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Bulgaria makes progress, Romania backtracks on judicial reform, corruption

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Bulgaria makes progress, Romania backtracks on judicial reform, corruption

Frans Timmermans - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - Bulgaria has made good progress in fighting corruption and organised crime, but Romania has gone backwards, particularly with regard to judicial reform, the EU said in its annual review published Tuesday.

The report on progress in Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism looks at the progress made over the past year to meet the final 17 recommendations issued by the Commission in the January 2017 report and positively notes Bulgaria's continued efforts and determination to implement those recommendations.

The Commission expresses confidence that Bulgaria will be able to fulfil all the remaining recommendations and thereby the outstanding benchmarks. This will enable the CVM process for Bulgaria to then be concluded before the end of this Commission's mandate – in line with the orientation given by President Jean-Claude Juncker when he started his term of office.

"This report acknowledges that Bulgaria has continued to make steady progress in implementing the final recommendations we set out in January 2017," said EC First Vice-President Frans Timmermans: "These reforms are necessary to effectively fight corruption and organised crime. If the current positive trend continues and progress is maintained sustainably and irreversibly, I am confident that the CVM process for Bulgaria can be concluded before the end of this Commission's mandate."

The Commission considers that several recommendations have already been implemented and a number of others are very close to implementation. On this basis, three benchmarks (judicial independence, legislative framework and organised crime) out of six can be considered provisionally closed. Given that in some cases developments are ongoing, continued monitoring by the Commission is required to confirm this assessment.

The EU executive says it is confident that Bulgaria will pursue its reform efforts and will be able to fulfil all the remaining recommendations.

Romania's report notes that while the country has taken some steps to implement the final 12 recommendations issued by the Commission in January 2017, in order to fulfil the CVM benchmarks, recent developments have reversed the course of progress and called into question the positive assessment made back in January 2017. This applies notably to judicial independence, judicial reform and tackling high-level corruption. Therefore, today's report also sets out a number of additional recommendations for immediate follow up.

"I regret that Romania has not only stalled its reform process, but also re-opened and backtracked on issues where progress was made over the past 10 years," said Mr Timmermans: "It is essential that Romania gets back on track immediately in the fight against corruption and also ensures an independent judiciary. This is the only way how Romania can resume its path towards the conclusion of the CVM process, in the interest of its citizens, its country, and the EU as a whole."

Over the twelve months since the report in November 2017, Romania has taken some steps to implement the recommendations set out in the January 2017 report. However, the assessment of the January 2017 report was always conditioned on the avoidance of negative steps calling into question the progress made in the past 10 years. The entry into force of the amended justice laws, the pressure on judicial independence in general and on the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) in particular, and other steps undermining the fight against corruption have reversed or called into question the irreversibility of progress. The Commission also noted broader factors beyond the CVM's scope, but clearly having an impact on the advance of judicial reform and the fight against corruption. In this respect, the report notes that free and pluralistic media play an important role in holding the actions of those in power to account, for example in bringing potential cases of corruption to light.

As a result, the Commission says the 12 recommendations set out in the January 2017 report are no longer sufficient, and the report sets out eight additional recommendations to remedy the current situation. This will require the key institutions of Romania to demonstrate a strong commitment to judicial independence and the fight against corruption as indispensable cornerstones, and to restore the capacity of national checks and balances to act when there is a risk of a backwards step.

Bulgaria and Romania Cooperation and Verification 
Mechanism Reports 2018 - background guide

All CVM Reports


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