While Bulgaria has embraced reform efforts and achieved important results Romania has lost momentum with the report showing important shortcomings in its efforts to achieve progress. In both countries, the leadership of the judiciary need to take more responsibility for the benefit of reform. To guide this process, the reports include a series of concrete recommendations to be implemented by the two countries over the next year.
As in previous reports, the Commission’s analysis is based on an assessment of progress by the Bulgarian and Romanian authorities and on information by EU member states, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other sources. The Commission has carried out several missions to Bulgaria and Romania, including with the support of experts from other member states. The reports also take into account the responses by Bulgaria and Romania to detailed questionnaires prepared by the Commission.
The report on progress in Bulgaria points to a strong momentum of reform which has been established since the Commission’s last annual report in July 2009. The Commission sees political will to achieve a reform of the judiciary and recommends Bulgaria to continue in its reform efforts.
Bulgaria has adopted improvements in its penal procedures and can demonstrate a higher number of indictments for cases involving high-level corruption and organised crime. However, still too few cases are concluded in court. There is a need for improvements of professional practice within the police, prosecution and courts for which external assistance will be needed. The judiciary must take the initiative more often and show a stronger sense of responsibility. Public funds must be better protected against fraud and conflict of interest.
Bulgaria’s new strategy for judicial reform, approved by the Government on 23 June demonstrates political determination to achieve a profound reform of the judiciary. The strategy addresses the current shortcomings which should be addressed by Bulgaria as a matter of national priority and in a joint effort by the political level, the judiciary and Bulgarian society.
The report on Romania points to important shortcomings in Romania’s efforts to achieve progress. Although important progress was made in adopting the Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes, Romania showed overall insufficient political commitment in support of the reform process. In addition, the leadership of the judiciary appeared unwilling to cooperate and take responsibility for the benefit of reform. Lack of efficiency of the judicial process and the lack of consistency of jurisprudence remain fundamental weaknesses in Romania. In addition, accountability of the judiciary and disciplinary procedures require improvements. The Commission calls upon Romania to correct these weaknesses urgently in order to regain momentum in the reform process. In particular, Romania should establish a close and constructive cooperation between the different political and judicial actors and to strengthen the commitment of the judiciary to reform.
The amendments to the law on the National Integrity Agency voted on 30 June represent a serious step back. The law puts at risk the positive track-record which the National Integrity Agency had achieved and puts Romania in clear breach of its accession commitments. The Commission calls upon Romania to honour its commitments by finding the most appropriate legal means to re-establish ANI’s powers to propose the effective forfeiture of unjustified wealth. Romania should aim to establish broad-based political support in favour of transparency and the effective protection against corruption and conflict of interest.
After a slow-down of Parliamentary work, Romania registered important progress in the second quarter of 2010 with the Parliamentary approval of the civil and criminal procedure codes on 22 June. The Ministry of Justice also launched a consultation on a strategy for the reform of justice. The preparations for the entry into force of the four new codes, now scheduled for October 2011, are an important opportunity for a thorough reform of the Romanian judicial system. To sustain this reform process, the Commission calls upon Romania to build on the strong Parliamentary support for the procedural codes and extend this political will to other areas.
Both reports recognise that further assistance and monitoring by the Commission is needed to support the reform processes in Bulgaria and Romania until all benchmarks are fulfilled and the CVM can be repealed. To assist both member states to focus their reform efforts, the Commission makes a series of recommendations for each country. The Commission will continue to support Bulgaria and Romania in their reform efforts and provide its next assessment of progress in summer 2011.