JUSTICE POLITICS

Heated polemics after CSM issues negative report on bill amending judiciary laws. Bill will be sent to Parliament

The controversial judiciary laws proposed by Minister Tudorel Toader could be sent to Parliament to be voted as soon as possible. The information was confirmed by several Social Democrats who attended the PSD’s National Executive Committee meeting in Sucevita over the weekend. The sources said that the result of the PSD leaders’ talks was that the package must end up in Parliament very quickly, next week or in two weeks’ time at the latest.

Meanwhile, as expected, the negative report that the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) issued on the bill modifying the judiciary laws has sparked heated polemics and debates in the public space.

It remains to be seen what will happen with Toader’s proposed amendments to the judiciary laws, especially after the U.S. ambassador stated that the American Government is worried that the modifications might “reverse Romania’s path in what concerns the rule of law,” and the Supreme Magistracy Council voted against the bill. On Friday, President Klaus Iohannis stated that the laws should be renegotiated within the judiciary, while confessing that some European leaders have expressed their concerns about “developments that could run against the rule of law in Romania.”

On the other hand, Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu wrote on Facebook that he supports the package of laws in the form proposed by Tudorel Toader, while the associations of magistrates claimed that the judiciary needs improvements.

 

National Union of Judges: Judiciary needs improvements to bring it up to democratic standards

 

The National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) points out, following the negative report that the CSM plenum issued on the judiciary laws, that “the judiciary needs improvements to bring it up to democratic standards.”

“Contrary to the negative report on the bill modifying the judiciary laws, report issued by the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) in a 10-8 vote cast on 28 September 2017, the need to improve the judiciary is a necessity in order to correct the incontestable problems it is facing and to bring it up to the standards of a democratic judiciary. The UNJR has constantly expressed the need to improve the judiciary laws and has pointed out that the bill modifying these laws, proposed by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, has some good parts, others that can be improved and some that cannot be accepted, requiring their rethinking or exclusion,” the UNJR points out in a press release.

According to the aforementioned source, there were numerous general assembly meetings in which the proposals were analysed distinctly, point-by-point, some being accepted, others improved and others rejected.

“Judges from all over the country, both through general assembly meeting and through associations, made special efforts to analyse each proposal and, in their own turn, came up with other proposals that would have contributed to a better functioning of the judiciary. The need to modify the judiciary laws stemmed precisely from the corps of magistrates, so that this necessity cannot be denied. The package of laws contained directives that, following Constitutional Court rulings, required urgent implementation. Among them the procedure to revoke CSM members, whose regulation is imperative,” the UNJR points out.

The Union’s representatives claim that separating the careers of judges and prosecutors was also among the proposals, “something imperatively demanded by judges.”

“At the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that a part of the Justice Minister’s proposals was not endorsed by judges, their reconsideration being necessary. We took note of the fact that the Justice Minister has declared he is considering the Italian model as a solution for the Judicial Inspection, with the Inspection being an independent institution. Such a model would answer in a much better way the guarantees for the defence of the independence of the judiciary. We interpret the reconsideration of the stance regarding the Inspection as a positive signal from the minister, in the sense that he listens to the arguments of the corps of magistrates and is open to proposals from within the system, proposals which truly consolidate the independence of the judiciary,” the aforementioned source points out.

Likewise, the UNJR points out it took note of Justice Minister Tudorel Toader’s statements according to which he will take into consideration the proposals made in this consultative process.

“During the following period, the UNJR will send directly to the Justice Minister our proposed modifications to the judiciary laws and will endorse them throughout the length of the entire legislative process. The improvement of the judiciary, in order to bring it up to democratic standards, is a necessity that any responsible person from the helm of the state must support,” the source concludes.

 

Klaus Iohannis: New negotiation of the content is needed. It would be wise to return to talks

 

Present in Tallinn on Friday, President Klaus Iohannis stated that, following the CSM’s negative report on the judiciary laws, “they have to go back to the text, they have to renegotiate” with the judiciary, because reform cannot be made otherwise.

The Head of State pointed out that the CSM’s negative report on the Justice Minister’s proposed amendments to the judiciary laws must give their initiators’ a lot of food for thought.

