CVM report on Romania: steps ahead, concern on judicial institutions remains


The next report is to be issues next year. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Spokesman pointed out that Romania and Bulgaria fully meet the criteria in terms of Schengen accession criteria.

The European Commission has issued yesterday the Cooperation and verification mechanism (CVM) report on progress in Romania, a report presented by the EC Spokesman Mark Grey.
The report presents the Commission’s analysis on the steps Romania has taken in the past twelve months and shows where further steps are needed. According to an official release, President Barroso said, “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. 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.”
This report assesses the recent progress made by Romania in the two core CVM areas of judicial reform and anti-corruption work. This assessment shows that Romania has made progress in many areas since the previous CVM reports. The track record of the key judicial and integrity institutions has remained positive, even in the face of sometimes difficult circumstances. Necessary and long awaited legislative changes have remained on track, and a spirit of cooperation between judicial institutions and the Ministry of Justice is helping managerial issues to be tackled. In this sense the situation has benefited from the calmer political atmosphere of the recent past.
However, concerns about judicial independence remain and there are many examples of resistance to integrity and anti-corruption measures. The rushed and untransparent amendment of the Criminal Code in December 2013 sparked widespread concern as a challenge to the regime for tackling corruption and promoting integrity, even if the Constitutional Court showed checks and balances at work in ruling this unconstitutional.

The important measure of key appointments shows a mixed picture, with some procedures running in an open, transparent and merit-based way whilst others are open to criticism on the grounds of political interference. Overall, the picture has consequences for the extent to which the reform process in Romania can be seen as sustainable and the positive developments deemed irreversible.
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 continues to be a valuable support to reform in Romania. T`he Commission invites Romania to pursue and consolidate progress on its recommendations on the reform of the judiciary, integrity and the fight against corruption. The next report will come in around one year’s time.
The last annual report was published on 30 January 2013.
Mark Gray: Progress in many areas, concerns on judicial independence remain
Romania has made progress in many areas since the previous report within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), European Commission Spokesman Mark Gray said in Brussels on Wednesday, while presenting the report. ‘The track record of the key judicial and integrity institutions has remained positive, even in the face of sometimes difficult circumstances. Necessary and long awaited legislative changes have remained on track, and a spirit of cooperation between judicial institutions and the Ministry of Justice is helping managerial issues to be tackled. In this sense the situation has benefited from the calmer political atmosphere of the recent past,’ said Gray, adding that ‘However, concerns about judicial independence remain and there are many examples of resistance to integrity and anti-corruption measures.’
According to the EC spokesperson, the rushed and opaque amendment of the Criminal Code in December 2013 sparked widespread concern as a challenge to the regime for tackling corruption and promoting integrity, even if the Constitutional Court showed checks and balances at work in ruling this unconstitutional. ‘The important measure of key appointments shows a mixed picture, with some procedures running in an open, transparent and merit-based way whilst others are open to criticism on the grounds of political interference. Overall, the picture has consequences for the extent to which the reform process in Romania can be seen as sustainable and the positive developments deemed irreversible,’ Gray pointed out.
Gray also said the CVM report contains a number of specific recommendations for the future, one of them referring to the parliamentarians’ statute, which must include some key-provisions so the Parliament members should respect justice independence. Moreover, Romania should adopt legislative measures for the observance of the judiciary and to make sure there are not any exceptions in the law on conflict of interest and unjustified fortune.
Asked to comment information that CVM reports on Romania and Bulgaria’s progress will end in 2018, Mark Gray said the reports will go on as long as it will necessary for Romania and Bulgaria to fulfil all commitments taken when joining the EU. “They may be fulfilled next year or it may take longer, it’s up to Romanian and Bulgarian Governments. The European Commission can not establish when the commitments will be fulfilled,” said the EC Spokesperson.
Green light to Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Area
Mark Gray also said that the European Commission has never stated over the past seven years that a report within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) is positive or negative for this to be used to evaluate the opportunity of accessing Schengen, as this is the privilege of the member states. In his turn, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom Spokesman Michele Cercone pointed out that Romania and Bulgaria fully meet the criteria in terms of Schengen accession criteria observance. “Romania and Bulgaria have already been evaluated and the answer is firmly positive. We do not need other criteria to establish that Romania and Bulgaria can access the Schengen area. We have not made this connection in the past and we shall leave the member states to evaluate if the political consequence of this CVM is positive or negative and to decide what this report will mean to their political attitude in front of the accession to Schengen,” Cercone said, as quoted by Agerpres.

Domestic reactions

PM Victor Ponta considers that the CVM report released by the European Commission reveals that Romania has made important and substantial progress, regardless of “political interpretations and speculations.” The Commission continues to believe that we are completely prepared to accede to the Schengen Space but the decision will certainly be one purely political, made by member states,” Ponta told the ministers in the cabinet meeting.
Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc, said that the CVM report is better than last year, with 18 recommendations being made, including six for the MJ, among others disbanding the small tribunals and prosecutor’s offices and developing the National anticorruption strategy, adding that the report appreciates the government’s commitment in revising the Constitution and the draft law conceived by the Ministry of Justice that withdraws the pensions of magistrates condemned for acts of corruption.
The Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) shows that the CVM report has a low number of recommendations whose implementation falls into the responsibility of the institution, most of them being addressed to the Legislative and Executive. According to the CSM officials, the recommendations for the legislative and executive powers aim at further consolidating the role of the Council.
On the other hand, former PDL premier Emil Boc considers that the CVM report on justice is “a no-confidence vote” for the government of Romania and the USL governance, which marks a setback in terms of democracy and rule of law.

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