In a report on Romania published on Wednesday, the Group of States against Corruption of the Council of Europe (GRECO) expresses serious concern about certain aspects of the laws on the status of judges and prosecutors, on the judicial organisation and on the Superior Council of Magistracy recently adopted by Parliament as well as on draft amendments to the criminal legislation.
GRECO has prepared this report following a decision at its December 2017 plenary meeting to carry out an extraordinary urgent evaluation of judicial reforms in Romania considering they could imply serious violations of anti-corruption standards.
The report notes that the amendments to the three laws on the judiciary adopted by the Parliament in December 2017 do not contain some of the most controversial proposals presented initially in the summer. However, GRECO is concerned about their potential impact, including for the staff structure in the courts and prosecution services. Despite the importance and wide scope of these reforms, their impact was not properly assessed, and the legislative process was also questionable.
GRECO calls upon Romania in particular to abandon the creation of the new special prosecutor’s section for the investigation of offences in the judiciary. The report also takes note of the controversial process to dismiss the Head of the specialised anti-corruption prosecutor’s office (DNA), initiated in February 2018, and it reiterates its call for additional safeguards in relation to appointments and dismissal procedures for senior prosecutors by the executive branch of power.
GRECO is equally critical about the draft amendments to the criminal legislation which, if adopted, would clearly contradict some of Romania’s international commitments, including the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. Amendments to the criminal procedure currently discussed by the special parliamentary joint committee are perceived by foreign countries as a threat for the effectiveness of mutual legal assistance.
In addition, the report criticises a series of draft laws initiated in the Senate on 21 December 2017 which would considerably weaken the incrimination of various corruption-related offences in the Criminal Code; for example, bribery and trading in influence would not anymore apply to elected officials and with regard to the abuse of office offence the amendments would completely decriminalise all acts committed in relation to damages up to EUR 200,000.
GRECO invites Romania to present an update on the state of the proposed reforms at its next plenary meeting (18-22 June 2018), and to refrain from passing further criminal law amendments which could undermine its anti-corruption capacities.
GRECO adopted a new report on the justice reforms in Romania, during the plenary meeting during March 19-23, and called on Romanian authorities to authorise, as soon as possible, the publication of the report.
GRECO informsed that it has instructed its President to inform the Romanian authorities about GRECO’s findings and, in light of the report, requested the Head of delegation of Romania to submit a written up-date on the state of the proposed reforms concerning the justice system (including on institutional aspects and criminal law/procedure) at the next GRECO plenary meeting (18-22 June 2018). It also has invited the authorities of Romania, to authorise, as soon as possible, the publication of the report mentioned in decision 27.
A GRECO delegation visited Romania during February 21-22.
In its last report in December 2017, GRECO pointed out that Romania has made extremely limited progress in implementing GRECO’s recommendations on preventing and combating corruption in regard to MPs, judges and prosecutors.