As Romania takes over the rotating Presidency of the European Council in January, the European Parliament is “deeply concerned” about the reform of the Romanian judicial and criminal laws, which risks undermining separation of powers and the fight against corruption.
In a resolution wrapping up the plenary debate held on 3 October with Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, the Chamber calls on the Romanian authorities to put in place safeguards to avoid circumventing the system of checks and balances and to counter any measures which would decriminalise corruption in office.
The text, passed with 473 votes to 151 and 40 abstentions, points to the new legislation on the status of judges and prosecutors, on judicial organisation and on the Superior Council of the Magistracy. In line with the warnings from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Venice Commission, MEPs caution that the new legislation could have an impact on the independence of the judiciary, its efficiency and its quality, including negative consequences in the fight against corruption.
The changes to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code – many of which the Romanian Constitutional Court considers unconstitutional- are another source of concern, with additional effects on the capacity to combat corruption, violent crimes and organised criminality.
The role of the Romanian Intelligence Service and its alleged interference in the activities of the Romanian judiciary lead the EP to suggest reinforcing Romania’s parliamentary oversight of the intelligence services.
An impartial investigation into actions by riot police
The Parliament condemns the “violent and disproportionate intervention” by the police during the mass protests in Bucharest in August 2018 and calls on the Romanian authorities to ensure a transparent, impartial and effective investigation into the actions of the riot police.
New rules on financing NGOs
MEPs also warn that the legislation on the financing, organisation and functioning of NGOs could potentially intimidate civil society and note that it may be against the principle of freedom of association and the right to privacy.
Need to closely monitor anti-corruption efforts and respect of rule of law
The Parliament urges the European Commission to resume its annual anti-corruption monitoring in all EU member states and proposes a system of strict indicators to measure the level of corruption in each country and evaluate their anti-corruption policies.
A regular, systematic and objective process to assess respect of democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law is also necessary, according to the Parliament. Plenary will vote on a separate resolution on Wednesday, reiterating its calls for a mechanism to be established to assess the EU’s founding values in all member states every year.
According to the European People’s Party press release the situation in Romania has continued to deteriorate. This is why EPP demands clear action from the ruling Social Democratic Party to fight corruption and show political will for the proper functioning of the rule of law.
Reacting to a European Parliament vote on a Resolution on the rule of law in Romania, Roberta Metsola MEP, EPP Group Spokeswoman in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said: “Over the past months, the Romanian people have taken to the streets to make their voices heard. All they want is for the European values they were promised when Romania joined the EU to be respected. They want a strong government that defends the rule of law. Their pleas have not been respected by the Romanian authorities. I want to assure the people of Romania that the European Parliament sees them, hears them and will not fail them.”
“Changes in the judicial system in Romania earlier this year are the opposite of what European citizens expect from the law-makers they elected to represent them. People expect transparency, justice, rule of law and democracy. That is what they deserve. And that is what the EPP Group will fight for – always”, she added.
The EPP Group will continue to monitor the situation in Romania and will continue to demand respect for European values – integrity, transparency and justice.