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MEMO/10/347

Brussels, 20 July 2010

Report on Progress under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism in Romania

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 Mechanism1 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?

Under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, the Commission delivers an annual assessment of progress in summer and an interim report in winter. The present report is the fourth annual assessment report. The Commission's analysis is based on contributions from the Romanian authorities, the Commission services, Member States, experts and NGOs.

The last annual assessment report published in July 2009 noted that Romania had established a momentum of reform, in particular by adopting new Civil and Criminal Codes. However, these positive tendencies remained fragmented and had not yet taken firm root. Contradictory jurisprudence, insufficient capacity of the judicial system, a legislative patchwork and in particular the lack of unequivocal support for the reform process across political parties remained as main challenges for Romania. The report also welcomed the convincing track record of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) in the investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption cases and the encouraging results of the National Integrity Agency (ANI) in the administrative follow-up to incompatibilities, conflicts of interest and unjustified assets.

The Commission updated its assessment in an interim report published on 23 March 2010. This report pointed to a slow-down of the reform momentum in Romania. Romania incurred delays in the process of adoption of the civil and criminal procedure codes and saw a further deterioration of the staffing situation within the judiciary. Some technical initiatives were launched to re-balance the workload among judges, transfer administrative tasks to legal clerks and improve the consistency of jurisprudence but concrete results could not be demonstrated. The National Anti-Corruption Directorate and the National Integrity Agency continued to consolidate their results. Some steps were taken to strengthen the coordination and monitoring of the national anti-corruption strategy.

What does today's report say?

Although Romania has made important progress in adopting the Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes, the present report points to significant shortcomings in Romania's efforts to achieve progress. Although positive steps have been made in some areas, overall Romania did not show sufficient political commitment to reform. In addition, the leadership of the judiciary appeared on some occasions unwilling to cooperate and take responsibility for the benefit of the reform process. The report recommends that Romania urgently corrects these weaknesses in order to regain momentum in the reform process. The Commission's report sees these shortcomings in the light of a major legislative reform which Romania achieved in June by adopting the Civil and Criminal procedure Codes and of continuous progress in the prosecution of high-level corruption. Romania also published a strategy for the development of justice which will have to be complemented by an action plan.

The report notes that Romania has developed its track record in the fight against corruption: The National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) continues to show a good, stable track record in the investigation of high-level corruption which has been reflected in further indictments and an increased number of final court judgements although trials remain lengthy and many important trials have yet to reach a first instance decision. The National Integrity Agency (ANI) improved its track record and is recognised by the prosecution, DNA and other law enforcement authorities as an important partner in preventing and sanctioning corruption. The Commission's report recommends Romania to strengthen its anti-corruption policy through a coordination at high-level and on the basis of an impact assessment. The report also notes the need to improve the protection against fraud and conflict of interest in public procurement.

In April 2010, the Constitutional Court declared important parts of the law on the National Integrity Agency (ANI) unconstitutional. The Commission's report concludes that the new law, which was adopted by Parliament as a result of the decision of the court, seriously undermines the process for effective verification, sanctioning and forfeiture of unjustified assets. It restricts the transparency of financial and economic interests of dignitaries and public officials and excludes dissuasive sanctions that protect against corruption. The new law interrupts the encouraging development of ANI and breaches commitments taken by Romania upon accession.

The report notes that Romania has achieved only limited progress in improving the efficiency of the judicial process and the consistency of jurisprudence which remain fundamental weaknesses of judicial reform. Judicial proceedings are slow and significant imbalances in workload persist among courts and prosecution offices. Although some initial steps towards a structural re-organisation of courts and prosecutors offices and to redistribute workload have been taken by the leadership of the judiciary, these measures are too limited in scope to produce a significant impact. In order to improve the coherence of judicial decisions, the report recommends Romania to pursue a reform of the High Court of Cassation and Justice and to systematically publish the motivations of all court judgments. The report also calls for a reform of the disciplinary system and for improvements in the accountability of the judiciary.

What are the next steps?

In order to re-gain a momentum of reform, the Commission calls upon Romania to urgently correct the shortcomings indentified in the report. Romania should seek to establish a firm commitment to reform based on a constructive cooperation between political actors and the judiciary. Romania should aim to establish a broad-based political support in favour of transparency and the effective protection against corruption and conflict of interest.

The new law on ANI represents a significant step back in the fight against corruption and breaches commitments Romania has taken upon accession. On 19 July, the Constitutional Court ruled that the revised version of the law is unconstitutional.  This provides an opportunity to adopt a new law in conformity with Romania's obligations.

The preparations for the entry into force of the new Civil and Criminal Codes and Procedure Codes which is now scheduled for October 2011, is an important opportunity for a thorough reform of the Romanian judicial system. To sustain this reform process, the Commission calls upon Romania to build on the strong Parliamentary support for the procedural codes and extend this political will to other areas.

The Commission will continue to support Romania in its reform process and provide the next annual assessment of progress in summer 2011.

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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Building on progress already made, continue to conduct professional, non-partisan investigations into allegations of high level corruption.

  • 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

1 :

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).


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