A new Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report on the progresses made by Romania and Bulgaria was presented on Wednesday to the press by European Commission spokesperson, Mark Gray. One of the underlining themes of the report are the concerns over independence of the judiciary and the commitment to fighting corruption.
“There are still concerns about the independence of the judiciary and there are a lot of examples of opposition to anti-corruption initiatives“, Gray specified.
It is apparent that anti-corruption legislation does not apply to everybody equally and the European Commission recommends that the Parliamentary Conduct Code should include key dispositions that protect the independence of the court system.
The process of naming key-figures in powerful positions is confusing and influenced by politics, the Commission worries.
“In the autumn of 2013, there were problems regarding the appointments of a new director and assistant director for DNA. Not only were the initial appointments temporary, but there was no procedure for consultation and the process of filling these leadership positions was highly criticized by both the public opinion and the CSM. The process was highly problematic”, Gray continued.
The Commission is concerned about politics’ influence over positions where independence and objectivity is key.
“This is what we’re saying about key appointments in powerful functions. The image projected is unclear, jumbled. Concerning this, we fear that the appointments are motivated by politics. (…) It’s very rare that we make analogies or comparisons between Romania and Bulgaria. But we can’t seem to ignore that this problem persists for both countries. We insist – and this is essential both now and in the future – that appointments should be transparent and made based on merit”, Gray underlined.
Events in December 2013 shook EC’s confidence
Gray was asked during the press conference what should the Romanian Parliament do to improve it’s performance in the eyes of the Commission, given it is one of the most criticized institutions in the report. Gray replied that there’s a series of factors that should be considered but first and foremost it is vital to work on matters of integrity.
“Naturally, we must look at problems with integrity. There’s an entire section in the report on parliamentary issues. (…) The context is still blurry, but that is not a surprise. You will see in the report different comments on the events in December 2013. They destabilized the system and made us concerned about the institution’s commitment to following key principles”, Gray mentioned.
MCV reports, is there an end in sight?
“Whether we see these objectives completed next year or whether we’ll have to wait longer, it is up to the two governments. The Commission cannot establish on its own when the objectives and recommendations will be satisfied”, Gray said, when asked whether the MCV reports will be eliminated by 2018.
Asked by a Bulgarian member of the press what is the philosophy behind these reports, Gray answered that the European Commission is not looking for perfection “concrete political commitments”.
“We’re not looking for perfection, but concrete political commitments that will benefit Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, which means a healthy balance whether it concerns the justice system or the fight against corruption. What we’ve seen in these last seven years – although this report does not cover the last seven years, but rather the last 48 months – are the first steps in organisational structure and adopting adequate legislation but too often we’ve seen lack of willpower in bringing guilty parties to justice, lack of willpower in transitioning from inquires to indictments”
The MCV reports will continue “as long as it is necessary for the two countries two satisfy their requirements”, but the EC cannot establish a deadline. According to Gray, the next report is planned for 2015 but the exact date has not yet been established.
Reactions in Romania
Prime-Minister Victor Ponta believes the report establishes that Romania has made considerable progress, regardless what “political interpretations” may arise.
“I’ve seen the report. Regardless of political interpretations which there’s no doubt in my mind will pop up, I’ve listened to the spokesperson – Romania has progressed. We are still, as far as the European Commission is concerned, completely prepared to enter Schengen”, Ponta said to his ministers in the governmental meeting.
Robert Cazanciuc, Justice minister, has stated that the MCV report is better than the one last year. The report contains 18 recommendations out of which 6 are made specifically for the judiciary system.
“There are 18 recommendations with a focus on judiciary independence, reform, integrity and the fight against corruption. (…) Six of there are addressed to the Ministry of Justice: restructuring the judiciary court, supplying the courts with the tools necessary for a proper function; publishing judge decisions; identifying the solutions necessary for the capitalization of confiscated goods; developing a National Strategy of fighting against corruption”.
The minister added that after a first evaluation, the European Commission observed that Romania had made progresses in several domains compared to previous reports and the “justice system maintained a positive momentum”.
“Romania had a better report than the one last year. A very important element is the return of the previous evaluation structure, political recommendations referring to the separation of powers were eliminated”, Cazanciuc explained.