The European Commission published on Wednesday its latest report on the situation of the Romanian justice system, the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report. It announced the EU monitoring of Romanian justice would continue in 2018, despite current government's hopes that it would end early next year. And it slams a series of recent proposals to change laws in a manner that would affect the independence of justice. The Romanian government received the report on the positive note, while most other top officials underlined its criticism of government attempts to undermine progress in the reform of the judiciary.
The MCV report shows that reform in the justice sector slowed down this year and that the balance between power structures are harmed by tensions. It says progress in the fight against corruption was negatively influenced by attempts to change the current legislation, such as an emergency ordinance that was dropped after massive protests early this year, or more recently a set of bills seen by Romanian judges and observers as an attempt to subdue the judiciary politically.
Challenges to the independence of the judiciary are a serious source of concern for the European Commission, the report says.
The same report recommends Romania to wait notification from the Venice Commission before measures such as changing the procedures of naming chief prosecutors. This is a subject of a proposed bill criticized over the past several months as an attempt by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) -led Government, which holds a majority in the Parliament, to subdue the judiciary.
Justice minister Tudorel Toader received the report in a positive note, saying it was a positive document and that its conclusion was Romania could reach its target of lifting the European-level MCV monitoring in 2018. He made the statement as the EC said it would continue the monitoring for at least one more year.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who is at loggerheads with the governing coalition, took the report as a "serious alarm" and warned that unless the Government and Parliament stop their current moves regarding the judiciary, Romania would step back in its progress.
And Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar said the report was a step back as compared to the similar document issued by the EC in January this year. He said it would be a pity for Romania to drop the work of the past 10 years in the field of justice reform, when the other side of the river is so close.