The European Commission adopted today its latest report on developments in Romania on judicial reform and the fight against corruption, in the context of its commitments under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
Today's report takes stock of the situation since November 2018. It notes that since the last report the 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.
The evolution of the situation in the first months of 2019 was a source of great concern for the Commission. As a result, the Commission 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 CVM.
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 looks forward to the translation of 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.
The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was established at the accession of Romania to the European Union in 2007 as a transitional measure to facilitate Romania's continued efforts to reform its judiciary and step up the fight against corruption. It represented a joint commitment of the Romanian State and of the EU. In line with the decision setting up the mechanism and as underlined by the Council, the CVM ends when all the benchmarks applying to Romania are satisfactorily met.
In January 2017, the Commission undertook a comprehensive assessment of progress over the ten years of the mechanism. This perspective gave a clearer picture of the significant progress made since accession, and the Commission was able to set out twelve recommendations which, once fulfilled, would suffice to end the CVM process. Ending the CVM was made dependent on fulfilling these recommendations in an irreversible way, and on the condition that developments did not clearly reverse the course of progress.
Since then, the Commission has carried out two assessments of progress on the implementation of the recommendations. In November 2017, the Commission noted progress on a number of the recommendations, but also that the reform momentum had been lost in the course of 2017. It warned about the risk of re-opening issues which the January 2017 report had considered as closed. These concerns were echoed by the Council.
In the November 2018 report, the Commission concluded that developments had called into question the irreversibility of progress. As a result, the twelve recommendations set out in the January 2017 report were no longer sufficient to close the CVM and eight additional recommendations had to be made. The report called on the key institutions of Romania to demonstrate a strong commitment to judicial independence and the fight against corruption, and to restore the capacity of national safeguards and checks and balances to act when there is a risk of a backwards step. Both the European Parliament and the Council supported 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.
Today's report takes stock of the situation in Romania since November 2018regarding all recommendations made by the Commission. This report is complemented by a staff working document which sets out the Commission's detailed analysis, drawing on continuous dialogue between the Romanian authorities and the Commission services.
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