Politico: Romanian justice minister offers to resign over criminal code reform19 April 2019 | 08:59 | FOCUS News Agency
The leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, wanted Justice Minister Tudorel Toader to issue an emergency decree on the criminal code that was expected to reduce the statute of limitations for multiple offenses. Dragnea and other party members argued the decree was needed to bring the penal code in line with a recent Constitutional Court decision.
But critics argued it would be used to benefit Dragnea, who was sentenced to jail last year in a case involving fake jobs for party workers, which he has appealed.
The European Commission has warned against the emergency decree, and along with the U.S., Germany, France and nine other countries urged Romania earlier this month not to pass emergency laws that risked weakening the country's justice system and its ability to fight corruption.
The PSD officially withdrew its political support for Toader on Wednesday after he declared there was no emergency for him to issue such a decree, prompting him to offer his resignation to the prime minister on Thursday.
"I think Mr. Toader tricked us," Dragnea said earlier this month in a TV interview.
"You go out in January and say that you would adopt the emergency decree, you raise the scandal to the sky, we are the target of bullets from inside and outside the country, and then you say that there is no emergency," Dragnea said of Toader's decision not to issue the decree and the reaction to its potential adoption.
Toader was the architect behind the dismissal of Romania's top anti-corruption prosecutor, Laura Codruța Kövesi, last year and has also promoted other measures seen in Brussels as threatening the fight against corruption in the country, currently at the helm of the rotating Council of the EU presidency.
The PSD wants to replace Toader with Eugen Nicolicea, a PSD member who is now the vice president of the Chamber of Deputies.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, a former member of the opposition National Liberal Party, still has to approve Toader's resignation and his replacement. Iohannis said he would give an answer at the beginning of next week, but criticized the change in ministers.
Iohannis also plans to hold a referendum on the same day as May's European Parliament election, aimed at curtailing the government’s ability to change judicial laws by emergency decrees and to give amnesty to officials convicted of corruption. The exact questions are still to be determined.
"While I'm organizing a referendum to find out Romanians' opinion on this PSD attack on the justice system, the PSD is preparing a government reshuffle that is meant to strengthen — this is my impression — the attack on the justice system, and this cannot be a good sign," Iohannis said.
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