Newsletter 3/2010 - In focus
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS, by Catalin Predoiu, Romanian Minister of Justice
One of the fundamental objectives of the European Union, as stated by the Treaty of Lisbon, is to offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal borders, while guaranteeing security in Europe.
The multi-annual Stockholm Programme, adopted by the European Council in December 2009, is firmly rooted in a shared commitment to the core values of the area of freedom, security and justice, which will serve as a cornerstone for enhancing the European integration process, as well as ensuring security and developing prosperity for all citizens. The South East European countries, in their endeavour to accede to EU, are equally interested in further consolidating fundamental values such as the rule of law, human rights, mutual trust and its direct consequence, the mutual recognition principle, responsibility and solidarity.
As the minister of justice of a newly acceded country to the EU, I strongly believe that our regional institutions provide a coherent and efficient framework for working together in the field of rule of law and justice reform. We need this cooperation to address challenges that affect our region now.
At the regional level, migration, legal and illegal, creates pressures on borders management and visa issue. Trafficking in human beings for black market labour exploitation, drugs and stolen vehicles trafficking, smuggling cigarettes and other merchandise is flourishing. Tax evasion, economic frauds and frauds to the EU funds are increasing. A range of regional activities and structures have been developed in the past years, with varying success and impact in countering this type of illegal activities.
The need for regional cooperation is most evident in criminal issues, but we should also observe that a range of practical challenges affect our people in their daily lives in the area of private and civil law, such as labour and family law, inheritance and property rights and mutual recognition of civil court decisions.
In addition, the negative effects of the current global economic crisis are multiplied and deepened in the countries of the region due to the transition process, already troubled economies and the fragility of the governments’ resources.
A recent survey highlighted that despite considerable progress, South East Europe faces major challenges in the area of rule of law. Indeed, the problems of integrity within judiciary undermine the very foundation of our legal systems and hamper the economic development of the region.
All accusations of corruption within judiciary have an immediate and serious impact – lack of trust of citizens. No state can function correctly if the citizens do not trust the justice system. Without prejudice to independence of judiciary, measures are to be adopted in order to make sure that justice – more than any other sector of our public life – is reliable and predictable and most of all free of corruption.
This, in my vision, includes the promotion of transparent exercise of public office, assets disclosure, implementation of relevant standards for managing the conflict of interest, proper implementation of rules regarding incompatibilities and ethics. Moreover, when preventive measures are failing, we need to reassure ourselves that our specialized investigative and prosecution agencies are able to intervene, submit cases to court and obtain – within reasonable timeframe – dissuasive sanctions.
After several years of anti-corruption activity in Romania, we can state that the efficiency of anti-corruption institutions is significantly dependent on legislative and institutional stability and on inter-agency cooperation both at national and international level. We have managed to build sound institutions such as the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate – a prosecutor’s office that is appreciated in Europe for its results. We have also developed – in cooperation with the countries of South east Europe - new instruments for investing in our future by initiating and ensuring the sustainability of the Summer School for Junior Magistrates from the region.
The Romanian Ministry of Justice is currently engaged in a process of consulting all relevant stakeholders in promoting a Multiannual Strategy for the Development of Justice as Public Service. The implementation of this Strategy focuses on the enforcement of a new legal framework provided by four new codes (both material and procedural criminal and civil codes) that will change the paradigm of the way in which we organize our trials and will revise important institutions that have an impact on the citizens’ daily life. Measures envisaged to be adopted shortly will provide our citizens with increased access to justice and protection of their rights.
Romania remains committed to regional cooperation and will act in its EU and NATO Member State capacities to assist and support all the countries of our region in their European and Euro-Atlantic accession processes.
We are also inviting our South East European partners to a better coordination of our regional voice and to identifying common messages for common problems. I am confident that the envisaged Regional Multiannual Strategy for Justice and Home Affairs, currently drafted by the RCC in cooperation with all the stakeholders, will include concrete answers to our needs and priorities.
 In cooperation and partnership with the Regional Cooperation Council and the Regional Anticorruption Initiative, the Romanian Ministry of Justice on 20-21 May 2010 in Bucharest co-hosted a Regional Conference marking ten years of efforts in the region to curb corruption. At that occasion, experts from the countries of the region debated an independent research paper elaborated by the Transparency International Romania addressing the “Integrity and resistance to corruption of the law enforcement bodies in South East European countries”.
Catalin Predoiu has been the Romanian Minister of Justice since 29 February 2008. Mr. Predoiu is a commercial and corporate governance lawyer, having completed a Ph.D. degree in commercial banks. He has taught commercial law as a lecturer at the University of Bucharest and has received a prize from the Romanian Academy as a co-author of a law treatise.