Interview broadcasted in the emission on international affairs ”Saturday 150” on the Bulgarian National Radio
The succesive judicial reforms in Romania have provoked protests of magistrates and common people . The indignation was provoked by legislative modifications, which, acoording to experts increase the possibilities for political intervention in the functioning of the judicial system. The changes have also stirred criticism, coming from the EU and the USA, in the sense that these modifications threaten the rule of law. After all, the governmennt in Bucharest seems to be open to concessions and has announced that some propositions of the emergency decree 7 will be abrogated. All that happens, while this week the European Parliament has proposed Laura Koveşi – a symbolic person for the Romanian anti-corruption – as chief European prosecutor. We have invited for comments on these issues in our emission our colleague Vladimir Mitev – who knows the processes in Romania, having founded the site for news on Romania and Bulgaria ”The Bridge of Friendship” and being editor of the Romanian section of the site ”The Barricade”.
What has provoked the indignation of citizens and magistrates in Romania? Why do the successive modifications have worried a lot of Romanians and their European and American partners?
On 19 February this year the government in Bucharest has issued an emergency decree, through which it has modified the organizational rules in the justice system. That is how a possibility was created for judges to become chief prosecutors of the three prosecution offices – the general prosecution, DNA and DIICOT. The competences of the special section for investigation of the magistrates were strengthened and it was taken out of the control of the general prosecutor. A criterion of ”good reputation” was introduced, and it was meant that this criterion could influence the professional destiny of magistrates. These modifications have passed very fast through the different institutions and there are doubts that the requirements of the law had been respected so that decree 7 would enter in force. Different organizations of the magistrates and DNA have asked for the abrogation of emergency decree 7. The supporters of anti-corruption from the times of Laura Koveşi consider these modifications a succesive political intervention in the judicial system.
While Koveşi was conducting the anti-corruption those who suffered used to cry out that Romania had become ”a prosecutors` country”. At the same time the supporters of anti-corruption believed it was a tool for modernisation of politics and society in Romania. The last modification create the feeling that “anti-anti-corruption” is being established. Instead of prosecutors replacing the politicians and the structures from the time of transition, it looks like the political elite creates the institutional order for the neutralization of prosecutors.
Those who have supported the anti-corruption out of hope that new people with new thinking will enter politics and will replace the old ones, today feel that they have lost what was achieved. Apparently, the fight against corruption is decisive for the future of the country. That is why the passions around justice have been indignated again in February.
The president Klaus Iohannis has criticised the modifications, calling them an attack of the government against justice. Is it really so? What makes the government accomplish those “piecemeal” modifications?
In an interview, which I gave to your emission in January 2019, I forecasted that the government will continue its course of reforms in justice, in spite of the confrontation with Bruxelles. Last week at the Congress of the Party of European Socialists in Madrid the candidate for leader of the European Commission Frans Timmermans has said that the Social-Democratic Party has to respect the fundamental European values or it will no longer be part of European socialists’ family.
In my view the redefinition of anti-corruption doesn’t take place once and for all, but is made in a “piecemeal” way, because each wave of modifications reflects the momentary and ever-changing balance of forces. The activities of the government look like an attack upon justice, when viewed by those who have supported the anti-corruption in its previous form. But if distance ourselves from the punchline of the fighting forces, probably a better definition of what is going on would be that in the recent times there is a fight who will exercise justice to his own benefit.
Does the Romanian government plan to hear the calls of the protestors and of their foreign partners?
The government already makes concessions. First, the minister of justice Tudorel Toader has announced that the texts on the possiblity of judges becoming chief prosecutors will be abrogated. On Friday it was announced that other concessions are also possible, such as the elimination of the notion of “good reputation” in the work of magistrates.
The indignated magistrates’ pressure evidently is big and this explains the steps back, which the government makes. However I believe that the government will fight not to make any more concessions, because under the banner of correction of abuses in justice it want to neutralise or even subordinate the judicial system.
Let’s also speak a little bit on the audition of Koveşi in the European Parliament. All we have discussed takes places in the time when the process of selection of chief European prosecutor takes place. We know that her application for this high-ranking job has provoked contradicting reactions in Romania. Why?
There are strong feelings of support for Koveşi in Romania. Her supporters believe she is a capable Romanian, who is a source of pride for its nation. At the same time other Romanians believe she is a demonic and repressive force. They suspect that her doctorate thesis is plagiarized. And think that she is promoted by strong national and international lobbies.
I don’t think that we have to pay great attention to conspiracies. What matters is that Koveşi has become a symbol, which provokes contradicting attitudes in Romania, maybe in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe. An observation of her work at DNA would show that in the time of her mandates she achieved a lot of condamnations and no politician has felt invulnerable. Even more, Koveşi was the personification of the magistrates’ independence from the political system.
The representatives of Eastern Europe in Bruxelles seem to have greater reluctance to support Koveşi than their colleagues from Western Europe. It is not coincidental that she has won with small difference the votes in the commission of the European Palriament, while the COREPER meeting of the countries, which have created the European Prosecution has supported the French candidate. A possible explanation for those preferences was given these day on the Romanian national TV: that if Laura Koveşi become European chief prosecutor, it would not be realistic that she would have great activity in Western Europe. Instead, she will probably investigate with greater attention cases, related to European funds in the Eastern part of the EU, which she knows better. This is the hope of those who want to take out of power the present governing forces in our region. Maybe such a special interest towards the corruption in the region makes our governments prefer the French candidate.
We will see what will happen. Thank you! The journalist Vladimir Mitev has commented on the protests in Romania, provoked by the judicial reforms.
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