The Venice Commission passed the report concerning the amendment of the laws of justice and the criminal legislation by the PSD-ALDE majority parliamentary coalition. In its opinion, the Commission expresses its concern over the fact that many of the changes made to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code in Romania seriously weaken the effectiveness of the criminal justice system when it comes to fighting corruption, violent crimes and organized crime.
The Venice Commission advises Romanian authorities to conduct a global reevaluation of the changes made in both codes through a comprehensive and effective process, which would result in a solid and cohesive legislative proposal which would have significant support within the Romanian society, taking into account the applicable standards and the decisions of the Constitutional Court.
European officials also remind that, through the ruling of October 12th, the Constitutional Court of Romania has established that over 63 articles of the draft law for the amendment of criminal procedure have been unconstitutional and the decision is awaited concerning the objections of unconstitutionality raised concerning the amendment of the Criminal Code.
With some amendments, the Commission has also passed the preliminary opinion issued in July concerning the three draft laws which amend the existing legislation concerning the bylaws of judges and prosecutors, the judicial organization and the Supreme Council of Magistrates. This opinion claims that the amendments made to the laws of justice have e negative influence on the efficiency, quality and independence of the judicial system and negative consequences when it comes to the fight against corruption.
Overall, the European officials are unhappy with the insignificant role the Supreme Council of Magistrates plays when it comes to the appointment of the Chief Prosecutors of the General Prosecutors' Office, the Department for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) and the National Anticorruption Department, thinking that the entire process of appointment and dismissal of these magistrates will be politically influenced by the minister of justice.
Concerning the retirement of magistrates with 20 years of activity, the members of the Commission have established that that would harm the activity of the courts and prosecutors' offices of Romania, because the reduction of numbers would lead to the slowdown of the prosecution of ongoing civil and criminal cases.
The Venice Commission has acknowledged that through Emergency Government Ordinance 92 of 2018 the Government has delayed by a year the retirement of magistrates with 20 years of service, but thinks that it is necessary for the law concerning the retirement of those who have 20 years of service to be abrogated.
The members of this European institution have expressed their concern over the other stipulations of the Emergency Government Ordinance, but they will be included in another opinion which will be issued in the meeting which will be held on December 14th and 15th 2018.
What is certain is that, through his maneuver to draw up and pass the EGO concerning the laws of justice in the beginning of last week, Tudorel Toader has not succeeded in changing the agenda set by the members of the Venice Commission for the meeting of October 19th and to shift the debate on the laws of justice in December.
• President Iohannis is asking for the resignation of the Minister of Justice
Immediately after the Venice Commission formulated his opinion concerning the amendments made to the criminal legislation and the laws on the judicial system, president Klaus Iohannis said that the very serious aspects mentioned by the European officials represent an unequivocal signal which the current government needs to take into account to avoid pushing Romania towards a direction that is incompatible with the values of the European Union.
The head of state thinks that it is unacceptable for the entire legislation in this essential sector to be dramatically altered just to protect some political leaders who are in trouble with the law. Iohannis claims that the changes made by the PSD-ALDE law irreparably harm not just the rule of the law but also the citizens' confidence that nobody is above the law, regardless of their position in society, but also the efforts of an entire nation for which the fundamental European values are indisputable.
Klaus Iohannis strongly condemns "the irresponsible behavior of the Minister of Justice which, under the pretense of the implementation of the recommendations of the Venice Commission within the OUG 92/2018, has incorporated completely unrelated provisions, in actuality even their opposite, which would increase the concern of the European partners".
The head of state claims that Tudorel Toader has permanently compromised his credibility and is asking for his resignation as minister of Justice. Klaus Iohannis is also asking the Parliament to take into account the opinion included in the report of the Venice Commission and to reassess with the greatest speed the amendments made to the laws of justice, as well as to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes in order for the negative impact on justice and the rule of law to end.
Following the expressed opinion, the representatives of the opposition think that Tudorel Toader should resign as minister of justice, because he has accepted the legislative amendments and because he has drafted, promoted and passed Emergency Government Ordinance 92/2018.
Ludovic Orban, the president of the PNL, said: "Both reports are extremely critical of the changes made. Eight recommendations have been passed and have been discussed the two ordinances for the amendment of the laws of justice in a critical manner. As far as the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, the report is scorching. We are on the edge and the parliamentary majority needs to wake up. If they don't, I feel the need to warn my fellow citizens of the risks that hover over Romania and over the dangerous consequences which the failure to comply with the recommendations of the Venice Commission might have. The report on the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification is coming, and that could be devastating for Romania. We are at risk of saying goodbye to Schengen, and to European grants. The PNL is asking for PM Viorica Dăncilă to come before the Parliament and to say whether she pledges to follow the recommendations of the Venice Commission or not. The time for doublespeak is over".
Dan Barna, the president of the USR, has stated that his political party will file today a simple motion of no-confidence against Tudorel Toader, because he views him as irresponsible, and claims that he is trying to fool society about his true intentions. The USR thinks that Tudorel Toader no longer has the moral legitimacy to lead the Romanian judicial system.