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Romania should immediately get back on track in fight against corruption - Timmermans

Romania should immediately get back on track in fight against corruption - Timmermans EU, Romania (Author: SeeNews). License: all rights reserved.

BUCHAREST (Romania), October 22 (SeeNews) – Romania has backtracked on the fight against corruption and should immediately resume reforms and ensure an independent judiciary, the European Commission's First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said on Tuesday.

 "It is essential that Romania gets back on track immediately in the fight against corruption and also ensures an independent judiciary. This is the only way how Romania can resume its path towards the conclusion of the [Co-operation and Verification Mechanism] CVM process, in the interest of its citizens, its country, and the EU as a whole," Timmermans said, as quoted in an EC statement on Romania's progress under CVM.

"The Commission regrets that Romania did not engage with the additional recommendations made in November 2018, which were fully in line with the positions of the other institutions. These recommendations need to be followed if the reform process is to be put back on track and the path towards the conclusion of the CVM, as set out in the January 2017 report, resumed," the EC noted.

The Commission noted that the development of the situation in the first months of 2019 was a source of great concern, and as a result, it had to inform the Romanian authorities in May that if the necessary improvements were not made, or if further negative steps were taken, it would take steps under the rule of law framework, beyond the parameters of the CVM.

The objective of the rule of law framework is to prevent emerging threats from escalating to the point where the Commission has to trigger sanctions against an EU country that does not respect the fundamental values of the union, which could include the suspension of voting rights in the Council of the European Union, the Commission explains on its website.

At the beginning of 2019, the government approved an emergency decree that amended bills concerning the fight against graft. The decree sparked a wave of criticism from the European Commission, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis and opposition parties and led to public protests.

EU's executive body said it welcomed the fact that in June the Romanian government expressed a wish to reset the approach and looks forward to the translation of this commitment into concrete legislation and other measures.

"The key institutions of Romania need to collectively demonstrate a strong commitment to judicial independence and the fight against corruption, and to ensure the effectiveness of national safeguards and checks and balances," it commented.

The CVM was established at the accession of Romania to the European Union in 2007 as a transitional measure to facilitate Romania's continued 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. According to the EC, the CVM ends when all the benchmarks applying to Romania are satisfactorily met.

Romania's outgoing prime minister Viorica Dancila said in June that she plans to resume the country's anti-corruption fight after the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) scored lower than usual at the European Parliament elections and its leader Liviu Dragnea was imprisoned for three years and a half for providing fictitious employment to two PSD members at a public agency.

However, the government did not support former domestic anti-corruption department chief Laura Codruta Kovesi in her bid to become EU's first chief prosecutor. On October 17, Parliament’s leading MEPs endorsed Kovesi’s appointment as the first head of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

On October 10, Dancila's Social-Democrat government lost a no-confidence vote requested by PNL. Five days later president Klaus Iohannis appointed opposition PNL leader Ludovic Orban as prime minister-designate tasked with forming a transitional government.