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New justice legislation is approved by the government and will next be debated in Parliament.
Two years after being put to public debate, the legislation referring to the judiciary has been approved by the government and submitted to Parliament for debate and adoption. The three bills in question refer to the status of judges and prosecutors, judicial organisation and the status of the Superior Council of Magistracy. The justice minister Cătălin Predoiu, who initiated the bills, says he hopes the new legislation, once passed by Parliament, will address an important aspect of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. A profound reform of the judicial system has been one of the requirements of the European Commission ever since the Mechanism was first put in place, back in 2007, when Romania joined the European Union. The Romanian authorities are hoping that this mechanism will be lifted. Cătălin Predoiu:
"It means addressing the main point of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and I believe we are in a position where this can actually be envisaged, once the legislation is adopted, surely in a way that maintains the qualitative level of regulation and our objectives."
The bills have received a positive opinion from the Superior Council of Magistracy. However, ever since they were first made public, they have been met with criticism from magistrates' associations and civil society. The ruling coalition formed by the Social Democratic Party, the National Liberal Party and the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania said it will endorse the bills.
The Save Romania Union in opposition says it's not likely for the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to be lifted on merit. In their current format, the justice bills take Romania even further away from the path of reform and subordinates the judiciary to the anti-reform group existing within the magistracy itself, said the Save Romania Union. In a statement, it adds that the new justice laws clearly show that the special department keeping an eye of magistrates is not eliminated but transformed, and the political influence on the appointment of new prosecutors remains, despite the recommendations of Romania's European partners. Similar criticism was levied by the REPER party led by the former technocratic prime minister Dacian Cioloş, who is accusing minister Predoiu of slyly evading the recommendations of the European Union and other international bodies monitoring the Romanian judicial system.
Predoiu rejected the criticism brought in the public space of certain aspects of the bills and said all the legislative initiatives of his ministry and the other documents that are being worked on, such as the amendment to the criminal codes, will address the main point of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. Law experts have already identified several major problems in the new bills. One such aspect is the elimination of provisions connected to the appointment and dismissal of police forces taking part in judicial investigations by order from the Prosecutor General. They say the elimination of such provisions paves the way for a political control of judicial police forces. (CM)
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