The evolution of the situation in Romania, the first months of 2019 in terms of judicial system reform and the anticorruption fight was a source of great concern for the Commission, as a result, the European Commission (EC) had to inform the Romanian authorities in May 2019 that if the necessary improvements were not made, or if further negative steps were taken, the Commission would take steps under the rule of law framework, beyond the parameters of the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), according to the latest CVM Report, adopted on Tuesday by the College of Commissioners.
The report analyses the situation since November 2018. The document shows that since the last report, the European Commission has had to raise a number of times rule of law-related concerns with the Romanian authorities in relation to developments on judicial reforms and the fight against corruption. On each of these occasions, the Commission has confirmed backtracking from the progress made in previous years and this evolution is a source of great concerns.
“The Commission regrets that Romania did not engage with the additional recommendations made in November 2018, which were fully in line with the positions of the other institutions. These recommendations need to be followed if the reform process is to be put back on track and the path towards the conclusion of the CVM, as set out in the January 2017 report, resumed. The Commission is confident that Romania could give a new momentum to fulfilling the objectives of the CVM, and stands ready to help the Romanian authorities to this end. The Commission will continue to follow developments closely through the CVM,” reads the EC release regarding the report.
The Commission welcomed the fact that in June the Romanian Government expressed a wish to reset the approach. It notes that an effort has been made to invest in new consultation and dialogue with the judiciary. The Commission is looking forward to transposing this commitment into concrete legislation and other measures. Progress will require concrete steps – both legislative and administrative – to address the recommendations summarised in this report.
“The key institutions of Romania need to collectively demonstrate a strong commitment to judicial independence and the fight against corruption, and to ensure the effectiveness of national safeguards and checks and balances,” reads the release.
In the November 2018 Report, the European Commission concluded that developments in Romania had called into question the irreversibility of progress. As a result, the 12 recommendations set out in the January 2017 report were no longer sufficient to close the CVM and eight additional recommendations had to be made.
Both the European Parliament and the Council endorsed this view. The European Parliament issued a resolution calling for cooperation and citing the risk to the rule of law. The Council Conclusions of December 2018 specifically called on Romania to implement the additional recommendations.
Dismissed PM: CVM betrays discrimination against Romania and Bulgaria
Dismissed Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said on Tuesday that the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), under which the European Commission verifies Romania’s and Bulgaria’s progress with judiciary reform and the fight against corruption, “betrays discrimination against Romania and Bulgaria.”
Dancila said in Botosani that the monitoring process to which Romania and Bulgaria have been subjected has to be either abolished or extended to all the member states of the European Union.
“When you are a member of the EU – and you know that I am a pro-European through and through – you have opportunities and also have obligations that you have to meet. The CVM is applied only to Romania and Bulgaria while the other member states are not subjected to this mechanism. Either a decision is made to implement this mechanism to include all the member states – and we hope that the President of Romania will ask for equal treatment for all the member states- or, if not, the mechanism should also be abolished for Bulgaria and Romania and replaced with other kind of monitoring,” said Dancila.
At the same time, she pointed out that the her cabinet has not interfered with the judiciary, voicing conviction that in the next CVM report President Klaus Iohannis will be the one to be chided.
“As far as I know, the activity of the Government was a good one. We did not interfere with the judiciary, we did not take any justice measures and every time I asked for politics to be left out of the judiciary. I did not issue any emergency ordinance and you saw that I actually critiqued when someone interfered with the judiciary. I think beyond this I saw the statement of President Iohannis of May 9, at the European Summit in Sibiu, that he will take all the steps for the lifting of the CVM and for Romania joining the Schengen area. I saw that was left a mere promise. Moreover, I consider that in his capacity as an attendee of the European Council he could have talked about Schengen with other countries, he had that opportunity. As far as the CVM goes, we see that President Iohannis (…) said he would make every effort to have the CVM lifted, as that is a mechanism that I think betrays discrimination against Romania and Bulgaria (…) but did nothing to that effect. I believe that in the next CVM report, President Iohannis will be the one to be chastised, considering that he has asked for the resignation of the head of the DIICOT [Directorate for Investigation of Organised Crime and Terror], and the dissolution of the Special Section [in charge with considering criminal offences by member of the judiciary]. I do not say whether or not these are good things, but I believe that these things must be done by the members of the judiciary, by magistrates; and neither the president of Romania, nor the prime minister, nor anyone else should interfere with the judiciary.