Romanian government undergoes new reshuffle, withdraws support of Justice minister

Anca Alexe 18/04/2019 | 13:56

Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party decided in an executive council meeting on Wednesday to enact a new reshuffling of the government led by PM Viorica Dancila.

Three ministries will have new leadership as soon as the PSD’s proposals are approved by President Klaus Iohannis – but the main purpose of this week’s decision seems to have been the replacement of Justice minister Tudorel Toader, who is not a PSD member but had been supported by the party until recently, when some disagreements appeared over emergency orders (OUG) related to the criminal code, which Toader avoided signing, ignoring the pressure coming from the party, including leader Liviu Dragnea, who some pundits say may directly benefit from these OUGs. Now, Toader is being urged to resign, but he has been stalling a clear response.

For the Justice Ministry, PM Dancila announced that the new proposed minister will be MP Eugen Nicolicea, who is expected to back plans to pass the OUGs demanded by PSD leadership. The other two changes will be made to the Ministry of European Funds and the Ministry for Romanians Everywhere, as their ministers Rovana Plumb and Natalia Intotero are set to run in the European Parliament elections in May. They are to be replaced by Oana Florea and Liviu Tit Brailoiu.

“Plan B” to speed up appointment of new ministers

Although PM Dancila said on Wednesday that she would send president Iohannis proposals to name the three new ministers next week, sources cited by said that a “Plan B” may be in the works in order to avoid a very likely rejection or significant delay of the proposals from President Iohannis, who has been a strong critic of the current government and especially of their actions targeting the Justice system and suggested on Thursday that he would reject Nicolicea’s appointment to the Justice Ministry, claiming that the PSD’s planned reshuffle would “reinforce the assault on Justice”. He added that he would respond to the PM’s requests at the beginning of next week.

If the president delays or rejects the reshuffling proposals, PM Dancila is expected to develop a proposal for a government restructuring instead of a reshuffle.

Restructuring the government involves either a change in the number of ministries or a change in the distribution of ministries among the parties of a coalition, while a reshuffle only means changing the ministers in charge of existing portfolios. A possible restructuring proposal must go through the Parliament and then the president would be forced to approve the changes much quicker than he would through a reshuffling procedure, where he would have the ability to reject both the dismissal decisions for the old ministers or the first set of new proposals, thus significantly delaying new appointments.

In the restructuring scenario, the proposed minister for Justice could be general government secretary and former Constitutional Court judge Toni Grebla, according to Hotnews sources, suggesting that the PSD would expect their initial proposal of Eugen Nicolicea for the Justice portfolio to be rejected by the president in the reshuffling scenario, and would then make a second proposal for Toni Grebla to become the minister, which Iohannis would not be able to reject.

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