Judicial reform and the fight against corruption
Concerns of negative impacts on the justice system and its capacity to investigate high-level corruption remain as long as Romania does not take corrective measures. Important legal modifications and political pressure on the judiciary in 2017, 2018 and in the largest part of 2019 have affected the efficiency, quality, independence of the justice system and its capacity to investigate and sanction high-level corruption. (CVM report 2019). The implementation of the amended justice laws since October 2018 confirmed the risks that a number of measures were damaging to the judiciary. Several Government Emergency Ordinances further amending the justice laws in 2019 have increased these concerns. The operation of the special prosecutor section for the investigation of offences committed by magistrates which was set up end of 2018 following the amendments of the justice laws has confirmed the concerns expressed by the Commission, the Venice Commission and GRECO that the section could be politically influenced to change the course of high-level corruption cases (European Commission, 2019l). In this context, on 27 of December 2019, the Government adopted a Memorandum, in which it supports the solution of abolishing the Special Section. The entry into force of provisions which would particularly affect the human resources of the justice system on early retirement, the initial training period and the number of judges on panels, was delayed for two more years to January 2022 and January 2021 respectively. While the current Government has stated its commitment to repair the damages to the justice system created by the amendments to the justice laws, further corrective legislative measures have not yet been adopted.
Romania continues to make efforts to improve the enforcement of court decisions. In April 2019, the Government approved a memorandum on ‘measures to ensure the execution of judgments against a public debtor, in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights regarding non-execution or execution with delay of the judgments handed down against a public debtor’. The IT application which will be used to identify the number of final court decisions in which public institutions are debtors or creditors is in its last stages of development.
Corruption continues to be major problem for the business environment in Romania. A 2019 business Eurobarometer survey shows that 88% of businesses consider corruption to be a serious problem for their company when doing business in Romania. Since 2013, the share of companies that perceive corruption as a problem increased in Romania by 23 pps, the largest increase in the EU and in stark contrast with the EU average which continued to decrease (now at 37%). Overall 97% of businesses think that corruption is widespread in Romania and 87% say it is widespread in public procurement managed by national authorities. On a more positive note, 50% of respondents think that those engaged in corruption would be caught by police and 43% think that those caught for bribing a senior official receive appropriate sanctions, both higher than the EU average. Romania’s scores on the control of corruption index of the World Governance Indicators and the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency international have also continued to decrease, from the 55th to the 52nd percentile rank in 2018 (World Bank, 2019) and from 47 to 44 points respectively.
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