EU Justice Commissioner: “If there are views that the vetting process is too strict, we are open to listen to these criticisms from judges, but we need to make sure that we have real change in the justice system”
The quality of justice reforms is more important than speed, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told a press conference during his visit to Chisinau.
“We are trying to help the Moldovan authorities in the reform process, with financial and technical support, to make sure that we have a high quality of reforms. Quality is much more important than speed. I know it is important to deliver results, but we want to be sure of the quality of the reforms. That is why it is important to have more feedback. I insisted today on the reaction of the Venice Commission. Not only in Moldova, we as EU Member States also ask the Venice Commission for its opinion and take it into account before voting on a law,” said the European Commissioner.
He also advised the authorities in Chisinau not to rush to carry out integrity assessment in the whole judicial system, but to give priority to the most important institutions. The European official also noted that a real change in the judiciary is important and that the authorities should have a dialogue with judges, in the context of several announced resignations from the Supreme Court of Justice.
“One message we want to send is not to go too far with vetting. After the CSJ, it is important to give priority to the top institutions and functions, not to try to organise this process in all the courts in the country, because there is a risk of deadlock.
If there are many resignations, as we have seen now, there are several ways to respond. The first, and I understand that this is a commitment of the Minister of Justice, is to open a real dialogue with the Supreme Court judges. (…) Otherwise, I know that there are ideas about a possible transitional period, with possible solutions to ensure the functioning of the institutions. What I recommend is to maintain good relations with various institutions, including the Venice Commission, to ensure that, in the event of initiatives by the Government or Parliament to organise some interim processes, they are fully aligned with European standards. (…)
After vetting in the CSJ, priorities should be set. For example, if the Courts of Appeal will follow, is it necessary to vet the courts of first instance? I am not sure. If it goes too far, there could be a real bottleneck.
That’s why I recommended it: Please prioritise. After the CSJ, it is important to focus on the top institutions. For example, on the Courts of Appeal, to avoid a deadlock. (…) If vetting can be organised at the highest level institutions, this is a first step to start the reform, then we will see. But for the time being, it is not necessary to involve all judges, including those in the lower courts,” stressed the EU Justice Commissioner.
With some judges remarking that the pre-vetting procedure imposed too harsh conditions, the EU official noted it must be very rigorous.
“We have seen that not very many judges have been promoted after the Pre-Vetting procedure. Maybe the conditions are too harsh. It is possible. But we have to be very rigorous in this process. After the dialogue initiated by the Ministry of Justice with the judges, with the Judges’ Association, we will see if some changes are possible. (…) But it is not the first time that we see a lot of comments about different cases of corruption in the justice system. And if you want to fight them, you have to be very rigorous. So, I would not agree that the process is too complicated, because nowadays we have different situations, such as too much influence from economic entities, oligarchs, so you need integrity in the selection process. (…) In the integration process it will be very important for Moldova to comply with all the rule of law requirements before becoming an EU member, but if there are opinions that the vetting process is too strict, we are open to listen to these criticisms from the judges, but we have to make sure that we have a real change in the justice system”, the European Commissioner said.
Asked by the reporter of Ziarul de Garda newspaper about the draft law on de-oligisation, Didier Reynders said that the opinion of the Venice Commission should be awaited, but until then, the current legislation should be applied.
“My concern relates to oligarchs and various entities that have a big influence in different areas and the possibility of taking action against them. For example, if you want to avoid media concentration, the Audiovisual Council must act, an institution that must have sufficient financial, human, technical resources to be able to investigate these situations. If you want to avoid mergers in the field of economics, the competition authority must act, because there are competition laws.
Of course, it is good to have a law against oligarchisation, which is a clear signal, but the recommendations of the Venice Commission must be taken into account. But, more than that, it is important to take action in various areas.
In the area of the media, we have stressed that it is very important to have an effective regulatory institution to avoid concentration. But a law is not enough for that, it is important that the law is implemented and that the regulatory institution has enough resources to do its job well,” said EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.