“Here we’re not talking about the answer of some persons from the CSM. You know very well that meetings were held with almost all magistrates, I believe, and so the result is the result of a process that preoccupied and stirred the entire judiciary. Simplistic responses the likes of ‘they oppose the reform,’ I don’t believe they are appropriate in this situation. My opinion is that they have to go back to the text, they have to re-negotiate, they must see how it can be built, if the reformation of the system is really desired, so that it would be done jointly with the system. At least for me, it’s unimaginable for a reform of the system to be made against the system, that would be a big mistake,” the President stated.

In his opinion, people from the system are “very well qualified” and “it would be wise to return to the stage of discussion with the system.”

Asked if these bills must be withdrawn, Klaus Iohannis stated: “In my opinion, there is the need for a new negotiation of the content, with the judiciary, because people there are very well qualified people, magistrates who know the system, know the laws. So, we’re not talking about people who do not know the content, they know it very well, and I believe it would be wise to return to the stage of discussing with the system,” the Head of State argued.

 

“People are voicing worries on certain developments that might contradict idea of rule of law”

 

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis on Friday said he has received in Tallinn a series of opinions regarding worries on certain developments that might come into contradiction with the idea of rule of law.

Although the Justice reform in certain European countries was not a topic in the formal talks, the president said that he has received these worries informally.

“You know how such meetings take place: we get there one by one and stay in the lobby for an hour and talk. And then obviously we are all politicians and leaders, presidents or prime ministers. And when you meet someone: <> And there is an exchange of experience. And yes, the people have voiced worries about certain developments that perhaps would contradict the idea of rule of law,” president Iohannis said.

According to him, there is growing interest towards Romania.

“Essentially, I have to say that this makes me happy. If Romania and the Romanians do preoccupy them, this is good for us, at least I have a feed-back that something is known about us. (…) It might only be beneficial, because I hope that any deeper knowledge of the Romanian realities will eventually lead to removing ungrounded fears. For example: the entire Schengen topic is based on certain fears which after all could be easily dispelled were the situation in Romania known. We have very safe borders, much safer than the majority of the European countries and it’s good for these things to be known. (…) I talk every time with those who show reticence, they voice their visions and I voice mine. Hopefully, we’ll find an easy way to solve it,” the head of state said.

 

PSD’ Dragnea: President Iohannis’s stance is not correct

 

Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea stated on Friday, in Sucevita, at the end of the party’s National Executive Committee meeting, that he finds President Klaus Iohannis’s stance on the judiciary bills incorrect, pointing out that the talks will resume as part of the parliamentary debate.

“I don’t believe President Iohannis’s stance is the correct stance, that the judiciary laws must be buried because the CSM, meaning the prosecutors and three judges, considering that most of the magistrates claim there must be legislative amendments,” Liviu Dragnea stated, referring to the opinions expressed by associations of magistrates which endorsed the amending of existing legislation in the judiciary domain.

“I didn’t see in this area a complete rejection of these bills,” the PSD leader deemed.

He pointed out that the vote within the CSM was very balanced too, so that it is difficult to talk about a unitary position of the corps of magistrates. Likewise, Dragnea was puzzled that those who voted in favour of the negative report rejected as a whole the legislative package drafted by the Justice Ministry. “The moment you reject everything, I find it very hard to believe it was a decision of good faith,” Liviu Dragnea said.

He pointed out that the debates are not over and will resume within the Legislative. “This (consultations with magistrates – editor’s note) should take place in Parliament, because that is where laws are made in Romania and I believe that is where these transparent, open, but good-faith debates should take place,” Dragnea concluded.

 

JusMin: CSM does something inconceivable by rejecting, as a whole, solutions to bring judiciary laws in line with Constitution

 

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said on Thursday that by giving a negative opinion on the bill submitted by the Ministry of Justice, the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM) did something inconceivable, it rejected, as a whole, the solutions aimed at bringing the laws of justice in line with the Constitution.

“The bill for the amendment of the laws of justice, like any draft law, has support and opposition as well, a proof being the CSM today. But I am not referring to someone’s wish or option, but I am referring to normality, on the one hand, and I am referring to the requirements of the Constitution, on the other hand. (…) By rejecting, of course, with an advisory opinion the draft law, practically the CSM has done what is inconceivable, it rejected as a whole those solutions in the bill that were aimed at bringing in line the judiciary laws with the Constitution in light of the decisions of the Constitutional Court. The Court’s decisions are mandatory and one cannot vote and reject as a whole those solutions, but surely they will be made right and will be adopted without any discussion,” Tudorel Toader told Antena 3.

