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From our correspondent in Brussels

European Commission report on Romania justice reform: Current situation offers a mixed picture

de Anne-Marie Blajan, transl. V.O.
Miercuri, 23 iulie 2008, 14:26 English | Top News

(23 Jul 2008) PDF, 33KB
The European Commission approved at noon on Wednesday its newest report on the progress of reform in the Romanian justice sector and the fight against corruption. A formula regarding possible risks that Romania might not join the Schengen area and the euro zone because of its performance in the justice reform no longer appears in the final version. The formula appeared in a very early version of the draft report and was not even discussed by European Commissioners. They started a presentation of the report at 2 p.m. today.

According to EC spokesperson Johannes Laitenberger, Bulgaria and Romania have gone a long way over the past decade and the first 18 months after their EU accession were beneficial for both these countries and the EU. The Commission wants both countries to fully benefit of their EU membership.

The situation in Romania offers a mixed picture as fundamental parts of the system are working have a fragile basis and the fight against high level corruption is politicized.

While progress existed in the judicial reform, the Commission recommends intensified efforts in this regard.

The conclusions of the Commission:
  • The Romanian government managed to intensify efforts and continue the reform and a relative stabilisation of the judicial system dealing with the fight against corruption.
  • Two key institutions in fighting corruption, ANI and CNI are now working but must provide a balanced foundation and concrete results without delay.
  • The National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) progresses in penal inquiries and in launching investigations on high level corruption. These must be followed by other cases.
  • There must be unequivocal consensus among all political parties on eradicating corruption.
  • The Commission is concerned about the lack of sentences. Institutions, laws and existing procedures must show results.
  • There are delays due to judges sending cases back to prosecutors over minor issues, when they themselves might have solved them.
  • Institutional and procedural changes over the past several years have started to deliver. The accomplishments are still fragile given the lack of political consensus on reform
  • Romania's engagement to eradicate corruption is reflected in the preliminary stage of the process but does not translate in an increasing number of sentences or sanctions
  • The performance of the judiciary system in Romania is marred by judicial insecurity caused by multiple factors, including the non-uniform application of law and excessive use of emergency ordinances
  • Starting February, when the Commission adopted the last interim report, Romania has intensified its efforts. Despite a period of intense political debates and pressures, the government managed to give a new impetus to reform and reinstate a relative stability of the judicial and institutional framework in fighting corruption. The naming of a new Justice minister in February 2008 is a key element in this regard
  • Considering the reform of the judiciary, the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) received human and financial resources to allow it to take essential responsibilities in the process of judiciary reform
  • Regarding the fight against high-level corruption, a series of measures have been taken with the Public Ministry and the National Anti-Corruption Department producing a positive history of penal pursuits of cases and initiating procedures to investigate high level cases involving former ministers and members of the Parliament
  • In the first half of 2008, Romania made a step forward with the creation of the National Agency for Integrity (ANI).
  • In June 2008 a national anti-corruption strategy aimed at local public administration corruption was adopted
  • Administrative capacity to fight corruption must be consolidated
  • The reform of the judiciary system progresses but in an imbalanced manner
  • The public ministry faces a severe lack of personnel and recruiting procedures do not always allow for the selection of quality personnel
  • The progress reportes so far is shadowed by recent inconsistencies in the jurisprudence of superior courts including the Hight Court of Justice in some cases of high-level corruption
  • Sentences continue to be mild and inconsistent
  • There was no real progress in ten key cases involving former ministers as the Parliament blocked penal pursuits and the High Court of Justice invalidated previous decisions
  • The parliamentary debate over the changes to Penal Procedure Code, aimed at restricting the collection of probes, creates judicial insecurity and negatively influences ongoing investigations
  • Romania continues to progress in fighting corruption at local level but must produce more results

What Romania must do:
  • The Superior Council of Magistracy should assume an unbiased position in fighting high level corruption.
  • The Government should conclude a new Penal Procedure Code and a New Penal Code and a governmental emergency ordinance containing amendments changing the Penal Procedure Code should be dropped.
  • The fight against corruption should stay away from politics and Romania should affirm its unequivocal engagement in fighting corruption.
  • The institutional stability of the National Anti-Corruption Department should be maintained.
  • There must be investigations on former ministers, members of the Parliament, in order to recover the trust of the citizens in the state of law.
  • Continuous efforts should be made to develop the administrative capacity of the judicial system
  • The National Agency for Integrity should prove its operational capacity to efficiently sanction unjustified assets held by public officials and to check incompatibilities and conflicts of interest
  • The public opinion should be consulted in the preparation of legislation
  • The continuation of independent inquiries of former ministers and members of the Parliament should be allowed by judicial authorities
  • Romania must introduce a simple and accessible system to allow its citizens to notify cases of suspected corruption

European sources told HotNews. on Tuesday that the version of the report published by the Romanian media recently would suffer essential changes both during talks between Commissioners and after a session that took place yesterday.

Romania's failure to register enough progress and to dispel doubts about its capacity to fight corruption was expected to influence the evaluation of the country in its efforts to join the Schengen area and the euro zone, the draft report had initially said.

The reports on Bulgaria and Romania are objective, balanced and sincere, European officials insisted.

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