The recent developments in the judiciary and fighting corruption in Romania are a source of great concern for the European Commission
Just weeks ahead of the end of its term in office, the outgoing European Commission is once again voicing severe criticism against the political class in Bucharest. In its latest Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report, made public on Tuesday, the Commission finds Romania has taken steps back in terms of judicial reforms and the rule of law, as well as in its efforts to fight corruption.
According to the institution, Romania has failed to implement recommendations to reconsider the justice laws and to cancel the amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, all of them likely to hinder the fight against corruption and to bring magistrates under the control of political circles. Key Romanian institutions must work together to prove their commitment to the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption, the report also reads.
In Bucharest, Justice Minister Ana Birchal says Romania is ready to take on an active role in consolidating the European project, in which justice plays a key part. The National Anti-Corruption Directorate remains committed to combating high-level corruption with impartiality and professionalism, but also points out that the CVM report takes note of the successive changes in the relevant legislation and of the attacks against the activity and decisions of this institution.
Describing the current state of affairs as a source of concern, the European Commission recommends that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, introduced ever since Romania’s EU accession in 2007, should remain in place. In contrast, the same report finds that Bulgaria, admitted into the Union concurrently with Romania, has met the commitments it made upon accession, and that the CVM oversight on the Bulgarian judiciary could be lifted.
Anti-corruption expert Laura Stefan told Radio Romania that the problems pointed out in the CVM report are the consequence of Romania’s backtracking from the progress made up until 2017:
Laura Stefan: “This report is particularly alarming if we draw a parallel with Bulgaria, which paradoxically enough was commended for its progress, although to be fair Romania has achieved things that Bulgaria has never even set out to do. In Romania there has been a true campaign against high-level corruption, resulting in prison sentences and seized assets. Romania has never been affected by large-scale violent crime, as it was the case with our neighbours. So all in all, it is a rather bitter pill to swallow.”
In turn, the mass media blame the Commission’s criticism on the policies implemented by the successive leftist governments of the past 3 years. Headed by Sorin Grindeanu, Mihai Tudose and Viorica Dancila, all these cabinets were in fact brought to power and controlled by the former Social Democratic leader Liviu Dragnea, who was eventually imprisoned for corruption offences.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)