“Plumb and Shhaideh should have resigned or been removed”
President Klaus Iohannis said on Tuesday evening that ministers Rovana Plumb and Sevil Shhaideh, both subjected to anti-corruption investigations, should have resigned or been removed from office.
He has said that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader’s approach to verifying the legality of a Government Decision is inadequate, with the head of state arguing that if he found that some things are not well clarified in the judiciary, he had to come up with an act to correct them.
“Minister Toader has confused his position now with the position of university professor or rector he had before. If we speak theoretically, then there can be a discussion on the competence of administrative litigation, constitutional litigation or other related issues about who is in charge of what in Romania. It is true that this discussion can be held, and if we are to remain in the purely theoretical area, there are some aspects that are interesting and important for many, but Mr. Toader is not a university professor at the moment, but minister of justice. So, in his capacity as minister of justice, if he found that certain things were not well clarified in the Romanian judiciary, he did not have to make theoretical statements, but had to come up with an act that corrected, for example, the Civil Procedure Code. Therefore, the minister’s approach seems inappropriate to me,” Iohannis said at the Cotroceni Palace.
According to the president, the cases of prosecutors’ abuse should be resolved by the Higher Council of Magistrates, which deals with complaints of this kind, and by the policy in the field of justice.
“Impressive number of influential politicians attack Justice, full civic involvement needed”
President Klaus Iohannis stated on Tuesday that an “impressive” number of politicians have attacked the Justice since the parliamentary elections until now, adding that “full” civic involvement is needed in this case, and yet he is not calling for people to protest but to speak their mind.
“We cannot fail to notice that since the parliamentary elections until now, an impressive number of influential politicians have been busy attacking the Justice, the prosecutors, the procedures of the law, conveying to the population the impression that the Justice is not functioning. Certainly, one could easily notice that many of these influential politicians are either criminally indicted, or underway of being prosecuted, or being under criminal investigation. (…) Before the elections I have repeatedly drawn the voters’ attention that it would be very serious for people indicted or criminally prosecuted, that we generically call ‘criminals’ reach the helm of the state because that would automatically lead to an immense pressure on the Justice. It has happened. That is why full civic involvement is needed, there is the urgency that all who want the rule of the law in Romania and who want an independent Justice make it public and speak up. I by no means wish to create the impression that I want to call people out to protest or for any major divergences to occur, but a healthy society – and I want a healthy society for Romania – is compelled to publicly discuss these issues, because ultimately, they affect us all,” Iohannis stated at Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
He argued that in the case of certain Justice procedures the Venice Commission should be consulted but mentioned that this forum’s opinion is advisory.
“The Venice Commission was approached on certain issues and will continue to be, and yes, on certain procedures, it is quite indicated to call for the Venice Commission’s opinion, however this opinion is advisory and it’s up to us to solve the problems we have. A lot of caution is therefore needed, and also public debate,” Iohannis said.
Several civic and non-governmental organisations addressed on Monday a letter to President Klaus Iohannis requesting, among other things, the notification of the Venice Commission for an opinion regarding three decisions and resolutions of the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) and the immediate establishment of a committee to draw up an electoral code.
According to a press release of the Romania Initiative association, the signatories of the demarche also request from the head of state “action and the immediate expression of a trenchant position regarding the grave and imminent danger that the initiatives of the current governmental majority represents to the independence of Justice and the anti-corruption fight.”
“Removal of president from appointment procedure of chief prosecutors fundamental mistake”
President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday night said that the proposal for the head of state to be removed from the appointment procedure of the chief prosecutors is a fundamental mistake, motivating that it is only thanks to the President’s presence in this procedure that Romania made it to have a consistent anti-corruption activity, with recognition at European and international level.
“I, personally, have spoken on this intention of so-called reform of the justice laws and clearly expressed my opinion that several points over there seem to me wrong and the approaches mistaken (…) There are too many points the ones directly targeted have to examine, these points are having to do with the Justice organisation, and yet two things do worry me a lot: the fact that they propose for the President to be removed from the chief prosecutors’ appointment procedure, I find this fundamentally wrong, because it is only through the presence of the President in this procedure that Romania has come to have a consistent anti-corruption activity, recognised not only at European level, but also worldly, and the President, and I am not talking only about the person of Klaus Iohannis, but of Romania’s President, is the warrantor that the anti-corruption fight is not politically subordinated,” the president said at the Cotroceni presidential Palace.
He also said that the subordination of the Judicial Inspection (IJ) to the Ministry of Justice is paving way to the risk of a political pressure.
“The second issue making way in the so-called Justice reform is also deeply worrying to me, namely the proposal that the Judicial Inspection is not subordinated to the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) anymore, which according to the Constitution, is guaranteeing the independence of Justice, and put it under the wand of the Ministry of Justice, which is a fully political body and the fact that the current Justice Minister is not a member of a political party makes no change here. In principle, the government is a political institution, formed of politicians and the subordination of the Judicial Inspection to a minister obviously brings about a political pressure’s risk upon the IJ,” Iohannis asserted.
The president specified he had discussions with all institutional partners on this matter, adding that he has no signals whatsoever that the Judicial Inspection doesn’t work.
“I have signals that various opinions exist and these opinions must be clarified, obviously, by those who are called to guarantee the independence of Justice, so by the CSM, and not by the politicians, who have nothing to do not even with having opinions there, in the Judicial Inspection,” Iohannis concluded.
“Pleased with DNA activity”
President Klaus Iohannis stated on Tuesday that he is pleased with the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) activity, considering that the allegations at the Chief Prosecutor of DNA, Laura Codruta Kovesi “have gone too far”.
“Yes, I do trust the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), as these discussions show there are different opinions and they are being discussed, it would have been worse had there not been any debates at all. (…) Yes, I am pleased with the DNA’s activity and if there are any such complaints [regarding the existence of allegations that the DNA Chief Prosecutor is pressuring prosecutors – ed.n] then they will definitely be solved at CSM,” Iohannis said.
He did not want to comment on Laura Codruta Kovesi’s demarche to notify the Judicial Inspection in the case of the Justice Minister’s statements.