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May 17, 2021
JUSTICE POLITICS

President Iohannis: I’ve decided to refer justice laws to CCR, notify Venice Commission

President Klaus Iohannis announced on Wednesday having decided to refer to the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) the controversial package of justice legislation, and also to the Venice Commission.

“As it stands now, the legislative package amending justice legislation does not meet the requirements of a democratic state and the rule of law, as the Romanian Constitution emblematically proclaims in Article 1, nor the expectations of the Romanians who want an independent justice grounded in justice and unbiased. I have therefore decided to refer the entire legislative package back to the Constitutional Court and, at the same time, to bring the matter to the attention of the Venice Commission. I am therefore urging the Constitutional Court to take its time and to work with the European body that has been contributing for nearly 30 years to the development of a common constitutional heritage in Europe, and that supports states wishing to bring legal and institutional bodies in line with international standards and best practices in the fields of democracy, the pre-eminence of the rule of law and the protection of human rights, including by providing emergency constitutional support,” said Iohannis.

He expressed his conviction that the judges of the CCR “respect their status as guarantors of the supremacy of the fundamental law and defenders of democracy through law, so that they will display their entire openness to an approach that aims to ensure respect for the principles and values of European democracy in Romania.”

“After the court rules on these matters, I will make a new analysis of the laws and decide whether or not a review is necessary,” Iohannis said.

He mentioned the course of the laws of justice, adding that “one cannot watch passively as the Constitution is being rewritten.”

He pointed out that Law 303/2004 on the Statutes of Magistrates, Law 304/2004 on Judicial Organisation and Law no. 317/2004 on the organisation and functioning of the Supreme Council of Magistrates are not fully compliant either with the internal constitutional framework or with the European standards in the field.

 

Reactions

 

Toader: For me, the President notifying the CCR was predictable; he also has to substantiate. The statement regarding the rewriting of the Constitution is groundless

 

On Wednesday, at the end of the general debate on the amending of the Criminal Codes, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated that the President has the constitutional right to notify the CCR and the Venice Commission about the amendments to the judicial laws, that he was expecting this to take place, but that the manner of expressing oneself in public is up to each President. Referring to Iohannis’s concern about these laws, the Justice Minister said that the statement “is groundless.”

“I confess I’ve read [Iohannis’s statements] on the internet. I’ve said this very many times and I will repeat: we should know each other, we should respect the limits of our legal and constitutional prerogatives. The fact that the President of the Republic wants to notify the CCR, the Venice Commission, that is within the limits of the President’s constitutional prerogatives. The way he publicly expresses this prerogative is up to each President. (…) I too have seen his preoccupation, not to call it concern, with the possible rewriting of the Constitution on the go. This statement categorically has no grounds,” Tudorel Toader said.

Toader added that the CCR has admitted 22 legislative solutions out of the few hundreds to the three judicial laws.

“I’ve seen the statement according to which three CCR decisions were necessary on the judicial laws. It’s natural if you have three laws, each law is criticised, and the Court issues a decision each time it is notified. (…) The Court has admitted a total of 22 legislative solutions out of the three laws numbering hundreds of articles. Many of the ones admitted as unconstitutional concern legislative non-correlation and not the substance of a regulation that runs counter to the Constitution,” he added.

The Minister expressed his surprise with the fact that President expressed his “preoccupation” with the setting up of the section meant to investigate magistrates, since the CCR has decided it is constitutional.

“I’ve noticed he expressed his preoccupation with the fact that the three judicial laws have consecrated new institutions. Of course, he was referring to that special section for the investigation of potential guilty acts that magistrates may commit. This criticism surprised me because it indirectly criticises the CCR decision (…) that consecrated the constitutionality of the said legislative solution. Consequently, he has the constitutional prerogative to notify the CCR. For me it was predictable he would do so; he also has to substantiate it,” Tudorel Toader added.

 

Tariceanu: Supplementary notification of Venice Commission seems rather an overture meant to slow down or postpone the enforcement of the judicial laws

 

Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated on Wednesday that, when judging the notifications, Constitutional Court judges consider the Venice Commission’s recommendations too, so that President Klaus Iohannis’s supplementary notification represents an overture “that attempts to postpone the enforcement of the laws.”

“It was expected for the President to notify the CCR once the laws got to the presidential institution. I wasn’t harbouring any illusions that he wouldn’t resort to this instrument. I’m not able to tell you categorically, but (…) when the CCR performs the constitutionality check it always integrates the recommendations of the Venice Commission too, so I find the supplementary notification of the Venice Commission to be an overture that would rather slow down or postpone the enforcement of these laws,” Calin Popescu Tariceanu said.

 

Iordache: President is in desperate electoral campaign for October 2019

 

Florin Iordache, chairman of the special committee on the judicial laws, stated on Wednesday that President Klaus Iohannis is engaged “in a desperate electoral campaign for October 2019,” and that he does nothing but secure a loyal electorate.

“I believe the way the Constitutional Court was told not to hurry up… Well, nobody can ask that, not the Parliament, nor the President, nor the Government could establish a timetable for the CCR. The Constitutional Court’s plenum establishes the timetable and from whom it requests points of view,” Iordache said, referring to President Iohannis’s statement on Wednesday.

