Romania's Social Democratic (PSD) government on Monday morning adopted an emergency ordinance to "streamline" a series of changes to the justice laws. The move comes despite disquiet within the PSD over how the changes should look and despite warnings from outside the party over the possible effects of such an ordinance.

Tudorel ToaderFoto: Agerpres

As the government convened in the morning, PM Viorica Dancila said they were due to adopt an emergency ordinance as a "solution discussed with Justice minister Tudorel Toader, representatives of the Venice Commission and at the meeting with EC vice-president Frans Timmermans".

She said that three major laws governing the judiciary were changed in the Parliament and validated by the Constitutional Court. What the government was due to adopt was a way to harmonise the provisions of these laws, the PM said.

The move comes as the Public Ministry has warned about the risks of breaching the constitutional order should the government adopt an ordinance in order to push some of the changes to the justice laws.

After the government session, Justice minister Tudorel Toader announced the government adopted the emergency ordinance and said he did not go to "the Venice Commission to ask for or take approval".

He presented the key changes to the legislation which were made today:

  • Prosecutors eyeing top jobs at the Prosecutor's Office, the National Anti-Corruption Department (DNA) or the Department fighing organised crime and terrorism (DIICOT) must spend more time building a magistrate career in order to get those jobs (at least 10 years, instead of the current 8 year threshold)
  • Measures to increase transparency for interviews aimed at selecting top prosecutors
  • Magistrates must have an experience of at least 10 years in order to become prosecutors at the DNA and the DIICOT
  • He said the Venice Commission understoodthat the two representatives of the civil society at the Supreme Council of Magistrates do not have a right to vote, which they should have, according to the said commission. But he said that the representatives attent the CSM plenum with a right to vote.
  • The Justice Ministry may notify the body charged with investigating magistrates, the Judiciary Inspectorate, to check potential misteps by prosecutors. He claimed that without such a role the authority of the ministry over magistrates, which is stipulated in the Constitution, would be strictly decorative.
  • Another change refers to the possibility to revoke members of the Supreme Council of Magistrates.
  • Delegated magistrates would be screened, some will retain delegations while those who don't comply with go back.
  • Letting magistrates obtain advantagous packages for early pensions, which critics said would lead to a drain of professionals in the sector, would be postponed until the end of 2019.
  • Appeals judged in a formula of three judges are postponed until 2020.

Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar this morning criticised provisions of the hastily adopted ordinance and said they would have an impact on major ongoing cases including the one related to the Romanian 1989 revolution and the one regarding major violence reported during the August 10, 2018 protests in Bucharest. Such cases draw lots of resources from many institutions and teams formed to tackle them would be affected by the rules of delegation, as PG Lazar pointed out.