For a second year running, the European Commission delivered a negative assessment of Romania’s efforts under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in a report on October 22, noting that it had repeatedly voiced concerns in the period since the last report in November 2018 about backtracking from the progress made in previous years.
The CVM was put in place in Bulgaria and in Romania when the two countries joined the European Union in January 2007, to bring them up to standard in the judiciary and in the fight against organised crime and corruption.
Romania had made significant progress under the CVM up to January 2017, when the Commission set out 12 recommendations that would lead to the end the CVM monitoring, but the country regressed since then, leading the Commission to make additional recommendations in last year’s report.
Since the November 2018 CVM report, the Commission has had to raise rule of law-related concerns a number of times and, for much of this period, there was little or no willingness on the part of Romanian authorities to engage with the additional recommendations made by the EC.
“The efforts of those seeking to reverse the negative trend – which have included not only political voices, but also civil society and magistrates – have not been able to prevail. This led to fundamental doubts about whether the checks and balances recognised in the January 2017 report were working,” the Commission said.
In May 2019, the Commission addressed a letter to the Romanian authorities setting out how recent developments had further exacerbated the existing problems regarding the respect for the rule of law in general, raising the prospect that if the situation did not improve, the Commission would have to take steps under the rule of law framework.
The Commission welcomed the fact that in June, the Romanian government expressed a wish to reset the approach, and effort has been invested in new consultation mechanisms and dialogue with the judiciary. “The Commission looks forward to the competent Romanian authorities translating this commitment into concrete legislative and other measures,” the report said.
Progress will require tangible steps, legislative and administrative, to address the recommendations made in the CVM reports, which had to be
followed if the reform process is to be put back on track and get back on the path towards the conclusion of the CVM as set out in the January 2017 report, the Commission said.
“The Commission is confident that Romania could give a new momentum to fulfilling the objectives of the CVM and stands ready to help the Romanian authorities to this end,” the EC said.
(Romania’s houses of parliament. Photo: George M. Groutas/flickr.com)