The European Commission’s Frans Timmermans suggested getting international constitutional experts to vet draft changes to Romania’s justice laws that prompted anti-corruption protests over the weekend.
In a meeting with the Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader in Brussels on Tuesday, Timmermans — the Commission’s first vice president — “recalled the value of submitting the laws to the Venice Commission for their opinion,” according to a Commission official.
The Venice Commission is an advisory body of the Council of Europe which has been called upon in recent years to advise on judicial changes in countries such as Poland.
The European Commission has been monitoring Romania’s fight against high-level corruption since it joined the EU a decade ago, under a special mechanism created for Romania and Bulgaria. As Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has promised to take Romania out of this mechanism by the time he leaves office in 2019, Brussels is keeping a close eye on any legal changes by Bucharest that could see it backslide.
The latest changes proposed by Toader, which are now being considered by parliament, include removing the Romanian president from the process of appointing the top anti-corruption prosecutor.
“We talked about consulting the Venice Commission regarding the appointment of top-level prosecutors,” Toader told POLITICO after the meeting, adding that the Commission’s first recommendation in its latest report under the monitoring mechanism regards robust procedures for appointing top-level prosecutors.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, a former member of the National Liberal Party, has argued that the justice minister’s proposals would give the Social Democrat government too much power over such appointments.
As head of state, it is Iohannis’ role to mediate between the different branches of power. His criticisms of the proposed changes were echoed by protesters in the streets of Bucharest this weekend.