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October 5, 2022

Draft motion for resolution on rule of law in Romania: European Parliament, deeply concerned about changes to judicial and criminal legislation

The European Parliament is deeply concerned about the amendments to the Romanian judicial and criminal legislation, particularly as regards their potential to undermine the independence of the judicial system, according to a draft motion for resolution that could be voted during the plenary session on November 14, a draft that is on the LIBE Committee’s agenda on Wednesday.

The draft motion for resolution obtained by MEDIAFAX recalls the principles of the European Union, according to which the EU “is based on the values of observing human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, and human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, and as these values are common for the member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and gender equality prevail.”

At the same time, the draft mentions the opinions of the Venice Commission and the independence of the judicial system, which is “consecrated under Article 47 of the Charter of fundamental rights and under Article 6 of the ECHR and represents an essential requirement of the democratic principle of separation of powers.”

The document also talks about “the existence of a continuous debate on the role of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and its alleged intervention in the activities of the Romanian judicial system, raising questions about the potential amplitude and method of such an interference; as the Venice Commission concludes that ‘a thorough revision of judicial norms regarding the oversight of the intelligence services’ is necessary,” according to the aforementioned source.

Likewise, the draft recalls the initiative to amend the Constitution to change its definition of the family, and the October 6-7 referendum.

“As numerous human rights groups have expressed their concern that the proposal could lead to a violation of international human rights standards and to a hike in homophobic discrimination in Romania; as the revision was approved by Parliament with a two-thirds majority; as the referendum failed to reach the turnover threshold of 30 percent,” reads the document.

The source also brings up the fact that “the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is asking Romania to reject the new bills imposing supplementary financial statement obligations on NGOs, to modify them in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/BIDDO, and to hold wide-ranging public consultations before adopting them.”

“As the Chief Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) was removed from office on 9 July 2018, against the opinion of the Council of the Judiciary, following a Constitutional Court decision that limited the President’s powers; as, on the contrary, the Venice Commission declared that it would be important ‘to strengthen the independence of prosecutors and to maintain and enhance the role of institutions such as the President and the CSM, institutions capable of balancing the influence of the Justice Minister,’; as the Romanian Government adopted an emergency ordinance on 15 October 2018; as 48 prosecutors have had to leave office so far, following the coming into force of the ordinance, which may have hampered a large number of ongoing investigations; as the Romanian Justice Minister asked, on 24 October 2018, that the Prosecutor General be dismissed, accusing him of surpassing his authority,” the draft resolution on Romania also adds.

At the same time, the EP “is deeply concerned about the amendments to the judicial and criminal laws, especially as regards their potential to structurally undermine the independence of the judicial system and its capacity to efficiently fight corruption in Romania, as well as to weaken the rule of law.”

Moreover, it condemns “the law enforcement officer’s violent and disproportionate intervention during the protests in Bucharest in August 2018.”

Consequently, the European officials have several recommendations for the Romanian authorities:

“1. Encourages the Romanian authorities to counter any measures that would decriminalise corruption in office and to apply the national anticorruption strategy; invites Romanian authorities to institute guarantees ensuring a transparent and legal basis for any institutional cooperation and to avoid any interference that would surpass the checks and balances system; demands the consolidation of parliamentary oversight of intelligence services;

“2. Firmly recommends the reconsideration of legislation on the financing, organising and functioning of NGOs in what concerns its potential of having an intimidating effect on civil society, as well as of being in contradiction to the principle of free association and the right to private life, and to fully align it with the EU Framework;

“3. Expresses deep concern about the political restrictions on the freedom of the media and about the bills penalising the denigration of Romania abroad and reintroducing defamation in the Criminal Code;

“4. Advises the Romanian Parliament and Government to fully enforce all European Commission, GRECO and Venice Commission recommendations and to abstain from undertaking any reform that would jeopardise the observance of the rule of law, including the independence of the judicial system; advises that the engagement of civil society and the tackling of the aforementioned issues in a transparent and wide process continue; advises that the Venice Commission be asked for a pro-active assessment of the relevant legislative measures before their final approval;

“5. Invites the Romanian Government to cooperate with the European Commission in line with the principle of loyal cooperation, as stipulated in the Treaty;

“6. Reiterates its regret that the Commission decided not to publish the EU Anticorruption Report in 2017, and firmly asks the Commission to resume, without delay, the annual anticorruption monitoring in all member states; invites the Commission to devise a system of strict indicators and easy-to-apply uniform criteria, to measure the level of corruption in the member states and to assess their anticorruption policies, in line with the European Parliament Resolution of 8 March 2016 on the 2014 Annual Report on the Protection of the EU’s Financial Interests.

“7. Insistently demands a periodic, systematic and objective process of monitoring and dialogue, that would involve all member states, in order to protect the basic values of the EU as regards democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law, involving the Council, Commission and Parliament, in its 25 October 2016 Resolution on instituting an EU mechanism on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights (DRF Pact); reiterates that this mechanism should include an annual report and specific recommendations for each country;

“8. Asks the European Commission, in its capacity as guardian of the treaties, to monitor the actions carried out by the Romanian authorities following the recommendations made, while continuing to offer full support to Romania in order to find adequate solutions;

“9. Entrusts to the President the duty to convey the present resolution to the European Commission, Council, the governments and parliaments of the member states, and to the President of Romania.”

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