Romanian president Klaus Iohannis refused to sign into the law the government’s judicial reform package, referring them instead to the Constitutional Court and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Klaus said that the proposed laws “fail to meet European standards” and threaten the independence of the courts.
“I decided to send the entire legislative package back to the Constitutional Court and, in parallel, to refer it the Venice Commission,” said president Klaus. The head of state took the opportunity during his press conference to criticise the ruling coalition which he accused of trying to undermine the judiciary. Referring to an attempt by the government last year to introduce legislation to water down the legal penalty for corruption, Klaus said “we managed to stop that legislation together. Hundreds of thousands of good faith Romanians protested in the street.”
Among the proposed measures objected to by President Klaus are the new conditions for entering the magistracy, the establishment of a special prosecutor’s office to investigate the criminal acts committed by the magistrates, the transfer of certain tasks from the Superior Council of Magistrates to the Ministry of Justice. Taken together, he said these initiatives would weaken the independence of the judiciary.
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader noted that Klaus had given instructions to constitutional judges to review the legislation. “I have seen from the president’s statement, like the previous president, that he instructs constitutional judges not to hurry and to properly analyze the complaint. How long it takes depends on the complexity of the question and when the question is answered. The Commission meets four times a year,” Toader said.
Romania’s centre-right President has been one of the harshest critics of the ruling party’s policies. He recently denied a government request to fire anti-graft chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi. On Friday, he described Social Democrat Prime Minister Viorica Dancila as unfit for her post and urged her to resign.