Romania’s centre-right president and state prosecutor denounced reforms to the justice system unveiled by the centre-left government on Wednesday (23 August) as an attack on the rule of law.
President Klaus Iohannis’s comments, coming just months after a failed bid by the ruling centre-left to loosen the country’s anti-corruption laws, set the stage for another political showdown.
The new reforms set out by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader yesterday would mean the president could no longer name senior prosecutors – including those attached to the anti-corruption directorate (DNA).
They would also reduce the powers of the DNA itself, preventing it from investigating magistrates.
“These proposals represent an attack against the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption,” said a statement from Iohannis.
If parliament passes the reforms into law, Romania could return to the bad old days when the judiciary was put under political pressure – and that would violate the country’s obligations to the European Union, he added.
The state prosecutor’s office also expressed “concern” at the proposals, which risked “overturning the judicial system” and reinforcing political control over magistrates.
Several civic associations called on Toader to scrap the planned reform, denouncing it as a threat to the fight against corruption.
The Romanian centre-left takes the view that the anti-corruption services put in place under former centre-right President Traian Băsescu are politically motivated, and that the high conviction rate of indicted politicians echoes the communist era.
Romania joined the EU in 2007 and in recent years had been enjoying high growth rates. But both Brussels and the International Monetary Fund have pressed the government to do more to fight corruption.
Romania and Bulgaria are the only EU members under EU monitoring under the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
The CVM is now in its 10th year and, although it acknowledged the consistent progress Romania has made during its decade of EU membership, a number of issues remain outstanding.
In February the biggest protests since the end of communism in 1989 forced the previous Social Democrat government to abandon plans that were seen as loosening anti-corruption laws.