 

Toader: I have the conviction that the CSM’s negative vote also expresses the desire to conserve the current privileges of magistrates

 

On Thursday evening, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader explained his absence from the CSM plenum meeting which saw the passing of a negative repot on the proposed amendments to the judiciary laws.

“It was, first of all, a predictable vote because a significant part of the members of CSM had expressed themselves, on countless occasions, against the bill modifying the judiciary laws. (…) Note the fact that the prosecutors opposed it en masse. Why? Why were some of the judges in favour, but all prosecutors were against it, en masse? Apart from their arguments, which I do not dispute, I believe there are other arguments too,” the Justice Minister told Antena 3.

He said one of the arguments would be the fact that he brought into the public space the debate on “the separation of careers.”

The Minister said that, in line with current legislation, a prosecutor can become a judge and a judge can become a prosecutor, and he wondered why there are more prosecutors wanting to become judges while the cases in which judges want to become prosecutors are only the exceptions.

“The statute of prosecutors differs – via constitutional provisions – from the statute of judges, which means that via a norm of constitutional rank prosecutors are closer to the executive side of power (…) and judges do not have such a subordination toward the president of the court. Prosecutors have stability, judges have irremovability. Hence, I believe prosecutors were against this bill en masse, passed a negative advisory report, because they want a merger of the two statutes, of the two offices, while the Constitution circumscribes the competences. (…) The provisions allow a prosecutor to become judge and a judge to become prosecutor. The apparently rhetorical question is why the number of those who want to switch from one office to the other favours the prosecutors, meaning there are more prosecutors wanting to become judges and only as an exception a judge wanting to become a prosecutor, and I believe this is where the prosecutors’ attitude stems from,” the Justice Minister stated.

Tudorel Toader added that he is convinced that “the negative vote also expresses the desire to conserve the current privileges that magistrates have.”

He also explained his absence from the CSM meeting, stating he knew the result of the vote beforehand.

“I knew beforehand the configuration of the vote and the report that will be received. (…) My presence would have been maybe liable to determine even more heated debates, but without influencing the vote in any way,” the Justice Minister said.

“Let’s not talk solely for the sake of categorical phrases and, of course, about an office which is respectable and which carries out a useful, necessary activity… but the judiciary laws, dating back to 2004, 13 years ago, before we joined the European Union, have consolidated in time, through multiple modifications, the statute of the magistrate – prosecutor or judge – but not only the professional statute of independence, of exercise of prerogatives, but also collaterally the privileges they brought about for themselves. And I’ll give you an example for which a solution should be found. At one point, the judges ruled that a juridical norm is not abrogated, despite it being explicitly abrogated by the lawmaker, and consequently all magistrates’ salaries grew by 50 percent,” Tudorel Toader told Antena 3.

 

Tudorel Toader: All tensions with CSM and DNA only serve as arguments for taking Judicial Inspection from under CSM’s wardship

 

On Thursday evening, in an interview for Antena 3, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader added that all tensions between the Judicial Inspection and the CSM, as well as between the Judicial Inspection and the DNA, only serve to confirm that this institution should be taken out from under the wardship of the CSM.

According to the Justice Minister, two models are taken into account for the consolidation of the Judicial Inspection’s independence: the French one – with the JI at the Justice Ministry, and the Italian one – with the JI as an independent institution.

“Surely, the Judicial Inspection must consolidate its independence. Surely, the Judicial Inspection requires some reconsiderations at normative level. For instance, not to have a head of the Judicial Inspection with a life-long mandate, for him to have a limited mandate, because the rule in Romania and everywhere is that of limited mandates. There are three options: for the Inspection to remain at the CSM, but with the consolidation of its independence; for the Inspection to be transferred to the Justice Ministry. And I was saying, and I’m saying it today too, there is also the Italian model, a model in which the Judicial Inspection is under the umbrella of neither the CSM nor of the Justice Ministry, but is a distinct entity which has its own competences, its own law based on which it functions and is organised and which thus confers to it guarantees of independence in carrying out its prerogatives. At this moment, the law in force features functional incompatibility, because the CSM adopts the regulations, after which the Judicial Inspection carries out its activity. Namely the auditee draws up the auditor’s regulations. (…) The rules must be established by law. After which, the JI’s report must be subjected to the CSM’s approval, namely I come up with the conclusions for the one who audited me,” Toader stated.

