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March 28, 2023

EC: ‘Romania must restore rule of law’

Interim President Crin Antonescu has had a tough response to the preliminary content of the report, saying that Romania’s commitment to democracy and rule of law needs no European monitoring. A new Commission report is expected before year’s end – a premiere in the five years since the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (MCV) was introduced.

For the first time since its accession to the European Union in 2007 and the introduction of the MCV, Romania gets an extremely critical report reflecting Brussels’ concerns and criticism regarding the swift political changes having taken place in the last weeks, which will culminate with the referendum for the impeachment of President Basescu on July 29. The draft report to be debated and approved by the European Commission today, published by Mediafax news agency as a premiere shows the document is adopted during a period ‘when serious concerns are raised about the rule of law and judicial independence in Romania’. According to the draft report, ‘the Commission believes that the recent measures taken by the Government of Romania raise serious concerns about the observance of those fundamental principles.’ ‘(…) Political challenges to judicial decisions, the undermining of the Constitutional Court, the reverse of well-established procedures and the removal of key-elements for the separation of powers have questioned the Government’s commitment to the rule of law and independence of the judiciary’, reads the draft report. The Commission also stresses that ‘recent developments raise concerns about the irreversible and sustainable character of reforms’. The Commission remarks the activity of the National Integrity Agency (ANI) and of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) and warns that future appointments to the office of prosecutor general and head of DNA will be ‘key indicators for the sustainability of the reform’. ‘The Commission asks the Government to take all the necessary steps to remedy the damage caused to reform in the recent weeks’, reads the document. The Commission also states its concern about the recent pressure put on the Constitutional Court by members of the Government and politicians, finding those to be ‘unacceptable interventions on an independent judicial institution’. ‘Romania must restore the observance of the rule of law, also including the independent operation of the judicial system. The confidence of European partners in Romania will be regained only when it is proven that the rule of law is above party interests, that all parties show full respect to the functioning of the judicial system, including at a constitutional level and reforms are irreversible. For that, legal action is needed, as well as a political commitment to observe the rule of law missing from recent decisions’, the draft report notes.

New report and monitoring

The preliminary report also raises the possibility that, by the end of the year, the European Commission might adopt a new MCV report on Romania analysing whether the concerns about the rule of law and independence of the judiciary have received an adequate answer as well as if the separation of powers is observed. ‘The Commission will thoroughly monitor progress through regular missions as well as close dialogue with authorities in Romania and the member states’, reads the draft report. It needs to be noted that the European Commission yesterday informed, via spokesman Frédéric Vincent that it had received the answers of the Romanian Government to its requests in connection with the political crisis in the country and that the text of the report for the Mechanism of Cooperation and Verification (MCV) on justice would be finalised after analysing those answers item by item.


Antonescu: Romania is not in the position to prove its democratic commitment

Interim president Crin Antonescu was quite critical of the preliminary content of the report, even if he admitted that “some things happened which I may have not explained sufficiently enough”, however insisting that what he has in view is the unofficial form of the draft report.. In his view, the non-official draft report  contains “some topics and decisions that go beyond not only the  MCV, but the EC duties as well”. Also, he expressed the hope that they would not be included in the final report, and gave as example what he called “a sort of interdiction for Romanian authorities” to exercise the right of pardon”. Referring to the monitoring by European officials of Romania’s pledge to democratic values, Antonescu had this to say: “Romania is a country which is not in the situation to have its pledge to democratic values tested, verified and monitored. Obviously, if a slippage happens in Romania, it is normal for the Union, of which we are a member, to step in, yet, Romania is neither a guinea pig, nor an aspirant, or a democratic developing country aspiring to join the EU, Romania is a country where the democratic bases were established long ago,” Antonescu said.  “Obviously, any form of interest shown by European institutions, our counterparts – since they are our counterparts, our colleagues, the European leaders aren’t our bosses, are they? – with respect to the adequate unfurling of this referendum is quite normal, and, anything they want to know about its carrying out, they are welcome,” the caretaker president said. While on visit to Chisinau, Premier Ponta said:   “While justice in Romania must answer the expectation of the European Commission (EC), it is just as important to answer Romanian citizens’ expectations”. He added that further monitoring, both European, and of Government and Parliament is welcome for the further development of a judicial system both independent and efficient.


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