Brussels, 23 March 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?
The Commission's reports under the 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 22 July 2009 gave a comprehensive assessment of progress under each of the four benchmarks. The report noted that Romania had reacted effectively to concerns expressed by the Commission in February 2009 and, building on previous achievements, had established a new momentum of reform, in particular by adopting new Civil and Criminal Codes. These positive tendencies had however not yet taken firm root and remained fragmented. 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.
As the time period since this report is considered too short to allow Romania to remedy these 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 provides a summary of developments since mid-2009.
What does today's report say?
The present report notes that Romania has not been able to keep the momentum of reform it had established by mid-2009.
Only limited results can be demonstrated in judicial reform while no effective improvement could be noted for the difficult human resourcing situation in the judiciary and the capacity of the judicial system has been put under further strain by net staff losses. The electoral period in the second half of last year delayed the parliamentary discussion of the draft civil and criminal procedure codes which are an important next step in judicial reform. Romania continues to take some steps to improve the consistency of jurisprudence; however a general and continuous publication of all court decisions has not yet been achieved. Other initiatives to improve the efficiency of court procedures by re-balancing workload among judges and by a transfer of administrative tasks to legal clerks have been launched; however concrete results can not yet be demonstrated.
Regarding the fight against corruption, the report commends the continuously convincing track record of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate in the investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption cases and notes a further consolidation of the results of the National Integrity Agency in the administrative follow-up to incompatibilities, conflicts of interest and unjustified wealth. Data regarding the follow-up to corruption on local level shows a significant increase in the activities of local prosecution offices. In response to recommendations by the Commission, Romania took some steps to strengthen the coordination and monitoring of the national anti-corruption strategy for vulnerable sectors and local public administration. The first draft of a guide for courts on how to improve the consistency, proportionality and dissuasiveness of penalties applied for corruption is under discussion among practitioners. However, continued delays in high-level corruption trials, together with inconsistency and leniency in penalties applied by the courts, continue to present important challenges for Romania.
What are the next steps?
The Commission calls upon Romania to consider as an issue of national importance the establishment of close and constructive co-operation between the different political actors and the judiciary to back the necessary reforms. Romania should in particular intensify its efforts towards a swift adoption of the draft criminal and civil procedure codes as well as the necessary implementing legislation and impact studies.
The Commission will continue to support Romania in this endeavour and provide its next in-depth assessment of progress by summer this year.
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:
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).