Romania politics: Quick View - Senate adopts controversial bills
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- Economist Intelligence Unit
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- Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
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On December 19th and 20th the Senate (the upper house of parliament) adopted bills amending laws on the status of magistrates and the organisation of the judicial system. On December 21st it adopted a bill amending a law on the organisation and functioning of the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM). Klaus Iohannis, the president, has not yet promulgated any of the bills, and on December 27th the High Court of Cassation and Justice (the Supreme Court) filed unconstitutionality petitions on all three of them.
The amendments to the justice laws that have been adopted by the Senate would weaken the judiciary if promulgated by Mr Iohannis. The amendments include limiting the president's right to refuse nominations for the offices of prosecutor general and chief prosecutors for the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) and the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT). Under the proposed amendments the president would be able to refuse a nomination only once, giving greater leeway to the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD)-Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) coalition, which has a large parliamentary majority. Other amendments increase the oversight power of high-ranking prosecutors, making it more likely that decisions to prosecute will be influenced by political considerations. The establishment of a directorate under a less independent office of the prosecutor general, a body tasked with investigating crimes committed by judges and prosecutors, could further undermine judicial independence.
On December 17th demonstrators resumed nationwide protests against the bills, with an estimated 10,000 protesters in Bucharest, the capital, and several thousand more in other major cities. The adopted amendments were criticised by the DNA, DIICOT, the CSM, the European Commission, the US department of state and several EU embassies in Bucharest. In addition to weakening the independence of the judiciary, the amendments would hamper its effectiveness in fighting crime and terrorism.
Mr Iohannis has 20 days to approve the laws or return them to parliament for further discussion. If parliament passes the bills for a second time, Mr Iohannis will be required to approve them. On December 20th Mr Iohannis said that he would consider calling a referendum on the proposed changes to the judiciary.
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