Asked what his response is to the criticism levelled against the government emergency ordinance (GEO) on the judicial laws, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Thursday that he has sent a letter to European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, presenting the ordinance amending the judicial laws.
Asked what his response is to those who criticise the amendments that the emergency ordinance has brought to the judicial laws, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said: “I’ve sent First Vice President Timmermans a letter in which I present him the ordinance amending the judicial laws, and I thank you. For the time being, I’ve sent Timmermans the letter and I’ll give you all the details as we go. The CSM should mind its business, its prerogatives.”
Premier Viorica Dancila stated on Tuesday that she did not know about the emergency ordinance on the judicial laws, pointing out that it was on the Government’s supplementary list and that she will meet EC First Vice President Frans Timmermans in Madrid, and will explain to him the reasons for the adoption of the legislative act. In fact, Frans Timmermans stated on Tuesday, in Brussels, that he did not know that a new emergency ordinance amending the judicial laws will be adopted.
The emergency ordinance amending the judicial laws has been vehemently criticised by the Opposition, but also by the CSM’s Section for Prosecutors, the DNA, the DIICOT, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar, the association of magistrates, and the National Union of Romanian Judges. They point to the infringement upon the principle of separation of careers in what concerns judges and prosecutors and criticise the modification of the requirements to accede to the Supreme Court.
At the same time, the European Commission announced on Wednesday that it follows with concern the latest developments regarding the rule of law in Romania, following the amending of the judicial laws, and will ask the Romanian Government for explanations in this regard.
GEO on judicial laws and European Prosecutor, published in the Official Journal
According to the GEO amending the judicial laws, the Prosecutor General, the heads of the DNA and DIICOT, their deputies and chiefs of sections are appointed by the Romanian President, following nominations made by the Justice Minister, with the endorsement of the Superior Council of the Magistracy, from among prosecutors who were judges or prosecutors for a period of three years, with the possibility to renew their terms once. The ten-year seniority requirement is removed.
The legislative act also establishes that prosecutors cannot be appointed on secondment in leadership offices whose holders are appointed by the Romanian President.
“Every time the Criminal Procedure Code or other special laws refer to <the hierarchically superior prosecutor> in the case of crimes which are the competence of the Section for Investigating Magistrates, the term is to be understood as the chief prosecutor of the Section, including in the case of decisions taken before it became operational,” the ordinance adds. This article had not been announced by the Justice Minister.
A new paragraph is introduced under the article regarding the Section for Investigating Magistrates, including among its prerogatives “the exercise and withdrawal of the means of attack in the cases that are the competence of the Section, including the cases on the dockets or the cases that received final solutions prior to the Section becoming operational in line with GEO no.90/2018 on rendering the Section for Investigating Magistrates operational.”
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader announced on Tuesday the adoption of a GEO on the judicial laws, which establishes that leadership offices within the Public Ministry can be held by prosecutors who were judges too, and that the persons currently holding these offices on secondment can do so only for another 45 days. The CSM will issue the endorsement for leadership offices within the Public Ministry.
A GEO establishing the way Romania nominates the European Prosecutor was also adopted.
UNJR condemns provisions of ordinance modifying justice laws that break the principle of career separation
The National Union of Judges in Romania (UNJR) condemns the provisions of Government Emergency Ordinance 7/2019 modifying justice laws, which “break the principle of career separation” and asks the Dancila Government to revise them.
“The Emergency Ordinance 7/2019 bringing modifications to the justice laws, adopted by the Dancila Government on 19.02.2019, unexpectedly and without minimum consultations, includes a series of provisions that violate the principle of separation of the careers of judges from prosecutors and change the criteria for accession to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, which is a huge backstep from the previous form of the statute of these two professions,” reads a release of the UNJR sent to AGERPRES on Thursday.
UNJR asks the Dancila Government to revise these provisions immediately, “before they start to produce irremediable negative effects.”
According to the judges, a basic principle introduced through the modifications brought to the justice laws in 2017-2018 was the “separation of careers” of judges from prosecutors, meant to eliminate the confusion existing between the two careers in the judicial system, which are independent from one another.
“But, this emergency ordinance introduces two modifications in the article 54 paragraph (1) of the Law 303/2004 that fundamentally breaks this principle of “separation of careers.” First of all, it changes the competence of approval of proposals for filling in the highest positions in these prosecutor’s offices, which is moved from the Section for prosecutors to the Plenum of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM),” reads the release.
