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March 22, 2023

Predoiu: The Netherlands’ evaluation is ‘unacceptable’

The Justice Minister’s statement comes in response to statements made by the Dutch Minister of European Affairs, who argued that the rule of law had yet to reach the desired level in Bulgaria and Romania alike.

Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu responded, thus, to the Dutch Minister for European Affairs, Ben Knapen who, during the adoption of the EC report on justice, called Romania and Bulgaria to task for their failure to effectively oppose corruption and crime, arguing that The Netherlands would take these two aspects in consideration before the vote on the two countries’ Schengen accession.

Yesterday, in an interview to RFI, Predoiu argued that Holland’s evaluation was “unacceptable”.

“Such an evaluation is unacceptable. Alright, we too want the constant perfection not only of the rule of law, but also of the European construction in its entirety (…),” the Justice Minister stated. Predoiu reiterated that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) should not be directly linked with the Schengen accession, claiming that “it is time Romania’s efforts were acknowledged and we saw increased European solidarity on this project” of the judiciary reform. In this context, Predoiu announced he might undertake a visit to The Netherlands, in September.” (…) We are waiting for September, confidently and armed with arguments. Arguments can always be better explained, better defended, and we will continue this endeavour,” the minister concluded.

Ben Knapen stated, on Wednesday, after the publication of the CVM report on judiciary reform and anti-corruption measures that “the rule of law hasn’t reached the desired level yet, either in Bulgaria or Romania.”

“Only small steps seem to have been taken, and with difficulty, and the needed results have yet to be obtained. Both Bulgaria and Romania failed in applying the principles of the rule of law,” Knapen stated, quoted by the website Novinite.com. Knapen underlined, however, that this was the preliminary reaction of the Dutch government, adding that a full evaluation of the reports referring to the two countries would be presented before the Parliament in The Hague by the end of August.

Another international reaction came from the US, in the voice of the US Ambassador in Bucharest, Mark Gitenstein. The latter stated, for Mediafax, that he welcomed the CVM report released on Wednesday, adding that the US shared the EC’s concern over excessive parliamentary immunity and over the fact that prescription can intervene even after a trial has been initiated. The ambassador also called attention to the comments in the report regarding the need to introduce an effective asset confiscation procedure.

This is a domain in which the US provided assistance to the Romanian government and the US are ready to go on doing so, the ambassador said, adding he is optimistic, following statements made by the opposition, that it seems there is an initiative from both parties regarding the confiscation of assets.

Boc: report, more encouraging than the 2010 one

Prime Minister Emil Boc argued on Wednesday that the EC report was an objective and balanced one, better than the one issued last summer, and a proof that the Government had done its job, and the Parliament had “largely” solved its problems, while the judiciary would, hopefully, manage to fix remaining issues. As regards the president’s request to the Government, that Romania should stop forwarding invoices to Brussels, except for the agriculture sector, the prime minister announced checks had been initiated at all the ministries on EU projects – most of which are run by the local authorities – to ensure there wouldn’t be any problems with the invoices to be forwarded to Brussels. Later on yesterday, Boc explained that EU projects would not be stopped, but would be financed from the state budget and the EU contribution would be redeemed following further checking. As for the Opposition’s critics, the prime-minister said Romania would turn into a luxury rest home if Ponta, Antonescu and Nastase get back to power. Boc asked USL to support the Government’s bill on confiscated criminal assets.

High Court and CSM remain targets for criticism

The Justice Minister, Catalin Predoiu, as well as one of his predecessors, the Democrat-Liberal MEP Monica Macovei, followed on president Basescu’s footsteps, criticizing, in turn, the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) and the High Council of Magistrates (CSM).

“Whereas, up to now, the main problem was political will, now, when the report points to the Government as the main agent of reform, it is clear, based on the report, that the key to ensure the success of reform lies in CSM’s hands, while the password lies with the ICCJ,” Predoiu argued.

“Judges have to reach a verdict based on evidence, not based on the present or future political career of the defendants,” the minister further stated. Democrat Liberal Party (PDL) MEP Monica Macovei argues, in turn, in a posting on her blog, in reference to the EC Report on CVM, that grand-scale corruption cases which are to be tried by ICCJ are put on hold for years and wonders, in this context, “what is CSM doing.”

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