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The draft law on the status of magistrates has been adopted by the Romanian Chamber of Deputies with a majority of votes
The draft law on the status of magistrates has been adopted by the Romanian Chamber of Deputies with a majority of votes, without major changes compared to the form drafted by the coalition government (PSD - Social Democratic Party, PNL – National Liberal Party, UDMR - Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania). The draft law will next be submitted to the debate of the Senate, which is the decision-making body in this case. After the notifications received from the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), the amendment that allowed the appointment to the position of high-ranking prosecutor also from among judges was removed from the text of the draft law.
The bill still preserves, however, several provisions intensely criticized by the opposition, as well as by professional associations in the field of justice. For example, according to the document adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, judges and prosecutors have the obligation to refrain from defamatory manifestations or expressions in relation to the other powers of the state. The press in Bucharest claims that, in this way, the law silences those magistrates who want to report the actions against the law of the politicians in the Romanian Government and the Parliament, either when they promote aberrant laws or when they engage in acts of corruption. The law keeps the increase from two to three years of the school period at the National Institute of Magistracy and the possibility for the position of vice-president of the court to be filled without a competition.
The document also provides that the application of a disciplinary sanction will attract removal from management positions. From the opposition, Save Romania Union - USR and the Alliance for the Union of Romanians - AUR accuse the majority of not waiting for the opinions of the Venice Commission on the draft law and say that it does not respect the meritocracy criteria for occupying certain positions and that it has many unconstitutional articles.
On the other side, the Justice Minister, the Liberal Cătălin Predoiu, explained that the document went through all the legal procedural stages and received all the necessary approvals for adoption, including from the Superior Council of Magistracy - CSM. The status of magistrates is part of a larger package of laws through which Minister Predoiu claims that the Romanian judiciary will be fundamentally reformed. An internal stake, analysts show, would be to improve one's own image in the eyes of society, because prosecutors and judges have never been in the top of Romanians' confidence, and their indictments or sentences are frequently attacked by the media.
An external, fundamental stake, the power representatives claim, would be the lifting of the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (MCV), through which Brussels monitors the functioning of the rule of law in Romania ever since its admission to the European Union in 2007. Lifting of the MCV, decision-makers in Bucharest say, would also allow Romania to enter the Schengen free movement area, to which, although it meets all the technical conditions, it has been denied access for more than a decade. However, voices from the country insist that, as long as Romanians, along with Bulgarians and Croats, are forced to wait for hours in the Union's internal customs points, they will remain with the humiliating condition of second-rank European citizens. (LS)
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