It was only natural for the heated domestic debates on the Romanian justice to also ripple in Brussels
Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday held talks in Brussels with the EU officials on the rule of law, which preoccupies both the political class and the public opinion in Romania. The independence of the judiciary is an intangible issue, the Romanian President categorically stated. Fresh from the meeting with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, Klaus Iohannis said the issues related to the justice laws and Criminal Codes must be settled in Romania without waiting for solutions from abroad.
Klaus Iohannis: “I am convinced that I will succeed to end these discussions in laws, which can be practically used in their best form. However, my most important objective remains the same, namely to ensure the intangibility of the independence of Romania’s judiciary, an issue I will completely dedicate to, doing all my best as a president to keep the things as they are.”
In turn, Jean-Claude Juncker said that Romania’s legal system is functioning and it cannot be said that Bucharest is neglecting the rule of law as long as the Constitutional Court’s rulings are observed. However, as Juncker has pointed out, backsliding is unacceptable for Romania at this time. The EU official recalls that the lifting of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism(CVM) - through which Brussels is monitoring the good functioning of the country’s legal system - depends on the observance of these rules and so does the country’s Schengen accession, which Romania has been denied due to persistent corruption in its administration.
Romanians do not deserve to be treated as second-hand Europeans, Juncker said, adding that, to him, Romania and the Romanians are at the centre of the European life. Jean-Claude Juncker also expressed his willingness to continue to make all the efforts to reach this objective. His statements come after the Bucharest Embassies of 7 EU members and the Commission itself have voiced concern about the amendments to the justice laws. These have been also vehemently contested by the right-wing opposition in the Romanian Parliament and also by hundreds of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets of Bucharest for a year fearing that the PSD-ALDE ruling coalition is trying to subordinate the magistrates and put an end to the anti-graft fight.
In response, representatives of the government coalition say the amendments are putting the justice laws in line with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights where Romania has been constantly accused for the errors in its courts and the abuses in its penitentiaries as well as with previous rulings of the country’s Constitutional Court. In January though, notified by the High Court of Cassation and Justice as well as by the Liberals, in opposition, it was the constitutional judges who tried to stop the reforming zeal of the ruling coalition, as they came to the conclusion that some changes regarding judicial organization and the status of magistrates are unconstitutional.