A new Strategy on justice sector independence and integrity of the Republic of Moldova: key priorities, constraints and opportunities

The Institute of European Policies and Reforms (IPRE) in partnership with the Legal Resources Centre from Moldova (LRCM), in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and with the support of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova, organized on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, an Online Policy dialogue „Justice Sector Independence and Integrity Strategy: Priorities, Constraints and Opportunities”.  

The Policy Dialogue aimed at contributing to an inclusive process of structured public consultations on the new Justice Sector Independence and Integrity Strategy. During the event the preliminary opinion prepared by IPRE and CRJM on the draft Strategy, which was earlier presented to the was introduced (the Preliminary Opinion can be accessed here).

Further we present a summary of the key remarks made by the speakers during the event:

Fadei Nagacevschi, Minister of Justice: “At the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of Justice resumed the process of public consultations on the draft Justice Sector Independence and Integrity Strategy for 2020 – 2023, as well as on its Action Plan. Improving the justice sector has been and remains a major priority for the Republic of Moldova and is a condition for the development of a democratic society. At the same time, the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights represent supreme guaranteed values. The way in which justice is done, directly influences the fundamental coordinates of the functioning of a society. It is unfortunate that despite some efforts, the legal system remains affected by functional issues, due to lack of integrity, an issue that has a major impact on the act of justice. I hope that a strategic and systemic approach in the new policy paper will allow for an overall medium-term vision for the sustainable development of the justice sector.”

Peter Michalko, EU Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova: “The justice system in Moldova needs to change: to eradicate corruption that by many is seen as systemic. To stop being influenced by political or economic interests. To get rid of those who caused this deplorable state of justice system and to give chance to those who can change it. We are all aware of the recent difficult process to draft a new reform strategy for the justice sector, since an extension of the last strategy expired at the end of 2017. Last year was particularly difficult, with three different governments and leaderships of the Ministry of Justice and other institutions, as well as with the entire society witnessing importance of issues related to the Superior Council of Magistracy or to the general Prosecutor’s office. I believe it is time now to look forward and concentrate on the actual reform needs and the tools at hand to address those needs.”

Dereck J. Hogan, US Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova: “Justice reform and the fight against high-level corruption remain a priority. The central role of the Ministry of Justice in coordinating a consultative process with the help of the Council of Europe’s High Level Working Group reflects this commitment. It is essential that subsequent consultations lead to a well-designed, transparent and truly inclusive process. The real change, which ensures independence and integrity, needs a new approach. It must be distinct from recycled, inappropriate or unrealistic plans from the past. Breaking the cycle of corruption and capturing the state requires much more than what was initially planned. There is a need for courage and concrete actions, such as the elimination of those mechanisms that compromise judicial independence, such as the appointment of judges on a probation period and Article 307 of the Criminal Code. The eradication of widespread and entrenched corruption in Moldova will begin only when strong and independent institutions have honest and uncompromised officials. This can only happen with the necessary political will and the necessary power, and the citizens of the Republic of Moldova and their international partners have the right to request them.”

William Massolin, Head of the Council of Europe Office in the Republic of Moldova: “Next week we will celebrate 25 years since Moldova joined the Council of Europe and it is a time to celebrate because the country has joined a family of countries that are committed to promoting the rule of law and democracy. It is a moment to reflect on achievements and future steps, especially in what concerns the independence and integrity in the justice sector. During these 25 years of collaboration with the authorities of the Republic of Moldova, these two dimensions were in the top of our priorities. Our institutions have provided recommendations on various legislative acts. Implementing reforms that guarantee the independence and integrity of justice involves difficult choices by those in charge. These elections could lead to a loss of control that will allow legitimate institutions to strengthen and exercise their prerogatives. I hope that the completion of this Strategy and its implementation will represent a historic moment.”

Radu Foltea, State Secretary, Ministry of Justice: “The draft strategy largely reflects the following objectives, namely, ensuring an independent and qualitative justice, effective and with honest actors. Developing a policy framework is certainly a complex process and requires several steps. Essential for this process is the involvement of all stakeholders, who could be involved especially in the development and the implementation process. In this sense, communication with all key actors and transparency of the process is an imperative for achieving the objectives.”

Hanne Juncher, Head of Department, Justice and Legal Co-operation, Council of Europe, member of the Ad-hoc Working Group of the Council of Europe: “We all agree on the role that justice plays, because it affects all key processes. We are ready to provide further assistance on justice reform and we believe that the intention to conduct this reform is a positive one, which comes in addition to other reforms in the system. We know from the experience of other states that if institutions are to be affected and someone is afraid, those changes will not occur. To do this, many actions and steps must be taken, and everyone must have the same intentions and go in the same direction. One of the current goals is to promote a culture of the independence of justice.” 

Jeroen Hooijer, Head of Unit, DG JUST, European Commission: “People are impatient to see all the results, that is why it is important to begin with the strategy, with the action plan and then with the actual implementation. Otherwise there will be a chaos. Second, the process of reaching implementation is very important and therefore there must be a wider consultation within this process. All parties must have the opportunity to contribute, and the Chisinau authorities must continue these consultation procedures. Third, for us, the justice strategy is not just a paper. It is important in order to have a fair justice that solves people’s problems, who have to wait for years for their problems to be solved. The strategy must focus on real issues in the justice sector.”

Iulian Rusu, Deputy Executive Director, IPRE: “There are some essential elements that we recommend to be included in the new strategy. First of all, we need to include a risk assessment, of what could affect the implementation of the strategy, and the year 2020 is an example of how certain risks can affect our lives. Another element concerns the real problems identified, which really matter. There are some examples we have referred to in our previous opinions, such as activities related to replenishing the number of staff in the judicial system or the use of judicial reserves. In this sense, a major problem is the fluctuation of staff in the system, and this is why other measures are needed to reduce this phenomenon. Another aspect that we recommend generally for the activities and priorities of the Strategy is related to the sufficiency and steadiness of actions. For example, for the justice field in general, it is important to ensure that the members are correct. So, the priority control of the integrity of these people, namely the control of wealth and interests is a priority for this field.”

Vladislav Gribincea, President, LRCM: “I want to mention from the beginning that implementation is more important than planning. And I say this because implementation is a rather complicated process, and in the long run it is quite a painful thing and there must be an effective coordination mechanism for carrying out these implementations. The strategy provides a mechanism, which to some extent reproduces the mechanism of the previous strategy. We need to learn from the previous lessons, and the conclusion we can draw is that we need to have a fairly influential mechanism from a political point of view, of coordination and monitoring. Thus, a Monitoring Commission at the level of the Ministry of Justice is not enough to determine all State Agencies to effectively implement the reforms. We recommend the existence of a sufficiently influential mechanism from a political point of view, so that at any stage of implementation it can intervene with an influential decision on what is to be done.”

The video recording of the event is available here.

This event was organized within the project “Support to the development and implementation of justice policies in the Republic of Moldova”, implemented by IPRE in partnership with LRCM, with the financial support of the European Union.