On 31 October 2017, the Romanian Minister of Justice submitted a draft law to be debated by the Parliament, regarding the amendment on Law no. 303/2004, 317/2004 and 304/2004, on the organisation and functioning of judicial institutions.
Although the first amendments were introduced by the Government supposedly in order to comply with the decisions of the Constitutional Court, the draft has nonetheless triggered substantial criticism, debates and street protests. Therefore the draft law and proposed amendments thereto continued to be debated in a Special Parliamentary Committee. In addition, the Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, intervened and suggested that approval for the draft be first obtained from the advisory body of the Council of Europe for judicial changes, the Venice Commission. The Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM) also rejected the project, criticizing certain measures such as:
- placing the Judicial Inspectorate under the political control of the Minister of Justice, instead of the SCM;
- excluding the President from the procedure to appoint and dismiss the top managing prosecutors; placing the Judicial Inspectorate under the political control of the Minister of Justice, instead of the SCM;
- passing a separate law on judges' liability;
- extending the duration of traineeship of young magistrates and introducing certain new complex professional examinations.
The proposed amendments to the existing laws are regarded by many as infringing the autonomy and independence of the judiciary in general and the magistrates in particular. Furthermore, such new proposed measures are considered to be inconsistent with the recommendations and commitments contained in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and not representing the actual priorities for the current judicial system.
Recently the US Department of State also expressed concern over the proposed amendments and urged the Romanian Government to refrain from passing any measures that would allow political influence over the judiciary system.
The debates continue and a final draft of this law is expected soon.