Brussels, 12 February 2009
Why does the Commission report on progress in judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Romania?
Upon accession of Romania on 1 January 2007, certain weaknesses remained in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption that could prevent an effective application of EU-laws, policies and programmes and prevent Romanians from enjoying their full rights as EU citizens. Therefore, the Commission took the obligation within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to assist Romania to remedy these shortcomings but also to regularly verify progress against four benchmarks set for judiciary reform and the fight against corruption. These benchmarks are interlinked. They need to be seen together as part of a broad reform of the judicial system and the fight against corruption for which a long term political commitment is needed.
How does the Commission report on progress in Romania?
The Commission's reports under CVM are published twice a year. They are based on contributions from the Romanian authorities, the Commission's services, Member States' experts as well as technical experts and the civil society.
The last report published on 23 July 2008 gave a comprehensive assessment of progress under each of the four benchmarks established for Romania. Although the fundamental elements of a functioning system were in place, the report noted that the legal and institutional framework was still fragile and decisions on corruption were highly politicised. After a period of uncertainty, the Government had stepped up its efforts toward judiciary reform and the fight against corruption but the commitment to reform by Romania’s key institutions was uneven: An unequivocal consensus was needed, including in Parliament and among the judiciary to root out high level corruption.
As the time period since this report was considered too short to allow Romania to remedy all shortcomings and for the Commission to revisit the assessment, the present report contains only a factual update of progress. It deliberately abstains from providing a detailed assessment of results achieved under each of the benchmarks but notes some concerns on how progress has been evolving.
These concerns need to be addressed by Romania before the Commission carries out a full assessment again mid 2009. The last detailed report of 23 July 2008 remains the point of reference with regard to the main challenges ahead.
What does today's report say?
The report notes that the pace of progress has not been maintained and suggests that the Romanian authorities regain momentum on judicial reform and the fight against corruption.
Although there have been some positive signals in judicial reform, results are difficult to demonstrate: The Government has finalised draft amendments to the existing draft Civil Code, a draft of the Criminal Code and drafts of the Criminal and Civil Procedures Codes, but they still need to be adopted. The intentions of the Superior Council of the Magistracy to accept more ownership for judiciary reform are encouraging but need to be translated into deeds. In addition, access to and unification of jurisprudence, the accountability of magistrates, the human resources capacity and management of the judiciary still await improvement.
The National Integrity Agency has established an operational record of cases. This record needs to be maintained and the agency will need to demonstrate that it is able to extend its investigations without outside interference and with the full cooperation of other state authorities.
The National Anticorruption Department (DNA) has maintained its positive track-record of prosecuting cases of high-level corruption. On the other hand, investigations into some high-level corruption cases remain blocked by the Romanian Parliament. In addition, the stability of the Romanian anti-corruption framework suffered several serious challenges through the Parliament's initiative to change the nomination procedure of senior prosecutors and through its recurring attempts to amend the Penal Procedure Code with a purpose to severely restrict the rights of the prosecution.
What are the next steps?
It is important that the Romanian authorities regain momentum on judicial reform and the fight against corruption so as to reverse certain backward movements of recent months. This means in particular adopting the codes needed to modernise the legal system and showing through an expeditious treatment of high-level corruption cases that the legal system is capable of implementing the laws in an independent and efficient way.
The next assessment of progress by the Commission in summer 2009 will show to which extent Romania has been able to address the shortcomings in the reform of the judiciary and to produce convincing and tangible results in the fight against corruption.
Romania must demonstrate the existence of an autonomously functioning, stable judiciary which is able to try and sanction corruption and preserve the rule of law.
What are the four benchmarks set for Romania?
The following benchmarks have been set for Romania in the context of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism:
1. Ensure a more transparent, and efficient judicial process notably by enhancing the capacity and accountability of the Superior Council of Magistracy. Report and monitor the impact of the new civil and penal procedures codes.
2. Establish, as foreseen, an integrity agency with responsibilities for verifying assets, incompatibilities and potential conflicts of interest, and for issuing mandatory decisions on the basis of which dissuasive sanctions can be taken.
3. Building on progress already made, continue to conduct professional, non-partisan investigations into allegations of high level corruption.
4 Take further measures to prevent and fight against corruption, in particular within the local government.
Where can the report be found?
The report is available on the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/cvm/index_en.htm
 Commission Decision 2006/928/EC of 13 December 2006 establishing a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption (OJ L 354, 14.12.2006, p. 56).