Romanian President Klaus Iohannis stood up on Tuesday against actions by the governing Social Democrats (PSD) in the wake of a new graft investigation linked to the top PSD leadership. As the PSD had said it fully supported two ministers who are eyed in the new anti-corruption investigation, Iohannis said on Tuesday that people who face criminal inquiries or are judged for criminal activities "should not be part in the leadership of the state". He said the two ministers should have resigned or be dismissed by the party. Meanwhile, he is expected to make a stand on attempts by the PSD the change the laws of the judiciary.

Klaus IohannisFoto: Captura

He referred to ministers Sevil Shhaideh and Rovana Plumb, who are eyed in an investigation opened by the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) into the transfer of an island in south Romania from state property to the control of entities close to PSD leader Liviu Dragnea.

Iohannis has remained mostly silent since a new wave of PSD-led measures to stiffle the fight against corruption, which include a series of legislative bills aiming to change the laws of the judiciary. He now spoke out both about the new corruption case, and previous actions by the PSD government.

He said that the fact that the PSD were shielding their two ministers in the so-called "Belina island" case - as the PSD announced publicly on Monday - was not good, but that his options, for now, were limited as decision making in such issues was at this phase in the court of other institutions.

But he said "it should become a normal thing that people under criminal investigation, judged for criminal activities or are sentenced do not become part of the state leadership or the government". He said the PSD "hasn't learned anything from my repeated appeals".

And he called on civil society to "get involved" maximally in the debate, but claimed his statement is not a call for public protests.

Early on Wednesday, Iohannis summoned for talks at the presidency a series of NGOs who had called on him to act and protect the independence of justice.

Iohannis is still expected to make a public stand on the series of attempts by the governing party to change the laws of justice. These changes include a series of good provisions, but also provisions that may bury the independence of the judiciary, as has explained.

On Thursday, the Supreme Council of Magistrates is expected to say its opinion on the matter and there is a risk it gives a partial approval to the changes, despite that a large number of magistrates' associations have spoken out against the changes. They are mostly worried that such measures - passing Judiciary Control into the hands of the Justice minister, that is, under political influence, while eliminating the president from the process of naming chief prosecutors - would seriously affect the independence of the judiciary.

One thing that President Iohannis can do in this regard, says journalist Dan Tapalaga, is to attend the sessions of the Supreme Council of Magistrates and ask members of the council what are the arguments to challenge the opinions and fears of thousands of judges and prosecutors. That would force any disagreeing member of the CSM to speak publicly against the opinion of the vast majority of their colleagues.