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January 31, 2023

EC justice report expected to be ‘encouraging political appreciation’

The document reportedly has positive appreciations of Romania’s legal system reform efforts, in order not to be used as a tool in the Schengen accession dispute.

In its upcoming report on Romania’s efforts to reform its legal system and fight corruption, the European Commission is expected to have a more encouraging political attitude, EU sources quoted by RFI said. The report detailing Romania’s and Bulgaria’s progress in meeting the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) benchmarks is to be released on July 20, as EC Spokesperson Mark Grey announced last week. Grey did not make any other comments, but sources told the radio channel that the document is very likely to have a positive tone.

According to the same sources, Brussels wants to keep away from the connection made by some member states between Romania’s efforts to fight corruption and the country’s accession to the Schengen border-free area. Romania and Bulgaria were initially scheduled to join Schengen in March, but accession was put off after France and Germany demanded more progress in legal system reform and the fight against graft. The Netherlands and other states joined the French-German stance and at the last Justice and Home Affairs Council, EU ministers decided to resume talks on the two countries’ Schengen accession in September. The Netherlands, France and Germany all announced that they would make a decision on the matter after the see the EC monitoring reports.

But the European Commission has rejected the link between CVM and Schengen accession and does not wish the upcoming reports to be used as a tool in the dispute, the sources told RFI. In order to avoid this, the report will include an “enhanced political evaluation” of the technical results of justice reform and the fight against corruption.
The document presents in an overall positive matter the pace of reforms in Romania and focuses on the implementation of already made decisions, the sources added. The report is also expected to continue giving a positive assessment of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), while wealth watchdog National Integrity Agency might get a similar treatment.

If the report is positive, it will help EU member states make a decision so as to allow Romania to join Schengen at least with its air borders this autumn, the sources also said.

Bucharest authorities have also rejected any link between Schengen accession and the CVM, insisting that the country is already meeting all technical requirements to join the border-free zone, a fact also confirmed by the European Parliament when it gave its green-light to Romania and Bulgaria accession last month.

The interim monitoring report released on February 18 commended first of all anticorruption prosecutors for their work, but underlined that more needed to be done in order to thoroughly reform the legal system and efficiently fight graft. The document said Romania’s main challenge was to prepare the implementation of four new justice codes. It also criticised Parliament for blocking a more detailed inquiry in the cases of ex Youth and Sports Minister Monica Iacob Ridzi and Democrat Liberal Deputy Dan Pasat, both of them probed on corruption charges. The report also noted that high level corruption cases were often blocked in courts, with magistrates repeatedly delaying verdicts.

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