The Social Democrat House lawmaker claimed that the CCR has said that law no.304 and law no.317 are good laws that are in line with Venice Commission decisions.

“As long as the two laws – 304 and 317 – have already passed through the filter of the CCR and the CCR has said that yes, these are good laws, laws in line with the decisions of the Venice Commissions, and they were consequently sent to the President for promulgation, the only thing the President does is to continue his electoral campaign. We see he is engaged in a desperate electoral campaign for October 2019 and all these efforts he makes from the presidential stand are meant only to render loyal a certain electorate,” Florin Iordache stated.

 

Codrin Stefanescu: Iohannis is growing ever more cynical by the day, an ever-bigger fan of Monica Macovei, an ever-bigger saboteur in what concerns the idea that we must put an end to abuses once and for all

 

PSD Deputy Secretary General Codrin Stefanescu claims that with his announcement on the judicial laws, President Klaus Iohannis “is growing ever more cynical by the day, an ever-bigger fan of Monica Macovei, an ever-bigger saboteur” in what concerns the idea that the “abuses” of certain institutions must be stopped.

“Ever more often we are seeing these public statements in which Iohannis plays the role of communicator of this system we call the deep state, which is still working. We haven’t seen Iohannis reacting in what concerns the secret protocols. On the planet called Earth there are no secret protocols between intelligence services and prosecutor’s offices, the ICCJ, the CSM, all of this happened only in Romania. We are a completely negative role model at global level in what concerns intolerance and dictatorship,” the Social Democrat stated for Digi24.

He claimed that the President is becoming “an agent of this system.”

“Instead of taking note of these issues and saying it is not permitted in a democracy that my generation won with blood 29 years ago (…), Iohannis becomes a kind of agent of this system that proves what his role in this equation is. If he considers that in this manner he will win a new presidential term, I say he is completely wrong. But we must resist for a little over a year,” Codrin Stefanescu said.

 

USR’s Barna: Notifications announced by President are two very valuable pieces of news for Romanian democracy. Together with the PNL we will table no-confidence motion

 

Save Romania Union (USR) President Dan Barna stated on Wednesday that the notifications announced by President Klaus Iohannis in what concerns the judicial laws are two very valuable pieces of news for Romanian democracy. Barna added that PNL and USR will jointly table a no-confidence motion in the current legislative session.

“President Klaus Iohannis has informed us today that he will notify the CCR and the Venice Commission, and these are two very valuable pieces of news for Romanian democracy. President Iohannis is the most representative political person in the Romanian state, he was elected with almost 7 million votes, which gives him very big legitimacy, and through these decisions President Iohannis confirms what the USR has been saying for a year, that these laws are toxic and that they unequivocally attack the rule of law, starting with Ordinance no.13 and in Parliament via the creative means you know,” Dan Barna said.

The USR leader underscored that, for over a year, ever since it won the elections, “the PSD has done nothing but mount a structured and organised attack on the Romanian judiciary, and has attempted to subordinate it through all means.”

“It’s a concerted attack through which Liviu Dragnea is trying to subordinate the judiciary,” Barna claimed.

He pointed out that PNL and USR had talks on Wednesday and will table a no-confidence motion during the current parliamentary session.

 

Zegrean: If they badly want to draft the laws as they please, then of course the President has all right to notify the Venice Commission, but they might do the same afterward too

 

Former Constitutional Court President Augustin Zegrean stated on Wednesday, for Digi24, that it is the President’s right to notify the Venice Commission, especially against the backdrop in which, even though the CCR has issued a point of view, the parliamentary majority insists on modifying the judicial laws as it pleases. However, Zegrean pointed out that the Venice Commission’s recommendations are only recommendations, and nobody can force Parliament to adopt the law in a certain way.

Regarding the decision to notify the CCR, Zegrean said: “It’s the President’s right to do this. (…) And it’s a means for the President to contribute, to obligate – if one might call it so – that clean, nice and constitutional laws be adopted.”

“Notifying the Venice Commission is something that should have been done long ago, because they work there in sessions, there are only 4 sessions per year. (…) This Commission is a commission of the Council of Europe. The Venice Commission’s recommendations are only recommendations,” Augustin Zegrean added.

Asked what he thinks prompted Klaus Iohannis to notify the Venice Commission, even though he said he would not do so, the former CCR President said: “The fact that insistence is placed on the same manner of adopting the same texts. Maybe the President thought they would consider what he is saying, what the CCR is saying, what others are saying too, but it seems not. They stick to what they decided from the start, they always do so. At the Court there is a well-outlined practice which says that a text of law declared unconstitutional can no longer be introduced in another law, in any other form, ever. But if they insist and they badly want to draft the laws as they please, then of course the President has all right to notify the Venice Commission, but they might do the same afterward too. Nobody can force Parliament to adopt the law in a certain way. Only the CCR decisions, there is the Constitution that directs in a certain sense, but it’s a fairly wide block in which Parliament can act, however it is a shame that insistence is placed on things that are on nobody’s liking.”

For the CCR, the President will have to formulate notifications on each law and explain what articles he considers unconstitutional, and why. Likewise, there is the option of considering the law unconstitutional as a whole and arguing his notification in this sense, and the Court will have to analyse the legislative act as a whole, Augustin Zegrea explained.

 

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