The magistrates’ associations criticise the way in which the government is represented in the Joint Committee with the European Commission on the CVM

The “Romanian Judges’ Forum”, “Movement for the Defence of the Prosecutors’ Statute” and “Initiative for Justice” Associations disavow the non-transparent way in which the Romanian Government understands involvement in the Joint Committee announced by the Prime Minister, on the implementation of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism set up under the European Commission Decision 2006/928/EC of 13 December 2006, while ignoring that the magistracy needs to be represented, as widely reported by the media over the last few days.

Considering that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) aims to develop and streamline the administrative and judicial systems so that States be able to fulfil their obligations as members of the European Union, and that under the Treaty concerning the accession of the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, the two countries are granted membership status, the scope and duration of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism fall under the Accession Treaty while the requirements in the reports drawn up under this mechanism are binding on the Romanian State.

Moreover, in 2006, the Council specifically mandated the Commission to ensure that Romania and Bulgaria meet the objectives of the CVM. In the Conclusions on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism adopted on 12 December 2018, “8. The Council continues to expect Bulgaria and Romania to fully meet all their respective remaining key recommendations set out in the Commission reports, the fulfilment of which will lead to the provisional closing of individual benchmarks, except if developments in the respective countries clearly put in question or reverse the course of progress. Recalling that the speed of the process will solely depend on the respective progress made by Bulgaria and Romania, the Council notes that, provided all the respective benchmarks are fully met in an irreversible and sustainable way in the near future, the Mechanism could subsequently be concluded. In this context, the Council emphasises that all related key recommendations by the Commission should be fulfilled in order for benchmarks to be closed. 9. The Council reiterates that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism continues to be instrumental for progress. It remains an appropriate tool to assist Bulgaria and Romania in their respective reform efforts, in order for each of them to achieve a record of concrete and lasting results required to fulfil the objectives of the Mechanism. The Council recalls its continued readiness to support efforts of Bulgaria and Romania in this regard through EU and bilateral assistance. Pending the satisfactory fulfilment of all respective benchmarks through a substantial and lasting reform process, which the Council expects in this framework, the Mechanism stays in place. Until then, the Council invites the Commission to continue its reporting and looks forward to its next reports on Bulgaria and Romania foreseen in the second half of 2019.” [1]

 

Therefore, the recommendations issued by the Commission (“key recommendations”) are not optional as far as the Council is concerned. On the contrary, they are binding. The CVM reports are meant to help steer the efforts of the Romanian authorities through specific recommendations and assess the progress they made. In the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, reports issued by the European Commission under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism are regarded as “relevant international legal documents” (see, for instance, the judgement of 15 September 2015 in the Case no.43800/12, Tsanova-Gecheva v. Bulgaria). The Venice Commission also regularly cites the reports issued under this Mechanism, which is considered to be binding, as demonstrated by the terms used in their Opinions (see, for example, Opinion no. 924/2018 Amending the Laws of the Judiciary in Romania, Opinion no. 501/2008 on the Adoption of a New Law on Legal Acts in Bulgaria, or Opinion no. 563/2009 on the Draft Law on the Illegal Assets Forfeiture in Bulgaria). Paragraph 7 of the Opinion no. 563/2009 reads: “At the time of the country’s accession to the European Union, the country requested, under the cooperation and progress assessment procedure, that specific measures be adopted particularly to fight corruption and organised crime. Under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism set up by the European Commission, Bulgaria is required to (“est notamment tenue de”) implement a strategy to fight organised crime, with a particular focus on serious crime, money laundering and the systematic confiscation of the proceeds of crime. Also, paragraph 9 of the Opinion no. 591/2010 on the Draft Law Amending the Law on the Judiciary and on the Draft Law Amending the Bulgarian Criminal Procedure Code reads: ” (…) the explanatory memorandums of the draft laws explain that the Bulgarian authorities have drawn up these legal texts in response to matters related to the fight against organised crime and corruption on their territory, as identified in the European Commission’s reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism.”

Consequently, any discussions in joint committees cannot be carried out by low-level government officials, with no connection to the judiciary, nor can they exclude participation of Romanian magistrates, as long as the binding CVM benchmarks, as defined upon accession, refer to the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, integrity and the fight against corruption.

 

The statement of the Romanian Minister of Justice, Tudorel Toader (“The report smells like a political paper to me, serving many interests, using double standards and referring to mobile, changing goals(…) Why double standards? For instance, in 2012 there was an amendment to the laws of the judiciary concerning the powers related to disciplinary action. The measure was then appreciated as it concerned judges and prosecutors, while the minister of justice had broader powers than the power to engage in legal proceedings, which was a good thing. These days, 6 years later, the minister only has the power to bring matters to the Judicial Inspection and cannot take action; reports only go to prosecutors and this is no longer good. The same thing cannot be good in 2012 and not good in 2018.” [2]), as well as the statement of the President of the Superior Council of the Magistracy, Lia Savonea, have minimised the conclusions of the latest CVM report (“considering the mistakes in the latest report, we obviously cannot blindly follow these recommendations as if they were the 10 Commandments, without expressing our views or discussing them, especially since they include verifiable aspects which are not in line with certain legal provisions, particularly with the Code of Criminal Procedure. They have been obvious”. [3]). That is why we find it absolutely necessary to have the undersigned professional associations represented in the above-mentioned Joint Committee in order to express the views of the thousands of Romanian magistrates who had spoken in general meetings of the Courts and Prosecutors’ Offices, at the request of professional associations, in favour of keeping the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification in place.

 

Furthermore, the absence of a genuine dialog with judges and prosecutors resulted in thousands of magistrates protesting under various forms over the last two years, starting from cancelling court hearings and ending with them striking in front of the courthouse or prosecutor’s office. These unprecedented measures by the judiciary are meant to ensure observance of Romania’s international commitments and implementation of all the recommendations made by the Venice Commission, GRECO and the European Commission.

Romanian Judges’ Forum Association:
Judge Dragoș Călin, Co-President
Judge Anica Codreanu, Co-President

Movement for the Defence of the Prosecutors’ Statute Association:
Prosecutor Antonia Diaconu, Co-President
Prosecutor Cosmin Adrian Iordache, Co-President

Initiative for Justice Association:

Prosecutor Bogdan Pîrlog, Co-President
Prosecutor Sorin Lia, Co-President

[1] See http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-15187-2018-INIT/ro/pdf

[2] See https://www.digi24.ro/stiri/actualitate/justitie/tudorel-toader-acuzatii-pe-tema-raportului-mcv-are-iz-politic-1032416

[3] See http://www.ziare.com/stiri/magistrati/o-parte-din-membrii-csm-critica-recomandarile-mcv-lia-savonea-nu-putem-sa-le-ducem-asa-orbeste-ca-pe-sfintele-moaste-1543219

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