Wednesday

20th Nov 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 20 year's of archives. 30-day 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.

Feature

Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

"If evil is not defeated, it tends to expand", Natalia Magnitsky, the widow of a Russian anti-corruption activist, has said, as EU diplomats discuss human rights sanctions 10 years after his death.

Commission defends Breton's Atos over police data

The European Commission defended Atos for hosting EU police data, despite its own public guidelines that state operational and technical copies should not be entrusted to third parties. Atos former CEO Thierry Breton is set to become a European commissioner.

Exclusive

Breton's firm hosted unlawful copy of EU police data

France's Thierry Breton is set to become the next European Commissioner for industrial policy. While he was CEO of IT giant Atos, the firm hosted unlawful partial copies of EU police data on behalf of the United Kingdom.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia working on 'Plan B' for Nato
  2. Report: Hungary gagged EU on Israeli settlers
  3. Polls suggest draw after Johnson vs Corbyn TV duel
  4. EU ambassador to testify in Trump impeachment inquiry
  5. Hungary, Poland block EU conclusions on rule of law
  6. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  7. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  8. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us