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EC threatens Romania with a tougher mechanism than the CVM if it adopts the amendments to the criminal codes

Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, has sent a letter to the Romanian officials on May 10, criticizing again the amendments on the criminal codes and threatening the Commission might trigger Article 7, the so-called “nuclear option” of the EU Treaty, against Romania. The letter is addressed to Klaus Iohannis President Romania, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, President of the Romanian Senate, Liviu Dragnea, President of the Chamber of Deputies and to Romanian PM Viorica Dancila.


First Vice-President

Brussels, 10 May 2019


In recent months the European Commission has had to revert at frequent intervals to the question of therule of law developments in Romania. On each of these occasions, the Commission has underlined thatthe backtracking from the progress made in recent years has continued. The problems we haveidentified, and the recommendations issued to mitigate these concerns, are not being addressed. Therehas been similar unwillingness to address the recommendations made by the Venice Commission andthe Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption. Unfortunately, the recent developments inRomania have further exacerbated the existing problems regarding the respect for the rule of law.

In the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report of November 2018, the Commission set out aclear path forward – to call a halt to this backward trend and to put Romania’s commitments and effortson the right track again. Following this path would imply that the initiatives are prepared on the basis ofproper consultation and if necessary with the help of external expertise. It would also avoid the risk thatsteps are taken which would be incompatible with EU law and international anti-corruption instruments,as well as with the recommendations under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and of theVenice Commission. The Commission at all levels has repeatedly urged the Romanian authorities toengage in such a constructive approach in a series of meetings, letters and discussions over the pastsix months. Unfortunately, this route has not been taken.

The Commission, fully respecting the sovereignty of the Republic of Romania, and carrying out itsresponsibilities as guardian of the Treaties including of the values on which the European Union isfounded in an objective and non-partisan manner, has identified, at this stage, the following points asmatters of concern regarding the rule of law in Romania.

H.E. Mr Klaus IohannisPresident Romania

H.E. Mr Calin Popescu-TariceanuPresident of the Romanian Senate

H.E. Mr Liviu DragneaPresident of the Chamber of Deputies

H.E. Mrs Viorica Dancila Prime Minister Romania

The European Commission’s spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, has confirmed the letter sent by Timmermans to the leaders in Romania, stating that the European officials will not hesitate to quickly launch procedures on violating the Community law if necessary.

Regarding reducing prescription periods, the amendments to Article 154(1) of the Criminal Code say that for crimes subject to a penalty of between 10 to 20 years and of between 5 to 10 years, the period to come to a final conviction would in principle be reduced by two years. “This amendment can result in many cases reaching prescription period before the last instance court has the opportunity to judge. This means that many crimes can end unpunished, including crimes which according to EU law should be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions (such as counterfeiting currency, market abuse or child pornography).”
On reducing the punishment for certain offenses in public position, such as abuse of office, the amendment provides that in cases, in which the suspect pays back the material benefit received in context of certain corruption crimes before the judgment, the period for the prison sentence will be reduced by half.