Romania has made progress in efforts to reform its justice system and fight high-level corruption. However, it still needs to fulfill some recommendations laid out several years ago, the European Commission said.
In its assessment, the Commission said that since its last report in 2019, “the situation within the parameters of the CVM (Cooperation and Verification Mechanism) benchmarks has seen a clear positive trend.”
„The Commission welcomes the fact that a strong renewed impetus has been given in 2021 to reform and to repair the backtracking of the 2017-2019 period,” the EU’s executive body said in its progress report on Romania published on Tuesday.
Romania’s prime minister, Florin Cîţu welcomed the report which he called it “positive”.
Rule of law
In March, he said the European Union was ready to lift special monitoring of the rule of law in his country by the end of 2021.
“The battle for an independent justice system is the battle for normality in a democratic society,” he said Wednesday.
Romania and Bulgaria were put under special monitoring when they joined the EU in 2007. The reason was concerns over the rule of law and corruption, and in Bulgaria’s case, organized crime.
The Commission set up the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism known as the CVM. It is a safeguarding measure to address the shortcomings.
The latest report assesses progress on 12 recommendations made in January 2017, and eight additional recommendations of November 2018.
The Commission said in its report that it was concerned about a special unit dedicated to “investigating criminal offenses within the judiciary.”
It said “in order to be compatible with EU law,” the creation of the unit “must be justified by objectives and verifiable requirements relating to the sound administration of justice”.
“ (It must) ensure that that section cannot be used as an instrument of political control over the activity of judges and prosecutors.”
“If it fails to fulfill those requirements, that legislation could be perceived as seeking to establish an instrument of pressure and intimidation with regard to judges. (That) would prejudice the trust of individuals in justice”.
However, the Commission noted that since the 2019 report, judicial independence and reform; integrity framework; tackling high-level corruption and tackling corruption at all levels have “shown a positive trend“.
From 2017 to 2019, the former ruling Social Democrats undertook a judicial overhaul that weakened the anti-corruption agency. Critics said they rolled back progress in fighting corruption.
The moves lead to massive street protests, the biggest seen since the overthrow of communism.
The Anti-corruption Directorate on Wednesday said it “assured Romanian citizens that it will continue its activity in a sustained and efficient manner… so that the objective of fighting high-level corruption can be fulfilled” .