Second of all, as UNJR shows, it allows judges who were prosecutors in the past to become chiefs of prosecutor’s offices, which would be a serious violation of the principle of separation of careers.
The judges also drew attention on the modification of the experience criterion needed by those who want to join the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
Thus, if the law previously said that only judges with “at least 18 years of experience” were allowed to hold office with the ICCJ, now the modified articles says: “who have at least 18 years experience in such offices as stipulated in article 44 paragraph (1).”
In other words, said UNJR, the actual experience of 18 years that a judge needed to be hired at the ICCJ became 18 years of experience as a prosecutor or a judge.
“After modifying justice laws in a long and difficult process and after correcting the texts allowing the confusion between the career of judges and that of prosecutors, by a simple ordinance, issued without any public consultation, the Dancila Government deleted fundamental modifications for the status of judges and prosecutors,” reads the same release.
UNJR specified that the profession of a judge is different from that of a prosecutor, for while the judges are doing justice, the prosecutors are only participants in this process, contributing to justice being made, which is why it’s imperative that only judges with enough experience, as required by the law, to be allowed to hold such offices,” said the judges.
They also showed that if the Dancila Government did put up for public debate this ordinance and waited to receive the approval of the CSM and also comments from the professional associations, the normative act could have been adopted in a version “to not violate so severely the status of judges and prosecutors.”
EC Vice President Jyrki Katainen, following GEO amending judicial laws: Why Romanian Government why?
European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, following GEO amending judicial laws: “Why Romanian government why?”. Back in January, Katainen commented on a potential GEO regarding the appeal for annulment: “Unbelievable news! The Romanian people deserve rule of law!”.
“Why Romanian Goverment why?@EU_Commission is following with great concern the latest dev. concerning the rule of law in Romania. Both the content and the procedure of the latest changes seem to be in contradiction with the recommendations of the CVM.”
Back in January, Katainen commented on Twitter Justice Minister Tudorel Toader’s announcement regarding the GEO that promoted the appeal for annulment, stating that it is an unbelievable piece of news and that Romanians deserve rule of law.
“Unbelievable news! The Romanian people deserves rule of law!”, Jyrki Katainen wrote.
Orban says Liberals are to notify Venice Commission next week on OUG amending Justice Laws
Chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL) Ludovic Orban announce that the Liberals will send, next week, to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) the request to notify the Venice Commission regarding the Government Emergency Ordinance (OUG) amending the Justice Laws.
“We are preparing to notify the Venice Commission both on this Ordinance and on Ordinances No. 90 and 20 which have been issued despite the recommendations of the Venice Commission. We will make the notification of the Venice Commission through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, following the same procedure under which we managed to notify the Venice Commission on the Justice Laws and the Criminal Procedure Code, too. (..) We set out, as a goal, to adopt the notification document on Monday, at the latest, namely the arguments on which the notification is laid and, next week, to formalise the demarches at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe level,” Orban told a press conference.
According to the PNL Chairman, the Ordinance adopted by the Government for amending the Justice Laws represents “a defiance” to every Romanian and the partners at the EU level.
He brought to mind that the Liberals requested the Ombudsman to file an unconstitutionality challenge in this case.
“We do it because we are forced, because the Ombudsman is the only institution in Romania which can start the prior constitutionality control in case of emergency ordinances. Perhaps Ciorbea wakes up,” Ludovic Orban stated. He added that the resignation demarche of Victor Ciorbea from the Ombudsman office was resumed in Parliament.
Opposition USR draws letters to European institutions complaining about justice legislation amendments
The opposition Save Romania Union (USR) has prepared letters to the European institutions complaining about government emergency ordinance 7/2019 amending justice legislation, USR national leader Dan Barna said on Thursday.
“We have already prepared the letters, probably we will send them today. This is a legitimate approach, through which the European partners of Romania, the partners that have brought Romania to the current stage of development, have to be correctly and really informed about what the implications are of these changes, which have been made without a minimum consultation – whether internal or external – despite that having been mandatory under the latest recommendations of the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). (…) Romania does not allow itself to break away from Europe and move eastwards towards Russia, where Liviu Dragnea and Tudorel Toader probably push it, and I mean here Mr Tudorel Toader’s nostalgia of his communist youth,” Barna said at the end of a meeting with the Ombudsman, whom he asked him to refer the ordinance to the Constitutional Court (CCR).
According to the USR, the same message should go to the Venice Commission, whose recommendations are binding to Europe from a moral point of view.
“The next days are critical,” said Barna.