The rule of law continues to be a reason for concern among Bucharest’s foreign partners.
The foreign diagnosis confirms what
the Romanian president, the opposition, civil society and the media have been
saying for two and a half years. On Tuesday, the Council of the European Union
voiced concern over the modification of the justice laws in Romania, which could
undermine the efficacy of the activity of judges and prosecutors and reduce
trust in the judiciary.
Also on Tuesday, the Council of
Europe's anti-corruption body GRECO said that under the government led by the
Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, Romania has
made very little progress in putting in place measures to prevent corruption
among parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors and to address the concerns
raised by its controversial reform of the judicial system. The GRECO reports
voice deep concern in particular about the fact that the authorities completely
disregarded the recommendation to abandon the creation of a department to
investigate offences in the judiciary and which is viewed as a means to intimidate
and inhibit magistrates. GRECO welcomed the announcement made by the country's
Social Democrat prime minister Viorica Dancila to abandon the controversial
reforms in the judiciary, which have been repeatedly criticised as seeking to
subordinate magistrates and halt the fight against corruption.
GRECO has requested the Romanian
authorities to report back on progress achieved by 30th June 2020.
This is the final deadline in the evaluation process, after which the Council
of Europe may declare that the situation in Romania is not compliant with its
The political class in Bucharest was
quick to comment on the GRECO reports. Ludovic Orban and Dan Barna, the leaders
of the Liberal Party and the Save Romania Union, respectively, both in
opposition, say the reports confirm the fact that the decisions taken by the
Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats were aimed
at blocking the fight against corruption and undermine the independence of the
judiciary and the rule of law. They call for the dismantling of the special
department to investigate magistrates.
The leader of the Alliance of
Liberals and Democrats Calin Popescu Tariceanu has accused the GRECO experts of
bias, saying they disregarded the existence of secret protocols between
magistrates and the intelligence services. The justice minister Ana Birchall
believes that, based on the GRECO reports, each institution mentioned should
conduct its own assessment and take the necessary measures.
The president of the High Court of
Cassation and Justice Cristina Tarcea says GRECO experts have confirmed the
worries voiced by the Supreme Court with respect to the lack of transparency
and dialogue, the risk of magistrates leaving, arbitrary promotions and the weakening
of the independence of judges and prosecutors. She expressed hope that those
who proposed and supported unconditionally the legislative amendments that
violate the independence of the judiciary would accept responsibility for the
consequences of their actions by doing the decent thing, resigning or
withdrawing from public life.