The European Commission said on January 22 that Romania has made progress in many areas since last year’s Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report was issued, but also voiced concerns about judicial independence and continued resistance to integrity and anti-corruption measures.
Last year’s report followed a period of political upheaval in 2012 and an unsuccessful attempt by Romania’s ruling coalition in parliament to oust president Traian Basescu from office. A calmer political climate in 2013, however, helped the country make more progress in reforming its judiciary.
The track record of the key judicial and integrity institutions has remained positive, while long-awaited legislative changes have remained on track, and a spirit of co-operation between judicial institutions and the justice ministry helped to tackle managerial issues, the EC said in its report.
“This report shows that Romania has taken some significant steps. Many people in the key judicial and integrity institutions have shown a real commitment to reform,” EC president Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.
“The report also shows that progress is not straightforward and that advances in one area can be negated by setbacks elsewhere. I hope this report will clearly highlight what still needs to be done to pursue and consolidate reform and ensure a positive and sustainable trend,” he said.
The key concern remains judicial independence, with the “rushed and un-transparent amendment of the criminal code in December 2013 sparked widespread concern as a fundamental challenge to the legal regime for tackling corruption and promoting integrity,” the CVM report said.
On the issue of key appointments to the judiciary, Romania had a mixed track record, with some procedures running in an open, transparent and merit-based way while others invited criticism on the grounds of political interference.
“This picture has consequences for the extent to which the reform process in Romania can be seen as sustainable. The resilience of the key anti-corruption institutions in the face of sustained pressure has shown that the reform approach has taken root in important sections of Romanian society. In contrast, the readiness with which the foundation stones of reform could be challenged in Parliament served as a reminder that there is no consensus about pursuing the objectives of the CVM,” the report said.
Going forward, Romania should make more efforts to pursue reforms in four key areas – judicial independence (including clearer provisions to strengthen the separation of powers and better conditions for the country’s supreme council of the magistracy to consolidate its work in protecting judicial independence), continued judicial reform (including measures to accelerate court proceedings and to make use of new opportunities like extended confiscation), politicians’ integrity (ensuring that there are no exceptions to the applicability of the laws on incompatibilities, conflict of interest and unjustified wealth) and the fight against corruption.
(Romania Parliament. Photo: George M. Groutas/flickr.com)