Justice Minister Tudorel Toader announced on Tuesday, after the Government meeting in which the amending of government emergency ordinance (GEO) no.7 was adopted, that the legislative act contains five amendments, including those regarding the secondment to positions of leadership within prosecutor’s offices and the possibility for judges to run for the leadership of prosecutor’s offices.
“The Government has adopted the GEO for amendments to the judicial laws. The three judicial laws, if I am to express myself in a more accessible form, amendments to GEO no.7/2019. Which are the grounds for these modifications. The Prime Minister met the representatives of the CSM, of the associations of magistrates. Namely the president of the CSM, the president of the Association of Romanian Magistrates etc. Meeting in which I also took part, listening to the arguments and counter-arguments. Seeing the reactions at those meetings, five modifications have been agreed,” Justice Minister Tudorel Toader announced.
He announced the repeal of the provisions of Article 54, paragraph 1, stating that “it goes back to the regulation before Ordinance 7, in the sense that only prosecutors can become high-ranking prosecutors, even though in their previous professional career they have also been judges, with a 15-year seniority in magistracy.”
“Listening to the arguments and counter-arguments, seeing the reactions at the level of the judiciary and partly in the civil society (…), the following five amendments were agreed: firstly, the repeal of the provisions of Article 54, paragraph 1, that is to say, the return to the regulation before Ordinance 7, in the sense that only prosecutors can become high-ranking prosecutors, even though in their previous professional career they have also been judges, with a 15-year seniority in magistracy, and the advisory opinion will continue to be issued by the Prosecutor’s Section within the CSM [Superior Council of Magistrates, ed.n.] and not by the CSM plenary – as stipulated in Ordinance 7. The second amendment agreed upon – the repeal of a paragraph 7 index 1 of article 57 prohibiting delegations to senior leadership positions. The third amendment agreed upon – the waiving of the reason why the quality of magistrate could be lost if what is called good reputation was lost,” said Tudorel Toader.
According to him, the fourth amendment to GEO 7 comes from the direction of IT specialists, who have pointed out that although they carry out similar activities, that are required by the judiciary, they receive different pay. According to the amendment, IT specialist in the judiciary will have the same payroll “because they are specialists in the field”.
Toader added that the fifth amendment, which came as a proposal from the Judicial Inspection, aims to achieve a legislative correlation.
“It was foreseen before the amendment of GEO 7 that the judicial inspector ordered the commencement of the judicial investigation if there were indications of judicial commission, but this was also allowed to the Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor General and the President of the High Court. (…) The only one who can start the investigation is only the one who is the subject, the holder of the disciplinary action, it is thus about a legislative correlation,” Toader explained.
According to Toader, the modifications included in the government emergency ordinance consist of:
- The provisions which gave judges the possibility to run for the leaderships of prosecutor’s offices will be abrogated; at the same time, the non-binding reports in this regard will be issued by the CSM’s Section for Prosecutors.
- The paragraph banning secondments to prosecutor’s offices in positions of leadership for which the appointment in office is made by the President will be abrogated.
- The reason for losing one’s capacity as magistrate, namely good reputation, is dropped.
- The fourth modification concerns the salaries of those employed in the IT segment of the judicial system (they will have the same pay grade).
- The fifth modification concerns remedying the “unjustified” differentiation between specialists who have the same professional profile and are employed at the DNA, DIICOT and the Special Section.
“I was informed that the plenary meeting for a positive, favourable report, will take place at 12.30 p.m. today. At 2 p.m. I was told that the CSM has issued a negative report, namely the CSM had a general overall approach, not solely on the five modifications that were discussed and agreed upon,” Tudorel Toader said.
PM Dancila: Measures agreed with CSM, magistrates’ associations, to be approved in Gov’t sitting
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila announced that the amendments proposed to OUG 7/2019 will be approved by the Government on Tuesday.
“We are approving today the solutions agreed with the CSM [Superior Council of Magistrates, ed.n.] representatives and with the legal professional associations in the discussions we held last week. The new provisions reflect the magistrates’ proposals on the principle of separation of the judges and prosecutors’ careers, the delegation of prosecutors to the leadership positions and the promotion to the leadership positions of the Prosecutors’ Offices, for which the appointment is made by the President of Romania, at the proposal of the Minister of Justice. We are also taking measures for the appropriate remuneration of the IT specialists who work in the judicial system. As of this month, the IT specialists working in the judiciary will benefit from the same salary rights. As you know, this normative act was sent to the CSM last week for consultation and approval,” the prime minister said before the Government sitting.
Viorica Dancila reaffirmed that the Government remains open to “a constructive dialogue to solve any uncertainties, so that the judiciary functions correctly with respect for the citizens’ rights and freedoms.”
“After the discussion we had, we transposed into this normative act all the provisions supported by those who participated in that meeting,” the prime minister added.
CSM issues negative opinion regarding emergency draft amending GEO No.7/2019
The Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM) issued on Tuesday a negative opinion regarding the emergency ordinance draft amending some provisions of controversial Gov’t emergency ordinance (GEO) No. 7/2019.
At the plenary session, judge Mariana Ghena specified that Committee 1 of CSM decided to express a no vote.
“The result of Committee 1, by unanimity: a no vote was expressed in the committee meeting on GEO 7/2019, given that the proposals made in the last ordinance did not take into account the proposals expressed by CSM, which were outlined in a mandate given to the president of CSM to be expressed by the latter in the sense of repealing the texts over what CSM has proposed,” Ghena mentioned.
