Why is the Commission putting an end to the CVM?
The CVM is brought to an end when all the benchmarks are satisfactorily met, as set out in the CVM Decisions. Bulgaria and Romania have now met all the benchmarks and fulfilled all the recommendations under the CVM. Already in our last reports for both Member States, [BG 2019, RO 2022] we concluded that they have made sufficient progress in meeting their commitments at the time of their accession to the EU and that all CVM benchmarks have been satisfactorily fulfilled. Both countries needed to continue working to implement specific commitments listed in the conclusions of the reports. This work was completed in June 2023. The sustainability and irreversibility of reforms, as well as all other relevant rule of law issues, will continue to be monitored in the Rule of Law reports, as for all Member States.
With the CVM closed, how will remaining shortcomings and possible new emerging issues be monitored and addressed?
As for all Member States, monitoring continues within the Rule of Law Cycle. The annual Rule of Law Report examines several issues explored previously under the CVM, as well as many other topics, and serves as a preventive measure helping to address remaining shortcomings and possible new emerging issues. Bulgaria and Romania have shown commitment to this process, and it has proven to be a relevant tool for the Commission to pursue work with both countries on necessary reforms. The Commission has also strengthened its Rule of Law toolbox since the CVM was established. It includes both preventive tools with the Rule of Law cycle and annual reports with recommendations, as well as reactive tools such as infringement procedures or the conditionality regulation. In addition, the Bulgarian and Romanian Recovery and Resilience Plans include concrete milestones on rule of law issues, such as judicial reform and anti-corruption frameworks.
Do Member States have to agree and reach conclusions before the Commission can put an end to the mechanism?
Revoking the CVM is a Commission Decision, which does not require prior Council approval. Under the 2nd subparagraph of Articles 37 and 38 of the Act of Accession, which constitute the legal basis for the two CVM Decisions, the ‘Commission shall inform the Council in good time before revoking the safeguard measures [the Mechanism], and it shall duly take into account any observations of the Council in this respect’.
On 5 July 2023, the Commission informed both the Council and the European Parliament of its intention to formally close the CVM for Bulgaria and Romania. The Commission has taken account of the Council’s observations as provided in the Act of Accession and has now taken the decision to definitively close the CVM.
Are all issues covered previously under the CVM also covered under the Rule of Law Cycle?
The Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report has a broader scope than the reports under the CVM, which were limited to the benchmarks set out in the Decision establishing the CVM. Besides judicial independence and anti-corruption, the Rule of Law report covers also aspects on media freedom and pluralism and on other institutional checks and balances.
What about Schengen accession of Bulgaria and Romania?
The Commission has always been very clear that we need to open the Schengen area to Bulgaria and Romania. For 12 years Bulgaria and Romania have continuously met all the necessary conditions to join the Schengen area, as set out in the Schengen Regulation. Schengen enlargement remains a political priority for the Commission. Bulgaria and Romania should be allowed to fully participate in the Schengen area without further delay.
The Commission has never made a link between Schengen accession and the CVM, as these are separate strands of work, each with its own requirements.