Barroso urges Romanian anti-corruption effort

12.01.09 @ 17:51

  1. By Valentina Pop
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BRUSSELS - The European Commission and member states need to see concrete results in Romania's judicial reform and fight against corruption, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday (12 December) after a meeting with the Romanian president and premier.

  • The three Bs - Basescu (l), Barroso (c) and Boc (Photo: EUobserver)

"I have urged the new government to turn round the negative trend which is visible over the last six months. Romania needs to be able to convince the commission and other member states that it can deliver on its commitments that remain from accession," Mr Barroso told a press briefing after briefly adressing the audience in Romanian.

Both Romanian president Traian Basescu and his new Prime Minister Emil Boc stated that the main objective of the current government was for their country to achieve a good EU report this summer, to be able to end the commission's extra scrutiny in the field of justice and corruption by the end of 2009.

Mr Basescu admitted there are no obligations for the EU executive in this regard however, since the commission has no binding deadline to end the monitoring.

Mr Barroso stressed that the extra scrutiny was to the benefit of Romanian citizens and there was no need to see it as being "imposed" from Brussels.

"We are working with our Romanian partners to achieve progress. It depends on the concrete progress and on Romania to lift this mechanism," he concluded.

Parliament blocking corruption cases

Although it has been a member of the EU for two years, Romania remains under extra supervision by Brussels in the justice and home affairs area and has often been criticised by the European Commission for failing to sufficiently tackle corruption problems.

The main issue identified in the last commission report was the lack of "unequivocal support" from the parliament and judges in the fight against corruption.

Judicial reform and fighting high level corruption were "mainly in the hand of the magistrates and of the parliament" justice minister Catalin Predoiu told EUobserver last week.

He was referring to the actions of the previous parliament which refused to lift the immunity of former prime minister Adrian Nastase so he could be tried on corruption charges. Mr Nastase still has two corruption cases awaiting a vote in the plenum.

"Justice cannot be made in parliament," said Mr Predoiu, who has been in charge of the justice portfolio for the past year.

Funds freeze possible in 2009

In 2008, Romania managed to avoid the massive EU funds freeze that was applied to Bulgaria due to fraud and corruption with pre-accession funds.

But the statistics of Romania's anti-corruption body show that the number of penal cases with EU funds is on the rise, indicating that a funds freeze is not out of the question in 2009.

In the first half of 2008 alone, the total loss of EU funds in the 22 cases sent to court by the anti-corruption prosecutors ran to € 1.9 million, more than the total loss of similar cases registered one year before (€1.5 million).

The use of false or incorrect documents in order to obtain money through the EU's PHARE or SAPARD aid programmes was the most common fraud, the agency said.