Saturday

23rd Sep 2017

EU still unhappy with Romania's rule of law

  • Romanian expats in Brussels protested last summer against events in their home country (Photo: EUobserver)

Romanian ministers accused of corruption should resign and MPs should stop shielding themselves from anti-graft investigations, the European Commission is set to say on Wednesday (30 January) in a report on Romania's rule of law.

The 12-page report is a follow-up on a set of recommendations made last summer to the Romanian government, parliament and judiciary after a constitutional crisis linked to the Prime Minister's attempt to remove the President from office.

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Some recommendations have been implemented, such as guaranteeing that the verdicts of the Constitutional Court are respected.

But others have not, particularly when it comes to the independence of the judiciary, an EU source familiar with the report told this website.

"For the credibility of both the government and the parliament, it is important that ministers with integrity issues step down and for the parliament to have clearer rules concerning the immunity of its MPs," the source said.

When the recommendations were made, three ministers had been deemed incompatible with their jobs by the so-called Integrity Agency - a body verifying conflicts of interests and unjustified revenues of public officials.

None of them resigned.

After general elections in December, they were not re-appointed, but two other serving ministers - transport minister Relu Fenechiu and administration minister Liviu Dragnea - are under investigation for corruption.

Members of parliament who are under similar investigations or who have been proven to be incompatible with their jobs have stayed on and are benefiting from a recent law expanding their immunity.

Twenty MPs elected in December to the new parliament have ongoing corruption cases. One of them, Marko Attila, was recently sentenced to three years in prison.

Money laundering is also an area of concern for the EU commission.

New laws on confiscating assets were only put in place in 2012. "We still need concrete results. Also, there were no comprehensive statistics on what they have recovered," the EU source said.

The report is likely to delay even further any decision on letting Romania and Bulgaria join the border-free Schengen area.

Before the summer crisis in Romania, opposition to Schengen enlargement was limited to the the Netherlands. Now Germany is also against the move and is likely to stay so until at least after the September elections.

But for his part, Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said in a press release on Tuesday that "all points agreed with the EU commission have been fully fulfilled."

"The government has and will remain deeply committed to ensure the independence of the judiciary and strengthening the rule of law," he added.

EU commission still 'very worried' about Romanian democracy

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Wednesday said she remains "very much worried" about the state of democracy in Romania. Meanwhile, there is intense political infighting in Romania ahead of Sunday's impeachment referendum.

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The European Commission has expressed concerns that threats against judges in Romania's constitutional court could undermine its independence.

Analysis

Something is rotten in the state of Romania

The view of ruling politicians that public institutions - be they cultural institutes, media, or, more worryingly, the judiciary - need to obey the ruling party has never been completely eradicated since Communism fell.

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The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

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