New GRECO report slams Romania’s lack of progress on rule of law

Romania has made very little progress to put in place measures to prevent corruption among parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors and to address the concerns raised by its controversial judicial reform, claims the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO in two reports published on July 9.

While welcoming the June 4 decision of the Romanian prime minister, Viorica Dăncilă, to abandon the controversial judicial reform, GRECO calls on the Romanian authorities to take determined action to achieve tangible progress as soon as possible.

In a compliance report assessing progress in implementing measures recommended in 2015 to prevent corruption in respect of MPs, judges and prosecutors, GRECO concludes that Romania has fully complied with just four of the 13 recommendations. Three have been partly implemented and six ignored.

In a follow up report evaluating compliance with the recommendations of an ad hoc report concerning judicial reform, GRECO finds that the Romanian authorities have implemented only one of its five recommendations.

With respect to MPs, GRECO points out that the Romanian authorities have not yet reviewed, as requested, the rules and practices of the legislative process. Despite GRECO’s appeal to limit the use of emergency procedures to exceptional circumstances, the authorities continued resorting to them for adopting important legal amendments.

Other shortcomings are that no effective mechanism to enforce the code of conduct of parliamentarians has been set up and that the scope of the incrimination of conflicts of interest remains limited. GRECO also regrets that a robust set of restrictions on gifts for parliamentarians has not been introduced yet, and that the application of sanctions for MPs who were found incompatible or in conflict of interest following a final court decision remains ineffective in practice. No progress has been made either concerning the implementation of rules regulating lobbying.

With regard to the reforms in the justice system, GRECO warns that the most recent attempts of the Romanian authorities to reduce the statute of limitations for certain corruption offences, if adopted into law, would seriously undermine the fight against corruption. The adoption by the Supreme Council of Magistracy (SCM) of the Integrity Plan of the judiciary puts in place some anti-corruption awareness-raising measures but there is a need to strengthen the role and effectiveness of those performing managerial functions at courts and public prosecution services.

GRECO is also deeply concerned by the fact that the authorities have disregarded the recommendation to abandon the creation of a department to investigate offences in the judiciary. The report warns that new legislation includes several amendments relating to the appointments and dismissals of senior prosecutors, the functional independence of prosecutors, the personal liability of judges and prosecutors, which, when taken together, represent serious threats to the independence of the judiciary.

Given Romania’s poor performance, the country will remain subject to GRECO’s non-compliance procedure. GRECO has requested that the Romanian authorities report back on progress achieved by June 30, 2020.