Romania has the responsibility to overcome the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) phase, the European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans told an award ceremony in Bucharest on Monday, where he was presented with an honorary doctorate by the Bucharest National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA).
We have seen a completely different Romania in the late 1980s and early 1990s. If you told me then that Romania would become an EU member in 2007, I would have said it is impossible, but the Romanians did this. The EU has made this possible, and this has been a historic event, I have no doubt. (…) But with these privileges and success come great responsibilities too, and Romania has a responsibility – to overcome the CVM phase. The Co-operation and Verification Mechanism was designed to solve problems that had to be resolved before accession. We still talk about them 12 years after accession, he said.
Frans Timmermans said he wanted to talk in his speech on the rule of law, convinced that it is one of the issues that will be decisive for the European destiny.
Our society and our institutions are based on democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights, none of which can be instrumentalised against each other, said Timmermans. What we have seen very often in recent years, unfortunately, was that when, for example, the European Commission or the Council of Europe or the Venice Commission have criticised changes that increased the control of the executive power over the judiciary, very often this was justified by explanations like: We won the election, so we can decide. (…) And when criticising attacks at the freedom of the press, those who do so say they have gotten the majority and have the support of the people, he said.
According to Timmermans, accepting such reasoning is a danger, because when the rule of law is threatened and press freedom is affected, almost automatically corruption increases.
When steps are taken back with the rule of law, he said, not only the independence of the judiciary is affected, it is also about the way in which public funds are spent, and politicians are held accountable. He added that there is a link between these things, and that is why the European Commission has proposed that there should be a link between granting European funds and the member states respecting the rule of law, explained the first vice-president of the European Commission.
He added that he is confident because Europeans are better able to understand that their destinies are tied and that the time has passed in which every nation would be concerned with its own fate only.
That can also increase the feeling of uncertainty, he said, but it is our destiny. We have to deal with it together and we can only do it if we protect our fundamental values, including the rule of law. The European Commission, he added, is sometimes a referee in a football match. We have the regulation to be applied and the non-compliant member state always protesting that it is unfair, that the others are worse, or that double standards are applied. I have heard all of them, but the European Commission will not take into account political colour when it comes to the rule of law, Frans Timmermans stated.
The problem for me is that, since the publishing of the CVM report we have seen no progress
First Vice-President of the European Commission (EC) Frans Timmermans stated on Monday that he didn’t see any progress since the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report was published and he wishes for the experts of the European Commission and the Government representatives to discuss about the points that should be solved.
“I said it very clearly that I want to talk to the Romanian Government about the recommendations in the CVM report. I have handed-over the document to the Prime Minister and I hope that we will have our experts meeting soon and we want to make sure that we can make progress on the rule of law in Romania, we want to make sure that the fight against corruption isn’t abandoned, that we continue this fight, because it’s very, very important for the future of this country (…) The problem for me is that, since the publishing of the CVM report we have seen no progress, we’ve only seen a refusal, a rebuttal of the Commission’s document by the Romanian Government. I want us to sit down and go through all the points in the Commission’s CVM report and see if we can solve them. I am here in the spirit of cooperation, I want to solve these issues, but I also want to make it perfectly clear that these issues are very seriously indeed and we need to see progress,” First Vice-President of the European Commission (EC) Frans Timmermans stated in a press statement after being bestowed upon the Doctor Honoris Causa honorary distinction by the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA).
Timmermans mentioned that the document presented to the PM exposed “very clearly” the EC’s point of view and voiced his hope that this document becomes the basis of some constructive discussion. When asked whether the triggering of Article 7 represents a possibility, the First Vice-President of the European Commission replied that he doesn’t wish to make speculations regarding the next step, because each country is different and, in Romania’s case, the settlement of the issues which generated disagreements is possible precisely through the CVM.
And hopefully we might agree tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, but now we have to invest in this relationship to make sure we make steps forward. (…) If you envisage new legislation, why don’t you come to us and ask for our advice, why do you not ask for the advice of an independent body with huge expertise, which is the Venice Commission, so that we know you don’t make steps in the wrong direction? We are at your disposal, to help you to do this, I know there is a need to transpose the decisions of the Constitutional Court into legislation, but let’s do it in a way that we do not relinquish on the fight against corruption and that we do respect the independence of the judiciary in Romania,” Timmermans stated.
When asked about the Section for investigating crimes in Justice, Timmermans stated that he doesn’t wish to assess the manner in which various institutions work, but underscored that the independence of the judiciary should be respected.