Why does the Commission report on progress in judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Romania?
At the accession of Romania to the European Union on 1 January 2007, certain shortcomings remained in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption. These weaknesses had the potential to prevent an effective application of EU laws, policies and programmes, and prevent Romanians from enjoying their full rights as EU citizens. Therefore, the Commission undertook to assist Romania in remedying these shortcomings and to regularly verify progress against specific benchmarks through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
In January 2017, ten years after the CVM began, the Commission set out the remaining steps needed to achieve the benchmarks. The Commission provided concrete recommendations which, if completed, and unless developments clearly reversed the course of progress, would allow Romania to fulfil the benchmarks and close the CVM process. Since then, the Commission has carried out three assessments of progress on the implementation of the recommendations in November 2017, November 2018 and October 2019.
What does the decision of the Court of Justice of 18 May 2021 say on the CVM?
The Court's judgment clarified that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism decision is fully binding on Romania and seeks to ensure that Romania fully complies with the rule of law. Romania is required to take appropriate measures to meet the benchmarks set in the decision and to refrain from implementing any measure which could jeopardise their being met. Romania must take into account the recommendations made by the Commission to Romania in the context of the CVM, and must refrain from taking measures which could jeopardise the result prescribed by the recommendations.
The judgment further considered a number of provisions of the justice laws in the light of Articles 2 and 19(1) TEU and of the CVM decision, in particular as regards the Section for investigating criminal offences within the judiciary, the ad interim appointments to management positions within the Judicial Inspection, as well as the personal liability of judges as a result of judicial error. As regards the Section for investigating criminal offences within the judiciary, the CJEU declared that, in order to be compatible with EU law, the legislation creating such a specialised section must be justified by objectives and verifiable requirements relating to the sound administration of justice, ensure that that section cannot be used as an instrument of political control over the activity of judges and prosecutors, and that the section exercises its competence in compliance with the requirements of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. If it fails to fulfil those requirements, that legislation could be perceived as seeking to establish an instrument of pressure and intimidation with regard to judges, which would prejudice the trust of individuals in justice. The CJEU adds that the national legislation at issue cannot have the effect of disregarding Romania's specific obligations under the CVM Decision in the area of the fight against corruption.
How long will the CVM last?
The CVM will end when all the benchmarks are satisfactorily fulfilled. The speed of the process depends on the ability to quickly address the recommendations in a sustainable way, namely by avoiding negative steps that may question the progress made so far. Today's report notes a renewed impetus has been given in 2021 to reform and to reverse the backtracking of the 2017-2019 period. The result is that there is progress across all the remaining CVM recommendations and many are on the path to being fulfilled if progress remains steady.
Will the Rule of Law Mechanism or the Rule of Law Report replace the CVM?
In line with the decision setting up the mechanism and confirmed by the Court of Justice, the CVM will be brought to an end when all the benchmarks applying to Romania are satisfactorily met. The Commission will continue to monitor developments closely through the CVM until the benchmarks are met, and, in parallel, will continue to work with Romania in the context of the general rule of law mechanism, as with all Member States.
As indicated in the Rule of Law Communication of September 2020, once the CVM ends, monitoring will continue under horizontal instruments. The rule of law mechanism provides the framework for taking these issues forward in the future.
Who decides when to lift the CVM?
The CVM can be lifted by means of a decision of the Commission. For that purpose, according to the Acts of Accession, which are the legal bases for the CVM decisions, the "Commission shall inform the Council in good time before revoking the safeguard measures [the CVM], and it shall duly take into account any observations of the Council in this respect".
How does the Commission report on progress in Romania?
The Commission regularly assesses progress in judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Romania. The Commission's assessments and its formal reports are based on a careful analysis and monitoring, drawing on a continuous dialogue between the Romanian authorities and the Commission services. The reports have also benefited from contacts with Member States, civil society, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other sources. The monitoring process of the CVM, together with the opportunities provided by EU funds and the constructive engagement of the Commission and many Member States, has provided valuable support to encourage, advance and consolidate reform in Romania (and Bulgaria).
Each Commission report, is subsequently presented to the European Parliament and the Council.
What are the next steps for Romania?
As recalled by the decision of the Court of Justice of 18 May, Romania needs to meet the commitments made under the CVM and to pursue actively the fulfilment of all the remaining CVM recommendations. The judgment of the Court of Justice of 18 May 2021 provides a clear direction for the ongoing reforms to satisfactorily fulfil the CVM benchmarks, in full respect of the rule of law and of EU law generally. It is essential that the judgement is duly reflected in the new legislation to be adopted.
For More Information
Press Release: Commission reports on progress in Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism