We are under the CVM’s aegis, we’ve started overtures so that all institutions involved in the CVM would join competencies, efforts, to respond to the conditions, the requirements of the mechanism. It’s true that where the mechanism does not entail objective conditions, some of them are with a different component, as moving objectives, and we will perform all due diligence to see how we can fulfil them so that in the end we would obtain the lifting of the mechanism,” Toader pointed out.
Liiceanu in European Parliament: “PSD-ALDE Gov’t made its debut with frontal attack on the judiciary”
Writer Gabriel Liiceanu talked before MEPs about the Grindeanu Government, the adoption of GEO 13, but also about the effects it would have had if it had come into force. “The Prosecutor General’s Office and the DNA are the number one target for these people,” the philosopher claimed. The statements were made in the European Parliament debate on democracy and the judiciary in Romania, following the scandal generated by the adoption of GEO 13, which would have brought several controversial amendments to the Criminal Codes.
Liiceanu pointed out that high-level corruption has pushed Romania at the bottom of many European rankings. “Starting in 2000, with the Social Democratic Government led by Adrian Nastase, a Prime Minister convicted for corruption, corruption became systematic and professional in Romania, sponging off the country’s budget through rigged tenders favouring companies owned by politicians and their families and acolytes. The country was divided between regional masters holding political and administrative offices. They were dubbed barons, enriching themselves at levels of tens and hundreds of millions of euros. Nobody can say of how many billions of euros Romania was robbed during these 27 years,” the writer stated at the plenary meeting.
According to him, “through a fortunate turn of events,” the National Anticorruption Directorate was established. Based on the DNA’s probes against “several thousand politicians,” around 430 million euros were paid as bribes in 2015 alone.
“On 11 December 2016, the PSD-ALDE coalition won the parliamentary elections by a landslide, with the votes cast by just 18 percent of the total number of Romanian voters. Nobody challenged or intends to challenge this result,” Liiceanu pointed out. The writer then pointed out that “at this moment, Romania has at the helm of Parliament two criminally convicted or currently indicted persons” and that the new Government “had as its main goal helping the plethora of lawbreakers avoid serving prison time.”
“The PSD-ALDE Government made its debut with a frontal attack on the judiciary. The emergency ordinance that the Government adopted on the night of January 31, which decriminalised those criminally convicted, would have removed from under the rigours of the law first of all the heads of the two parties that are in charge of the coalition. This is where we are and this is the truth,” Liiceanu stated.
The writer also expressed his belief that PSD President Liviu Dragnea and his party and ruling coalition colleagues “would refrain from nothing to avoid prison and save their wealth.”
“The Prosecutor General’s Office and the DNA are the number one target for these people,” the philosopher concluded.
Since the start of his speech, Liiceanu pointed out that he is talking as “a practitioner of the profession of citizen.”
He started his speech by referring to a Russian fairy tale about a hand glove that a hunter loses in the forest in wintertime. “A rabbit enters it first, seeking shelter, then a fox, then a wolf, then a bear. Well, the hunter’s hand glove are the minutes that LIBE has allocated for my speech. The rabbit, the fox, the wolf and the bear are the current events in Romania’s history. And I find myself in the situation of cramming them all in the European hand glove of the ten minutes I was offered,” Liiceanu said.
President Iohannis: “I think it was very good that Tudorel Toader went to the EP debate. Sometimes there are inaccuracies”
President Klaus Iohannis believes that it was “very good” that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader took part in the European Parliament (EP) debate on government emergency ordinance no.13 (GEO 13), being of the opinion that sometimes there are “inaccuracies” in the interpretation of events and that is why notable individuals can come up with explanations.
“I find it very good that the minister went there to clarify these things. It’s possible for certain incomplete presentations to appear sometimes and this is precisely why it’s very important for ministers, notable individuals from Romania, to take part in these debates, to bring their contribution to clarifying Romania’s positions,” the President said.
“Parliament’s right to trigger referendums can be discussed. Nicolicea’s bill is not great”
President Klaus Iohannis stated on Wednesday that he does not find Eugen Nicolicea’s initiative to curtail the Head of State’s prerogative to trigger referendums to be “great,” but considers that Liviu Dragnea’s idea on Parliament’s right to hold popular consultations is a topic that can be discussed.
PSD’s Dragnea to Civil Liberties Committee chair: Liiceanu’s statement at LIBE debate entirely false
Gabriel Liiceanu’s statement is entirely false and does not reflect whatsoever the reality of Romania, Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Liviu Dragnea said in letter addressed this Wednesday to Claude Moraes, Chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament.
Dragnea wrote the LIBE Chairman in connection with the debate hosted by the LIBE Committee on the same day, devoted to discussing Romania’s democracy and justice system.
“I am compelled to write to you because one of the guests to the debate, Mr. Gabriel Liiceanu, made the following claim about me in his speech: ‘Here is the explicit statement the PSD head made at a television station last week: we must focus on the dismissal of the DNA chief prosecutor, on the dismissal of Ms. Kovesi’. I hereby submit to your attention this claim of Mr. Liiceanu which is entirely false and does not reflect in any way the reality of Romania. I have never made this statement and never said anything in the sense suggested by Mr. Liiceanu. On the contrary, in all my public statements on this subject I did not even make a hint that Ms. chief prosecutor should be sacked from the DNA helm. More than that, I always reminded the Romanian mass media and public opinion what I also said during the recent electoral campaign, specifically that ‘we, as a party, never had and do not have the intention to request the removal from office of Romania’s three chief prosecutors: the Attorney general, the DIICOT chief prosecutor and the DNA chief prosecutor’ (a statement I recently resumed on February 28),” Dragnea said in the letter.
The Chamber of Deputies Speaker added that following a Constitutional Court ruling according to which DNA’s investigation in the Government’s actions was illegal and unconstitutional, journalists often asked him if this is not a solid enough reason to dismiss the DNA leadership.
At the same time, according to the letter, PSD supports the need for reform of the law on the judiciary in line with the previous observations of the Constitutional Court, in terms of strengthening justice independence, the separation of the state powers, but also the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.