Upon the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union on 1 January 2007, certain weaknesses remained in both Member States in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption, and in the case of Bulgaria in the fight against organised crime. These weaknesses could prevent an effective application of EU laws, policies and programmes, and prevent Bulgarians and Romanians from enjoying their full rights as EU citizens. Therefore, the Commission undertook to assist Bulgaria and Romania in remedying these shortcomings and to regularly verify progress against specific benchmarks set for this purpose, through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). These benchmarks are interlinked and should be seen together as steps towards a broad reform of the judicial system and a sustained fight against corruption for which a long-term political commitment is needed. The Commission believes that the monitoring process of the CVM, the opportunities provided by EU funds and the constructive engagement of the Commission and many Member States continue to be a valuable support to encourage, advance and consolidate reform in Bulgaria and Romania.
What are the benchmarks for Romania?
- Benchmark 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.
- Benchmark 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.
- Benchmark 3: Building on progress already made, continue to conduct professional, non-partisan investigations into allegations of high-level corruption.
- Benchmark 4: Take further measures to prevent and fight against corruption, in particular within local government.
What are the benchmarks for Bulgaria?
- Benchmark 1: Adopt constitutional amendments removing any ambiguity regarding the independence and accountability of the judicial system.
- Benchmark 2: Ensure a more transparent and efficient judicial process by adopting and implementing a new judicial system act and the new civil procedure code. Report on the impact of these new laws and of the penal and administrative procedure codes, notably on the pre-trial phase.
- Benchmark 3: Continue the reform of the judiciary in order to enhance professionalism, accountability and efficiency. Evaluate the impact of this reform and publish the results annually.
- Benchmark 4: Conduct and report on professional, non-partisan investigations into allegations of high-level corruption. Report on internal inspections of public institutions and on the publication of assets of high-level officials.
- Benchmark 5: Take further measures to prevent and fight corruption, in particular at the borders and within local government.
- Benchmark 6: Implement a strategy to fight organised crime, focussing on serious crime, money laundering as well as on the systematic confiscation of assets of criminals. Report on new and ongoing investigations, indictments and convictions in these areas.
How does the Commission report on progress in Bulgaria and Romania?
The Commission is constantly assessing progress in judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Bulgaria and Romania, and in the fight against organised crime in Bulgaria. The Commission's assessments and its formal reports are based on a careful analysis and monitoring, drawing on a continuous dialogue between the Bulgarian and Romanian authorities and the Commission services. The reports have also benefitted from contacts with Member States, civil society, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other sources. Each Commission report, with its methodology and conclusions, is subsequently discussed and endorsed in conclusions by the Council of Ministers.
What are the next steps for Romania?
2016 will be a test year in many respects. The extent to which integrity issues prevail in the appointments to the senior positions in the judiciary and the scrutiny of candidates for forthcoming elections will be key signs of the extent to which reform is taking root. The continuation of the positive trend and track record of reform will also be a signal of sustainability.
The Commission will monitor progress and follow-up on the recommendations included in today's report on a continuous basis with regular missions, as well as frequent dialogue with the Romanian authorities. The next report is likely to come in around one year's time.
What are the next steps for Bulgaria?
The Commission invites Bulgaria to accelerate progress on its recommendations on the reform of the judiciary, integrity and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The Commission considers that Bulgaria now needs to speed up reform and to demonstrate a strong track record in all areas.
The next formal report is likely to come in around one year's time in order to allow the time required to assess tangible results. Between now and then, as in previous years, the Commission will continue its monitoring of Bulgaria's progress.
Does the Commission provide financial and technical support to help with the reforms?
The Commission supports the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania in achieving the CVM objectives through funding under the European Structural and Investment Funds.
In the 2007-2013 period Romania has implemented a number of projects in the anti-corruption and judicial reform area. The total amount of funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) is €16 million. The main beneficiaries have been the Ministries of Public Administration, Justice, Education and Health. European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) were invested in actions relating to integrity control projects and capacity building of the public procurement agency for a budget of around €15 million.
In the 2014-2020 period the Administrative Capacity Programme (ESF) will provide funding of about €103 million for judicial reform projects in Romania, including €35 million specifically for anti-corruption, and €35 million to support improvements in public procurement. ERDF resources up to €15 million will be invested in capacity building and technical assistance in public procurement, in fraud prevention for Management Authorities and in the Fight Against Fraud Department (DLAF).
In Bulgaria, during the 2007-2013 programming period €51 million was allocated under the Operational Programme for Administrative Capacity for the judiciary. The biggest share of the committed funds were for measures for human resources management and improvement of skills (about €27m) while the rest was split between measures related to transparency and effectiveness (€8m), and e-justice (€16m). Due to the budgetary restrictions of the courts and the changing priorities of the Prosecution Office, only €25m have so far been contracted, with €18m disbursed and 50 projects already implemented. Under the new programming period 2014-2020 a priority axis for the judiciary has been included in the Operational Programme for Good Governance with an allocation of €30.2 million.
In addition to this, the Commission welcomes that Bulgaria has indicated an interest in drawing on further technical assistance to promote reform, as stated by the Bulgarian Prime Minister in the margins of the European Council on 17 December 2015. The slow progress in tackling high-level corruption and organised crime cases is partly due to structural weaknesses in the judicial system. The recommendations made by the Commission in successive CVM reports are a good starting point for identifying problem areas. Along this line, having an external analysis of the way the prosecution and courts operates can support the Bulgarian reform effort. Experience suggests that the success of external assistance is largely dependent on the cooperation, ownership and openness of the host Member State, as well as the willingness of other Member States to help with often highly specialised experts. For its part, the Commission will assess how it can provide support through its Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS), dedicated to providing technical assistance to the reform efforts of EU Member States in a broad range of areas.
Where can the reports be found?
All CVM reports are available on the following website: