Brussels places big question mark over Romania’s reforms

The European Commission has serious concerns about recent challenges to the rule of law by Romania’s parliament and government and says that benchmarks set in previous reports under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism on justice and home affairs have not been met.

“Reform is not yet sustainable and irreversible,” the European Commission said on July 18 2012 in its overall report on progress or otherwise in justice and home affairs since Romania joined the EU in 2007.

As with Bulgaria, Romania was subjected to the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism to bring the country up to the bloc’s standards in justice and home affairs.

Progress has been made since 2007, the European Commission said.

“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.

Romaniahas 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 inRomaniapose a serious threat to the progress achieved so far, and have underlined that many reforms have not yet taken root.”

The European Commission said that 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 July 17, the Commission said.

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 Traian 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, the EC said. 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 Eu member states, the EC said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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