The European Commission on Wednesday moderately criticised Romania and Bulgaria for their non-compliance with justice reform benchmarks, yet it noticed that there is a certain expert reform surge by both states and conditions are not met for a safeguard clause against the two countries.
Brussels – In the justice Report made public yesterday, the European Commission (EC) made 16 and 21 recommendations respectively for Romania and Bulgaria. According to the document, the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), instituted on Romania’s accession to the European Union, will be held in place beyond 2009 as well.
The EU Executive holds that all the benchmarks are interconnected. This is why the European Commission does not have in view to remove the benchmarks one by one, but it rather seeks to cooperate with Romania on bringing the entire CVM to a halt. Further more, the EC is of the view that the conditions are not met for a safeguard clause being instituted.
The Report, which was presented by EC spokesman Johannes Leitenberger, makes absolutely no mention on Romania’s accession to the Schengen area. Also, the document makes no mention of the CVM being tied to other processes with which Romania is involved, such as accession to the euro-zone, which this country seeks to achieve in 2011. ‘The Commission has looked into the clause issue and reached the conclusion it should not be activated at this point in time also because the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism has been operating and is more productive in yielding some results,’ Leitenberger said.
Asked if MCV does still make sense even if the clause cannot be activated and the threat of a punitive measure for Romania if it does not fulfill its obligations has ceased, Leitenberger said that the acquis must be fulfilled: “I would remind you that besides the safeguard clause there is also the infringement procedure, which can be enforced if necessary. But this mechanism produces results, not all the results that we would like, and it may be necessary to energize the process, but this is the way,” the European official stressed.
MCV purpose is not to draw up a verification list, but to develop an independent and stable judicial system, able to detect and to sanction the conflicts of interests and to combat corruption efficiently, the report reads.
The report (the third annual report since MCV was instituted and the fifth if the stage documents are also considered) consists of two parts – a political one and a technical annex.
The political document has nine pages and contains 16 concrete recommendations for Romania, referring to the new codes, the reform of the judicial system, the unification of jurisprudence, the fight against high level corruption, the activity of the National Integrity Agency, and combating corruption at local level.
“Since the report of the Commission from 2008, Romania has taken a whole range of welcome measures in order to relaunch the reform process: a new impulse was given in this respect, which conducted to the adoption of several positive measures. However, Romania is further confronted with difficulties connected with the fact that the two codes, civil and criminal, have never been entirely revised. This has conducted to legislative modifications and numerous emergency ordinances,” the document also shows.
Predoiu: Progress in justice eliminated the safeguard clause activation
Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu pointed to the fact that the measures implemented by the Government and Justice Ministry during the monitoring of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) eliminated the risk of activating the safeguard clause on Romania. “The Report concludes that the conditions are not met for sanctioning Romania,” he explained, adding that there is “no reserve” with respect to the evaluators’ professionalism and equidistance.
According to the Justice minister, the report demands that the Judicial sector is not politicized and emphasizes the need for consensus between all the “actors,” so that the measures against corruption can be successfully implemented. In Predoiu’s opinion, the report was eloquent with the matters it analyzed and, although it has a preponderantly technical character, he also depicts the social context in which these measures were taken. He added that reform in Justice and consolidating the measures against corruption are mainly in our interest and that work must continue until the next EC report, in the summer of 2010. Predoiu thinks that, as far as the Justice Ministry is concerned, the adoption of the Civil and Criminal Codes represents the most noteworthy target that was met.
PSD and the liberals blame Gov’t, Basescu
PSD President Mircea Geoana emphasized the negative aspects in the report, saying that “the main responsibility” for the situation of the Justice sector belongs to the head of state, Traian Basescu, and to “the regime he sponsors,” Agerpres reports. The criticism in the report is caused by President Basescu, Geoana said, recollecting that the people appointed in the main positions of the Justice sector, for the last five years, were put there by the head of state. He said he wished this report would be the last within CVM, but unfortunately the progress was not convincing enough. “Although it avoided the activation of the safeguard clause and the financial sanctioning of Romania, this report fundamentally represents a failure. In terms of Romania’s evolution within the European Union, it is a setback,” Mircea Geoana stated. The Social-Democrat leader considers that the European document ignores the real problems of Romanian Justice and only partly describes the real state of the system which is, in his opinion, “as serious and concerning after the report as it was before the report reached the public.”
In their turn, the Liberals consider that the cabinet and the Cotroceni Palace bear the blame for the negative aspects included in the report. PNL said in a statement that Basescu and the PD-L – PSD are responsible for the grave situation of the justice system.