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Judgement day

As the European Commission releases its next and last monitoring report on Romaniaís rule of law, Minister of Justice Catalin Predoiu defends the nationís record on justice reform and anti-corruption

June 2009 - From the Print Edition

During the first two years of full EU membership, Romania has endeavored to continue the reform of the judiciary and to intensify the fight against corruption. Although significant progress has been registered in these areas, there is still a lot to be done, taking into consideration the fact that the judiciary faces increasingly severe issues, accumulated over the last 20 years.
In the reform of the justice system, tangible results have been attained regarding the four new codes (the criminal code, civil code, criminal procedures code and civil prodcuedures code), the safeguarding of the independence of the judiciary, the unification of jurisprudence, the use of modern IT, the infrastructure of courts and prosecutorís offices, the penitentiary system and the probation system.
The four codes, which represent the cornerstone of a judicial system, will bring structural changes in the Romanian judiciary, to the benefit of all our citizens.
This includes reducing the duration of the judicial proceedings and ensuring that cases are solved within a reasonable period of time, according to the standards of Article Six of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the Strasbourg human rights court.
It will establish a proper balance between the requests for an efficient criminal procedure, the protection of procedural rights, as well as the fundamental human rights of the participants in the criminal trial and the unitary observance of the principles regarding a fair criminal trial.
It will also make the public service of justice more predictable and efficient.
The new codes have been elaborated over a period of several years, by four drafting commissions, composed of academics, practitioners and representatives of the Ministry of Justice. An important phase in the elaboration of all four codes was that of public debates, which included the publication of several versions of the drafts on the Ministryís website, the dissemination to all courts and prosecutorís offices, with an explicit request for the magistrates to submit their comments, organising meetings and seminars in various parts of the country, as well as debates and forums at universities, or under the auspices of organisations for liberal professions.
The elaboration process, including the consultation phase, entailed an ample and constant institutional effort on the part of the Ministry of Justice: all in all, approximately 4,200 articles have been drafted. These will represent the basis for re-designing the current system.

Graft battle

In the fight against corruption, important progress has been obtained, such as the setting up of the National Integrity Agency (ANI), which has been functional for one year and verifies the declarations of wealth and of interests of dignitaries, high-rank officials, magistrates and civil servants.
There is also continuous improvement of the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) and its track record of cases involving MPs, ministers and former ministers, high-ranking civil servants, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, mayors, police and customs officials.
There has been an extension of anti-corruption measures to other vulnerable sectors, such as medicine and education.
There has been vast organisation of anti-corruption and awareness raising campaigns.
There has also been a simplifying of a series of administrative procedures, such as the issuing of passports, driving licenses, car registration certificates, criminal and fiscal records.
Moreover, these changes shall represent an important support to the development of the national economy and the business environment, because a stable coherent legislative framework and an efficient judiciary are the sine qua non conditions for any modern healthy economy.

Work to do

There are many more challenges ahead. The reform of the judiciary has proved to be a complex and time-consuming process. The interlinking legislative and institutional measures will come to produce their full effects over time.
The priorities of my mandate remain adopting the four codes, ensuring the medium- and long-term coherency and stability of the legal framework, strengthening the independence of the judiciary and developing additional areas which contribute to the efficient application of the criminal policy of the state, such as the penitentiary system and the probation system.
The success of our reforms, namely ensuring an independent, transparent and reliable judiciary, will surely help us strengthen our position in the EU and enhance our credibility in general. Furthermore, it will enable us to deliver a predictable and efficient public service of justice for the Romanian citizens.

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