THURSDAY ROUNDUP Romanian justice laws: President, ambassadors, investors speak out against governing coalition attempts to subdue the judiciary
European Ambassadors, international investors, President Iohannis are among those who have risen their voice for the past two days against attempts by the Romanian governing coalition to bring down the Romanian judiciary and the fight against corruption. Meanwhile, the coalition gives no sign of slowing down or stepping back in face of criticism. Here is the latest roundup.
Seven European ambassadors to Bucharest have issued a joint letter warning the PSD-ALDE governing coalition to avoid any action that may lead to the weakening of Justice independence and the fight against corruption. The appeal of the seven Ambassadors - representing France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden - is the harshest international reaction to the actions of the Romanian governing coalition and its attempts to subdue the judiciary politically, after a warning issued by the US Department of State in November. It is the second time when ambassadors of multiple EU countries issue such a joint appeal, after a similar move early this year, when the previous PSD-ALDE government made another attempt to undermine the judiciary.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis publish a statement on his Facebook page on Thursday, to mark the December 1989 anti-Communist revolution. He said defending the ideals of the Revolution mean defending the institutions of the state of law, the values of liberty and democracy as well as respect for citizens". He also said that the 1999 calls such as "down with communism" are heard again these days - a hint to protests against the governing coalition, sparked by its attempts to subdue the judiciary. Iohannis' statement comes a day after he warned that there was "an obvious risk of [EU] activating Article 7 in the case of Romania, as in the case of Poland, if the laws of Justice are adopted with the actual changes. (...) If anyone imagines there will be no consequences (after the adoption of the laws of justice - no.), they are simply fallen from the sky." Asked if a referendum would be the last resource he has in confronting the attempts to change the laws of justice, Iohannis replied, "It's not the last one I have."
The Ambassadors statement is not the only international reaction to events in Romania. On Wednesday, the members of the Foreign Investors Council - an organisation of companies generating a quarter of Romania's GDP - had warned that they had recently seen a significant increase in the lack of confidence in public institutions, both business and citizens (the most recent Eurobarometer), due to the numerous law changes that affect the economy and the rule of law in Romania. "There are a number of decisions on the political agenda of the authorities which, in our opinion, will lead to the weakening of the rule of law and of the normative framework necessary for a modern economy", reads in a statement issued on Wednesday by the FIC.
The special parliamentary commission put up by the governing coalition to change the laws of justice will work during the last week of January, when MPs are usually in winter days off, commission head Florin Iordache (PSD deputy) has announced. He said the commission would put up three legislative bills to change the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Civil Code, aimed, he said, at applying EU directives on the presumption of innocence and money laundering in national law, but also bring the laws in line with provisions of non-constitutionality issued by the Constitutional Court. Plans to change the criminal codes have already sparked massive criticism for the past couple of weeks, as critics - the key bodies of the judiciary among them - see them as an attempt to "destroy" the justice system.
Still, Senate speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu said he did not think an extraordinary session was needed during the winter holiday to change the criminal codes.
The Supreme Court has notified the Constitutional Court about changes forced by the governing coalition MPs to the law on the statute of magistrates - one of the three major bills that have passed the special commission in charge with changing the laws of Justice, as well as the Senate, despite massive criticism.
The Opposition National Liberal Party has also challenged the bill on the statute of magistrates at the Constitutional Court, it announced on Thursday.
Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu claimed the changes to the laws of Justice which have already been made were not enough. He said he "wished for a larger, more courageous reform. A necessary minimum was done, given the public pressure".
A group of MPs of the governing PSD party have submitted a legislative initiative which would see a 3-year deadline for the prescription of actions made by dignitaries, which would determine a conflict of interest or a state of incompatibility.