Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Romania and Bulgaria lagging behind on reforms

  • The Dutch oppose Bulgaria and Romania's admission to the passport-free Schengen area so long as corruption persists in the two countries (Photo: European Commission)

Bulgaria and Romania still need to do more to tackle corruption and organised crime, the European Commission said Wednesday (8 February), in a refrain familiar since the two countries joined the EU almost five years ago.

The European Commission reports, which are published twice a year, focus on a number of benchmarks that need to be addressed or improved upon.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

And while Brussels notes that both countries have made "significant" steps to improve their judiciary systems, outstanding issues remain.

Bulgaria's courts and its prosecution services have improved but its courts still need to deliver more convincing results on corruption and organised crime.

Six magistrates were acquitted by court in six cases related to corruption and abuse of office in 2011, with another 28 magistrates currently involved in 27 other criminal proceedings. Ten have so far been convicted with another six receiving suspended sentences.

The report also highlights allegations of electoral fraud, made by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, following the Bulgarian presidential and local elections of last October.

For its part, Romania still needs to improve its judicial transparency, tackle conflicts of interest, and continue its struggle against high- and low-level corruption.

High-level corruption trials may have accelerated but over 60 percent of sentences are suspended and most verdicts remain close to the legal minimum, states the report. Around 158 final court decisions were made in 2011, up from 85 in 2010.

The commission noted Romania’s decision in November to exclude any politician under investigation of fraud from his or her party. However, the commission also remarked that six members of Romania’s parliament with convictions of corruption are still sitting members.

On a more positive note, Romania has adopted legislation that strengthens the judiciary by increasing sanctions and the independence of its judicial inspectors.

Enough progress for the Dutch?

While the reports and their contents have become more routine with time, they have important political consequences for Bulgaria and Romania’s hopes to join the EU’s borderless Schengen area.

The two issues are not connected but the Netherlands has linked them in order to pressure Bucharest and Sofia to clean up their acts.

Dutch Europe Minister Ben Knapen on Wednesday gave a downbeat interpretation of the reports, noting that while progress may have been made, especially in Romania, “more needs to be done.”

"The Netherlands seeks two consecutive positive reports which indicate sustainable and irreversible progress to combat corruption and organised crime. We will see in July, following the full report of the European commission, whether this then has been the case," he said.

The European Parliament said both countries fulfilled the Schengen criteria last year, but the Netherlands blocked their entry in December.

Dutch insist on anti-corruption measures in border row

The Netherlands wants to see two consecutive "positive" EU reports on Bulgaria and Romania's anti-corruption efforts before lifting its veto to their Schengen membership, a Dutch minister has said.

Romania and Bulgaria continue to flout rule of law

Contract killings in Bulgaria and a direct affront to the rule of law in Romania are some of the major concerns underlined by the European Commission in its progress reports adopted on Wednesday.

EU data verdict imminent on Romania's €20m reporters' fine

National data protection authorities from around the EU are about to make public their decision on a threat by Romania's data chief to force journalists to reveal their sources, in a case involving high-level political corruption.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  2. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  3. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  4. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  5. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  6. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  7. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  8. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us