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October 5, 2022

Venice Commission President: A preliminary point of view on situation in Romania, at end of July

Radio Free Europe has interviewed Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio about the fast-forward amending of the Romanian judicial laws. Buquicchio has stated that “those in power want to change the laws because they are not satisfied with the decisions of the judiciary,” and has emphasised that countries such as Romania lack a solid democratic mentality precisely because they are part of the former communist bloc.

The President of the Venice Commission has revealed that the institution he represents is working on a preliminary opinion on the Romanian judicial laws, which will be made public at the end of July. It will concern the statute of judges, the structure of the judicial system and of the CSM: “We’ve been following the situation in Romania for several months already. Since the onset of the crisis we haven’t received any request from Romanian authorities or from the PACE to analyse the situation. Only in April did President Iohannis ask us to prepare an opinion. We are now working on this document. Last week, during the session in Venice, we had an exchange of opinions with the members of the Romanian Parliament: Mr Iordache, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and [with] the juridical adviser of President Iohannis. Considering the urgency of the situation, we are already working on a preliminary opinion, which will be ready by the end of July, will be sent to Bucharest, and we hope it will be taken into consideration. The opinion will refer to the statute of judges and the structure of the judiciary and of the Superior Magistracy Council. The criminal codes are not the object of this analysis, because nobody has asked us to do that yet.”

Asked whether President Klaus Iohannis should send another request regarding the Criminal Codes, Buquicchio said: “It’s unusual for a President to ask the opinion of the Venice Commission. Usually the Government, the Parliament, the PACE or the Secretary General of the Council of Europe are the institutions that do this.”

The President of the Venice Commission believes that “political interests” and “the mentality” lie at the base of the avalanche of attacks against the judiciary registered in Eastern European states: “There are political interests. I believe there is also an issue of mentality. There are elections, and the winners want to take everything. (…) So, in these countries there isn’t yet a democratic mentality, this idea of alternance in power: today it’s me, tomorrow it’s you, and we should do everything for the good of the people and of society. Those in power want to change the laws because they are not satisfied with the decisions of the judiciary.”

Asked what levers the Venice Commission has in case controversial laws are adopted in these countries despite the Venice Commission’s opinion to the contrary (Hungary has adopted a series of laws incriminating any person or group that helps an illegal immigrant who demands asylum. The package of laws has been named ‘Stop Soros’ – editor’s note), Gianni Buquicchio said: “As you know, we only have a moral lever, which unfortunately hasn’t worked in this case. In most cases, our recommendations are taken into consideration. Hungary could have applied at least some of our recommendations. (…) On the other hand, the EU has a series of levers. The European Commission has announced it will take measures. What measures, we will see.”

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