EC Slams Romania for Failing to Grasp Rules of Democracy

Bulgaria in EU | July 18, 2012, Wednesday // 15:59|  views

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Bulgaria's northern neighbor Romania is criticized harshly by the European Commission in the annual monitoring report on the country's judicial system and home affairs.

EC released Wednesday afternoon the official monitoring reports on Bulgaria and Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, CVM.

This time around EC is more pleased with Bulgaria than Romania, mainly due to the political crisis shaking the latter.

The report presents an extensive list of Romania's shortcomings in observing EU legal standards by ignoring the Constitution, pressuring judges, removing officials from key posts in a breach of the law, and forgetting about the democratic system of checks and balances.

The detailed report looks at the country's five-year record, (since accessing the EU), on combatting corruption and organized crime, but still focuses on the current crisis.

The reason for the strong EU criticism and language stems from the attempt of Romania's ruling left wing of Viktor Ponta to oust right-wing President, Traian Basescu, and to alter both the authority of the Constitutional Court and the Referendum Act.

On July 7, the two chambers of the Romanian Parliament voted at a joint meeting to suspend Basescu for 30 days.

The Romanian Constitutional Court upheld Basescu's removal. Meanwhile, it ruled unconstitutional the law limiting its options to exercise control on the Parliament. It further set the minimum voter turnout for the July 29th referendum to impeach Basescu at 50%.

As result, the EC report notes that the polarization in the country casts a shadow on the Romanian government's commitment to democracy:

"The Commission considers that recent steps by the Romanian Government raise serious concerns about the respect of these fundamental principles. These steps took place in an overly polarized political system where mistrust between political entities and accusations are a common pattern; however this political context cannot explain the systematic nature of several actions. While certain actions may be partly explained by this political polarization, they raised serious doubts about the commitment to the respect of the rule of law or the understanding of the meaning of the rule of law in a pluralist democratic system. Political challenges to judicial decisions, the undermining of the constitutional court, the overturning of established procedures and the removal of key checks and balances have called into question the Government's commitment to respect the rule of law and independent judicial review.

The Commission is in particular extremely concerned by the indications of manipulations and pressure which affect institutions, members of the judiciary, and eventually have a serious impact on society as a whole. Whilst this report looks at the last five years as a whole, the current controversies pose a serious threat to the progress achieved so far and raise serious questions as to the future of the reforms already launched. This report therefore includes specific recommendations to address the current situation and to help restore respect for principles which are cornerstones of European democracy."

The report voices concern that members of the cabinet and the Parliament are rarely dismissed even when prosecuted for or convicted of corruption or conflicts of interest and that the Parliament routinely blocks all attempts to probe political corruption.

Last Friday, the European Commission issued a list of its requests that the Romanian left-wing government will have to comply with in the aftermath of its bid to kick out President Traian Basescu.

The requests involve the dismissal of incompatible MPs, the reinstatement of certain rules for the validation of a referendum to impeach the President and avoiding naming people at a key anti-corruption body during the interim presidency of the Speaker of the Senate, Crin Antonescu.

On Monday, Antonescu, a Ponta ally, moved to satisfy Brussels by reinstating referendum rules that make it more likely that Basescu will escape impeachment and remain in office.

The impeachment vote will need a turnout rate of half of the electorate plus one to be valid, increasing the likelihood that the referendum will be void.

An EC spokesperson informed Tuesday that Ponta had written to Brussels promising to meet all demands set by EC President, Jose Manuel Barroso.

The conclusion of the report is that the monitoring of Romania needs to stay in place.

At the end, EC lists a number of recommendations to boost respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, reform the judicial system, improve its accountability, the consistency and transparency of the judicial process and the effectiveness of judicial action, and achieve better results in the fight against corruption and organized crime.

This time around, the reports are seen as even more important because they assess the entire 5 years of the EU membership of Bulgaria and Romania. Until now they were prepared twice a year.

For the first time since 2007, the monitoring of the two newcomers will be separated and the reports will have different deadlines.

The next report on Bulgaria is not due until the end of 2013, while Romania will get another one by the end of 2012.

The full text of the report can be found HERE

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Tags: social liberal union, USL, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Crin Antonescu, Referendum, impeachment, suspended, vote, parliament, Romania Traian Basescu, president, Romania, European Commission, Bulgaria, Romania, report, cooperation and verification mechanism, monitoring, judicial system, corruption, organised crime, Schengen, CVM


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