Brussels, 18 February 2010
Interim 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 (CVM) to assist Romania to remedy these shortcomings but also to regularly verify progress against four benchmarks set for this purpose. These benchmarks are inter-linked and should 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 and civil society.
Although Romania had made important progress in adopting the Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes, the last report published on 20 July 2010 pointed to significant shortcomings in Romania's efforts to achieve progress within the CVM. Overall the report noted that Romania had not demonstrated 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 recommended Romania to urgently correct these weaknesses in order to regain momentum in the reform process.
Ahead of the next annual assessment of progress which the Commission will deliver in summer this year, the present report contains a technical update on significant developments since July 2010. It focuses on Romania's response to the Commission's recommendations included in the last report; it does not contain a full assessment on progress achieved.
What does today's report say?
Today's report takes note of Romania's constructive response to the Commission's recommendations which were included in the last report. More specifically, the report refers to the following significant developments which have occurred during the last six months:
In the area of judicial reform, Romania has taken several important steps to improve the celerity of the judicial process by adopting and implementing the "Small Reform Law" (a procedural law to speed up the handling of cases) and by amending the Law on the Constitutional Court. Romania also continued preparations for the implementation of a new legislative framework in civil and criminal law. During the same period, Romania also prepared proposals to close non-viable courts and prosecutors’ offices and to reallocate staff from these locations. In addition, Romania prepared proposals to strengthen the recruitment and initial training of magistrates. The elections to the Superior Council of the Magistracy were overshadowed by legal challenges and led the Constitutional Court to annul the election of four members of the Council.
Regarding the fight against corruption, the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) maintained its convincing track record in investigating high level corruption, an increase in the number of non-final convictions and dissuasive sentences could be observed and an independent impact evaluation of the last two anti-corruption strategies was launched. Romania also adopted an improved law to secure the functioning of the National Integrity Agency (ANI). However during the same period, important high-level corruption cases have seen little movement in court and Parliament decided on significant budget cuts regarding the National Integrity Agency in the context of general budgetary constraints. Parliament also prevented investigations into allegations of corruption against a former minister and voted against a computer search and an arrest which the prosecution had requested in the context of two other ongoing investigations regarding high-level corruption.
What are the next steps?
In order to consolidate the momentum of reform which has been re-invigorated in the last months, the report suggests that Romania should focus on a thorough preparation for the implementation of the new legislative framework in civil and criminal law. The entry into office of a new Superior Council of Magistracy provides an important opportunity for a close and constructive co-operation between the different political and judicial actors in this regard.
Until the Commission's next assessment in summer 2011, the report also recommends Romania to focus on the launch of an independent review of the judicial system, on the reform of the disciplinary system for magistrates and on measures that improve the celerity of high-level corruption trials and strengthen general anti-corruption policy.
The Commission will continue to support Romania in its reform efforts 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:
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).