Romania has made progress in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), its anti-corruption efforts being “impressive,” but it is necessary to continue the efforts in order to consolidate the results obtained so far, particularly in what concerns combating corruption at lower levels, EC Secretary General Catherine Day stated.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) organized on Tuesday a hearing on the way Romania and Bulgaria implement their commitments on judicial reform and the fight against corruption, as part of the CVM. The hearing was attended by Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi and Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc. The goal of the hearing was to allow “a profound discussion at EP level in order to assess the way in which Romania and Bulgaria implement their commitments on judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organized crime,” as shown in a communiqué posted on the EP website. The hearings were attended by European Commission Secretary General Catherine Day, DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, Romanian Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc, Bulgarian Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov, as well as experts from Romania, Bulgaria and other EU states. MEP Monica Macovei was the rapporteur.
“We know extra efforts are needed in combating corruption and intensifying cooperation between Romania and Bulgaria and the two countries’ cooperation with the European Commission,” Catherine Day stated, pointing out that the CVM is “an important instrument for modernizing” the two countries.
“Romania continues to make progress in implementing the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. The combating of high-level corruption is impressive. (…) At the same time, Romania has the important task of continuing the efforts on assuring the independence of the judiciary. The continuation of efforts on consolidating the progress made is necessary; moreover, actions for combating low-level corruption are needed,” Catherine Day stated. “Today, eight years since the introduction of the CVM, we notice clear evolution in the implementation of reforms; the CVM has become an efficient engine of reforms with tangible effects,” Catherine Day added, recommending to Romania and Bulgaria the adoption of measures for the consolidation of reforms and for intensifying cooperation between government and judiciary institutions.
“The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism does not seek to attain an abstract level of perfection. The goal is to attain a high level of harmonization with the other European Union member states. The end of a long road has to be reached, especially since the CVM has benefitted from real public support both in Romania and in Bulgaria,” Catherine Day added.
Robert Cazanciuc: “Today we can talk about the Romanian judiciary with heads held high”
Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc considers that the Romanian judiciary is “much improved,” and the main goal was and is the fight against corruption. “Romania no longer needs to be on the defensive on this issue. We have perceived our collaboration with the representatives of the Commission as a partnership. After numerous reports, we can say we are talking about a judiciary that is much improved. I am glad today we can talk about the Romanian judiciary with heads held high. There were cases in which the rhythm of reforms was not the one expected. The primordial goal was the efficient combating of corruption. The CVM has imposed rigor. The latest report, the one in January, was the second consecutive report that points out an advanced stage. For us it was a very powerful signal. We have overcome the judicial system reform stage and we are now consolidating the system.”
Laura Codruta Kovesi: ‘The CVM played the role of an objective observer of the progress made by Romania’
In her turn, DNA Chief ProsecutorLaura Codruta Kovesi stated that in the absence of the CVM the judiciary system would have lacked the amplitude it has and that the institution she leads will continue the anti-corruption fight.
“In Romania corruption was a systemic problem between businessmen, politicians and civil servants. The state tried to offer appropriate answers. (…) The comparison with other states does not help us a lot because of the differences between juridical systems. Ensuring resources is essential in order to operate. As you can imagine, the DNA offensive has had significant effects. The investigations conducted were well received by society. The CVM played the role of an objective observer of the progress made by Romania. The CVM’s role is undeniable and in its absence the judicial system’s reform would have lacked the amplitude it has had. The DNA will continue to uphold the law with the same rigor. We count on the support of our partners and we look with confidence toward international partners.”
The DNA Chief Prosecutor also mentioned the attempts to modify the legislation “by limiting the instruments used by prosecutors or by refusing to lift the immunity of politicians accused of corruption.”
Monica Macovei: “DNA would not have existed without CVM”
MEP Monica Macovei stated at the hearings that took place within the EP’s Committee on Budgetary Control on Tuesday that the CVM is extremely efficient and without this mechanism the DNA would not have existed. The MEP also stated that the Romanian Finance Ministry does not excel when it comes to recovering damages.
“The DNA investigates politicians, irrespective of whether they are in the opposition or in office, magistrates, businessmen, even football club presidents. The Finance Ministry still does not excel when it comes to recovering damages. CVM was very efficient and I believe it should be introduced for all candidate states when they join the EU, because we should not expect these former communist states to engage in the anti-corruption and anti-fraud fight. We cannot make these reforms irreversible, neither in Romania nor in Bulgaria, because in other states they lasted hundreds of years. The problem is political will. At least in Romania, this is the problem, if an MP’s immunity is not lifted. My message for the politicians that want to get rid of the CVM is that they should stop because the Romanians and Bulgarians want the politicians that commit crimes and steal money to be held accountable,” Monica Macovei stated.
James Hamilton: “Romania should seriously think about implementing the Venice Commission’s recommendations on Parliamentary immunity”
James Hamilton, Ireland’s former Chief Prosecutor and former member of the Venice Commission, stated that Romanian MPs block criminal prosecutions and an effort is needed in order to counter this practice.
“There are still problems at the level of the political system and the absence of political will. MPs defend one another and even block criminal prosecutions. Romania should seriously think about implementing the Venice Commission’s recommendations on Parliamentary immunity. MPs should find means of respecting Constitutional Court decisions. Despite the fact that the High Court stated that a Senator is incompatible, Parliament is yet to take note (Akos Mora, former PNL Senator, resigned in November 2014 – editor’s note). It is a serious infringement of the rule of law on the part of the Romanian Parliament. The problems stem directly from political sources. There are people whose interest is for this system to continue in order for it to protect the political system.”