The European Commission adopted today its latest report on developments in Romania on judicial reform and the fight against corruption, in the context of its commitments under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
Today’s report takes stock of the progress under the CVM since October 2019 and assesses progress on the 12 recommendations of January 2017 and the eight additional recommendations of November 2018 within the existing four benchmarks. The fulfilment of all remaining recommendations is essential to the reform process and for allowing the CVM to be completed for Romania.
Since the last CVM report in 2019, the situation within the parameters of the CVM benchmarks has shown a positive trend. The Commission welcomes the fact that a renewed impetus has been given in 2021 to reform and to reverse the backtracking of the 2017-2019 period. The result is that there is progress across all the remaining CVM recommendations and many are on the path to being fulfilled if progress remains steady.
The Commission looks forward to the Romanian authorities translating their commitment into concrete legislative and other measures. The judgment of the Court of Justice of 18 May 2021 provides a clear framework and direction for the ongoing reforms to satisfactorily fulfil the CVM benchmarks, in full respect of the rule of law and of EU law generally. It is essential that the judgement is duly reflected in the new legislation to be adopted.
The Commission will continue to monitor developments closely through the CVM until the benchmarks are met, and, in parallel, will continue to work with Romania in the context of the general rule of law mechanism, as with all Member States. As indicated in the Rule of Law Communication of September 2020, once the CVM ends, monitoring will continue under horizontal instruments. The rule of law mechanism provides the framework for taking these issues forward in the future.
The Commission encourages Romania to meet the commitments made under the CVM and to pursue actively the fulfilment of all the remaining recommendations. The Commission is confident that Romania can fulfil the benchmarks of the CVM if it continues along the current positive trend and resolutely adopts and implements the reforms engaged. The Commission stands ready to support the Romanian authorities to this end.
The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was established at the accession of Romania to the EU in 2007 as a transitional measure to facilitate Romania’s efforts to reform its judiciary and step up the fight against corruption. It represented a joint commitment of the Romanian State and of the EU. In line with the decision setting up the mechanism and as underlined by the Council and confirmed by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the CVM ends when all the benchmarks applying to Romania are satisfactorily met.
In January 2017, the Commission undertook a comprehensive assessment of progress over the ten years of the mechanism. This perspective gave a clearer picture of the significant progress made, and the Commission was able to set out twelve specific recommendations which, when met, would suffice to end the CVM process. Ending the CVM was made dependent on fulfilling these recommendations in an irreversible way, and on the condition that developments did not clearly reverse the course of progress.
Since then, the Commission has carried out three assessments of progress on the implementation of the recommendations. In November 2017, the Commission noted progress on a number of the recommendations, but also that the reform momentum had been lost, warning of a risk of re-opening issues which the January 2017 report had considered as closed. The November 2018 report concluded that developments had reversed or called into question the irreversibility of progress, and that additional recommendations had to be made. Both the European Parliament and the Council supported this view. The October 2019 report welcomed the intention of the new Romanian government to reset the approach, but regretted that Romania did not engage with all the recommendations.
In 2020, the situation was complicated in particular by the COVID-19 pandemic. In these circumstances, the Commission did not publish a dedicated CVM report, but maintained nevertheless its close monitoring of developments, as well as the cooperation and dialogue with the Romanian authorities and stakeholders including through the rule of law mechanism. In September 2020, the Commission adopted its 2020 Rule of Law Report: the rule of law situation in the European Union covering rule of law developments in all Member States in the areas of judicial reform, the anti-corruption framework, media pluralism and other institutional checks and balances. The dedicated country chapter for Romania included updates on developments in judicial reform and the fight against corruption since the October 2019 CVM report.
The judgment of the CJEU of 18 May 2021 in a series of preliminary references is an important development which clarified the nature of the CVM and the obligations of Romania following from it.
Today’s report takes stock of the steps taken by Romania since October 2019, drawing on continuous dialogue between the Romanian authorities and the Commission services.
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Questions and Answers: Cooperation and Verification Mechanism Report on Romania