Tuesday

13th Nov 2018

Romania's judicial overhaul risks Schengen hopes, Juncker warns

  • Juncker (r) welcomed Iohannis (l) in Brussels, both concerned about the recent legslation passed by parliament (Photo: European Commission)

The EU executive's chief warned the Romanian government on Wednesday to change its latest laws on the judiciary - or risk continuing the EU's current judicial oversight, and having the eastern European country's future Schengen membership put in doubt.

Jean-Claude Juncker said if the parliament in Bucharest did not amend current legislation on the judiciary, it could be putting its Schengen passport-free future at risk.

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

"If Romanian legislation were to remain what was foreseen by parliament, then getting rid of the CVM [cooperation and verification mechanism] and the accession of Romania to Schengen membership would be looked at completely different [ie negative] terms," Juncker warned Wednesday (31 January), at a joint press conference with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in Brussels.

Both Romania and Bulgaria have been a part of a EU's judicial oversight, the CVM, since they joined the EU in 2007.

Romania's president Klaus Iohannis was in Brussels on Wednesday, just a week after the EU executive issued a warning to the country's leftwing government to change laws that would roll back rules on corruption and shield politicians from prosecution.

Tens of thousands of Romanians took to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the legislation.

The fresh warning from Juncker comes after Romania's top court ruled Tuesday (30 January) that parts of the controversial reforms were unconstitutional and needed to be modified.

Juncker himself expressed trust in Romania's judicial system and called for amending the laws based on the court's decision.

"The judicial system is independent and functional, and we cannot say this about all member states," he quipped, adding the constitutional court's decision proves the judicial system works.

Juncker praised Romania, saying the country has made a remarkable progress on rule of law since its accession, and that path should be irreversible.

"I'm sure we can have a friendly, civilised dialogue with the Romanian government in order to resolve these issues," he told reporters.

Third government this year

The country's third government in a year was sworn in on Monday.

The new PM is Viorica Dancila, a former MEP and close ally of the ruling leftwing Social Democrats' leader, Liviu Dragnea.

Dragnea is considered to be the de facto leader of the country, but cannot serve as premier due to a two-year suspended sentence for election fraud.

Centre-right Iohannis said he is confident in the end parliament will take into account the constitutional court's decision and be amended.

"I'm optimistic, we will manage this," he said.

Romania is the latest EU country to trigger rule of law concerns from the EU Commission, following Hungary, Poland and Malta.

Juncker ruled out that the commission would consider using the sanctions procedure – launched recently against Poland – against Romania. In Poland the independence of the judicial system is under threat, in Romania, only specific legislation has rung alarm bells in Brussels.

"The independence of the judicial system is tangible. I will totally involve myself and do everything a president can do to keep things this way," Iohannis pledged.

"Romania is a pro-EU country and it will stay so," Iohannis told reporters, adding that Romania is interested in deeper European integration.

Juncker reiterated his intention to end the cooperation and verification mechanism by the end of his mandate in 2019 and that Romania should join the passport-free Schengen zone by then.

Romania would like the EU to take a decision on Schengen accession this year.

"Romania's natural place is within the Schengen zone," Juncker said.

"It is a question of national dignity. Romanian citizens don't deserve being treated as second class citizens," he said, but added that for him to convince member states to allow the country into the passport-free zone, Romanian justice legislation needs to be in line with EU standards.

Romania will hold the EU's rotating presidency from early 2019 and Iohannis' hometown of Sibiu will give host an EU summit in May 2019, the first 'Europe Day' after Brexit.

Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership

Bucharest expects other member states to decide on its accession to the passport-free area before it takes the rotating EU presidency on 1 January 2019 - amid criticism of a controversial new justice reform.

News in Brief

  1. UK seeks swift use of new EU chemical weapons blacklist
  2. Barnier briefs EU ministers: intense negotiations continue
  3. Romanian minister preparing EU presidency steps down
  4. Finland says Russia possibly behind GPS jamming
  5. German AfD leader under fire for Swiss campaign funding
  6. Seehofer announces he will step down as CSU party leader
  7. EU condemns elections in Russia-occupied eastern Ukraine
  8. German Greens pick two top candidates for EU election

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency
  2. EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press
  3. EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name
  4. Fear of nationalist surge marks European memorials
  5. Liberals ally with Macron for election, but no candidate yet
  6. Revealed: Link between MEPs CO2 votes and domestic car jobs
  7. All Quiet on the Eastern Front?
  8. Merkel and Brexit in spotlight This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us