The Venice Commission recommends Romania to give up emergency ordinances in the area of the judiciary.
"The most problematic elements of the 2018 reform, identified in the
opinion of October 2018, either remained unchanged or were aggravated", notes
the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's advisory body in matters of
constitutional law, in an opinion published on Monday. The Commission levels
fresh criticism at the amendments to the justice legislation made by the
Romanian government last year and calls on the Romanian authorities to
drastically limit the use of emergency ordinances in this area. The practice of
making legislative amendments by emergency ordinances "weakens external checks
on the government, it is contrary to the principle of separation of powers and
disturbs legal certainty", writes the Commission in its conclusions.
As for the recently established
special section for the investigation of criminal offences in the judiciary,
the Commission's experts say the reasons for its creation remain unclear.
Moreover, they warn that "it risks being an obstacle to the fight against
corruption and organised crime". In Bucharest, the opposition and magistrates'
associations view this section as a means of intimidating judges and
prosecutors and believe it should be dismantled. The Venice Commission also
notes that the justice minister still plays a decisive role in the appointment
and dismissal of top prosecutors, without counterbalancing powers of the
president or the Superior Council of Magistracy. The Commission says it remains
at the disposal of the Romanian authorities and the Monitoring Committee of the
Parliamentary Assembly for further assistance in this matter.
President Klaus Iohannis believes
the aspects highlighted by the Venice Commission reinforce the conclusion that
the government has abused the instrument of emergency ordinances, bypassing
both real debate in Parliament of the measures pursued and consultation with
the representatives of the judicial system. Overnight changes in such a
sensitive area and the lack of real control in terms of the constitutional
nature of the emergency ordinances not only upset the entire system, but also affect
the very essence of the rule of law: legal stability and predictability and the
principle of the separation of powers, the president has emphasised. He added
that the message conveyed by the Venice Commission is loud and clear: the
government has to repair the damage caused to the judicial system by putting
into application the recommendations of the European bodies in the field as
soon as possible and in their entirety.
We recall that president Iohannis
was the initiator of a referendum on judiciary-related themes held at the same
time as the European elections. An overwhelming majority of Romanian voters
agreed with a ban on amnesty and pardon for corruption crimes and on
government's ability to issue emergency ordinances in the area of crimes,
punishments and judicial organisation.