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  Judicial reform in Romania

  18 Debates

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg has warned Romania not to undermine progress made in the area of the rule of law. The ECJ's judges have concluded in several rulings that judicial reforms carried out between 2017 and 2019 at least convey the impression of putting political pressure on Romanian judges. The Romanian press voices approval.

On the day of the European elections 81 percent of the Romanians who took part in a referendum voted that corrupt officials should be punished without any exceptions. Now President Klaus Iohannis wants the corresponding legislation to be incorporated into the country's constitution without delay. On Wednesday he also proposed a revision of the controversial judicial reform. Commentators have their doubts about whether this will work out.

Despite warnings from the European Commission the Romanian parliament has approved the controversial judicial reform which foresees shorter statutes of limitation for crimes of corruption. The opposition has pointed out that Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ruling PSD who has already been convicted of corruption in the first instance, stands to benefit from the new legislation. What will be the repercussions of the decision?

In response to the controversial judicial reform, President Klaus Iohannis wants to consult the people of Romania about the constitutional state on 26 May, the same day the EU elections take place in the country. Last year the government increased its influence over the judiciary and in other areas by occupying top posts. Can the referendum help the fight against corruption?

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is considering holding a referendum on the government's controversial justice system policy. He had "almost resolved" to take this step, he announced on Tuesday. The country's constitutional court last week gave the green light for the referendum to be held on the same day as the European elections. Romania's press examines the opportunities and risks of such a move.

Romania's EU Council presidency remains controversial. Bucharest has been under fire for months over its legal reforms, which have also triggered major protest within the country. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently voiced his own doubts about Romania in an interview. Commentators fear a phase of instability and call on Europe's social democrats to take action.

The European Commission has harshly criticised Romania on the rule of law and the fight against corruption in its latest Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report - just six weeks before the country is due to take over the rotating EU presidency. Neighbouring Bulgaria received a far more positive assessment. Commentators explain what is at stake for Romania and voice doubts that the country is currently in a position to lead Europe.

Romania's government has issued an emergency ordinance that amends the already approved judicial reforms. The required number of years of professional experience for prosecutors in the in the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), the general prosecutors' office and the anti-organised crime agency has been raised retroactively. This means that around 50 prosecutors will have to suspend their activities. A bitter blow for the country's fight against corruption, commentators criticise.

The Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans has once again called on the Romanian government to renounce its planned judicial reform. The Commission sees the independence of the judges and the separation of powers in danger. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has rejected the accusations. What fate awaits Romania now?

The Romanian Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader announced an investigation into the activities of Prosecutor General Agustin Lazăr on the weekend. The press sees parallels with the removal from office of anti-corruption authority director Laura Codruța Kövesi and criticises the move as another assault on the judiciary.

The leaders of Romania's two ruling parties Liviu Dragnea (PSD) and Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu (Alde) have announced that they will decide by Monday whether to launch impeachment proceedings against President Klaus Iohannis. The latter is blocking a series of highly controversial changes to the penal code which Dragnea is pushing for and which would hamper the fight against corruption. Commentators assess the power struggle taking place at different levels.

Liviu Dragnea, head of Romania's Social Democratic Party (PSD) and of the Chamber of Deputies, is refusing to step down despite having been sentenced last week in the first instance for abuse of power. Thousands once again took to the streets in protest against the dismantling of the rule of law in Romania. But commentators doubt that the public outcry will make any difference - particularly as the EU is remaining silent.

Romania's Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader is pushing for the dismissal of the country's leading light in the fight against corruption. Laura Codruta Kövesi, head of the anti-corruption authority DNA, enjoys international recognition and considerable popularity at home. The governing parties are accusing Toader of using underhand methods in the investigation. Commentators spring to Kövesi's defence.

The protests against the judicial reform in Romania continue. In Bucharest alone 70,000 people took part in a march in Bucharest on Saturday, galvanised into action by the most recent government reshuffle, which saw the appointment of a new prime minister who is reputedly against a major crackdown on corruption. Some observers are euphoric about the protests; others are concerned that it could trigger a new wave of emigration.

The Romanian Senate approved the first of three controversial judicial bills on Tuesday; the next two will be put to vote today, Wednesday. Citizens have been protesting against the reforms for weeks and in recent days judges and public prosecutors joined them on the streets. Romania's media describe how the pressure on the judiciary is mounting and see little hope of the reform being stopped.

In Romania tens of thousands gathered on the streets again to protest the controversial judicial reforms on the weekend. The parliamentary vote on the legislation, which was originally planned for last week, has yet to be held. Romania's press sympathises with the demonstrators and attacks the leaders of the two chambers of parliament, Liviu Dragnea und Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, who are both facing charges of corruption.

Thousands of people took to the streets in several Romanian cities on Sunday evening to protest proposals for judicial reform under which the president would no longer be involved in appointing the chief prosecutors for anti-corruption investigations, with only the justice ministry and the independent Magistrates' Council or CSM making such decisions. Romania's press criticises the reform plans and praises the protests.

With the votes of the Social Democratic and liberal ruling parties the Romanian House of Deputies has approved a controversial judicial reform. The EU has criticised the amendments for endangering the independence of the judges and giving corrupt parliamentarians immunity from prosecution. The vote in the Senate is scheduled for next week. Romania's media are already incensed.