EU blasts Romania’s weakened anti-corruption fight in key report

Hopes that the European Union would lift special monitoring on Romania’s justice system were dashed Tuesday after the commission issued a scathing report for the country.

In the 25-page report, the European Commission castigated Romania for backtracking on the anti-corruption fight in the past year.

It said Romania had rolled back progress made in previous years and called the latest developments “a source of great concern” meaning it remain under special monitoring known as the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

The CVM was established when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 amid concerns over the rule of law and corruption.

The report noted Romania had failed to implement many of the Commission’s recommendations in its last report of Nov. 2018 and rebuked authorities for political meddling in the appointment of top prosecutors.

It said the first few months of 2019 when Romania held the presidency of the European Union were “a source of great concern.”

It welcomed a change of approach from authorities in June_ that was after the chairman of the Social Democrats Liviu Dragnea was served a 3 ½ year prison sentence for corruption charges_ stressing that future progress would involve “tangible steps, legislative and administrative” to address recommendations in the report.

It said: “key institutions need to work collectively to demonstrate a strong commitment to judicial independence and the fight against corruption.”

Ludovic Orban, Romania’s prime minister-designate, said the government would have a direct dialogue with „European partners and establish a plan of action so that Romania can get rid of the CVM as soon as possible.”

Bulgaria, also under special monitoring, comes out better in its report. The European Commission said it would consider lifting the special monitoring system on Bulgaria, but would first consult with the European Council and the European Parliament.

Tuesday’s report was particularly critical of a special section tasked with investigating members of the judiciary in Romania, which has been established without prior consultation with stakeholders and disregarding recommendations of the Venice Commission, which has noted that the section might become an obstacle in the fight against corruption.

The unit operates outside normal legal structures and is directly controlled by the justice minister. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has consistently called on Romania to disband the unit.

The previous report, published in November 2018, warned about the adoption of a series of changes to the laws governing the judiciary and of pressure on the independence of the judicial system, especially on the National Anti-Corruption Department.

Romania’s Social Democrat-led government was overthrown in a no-confidence vote on Oct.  10 but remains in office with limited powers until Parliament approves a new executive.

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