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Report on Progress in Romania under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism

23 July 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 23 July 2008

The Commission approved on 23 July a series of reports assessing the progress Romania of judicial reform and the fight against corruption under the Co-operation and Verification mechanisms set up when the country joined the EU last year.


Why does the European Commission report on progress in Romania in these areas?

Upon accession of Romania on 1 January 2007, certain weaknesses remained in the areas of judicial reform and fight against corruption that could prevent an effective application of EU-laws, policies and programmes. Therefore, special provisions were included in the Treaty of accession in these areas. In addition, the Commission set up a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism to assist Romania to remedy these shortcomings and verify progress measured against four benchmarks set for judiciary reform and the fight against corruption. These benchmarks are interlinked. They need to be seen together as part of a broad, long term reform of the judicial system and the fight against corruption.

How does the Commission report on progress in Romania?

The first report of the Commission was published on 27 June 2007. It included a comprehensive assessment of progress under each of the four benchmarks. The report concluded that the Romanian Government was committed to judicial reform and combating corruption. However, there was still a clear weakness in translating these intentions into concrete results. While recognizing the efforts of Romania, much remained to be done and progress was still considered insufficient in the fight against high-level corruption.

A second interim report was published on 4 February 2008. It contained a factual update of progress and deliberately abstained from providing a detailed assessment of results achieved under each of the benchmarks. The report concluded that delays had occurred in implementing a coherent recruitment strategy for the judiciary (benchmark 1), in the establishment of a National Integrity Agency (benchmark 2) and in developing an overall strategy and implementing flagship projects to fight local corruption (benchmark 4). The report showed particular concern for the fight against high-level corruption (benchmark 3) where convincing results had not yet been demonstrated by Romania. The report suggested that Romania step up its efforts in this area and strengthen its efforts to maintain the legal and institutional stability of the Romanian anti-corruption framework. It took note of some concerns which needed to be addressed by Romania before the Commission carried out a full assessment again mid 2008.

The reports of the Commission are based on contributions by the Romanian authorities, the Commission's services, expert reports by Member States, and input from technical experts and civil society.

What does today's report say?

The report analyses ongoing developments in Romania as it seeks to make progress in addressing the four benchmarks. It finds that Romania presents a mixed picture. It has put the fundamental elements of a functioning system in place. But the foundation is still fragile and decisions on corruption are highly politicised. Each step in the right direction engenders a divisive internal political debate, fostering legal uncertainty. Commitment to reform by Romania’s key institutions and bodies as well as with regard to different benchmarks is uneven. The Government has stepped up its efforts and restored a reform drive and relative stability in the legal and institutional framework for the fight against corruption.

Romania has made progress with the Superior Council of Magistracy shouldering its core responsibilities for judicial reform. In respect of the fight against high level corruption a number of positive steps have been taken. The Public Ministry and the National Anti-Corruption Department have established a good track record in the prosecution of cases and started procedures for launching investigations in a number of high level cases. Romania has made an important step forward with the establishment of the National Integrity agency. Romania has also pursued awareness raising campaigns and continued to introduce preventive measures to counteract local corruption.

After a period of uncertainty Romania has been able to re-establish its commitment to judicial reform and the fight against corruption. However, the legal and institutional framework is still fragile. It needs to stabilise and consolidate. Administrative capacity needs to be nurtured and strengthened. Importantly, an unequivocal consensus is needed, including in Parliament and the judiciary to rooting out high level corruption. In moving forward, the laws, procedures and institutions which are in place have to be allowed to build a track record – to show that they are capable of producing results in a longer-term perspective.

What improvements are needed?

Judicial reform and progress in the fight against corruption are closely interlinked. Improvements are needed in both areas.

More specifically

  • The commitment to reform among key judicial institutions needs strengthening. The Superior Council of the Magistracy must take an unequivocal position on the fight against high level corruption in the context of the current controversial political debate in Parliament.
  • A continuing effort needs to be made to develop administrative capacity in the judiciary.
  • The National Integrity Agency will now have to demonstrate its operational capacity to effectively sanction unjustified assets and to verify incompatibilities and conflicts of interest.
  • To stabilise the legal framework the Government should finalise a new Criminal Procedure Code and make progress on the draft Criminal Code. This would provide a clearer and effective framework for prosecution and better cooperation with other member states. The controversial amendments to the emergency ordinance amending the existing Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure should be dropped.
  • The fight against corruption needs to be de-politicised and Romania must affirm its unequivocal commitment to fight against high level corruption. Independent investigation of former ministers and members of Parliament by the judicial authorities must be allowed to proceed to restore public confidence.
  • Commitment to and ownership of reform needs to take root across the entire political spectrum and within the judiciary.

In its report, the Commission encourages Romania to intensify its reforms and to maintain close cooperation with the other Member States and the Commission so that the significant remaining challenges can be tackled successfully together.

What are the four benchmarks set for Romania?

The following benchmarks have been set for Romania in the context of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism:

1. Ensure a more transparent, and efficient judicial process notably by enhancing the capacity and accountability of the Superior Council of Magistracy. Report and monitor the impact of the new civil and penal procedures codes.

2. Establish, as foreseen, an integrity agency with responsibilities for verifying assets, incompatibilities and potential conflicts of interest, and for issuing mandatory decisions on the basis of which dissuasive sanctions can be taken.

3. Building on progress already made, continue to conduct professional, non-partisan investigations into allegations of high level corruption.

4 Take further measures to prevent and fight against corruption, in particular within the local government.

Source: European Commission

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