Brussels, 18 July 2012
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 undertook within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism1 (CVM) to assist Romania to remedy these shortcomings and to regularly verify progress against four benchmarks set for this purpose. These benchmarks are interlinked 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 Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) have been published twice a year since 2007. The reports are based on contributions from the Romanian Government, as well as from the Commission services, Member States and NGOs. The most recent reports in July 2011 and February 2012 charted the legislative, institutional and policy developments relevant to judicial reform and the fight against corruption.
In 2011, the Commission announced its intention to use the summer 2012 report to make a review of progress over the full five years since Romania's accession to the EU in 2007. This report therefore takes a five-year perspective and is able to look at longer-term trends and the extent to which policy initiatives have been carried through into implementation.
What does today's report say?
Today's report summarises the Commission's serious concerns in relation to recent challenges to the rule of law by the Romanian Government and Parliament. It includes a number of urgent recommendations which have already been the subject of commitments made by Prime Minister Ponta to President Barroso.
In its assessment, the report concludes that progress has been made since 2007. However, the objectives of the CVM have not yet been met and the benchmarks have not been satisfactorily fulfilled. Reform is not yet sustainable and irreversible.
Many of the building blocks are now in place, particularly in the legislative framework, and the focus is shifting to implementation. Romania has created the basis for a substantial modernisation of the Romanian judicial system. Institutions like the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) and the National Integrity Agency (ANI) have demonstrated a convincing track record in the pursuit of high-level corruption. The judiciary has recently been able to handle the most sensitive cases and to affirm its independence. A solid national anti-corruption strategy is now being implemented. At the same time, the report also shows that ownership of reforms remains variable. Current political controversies in Romania pose a serious threat to the progress achieved so far, and have underlined that many reforms have not yet taken root.
What are the next steps?
The most important immediate step is for the government and the key institutions of Romania to demonstrate their commitment to the rule of law and to judicial independence. This requires a number of urgent steps by the government and Parliament. For this purpose the Commission has included a number of specific and urgent recommendations to Romania to which Prime Minister Ponta committed in a letter to the President of the Commission on 17 July. These commitments include the repeal of emergency ordinances regarding the powers of the Constitutional Court and the eligibility rules for the referendum on the impeachment of President Basescu, the respect for decisions of the Constitutional Court and of the Romanian Constitution, and to the appointments procedure for key positions including the Ombudsman, the General Prosecutor of Romania and the Chief Prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate. These commitments furthermore include refraining from Presidential pardons during the interim Presidency and from appointing ministers with negative integrity rulings. They also cover the adoption of procedures regarding the resignation of Members of Parliament with final decisions on incompatibility, conflict of interest and high-level corruption.
In addition to these urgent recommendations made in light of recent events, the Commission also extends a number of other recommendations to Romania in the areas of judicial reform, accountability of the judicial system, transparency and consistency of the judicial process, effectiveness of judicial action, integrity and fight against corruption.
Given current uncertainties, the Commission will adopt a further report under the CVM for Romania before the end of 2012. In this report, it will look at whether the concerns it expresses regarding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary have been addressed and whether the democratic checks and balances have been restored. The Commission will monitor progress closely, with regular missions, as well as frequent dialogue with the Romanian authorities and with other Member States.
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).