The Ministry of Justice has publicly debated the draft Emergency Ordinance amending the provisions of GEO 7/2019.
According to the preamble to the draft, the changes are necessary as a result of the “negative reactions regarding certain legislative solutions” contained in GEO 7/2019 and “noting that at present these complaints of members of the magistrates’ body affect the optimal functioning of courts and prosecutors’ offices attached to them and generate the danger of dividing society.”
“These reactions particularly focus on the intervention carried out in the matter of the delegation of prosecutors to the leading positions with the prosecutors’ offices for which the nomination is conducted by the President of Romania, (…) the legislative amendment which gave the judges the possibility to run and to be appointed to the highest leadership positions within the Prosecutors’ Office, in the latter case an impairment of the status and independence of the judges being claimed,” the draft amendment of GEO 7/2019 shows.
Prosecutor General on the protesters’ side. How Lazar pleads at CSM’s debate on bill amending GEO no.7
On Tuesday, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar criticised the draft government ordinance amending the government emergency ordinance (GEO) on the judicial laws, pointing out that this would be the fourth amending ordinance “that would amplify even more the uncertainty of regulating the judicial laws,” and announcing that he will vote for non-endorsement.
“Non-endorsement, obviously. It would be the fourth emergency ordinance that would amplify even more the uncertainty of regulating the judicial laws. This after things were clarified last year through a laborious process in Parliament, and the judicial laws took certain shape. Now the Executive comes alone and wants to adjust the judicial laws through a fourth GEO. Why does this issue bother the magistrates?
“It’s very clear, the concern is prompted by the uncertainty of the legal framework in which we work. The magistrates are people who reflect on the law, they want to know what their legal status is, how they should act in line with the law, and here we are, the fourth emergency ordinance which is the expression of the lack of loyal cooperation with the judicial authority. Unfortunately, this is the situation,” Augustin Lazar stated on his arrival at the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM), whose plenum convened on Tuesday to discuss the draft emergency ordinance amending GEO no.7/2019, which modified the judicial laws.
Government emergency ordinance no.7, amending the judicial laws, was criticised by both the CSM’s sections for prosecutors and judges and by the associations of magistrates, the latter reproaching the Government for not giving them time to analyse the legislative act, considering that the draft ordinance was sent to the CSM only the day before its adoption. Likewise, protests were staged against GEO no.7 throughout the country, the Opposition demanded the abrogation of the legislative act and announced that it will notify the Venice Commission.
Following talks with the Government, Superior Council of the Magistracy President Lia Savonea stated that she received the modified GEO from the Justice Ministry and the CSM plenum will issue a report on the draft legislative act.
The proposed ordinance reverts Article 54 of Law no.303/2004 to its previous form, namely high-ranking prosecutors would be nominated only from among prosecutors, not also from among judges as stipulated by GEO no.7. Another change that is being reconsidered concerns the non-binding report issued in the case of high-ranking prosecutors, which would remain the prerogative of the CSM’s Section for Prosecutors, not of the CSM’s plenum as stipulated by the initial ordinance amending the judicial laws.
Likewise, the new draft legislative act proposes the abrogation of Article 57, Paragraph 7, Index 1, which banned the secondment of persons to top-level offices at prosecutor’s offices, namely: “Prosecutors cannot be seconded to prosecutor’s offices in leadership offices whose holders are appointed in office by the Romanian President.” This provision was strongly challenged by prosecutors, the DNA informing that two of its sections would be left without chief prosecutors as a result.
DNA: GRECO and Moneyval not consulted on adoption of GEO No.7/2019
The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) announced that in a reply to the agency, the GRECO and Moneyval Committee Secretariats maintain that Romanian authorities did consult or inform them about the adoption of GEO No. 7/2019.
“The Secretariats of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) and of the Moneyval Committee of Experts on the evaluation of anti-money laundering measures and the financing of terrorism, both bodies of the Council of Europe, argue that they have not been consulted or informed by the Romanian authorities about the adoption of OUG No. 7/2019 on the amendment of the justice laws,” DNA said in a Tuesday release.
DNA explained that in a reply letter to the anti-corruption agency’s management, GRECO and Moneyval representatives refer to previous recommendations according to which the appointment of judges and prosecutors to high-rank positions should be made on the basis of adequate, clear and objective criteria, under consideration of the professional’s experience and the results obtained; they also reinforce their opinion that the newly established Section tasked with investigating magistrates should be dismantled.
DNA mentions that concern is reaffirmed in the document about the excessive use of legislating via emergency ordinance and that Romania has been a GRECO member since 1999 and that beginning 2017 it has been the subject to an ad-hoc evaluation by the organization as a result of the successive changes operated lately on the framework governing justice legislation.
GRECO representatives argue that the situation ensued following the adoption of Ordinance No. 7/2019 will be taken into account in the next GRECO evaluation report that will be discussed at the meeting on June 17 – 19, 2019.
The Romanian anti-corruption agency also reminds that following the meeting of DNA prosecutors, gathered in the General Assembly on February 26, based on Decision 95 / 20.02.2019 of the Prosecutor’s Section of the Superior Council of the Magistrates, the decision was made, inter alia, to notify GRECO and Moneyval Committee representatives on how GEO No. 7/2019 will affect the efficiency of criminal prosecution bodies as regards the combat of corruption and money laundering.