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EFO's analysis of the proposed justice laws

New justice laws: reform or the return of old habits from the pre-accession period?

The Romanian government adopted the draft justice laws on the 24th of August 2022 and is in a hurry to adopt them in Parliament in less than a month, in a joint committee and possibly under an emergency procedure. The government thus hopes to lift the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) this autumn. Not only do the draft laws not solve the problems that emerged between 2017-2019, but they revert the Romanian judiciary to pre-accession standards. In addition, EFOR wishes to remind that the Government has expressly assumed in its government programme that the draft laws will request the Venice Commission for an advisory opinion before adopted the laws in Parliament.

The adoption of the justice laws in any form will not be considered sufficient, but only if the legislative changes adopted meet the commitments made. This was also the position of the European Commission. European Commissioner Vera Jourova expressed her support for Romania in its efforts to lift the CVM if the justice reform is adopted. After the adoption of the drafts by the Government on 24 August, the European Commission stressed that the lifting of the CVM is directly linked to the fulfilment of the commitments undertaken.

The adoption of the justice laws is also a commitment made by the Romanian Government through the Government Programme 2021-2024 and the PNRR. The PNRR milestone on the justice laws outlines the objectives to be achieved by the new laws, including strengthening the independence of magistrates, recruitment and promotion on meritocratic criteria and making the Judicial Inspection more efficient.

The current government’s programme expressly states that draft justice laws will be submitted to the Venice Commission for an opinion before being adopted by Parliament. The analysis made by the Venice Commission’s experts would be an objective guarantee that the proposed texts do indeed meet the commitments made. Unfortunately, we note that neither the Minister of Justice nor the Prime Minister has announced any intention of taking this step.

Beyond the procedural and transparency aspects of decision-making, we show in the report below which are, in EFOR’s opinion, the problematic provisions introduced in the drafts approved by the government. These provisions need to be interpreted in the national context and in conjunction with the other legal norms in order to correctly understand the impact they will have on the functioning of the Romanian judicial system.

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