In November 2014, I did an interview (for my legal blog) with Minister of Justice Oleg Efrim, whose term of office was expiring at that time (his term of office had begun in 2011). At that time, the Republic of Moldova was in the process of creating a justice sector that would meet the European standards, ensure the rule of law and respect human rights. In presence of these efforts, citizens criticized the way in which this process was carried out, the act of justice itself and the ways of fighting against corruption.
So we discussed the post-Vilnius period (the period of post-ratification of the EU-Moldova Association Agreement), a period that was treated in one way or another as a test of compatibility between the EU and Moldovan values. Minister Efrim told me that even though the period before Vilnius had been extremely difficult, the real hardship for the Republic of Moldova started only after signing of the Agreement. He referred to the painful reforms that were underway and had to be intensified since it was required to meet the eligibility conditions in order to join the large EU family. Much work had to be done in that field.
We also talked about the lack of confidence in the success of some changes in the judicial system and whether or not that doubt was justified. In response, Minister Efrim said that the lack of confidence in changes was a feature which annoyed him in us, Moldovans, and which worked to the detriment of small but good things that could bring the gradual change. And even if justice provided enough reason for our people not to trust it, we could not say that nothing had changed in the absence of a reporting system. „Nobody will convince me that things in justice were better in 2008 than they are today”, he said.
Together with the team of the Ministry of Justice and international experts, the Justice Sector Reform Strategy for 2011-2016 was developed. For the first time, this strategy was voted in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, including the opposition vote. „It was for the first time in our history when we had a vision, a guiding direction of medium-term activities”, the minister said.
„The EU has provided us with a record-setting support for a non-member country for reforming the justice sector – budget support of 60 million euros and technical assistance of 10 million euros. No other non-member country of the European Community had such support. And this was, without doubt, an act of trust”.
When I asked him about his attitude towards the critical public opinion, if he saw it as a supervision or as a pressure, the minister said that all the while he was at the head of the Ministry of Justice, he was focused more on changes and transformations and less on whether people approved or disapproved of what he was doing. „If you ask people in a room who of them have trust in justice, only a few will raise their hands. And if you ask who has no trust in justice, there will be more hands raised. Well, if the question arises as to how many of them have interacted with justice, the number of hands will be the least. However, that says a lot. Try it one day, I do this experiment permanently”.
At present, Mr. Efrim has returned to private affairs. He is the coordinating lawyer at the Efrim, Roşca and Associates Associated Lawyers’ Office and together with his partner, lawyer Vladislav Roşca, they have managed to make the law firm, which they founded, to be one of the leaders in the legal counseling and attorney activity in the Republic of Moldova.
Photographer: Dumitru Doru
Location: headquarters of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Moldova