Saturday

28th Jan 2023

EU president Romania gets last warning on rule of law

  • "Concrete actions from the Romanian side will be needed sooner rather than later," Vera Jourova said (Photo: European Parliament)

Romania stands on the edge of an EU sanctions procedure, the European Commission has warned, amid concern that law and order is being dismantled in the interest of its ruling elite.

"Concrete actions from the Romanian side will be needed sooner rather than later," EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova told MEPs in Strasbourg on Monday (15 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"If our concerns are not met, the [European] Commission will have to act and use all the instruments at its disposal," she added, referring to the so-called 'Article 7 procedure', already triggered on Hungary and Poland, which could lead to the suspension of Romania's voting rights in the EU Council.

Jourova reeled off a list of abuses which, she said, amounted to "massive interference in the independence of the judiciary" and might lead to "systemic, de facto impunity for high office holders who were suspected of corruption".

The European Parliament debate came after similar warnings by the commission earlier this month.

It also came after Romania tried to obstruct the appointment of a crusading prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi, to a new EU post investigating abuse of EU funds.

Centre-right, anti-federalist, liberal, and Green MEPs echoed Jourova's concerns.

"We haven't had this downward spiral as far as rule of law is concerned in any other EU country," German centre-right MEP Ingeborg Graessle said.

The EU should "block funds" going to Bucharest as well as triggering Article 7, Graessle, who heads the EP's budgetary control committee, added.

"The moment has come for us to move forward on this front," she said.

Graessle, as well as Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, bemoaned the fact that Romania, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, did not show up to Monday's talks.

"We've got a government that is seriously backsliding and that is chairing the European Council right now ... we need to be ashamed of this, six weeks before the European elections [in May] and we've got this as an example," Sargentini said, amid concern that Romania, and others like it, were giving eurosceptic parties ammunition in the EP vote.

"Romania is slipping into a criminal dictatorship," Monica Macovei, a former Romanian prosecutor who is now an MEP with the anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) group, added.

Josef Weidenholzer, a German deputy from the centre-left Socialist & Democrats (S&D) group, which counts the Romanian ruling party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), as one of its members, was less outspoken.

He said Romania had achieved a lot in its EU presidency role, but noted that support for rule of law was "in the interests of all of us".

The Party of European Socialists, the structure which underpins the S&D, has temporarily frozen relations with Romania's PSD over the concerns.

But it has stopped short of expelling them the same way that Graessle's centre-right European People's Party has stopped short of expelling Hungary's ruling party and that Macovei's ECR has done nothing to discipline its Polish ruling party members.

For her part, Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch liberal politician, noted that her Alde group had taken a "firm stance" against its Romanian delegates and complained that EU politicking was standing in the way of real action.

A handful of Romanian MPs from the PSD accused the commission of interfering in the country's internal affairs - the same line taken in the past by Hungary and Poland.

Dan Nica, for one, took the floor to accuse the EU of "discrimination" against Romania because it was being "flooded" by counterfeit products and fake medicines from other EU states and because its citizens were not allowed to benefit from the EU's borderless-free Schengen travel zone.

"We do not interfere in individual cases, we are concerned about the systemic situation," Jourova countered.

She said dialogue with Romania was "ongoing" at a "technical" level, but that political-level discussions ought to take place soon.

EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'

EU states ought to undergo a yearly "Rule of Law Review Cycle" to help stop countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Romania from backsliding on EU norms, the European Commission has said.

Opinion

Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.

Opinion

Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

The director of Amnesty International Greece on the political spying scandal that now threatens to bring down prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Activists and NGO staff work with the constant fear that they are being spied on.

Latest News

  1. Pressure mounts on EU to coordinate visas for Russian rights-defenders
  2. Dutch set to agree to US-led chip controls to China
  3. No record of Latvian MEP's 'official' Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters
  5. Europe continues to finance Russia's war in Ukraine with lucrative fossil fuel trades
  6. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  7. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  8. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us