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EC 2020 first report on the rule of law in the EU: situation in Romania

Since accession to the EU in 2007, Romanian reforms in the areas of justice and anticorruption have been followed by the Commission through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), as an important framework for progress towards meeting the set benchmarks. In 2020, the Government continued to affirm its commitment to restore the path of judicial reform after the reverses of 2017-2019.


This led to a significant decrease in tensions with the judiciary. The recent appointments of new leadership for the key prosecutorial services could pave the way for more efficient continuation of prosecutorial activity. However, progress towards amending the relevant legislation has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic combined with the forthcoming national elections.


The controversial measures with negative impact on judicial independence continue to apply, such as the Section for the Investigation of Offences in the Judiciary, tasked exclusively with the prosecution of crimes committed by judges and prosecutors. The continued implementation of these measures increases uncertainty for the functioning of the justice system, in particular through their combined effect. Moreover, some of these measures may also negatively affect the human resources within the justice system, with implications for its efficiency.


Romania has a comprehensive national anti-corruption strategic framework based on the large participation of national and local institutional actors. Despite Romania’s progress and track record in the fight against corruption over the last decade, the challenges faced by the judiciary during 2017-2019 have raised questions as to the sustainability of anti-corruption reforms.


Even if the current political context means less confrontation, key institutions face a challenging environment with consequences for the implementation of legal framework and institutional capacity. Although key competent institutions have continued their activity, this poses challenges to maintaining the strong track record of prosecuted cases and court judgments convicting high-level corruption.


The pending amendments of the Criminal Code and Code of criminal procedures raise uncertainty about the effectiveness of the anticorruption legal framework, making it important that legal and policy solutions are found responding to key Constitutional Court decisions.


The current Government has shown a renewed commitment to make progress on the preventive side through the comprehensive National Anti-Corruption Strategy. The relevant legal safeguards concerning media freedom and pluralism are in place.


Nonetheless, issues arise in relation to the implementation and enforcement of the existing legislative framework. Transparency of media ownership appears to be incomplete, and the audio-visual media regulatory authority lacks the resources to fully perform its tasks. Media may be prone to political pressures, as specific legal safeguards for editorial independence are mostly lacking, apart from some self-regulation at newsroom or publisher level.


The ordinary process for preparing and enacting laws is well regulated, including an extended institutional set-up of checks and balances, but its effectiveness varies. Government Emergency Ordinances continue to be widely used and successive uncoordinated legislative amendments also have an impact on the quality of legislation and legal certainty, including for the business environment.


There is an enabling legislative framework for civil society, which is an active force and has been able to react against attempts to limit its activities. Civil society has had an important role in defending the rule of law in Romania.


A particularity of Romania, as for Bulgaria, is that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was established at the accession to the European Union in 2007 as a transitional measure to facilitate Romania’s continued efforts to reform its judiciary and step up the fight against corruption1 . In line with the decision setting up the Mechanism, the CVM ends when all the benchmarks applying to Romania are satisfactorily met2 .


In its reports of January 2017, the Commission adopted a comprehensive assessment of Romania’s progress over the ten years of the CVM. It also set out a path towards the conclusion of the Mechanism based on 12 final key recommendations that, if complied with, would be sufficient to meet the goals of the CVM.


Due to developments that followed in Romania the Commission issued eight additional recommendations in November 2018. In the latest CVM report, adopted in October 2019, the Commission concluded that Romania still had to progress on the recommendations of the January 2017 and November 2018 reports. In 2019, Romanian courts referred several requests for preliminary rulings to the Court of Justice of the EU on the obligations of Romania under the CVM and to follow up on CVM recommendations3 . The cases are currently pending.


(Read more on: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/ro_rol_country_chapter.pdf)




Thursday, October 1, 2020