He claimed that the tension seen recently, namely since the bill amending the judiciary laws was announced, only serves to bring arguments in favour of his opinion, of taking the Judicial Inspectorate out from under the CSM’s wardship.

“All this tension between the Judicial Inspection and the CSM, even between CSM members, even between the DNA and the Judicial Inspection, the auditee and the auditor, has only served to bring out to the surface this dysfunctionality, and has only served to bring solid arguments in favour of my opinion that the Judicial Inspection must come out from under the wardship, the umbrella of the CSM,” Tudorel Toader added.

In this context, he also mentioned the states that do not have a CSM, adding that in Romania the existence of the CSM is stipulated in the Constitution.

“There is also the model of many states that do not have a CSM. States with consolidated democracy, states where the branches of government are separate and in balance, checks and balances. We have the CSM, it is written in the Constitution,” Toader added.

 

War of words between Tudorel Toader and Ambassador Hans Klemm

 

JusMin Toader: U.S. ambassador is not a jurist, does not know mechanism of rule of law in Romania

 

On Thursday evening, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader reacted to the statements that U.S. Ambassador to Bucharest Hans Klemm made on the issue of the bill amending the judiciary laws, saying that U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm is not a jurist and does not know the mechanisms of the rule of law in Romania.

“I had three meetings with the United States ambassador, but official meetings, not private ones, because the relations between us are not of private nature. All three were held at the Ministry of Justice, all three were at the request of the US ambassador. (…) I can tell you that the US ambassador is not a lawyer on the one hand and on the other hand he does not know the mechanisms of the rule of law in Romania, the architecture of the Romanian authorities, and then I think it is hard to integrate a proposal for change into a legislative context that you do not know,” Tudorel Toader told Antena 3.

The minister added that the ambassador was very surprised when he learned that the initiative to amend the judiciary laws came from the Superior Council of Magistracy itself.

 

US Ambassador Klemm: The progress made by Romania in fighting corruption can be quantified

 

US Ambassador to Bucharest Hans Klemm on Friday stated, in an interview granted to AGERPRES, that the progress made by Romania in fighting corruption can be quantified, while the current proposals to modify the judiciary laws could drag down the judiciary institutions of the country, to a point where the county did not look so good in terms of anti-corruption fight and the rule of law.

“He is correct. I do not have a formal legal training. However I do have formal training in economics (…) very much a work based on fact and statistics; our concern about the progress of the rule of law in Romania is not just based on feeling, nor is it based on a lack of knowledge of what has occurred in Romania,” said the diplomat when asked for his comments on Toader’s statements according to which “he is not a jurist and does not understand the mechanisms of the rule of law in Romania.”

Klemm also underscored that the “progress that has been achieved in Romania regarding the country’s fight against corruption, regarding its efforts to ensure the independence of the judiciary, regarding its work to consolidate its institutions of democratic governance, but also of the rule of law is very much appreciated by the United States.”

“And this progress can be quantified,” he pointed out.

“The World Bank, for example, maintains indicators on governance for every country that is part of the World Bank, including Romania. And if you look at their world governance indicators – there are six of them, but two of them have direct bearing on this question, one of them being they monitor control of corruption, and they monitor the rule of law. And if you look at the World Bank statistics over the period 2004 to 2015, the latest that they have, Romania’s position under control of corruption has increased by 20 percent. On strengthening the rule of law, it has increased by 30 percent,” said Klemm.

He also talked about Transparency International, a highly respected international NGO based in Berlin that conducts an annual survey on perceptions people have regarding corruption in the country, noticing that Romania has managed to jump 30 places in this ranking. “Romania’s rank jumped 30 places during this time; it has improved 30 places. There is only, I think, two or three other countries that have a similar increase. So, this is a quantification of the substantial improvement in Romania’s fight against corruption and the strengthening of the rule of law,” said the American official.

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