Toader: Klaus Iohannis is the President of the republic, but neither I nor you are jacks-of-all-trades. Many people chime in only to appear on TV
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Tuesday that the concern about losing prosecutors’ independence after the Constitutional Court’s decision on the dismissal of the Chief-Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) “has no coverage” and mentioned that “public debate is good”. “Romanians understand what the prosecutor’s independence means – to investigate, to perform criminal prosecution, to administer evidence. Justice’s administration is the Minister’s job” Toader explained.
In connection with statements by President Klaus Iohannis on the ruling by the Constitutional Court (CCR) regarding the removal from office of chief anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, Toader also said that what the head of state says is “not scripture,” adding that he is no jack-of-all-trades either.
Asked upon leaving the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) if the CCR’s ruling in Kovesi’s case subordinates prosecutors, as President Klaus Iohannis had claimed, Toader replied: “So what if President Klaus Iohannis has said that; his words are not scripture. President Iohannis is the president of the republic, but neither I nor you are jacks-of-all-trades, if we are to be realistic. I am not saying that he was wrong, he said what others probably told him.”
President Klaus Iohannis stated on Tuesday that he is awaiting the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR)’s motivation regarding the removal from office of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, highlighting that prosecutors mustn’t be “politically controlled” and the authority of the Justice Minister should be used to defend them.
“I am waiting for the Court’s motivation. (…) I am personally convinced that prosecutors must be independent. Prosecutors should under no circumstances be politically controlled. They cannot be within the remit of a politician. (…) There is an article in the Constitution saying that prosecutors act under the minister’s authority. I understand the minister has or should have authority in the field to defend prosecutors. (…) The minister’s authority should be directed to facilitating the prosecutors’ work. (…) I consider respecting Romania’s rule of law, taking care, as much as I can, that prosecutors stay independent, in observance of the Constitution,” the head of state affirmed at Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
Justice Minister was asked on Tuesday if the CCR decision on the dismissal of the Chief-Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) could be challenged or declared null, considering that one of the constitutional judges, Paul Lazaroiu, exceeded the 9-year mandate provided by the Constitution.
“The decisions produce consequences on the future. Judge Lazaroiu was appointed 8 years ago, for his second term. The Court’s decision was issued in the a priori control, before the law amending Law no.47 entered into force. The adopted law wasn’t sent to be promulgated anymore, therefore it doesn’t produce any consequences” Toader explained.
He reiterated that the CCR decision since March 2018 providing that the 9-year period cannot be exceeded is not related to the current mandates.
“In my opinion, and considering my experience as a former judge, the decision issued now definitely doesn’t affect and is not related to the current mandates. When the law will be promulgated, the question will be if a judge who had a remaining period of mandate can still have a full mandate. Until then, this is a discussion which many people chime, probably some of them want to be noticed, others want to value their political position, but legally speaking, I assure you things are like I said” Toader added.
Asked if the CCR decision subordinates prosecutors to the Minister, as President Klaus Iohannis claimed, Toader said: “But what the President says is not part of the Bible! Klaus Iohannis is the President of the republic, but neither I, nor you are good at everything”.
Toader mentioned, asking to a question, that he cannot say that President made a mistake when he made this statement. “He didn’t make a mistake, he said what others told him”.
Toader explained that there is “a principle saying that prosecutors are under the Justice Minister’s authority”, but he cannot interfere in criminal investigations. However, he has the role to administer the act of justice.
“Public debate is good, because this way Romanians understand what the prosecutor’s independence means – to investigate, to perform criminal prosecution, to administer evidence. Justice’s administration is the Minister’s job. I saw the concern which, I repeat, has no coverage. The statute of the magistrates and the prosecutors’ independence are not affected. Their functioning is improved” the Justice Minister concluded.
Iohannis: Constitutional Court judge’s term possibly having come to end, an issue, and not an easy one
President Klaus Iohannis said on Tuesday that if the term of a Constitutional Court judge has come to end, this is for the president of the Constitutional Court and not for the head of the state to acknowledge.
Asked if he considers the fact that the term of one of the judges on the CCR panel has exceeded nine years to be an issue, Iohannis replied: “Yes, I consider this to be an issue and not an easy one. Everybody expects the Constitutional Court to be the first to strictly respect the Constitution, but lately we have learned that doubts have arisen following a Court ruling that states itself that a term shall not exceed whatsoever nine years, but there is actually a judge who has been sitting on the panel for ten years already. Sorting out this matter is not easy, but it is highly regrettable that we have this situation on our hands, because by tolerating these longer terms, not to say otherwise, the Constitutional Court has single-handedly put itself in the position of seeing its observance of the Constitution supremacy, as set forth in the fundamental law, challenged.”
The head of state explained that he has no authority to determine whether a term of a CCR magistrate has come to end.
At the same time, asked what the consequences of this state of affairs would be, the head of state replied: “This is for sure a question many are asking themselves. If the CCR acts under such circumstances, what happens with the decisions that have already been handed down? For this we have to consult the experts and, paradoxically, in the end it’s again for the Constitutional Court to decide on its own constitutional conduct.”
Asked also if this is a strong enough argument for him to disregard the CCR decisions, Iohannis said: “I will respect the Constitution no matter what happens, and it is obvious that this time, those who have to clarify these issues are exactly the ones who created them.”
“Constitutional Court’s ruling cannot be discussed via referendum”
A ruling of the Constitutional Court (CCR) cannot be discussed via referendum, on Tuesday said President Klaus Iohannis, but specified that there are more and more politicians who question certain aspects of the independence of Justice and if necessary, a referendum on this matter could be called.
“A ruling of the CCR cannot be discussed via referendum. Matters from the perspective of the state’s construction can be discussed by referendum, but in the field (…) the state has had a very clear approach for more than ten years now, namely the independence of the prosecutors and their not being subdued to politics. This is very clearly anchored in the Romanian Justice and I don’t believe it must be subjected to a referendum now. But, surely we can see more and more politicians who somehow question certain aspects of the independence of Justice and if need be, we could call a referendum on this topic,” President Iohannis said at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
Moreover, when asked in connection with possible consultations with certain NGOs and the political parties on the CCR ruling, the President said: “If consultations seem necessary to find a good approach, consultations can certainly take place.”
President Iohannis: I do not fear any attempt of being suspended from office
President Klaus Iohannis also stated on Tuesday that he is not afraid of any attempt to suspend him from office, highlighting that there is no reason for something like this.
“I have noticed that many are preoccupied with the suspension from office. I can say that I am not. There is no reason for suspension and I am not afraid of any such attempt,” Iohannis said at Cotroceni Presidential Palace, when asked how he comments on the fact that one of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) leaders said that he is willing to gather signatures in order to suspend the head of state.