Infotag’s interview with Victor Popa (L), Chairman of the parliamentary Standing Committee for Legal Issues, Appointments and Immunity.
Mr. Popa, the Liberal Party is proposing that the examination of economic disputes be entrusted to courts of general jurisdiction to thus limit the plenary powers of economic courts. How will this reform work in practice?
The Constitutional Court has destroyed the Parliament’s first attempt to reform the Moldovan judiciary system by recognizing that the liquidation of specialized courts was a non-constitutional step. We regard this CC judgment as unrightful and unfounded, but must obey to it, though it will actually preserve the existing corruption in the judiciary, particularly in economic courts. In such a context, we think a way out can only be in not letting economic courts to consider economic litigations, reasons of insolvency declaration, shareholders’ and joint-stock societies’ motives etc. and in relegating these plenary powers to courts of general jurisdiction.
We are forced to preserve economic courts, but their authority shall be substantially curtailed. For example, they will be examining the reasons of the challenging of administrative acts concerning property rights, defending the interests of the State and territorial units on questions of regional budgets, as well as other, "less profitable" problems. We propose to preserve the Economic Appeals Chamber, but to slightly limit its authorities, like in the case with economic courts. We’ll thus try to follow an old proverb, when the wolves will be really sated and the sheep intact, i.e. economic courts will remain, but will not have plenary powers as before.
How much time will it take to have these changes in place?
The Liberal Party’s legislative initiative was registered on February 14, and we hope the Parliament will consider it without a delay. This is not haste, but the Constitutional Court judgment has caused a mess in the judiciary system because quite many lawsuits on economic disputes have been with courts of general jurisdiction, which are now at sea, not knowing if they should reject the cases or examine them. It is necessary to interfere immediately because these suspended cases directly touch citizens’ infringed interests.
Will the changes require extra expenditures?
No. Most of the lawsuits concerned have been sent over to courts of general jurisdiction. But, on the contrary, their delivery back to economic courts will require both material and moral expenditures.
Researches are showing that the judiciary in the Republic of Moldova is profoundly corrupt. Do you think that the problem will be settled by relegating the plenary powers?
A complete eradication of corruption is just impossible. Our objective is to diminish this social evil to a maximum-possible extent. We believe that the redistribution of powers should let suppress the level of corruption in the judiciary because exactly the economic courts were the most corrupt one because they handled lawsuits worth enormous sums. However, this is a preliminary measure because we are going to implement the reform of the judiciary system in conformity with the National Strategy of Justice Reform, approved by Parliament at the end of 2011.
The Ministry of Justice is proposing to convert economic courts into commerce courts. What do you think of it?
When discussing this question with MoJ experts, we arrived at a conclusion that our projects are similar. The LP initiative is easier to put into life because the MoJ project must first be approved by the Government, after which it must be sent over to the Parliament. The only difference between the two projects is that the Ministry is proposing to abolish the Economic Appeals Chamber. We are being more cautious because we don’t want a new appeal to the Constitutional Court that we have not allegedly restored the Economic Appeals Chamber as the CC had ruled.
The Liberal Party has put forward yet another initiative – to introduce a punishment for truant parliamentarians. Do you think it will be approved?
The punishment idea is not something new. Last year, a bill to this effect was blocked in the Parliament at a second reading. The Communists then accused us that we had written such bill specially against them. A very long debate followed, but we eventually failed to achieve a consensus. This time, we studied international experience to learn that our idea to deprive deputies of their salaries for sessions missed without a pardonable excuse is really a trifle compared with fines used in European countries. The severest punishment is applied in Portugal, where deputies loses there mandates for missing 4 working sessions without a good excuse. As for us, we are proposing to halve deputy’s salary for two cases of absenteeism, and to deprive them of the whole salary and extras for 3 cases.
Our bill stipulates what is a pardonable excuse for staying absent from the workplace: official trips outside Chisinau, sickness (to be certified with an official sickness list), or absence for a good reason to be reported to the Parliament Secretariat or to the Parliament Permanent Bureau. But if you are busy attending a street rally or something of that sort, this shall not work because a lawmaker is supposed to work at the forum’s plenary meetings, at sessions of Standing Committees and other Parliament structures, not on street barricades.
We see that some deputies don’t want to work but receive their salaries without a failure. Look at the Communists: they keep on claiming the incumbent Parliament is illegitimate and is continuing to exist contrary to the Constitution, so they boycott plenary meetings. But on the other hand, they all have received their salaries and all extras and allowances for January.
Infotag: Thank you very much for your interview, Mr. Popa.