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PACE co-rapporteurs, ending Romania visit, welcome ongoing judicial reform

Ending a visit to Bucharest (4 to 5 July 2022), the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the periodic monitoring of Romania’s obligations to the Council of Europe, Edite Estrela (Portugal, SOC) and Krista Baumane (Latvia, ALDE), have welcomed the ongoing reform of the judicial system and expressed their confidence that the three justice bills under preparation will follow the recommendations of the Venice Commission, and will be adopted following an inclusive consultation process.

The co-rapporteurs were informed of the legal and organisational solutions adopted by the authorities following the dismantling of the section which investigated criminal offences in the judiciary, and took note of the opinions expressed on this by different stakeholders. “It is natural that there are various views, sometimes contradictory, on how the judiciary should be organised and run, and how the fight against corruption should be organised,” the co-rapporteurs said. “In a democratic society, pluralism and freedom of expression are basic values. It is of crucial importance, however, that any adopted solution ensures the independence of the judiciary, which is a necessary condition for the rule of law and the functioning of democratic institutions.”

The co-rapporteurs expressed concern at insufficient transparency as regards media financing, in particular the lack of information on sponsored content. They found it particularly worrying that, allegedly, political parties were using funds received from the State to finance different media without specifying or disclosing the exact nature of the services received. “Some of our interlocutors spoke about ‘buying silence’, and – if true – this poses a real threat to pluralism and democracy,” commented the co-rapporteurs. “This shortcoming in the relevant legislation should be remedied along the lines applied during electoral campaigns. The legislation applied in Romania during electoral campaigns imposes full transparency requirements, and is a good example of addressing this concern.”

The co-rapporteurs will submit a report and a draft resolution on Romania for adoption by the Monitoring Committee on 14 September 2022, with a view to holding a plenary debate during PACE’s October session (10-14 October 2022).