The European Commission on Tuesday recommended Romania in the Report on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) to immediately suspend the implementation of the justice laws and subsequent emergency ordinances and revise them by fully taking into account the recommendations in the CVM as well as those formulated by the Venice Commission and the Council of Europe’s group of states against corruption (GRECO).
Moreover, Brussels recommends Romania to immediately suspend all ongoing appointments and dismissal procedures for senior prosecutors.
The European Commission also recommends the relaunch of the appointment process of the head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) who must have experience proven in the field of the prosecution of corruption crimes and a clear mandate so that DNA continues to carry out professional, independent and non-biased investigations in the corruption cases.
The CVM Report also recommends the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM) to immediately appoint an interim leading team of the Judicial Inspection and appoint within three months, by contest, a new leadership of this institution.
In addition, the EC urges the observance of the negative opinions of the CSM related to the appointment or removal from office of some prosecutors with leading positions until a new legislative framework comes into force, in accordance with the recommendation No.1 of January 2017.
Likewise, the EC recommends the freezing of the entry into force of the amendments proposed to be brought to the Criminal Code and to the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as the relaunch of the revision process of the CP and CPP by fully considering the need to assure these codes’ compatibility with the EU law and the international instruments in the matter of combating corruption, alongside the recommendations formulated in the CVM and with the Venice Commission’s opinion.
The EC notes in the CVM Report’s conclusions that the enforcement of the amended justice laws, the pressure at the independence of the judicial system, in general, and at the National Anti-corruption Directorate, in particular, as well as a series of other measures that undermine the efforts of combating corruption, have had as effect the annulment of the progresses or the questioning of their irreversible character.
Timmermans, presenting the CVM report: In the recent months, we saw a regrettable regress related to amending the Laws on Justice, the magistrates’ independence and the fight against corruption
The First Vice President of EC Frans Timmermans stated on Tuesday, presenting the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report, that in the recent months Romania has registered a regrettable regress related to amending the Laws on Justice, the magistrates’ independence and the fight against corruption. He said that there are eight measures that must be adopted. In the report published on Tuesday, European Commission recommends the immediate suspension of the implementation of the Laws on Justice and of the subsequent emergency ordinances, the immediate suspension of all the appointment and dismissal ongoing proceedings related to prosecutors holding key positions, the observance of all the negative opinions of the Superior Council of Magistracy regarding the appointment or the dismissal of the prosecutors holding leading positions, the freezing of the entry into force of the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code and the resumption of the revision process.
“Although certain steps have been made in order to implement the recommendations, the events in the recent months, in some cases, have even reversed the progress achieved in the recent years. We see forms of regress that are truly regrettable. We’re talking particularly about the amendments to the Laws on Justice, the magistrates’ independence and the fight against corruption”, Timmermans stated.
He mentioned that, in the opinion of the European Commission, there are eight measures that must be adopted.
The First Vice-President of the European Commission also insisted on respecting the independence of the press.
Timmermans stated that the Government must review the laws and the ordinances on Justice and observe the recommendations of the European Commission (EC), and suspend the attempts to remove the high-level prosecutors.
“In the last 12 months, we have seen very little progress and even regress in Romania. We are in a marathon, and it would be a pity for the marathon runner to give up the last hundred meters”, Timmermans also said.
“The problem we have is that things not only slowed lately, but they even regressed, but you shouldn’t be discouraged. What makes me happy is that there is a very strong trend in the society that pushes this evolution”, the EC official pointed out.
During the last twelve months since the report was published in November 2107, Romania has adopted certain measures to implement the recommendations made in the January 2017 report. Yet, the assessment of the January 2017 report was always conditioned by avoiding to register regress which put under question the progress achieved in the last 10 years. The entry into force of the amended Laws on Justice, the pressure on the independence of the judiciary, in general, and particularly on the National Anticorruption Directorate, as well as other measures undermining the efforts to fight against corruption, led to the annulment of the progress or questioning its irreversible nature. The Commission also noticed that wider factors, from outside the scope of CVM, have an impact on registering progress in the reform of Justice and fight against corruption. In this regard, the report points out that the existence of free and pluralistic media has an important role to play in holding liable the political decision-makers for their actions, for instance in revealing certain corruption cases.
“Therefore, the 12 recommendations made in the January 2017 report are no longer enough in order to allow the observance of the orientation indicated by the President Jean-Claude Juncker at the beginning of his term, to end CVM by the end of the term of the current Commission. Consequently, in the report published today, there are eight additional recommendations designed to remedy the current situation. To this end, there will be needed for the key institutions in Romania to prove a firm engagement towards the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption, to recognize their indispensable role as cornerstones and restore the state’s ability to act, by its means of control and balance, when there is a risk of involution”, is the European Commission’s position.
The eight measures recommended by the European Commission are:
- On the Laws on Justice
The immediate suspension of implementing the Laws on Justice and the subsequent emergency ordinances.
The revision of the Laws on Justice by fully taking into account both the recommendations made within CVM and the ones made by the Venice Commission and the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO).
- On the appointments/dismissals from within the judiciary
The immediate suspension of all the appointment and dismissal ongoing proceedings related to prosecutors holding key positions.
The resumption of the appointing proceeding of a DNA Chief-Prosecutor with proven experience in the field of criminal prosecution of the corruption offences and a clear mandate, in order for DNAS to continue conducting professional, independent and unbiased investigations in the corruption cases.
The immediate appointment by the Superior Council of Magistracy of an interim management team of the Judicial Inspection, and the appointment within three months, through a contest, of a new management of this institution.
The observance of the negative opinions of the Superior Council of Magistracy related to the appointment or dismissal of certain prosecutors holding leading positions, until the entry into force of a new legislative framework, complying with the recommendation of January 1, 2017.
- On the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code
The freezing of the entry into force of the amendments proposed to be brought to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.
The resumption of the revision process of the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code by fully taking into account the need to ensure their compliance with the EU Law and the international instruments for the fight against corruption, as well as with the recommendations made within CVM and with the opinion of the Venice Commission.
The Commission will continue to closely monitor the situation and will made an assessment to this end before the end of the term of the current Commission. In EC’s opinion, the immediate implementation of the additional measures is essential in order to bring back the reform process on the right way and to allow the return to the trajectory that will allow the conclusion of the CVM process, as mentioned in the report of January 1, 2017.
“No discussion on Article 7 and Romania”
European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said on Tuesday in Strasbourg that there is currently no discussion on the activation of Article 7 of the EU Treaty in the case of Romania and that the cooperation process within the CVM holds all the tools for a successful change.
Look back at the last ten years. There were several governments of different compositions and all got stuck at the roadmap. I really hope this government will follow the roadmap and then we can conclude this. We don’t need any other procedure for this. We can do it within the CVM, assured the first Vice-President of the EC at a press conference held in Strasbourg after the publication of the CVM report on Romania and Bulgaria.