Judges join growing chorus of criticism of Commission report on #Romania

| February 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

By EU Reporter Correspondent

A group of professional associations representing most of Romania’s judges and prosecutors have attacked the European Commission’s recent progress report on Romania under the so-called Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

An open letter from the three organizations questions the accuracy of the commission’s monitoring report.

The four-page letter, seen by this website, says that “as magistrates we cannot turn a blind eye to the repeated presence of false affirmations� in the CVM report which deals with justice reform in the country.

The letter speaks of the need for judges and citizens to receive “accurate, exact, and rigorous recommendations� but says that the CVM on Romania is riddled with “errors, inaccuracies and truncated affirmations� which, it says, “can only inflict harm on the independence of justice.�

The letter is signed by the Forum of Romanian Judges (AMR), the National Union of Judges in Romania (UNJR) and the Association of Romanian Prosecutors (APR), which each represent prosecutors and judges in the central European country.

The judges’ letter is particularly timely as Romania recently took over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU at a time of huge challenges for the soon-to-be 27-strong bloc.

It has also been given added weight after Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, speaking recently in the European Parliament, demanded to know who contributed to, and was consulted with, the compilation of the report.

In a speech to MEPs, Dăncilă, a former Socialist MEP, went on the offensive to defend her government against criticism over corruption. She accused Western European leaders of double standards, saying, “Romania is not allowed what other countries are allowed to do.�

Yet more condemnation of the EU report has come from Romania’s Superior Council of the Magistrature, which oversees Romania’s court system.

In a statement issued in November, the Council defended the reforms being proposed by the Romanian government and faulted the CVM for inaccuracies and misinterpretations.

The council said it wanted to “highlight some factual or judgemental errors� related to its activities which, it said, “are likely to create a wrong perception�.

The CVM report was adopted by the Commission shortly before Christmas and is the latest in a series on ongoing Romanian efforts in meeting its commitments on judicial reform and the fight against corruption.

The report takes stock of the situation in the 12 months since November 2017 and notes that “while Romania has taken some steps to implement the final 12 recommendations issued by the Commission in January 2017, in order to fulfil the CVM benchmarks, recent developments have reversed the course of progress and called into question the positive assessment made back in January 2017.�

The CVM goes on: “This applies notably to judicial independence, judicial reform and tackling high-level corruption.�

The report sets out a number of recommendations for “immediate follow up�.

The Romanian response, however, is damning.

The three judicial organizations, in the open letter to the EU, say they “would like to remind� the commission that they value the “independence of justice as a pillar of the rule of law.�

“Furthermore,� it goes on, “AMR, UNJR and APR have never stated that the CVM is optional nor that the recommendations included in the framework of these reports would not be effective.�

“On the contrary, AMR, UNJR and APR have repeatedly underlined that the CVM directly concerns the justice system and the recommendations should aim to consolidate the independence of justice.�

The professional associations stress the “importance for the premises on which recommendations are based on to be accurate, especially since it is aimed at the (justice) system and magistrates alike with significant effects on justice and, therefore, citizens.�

The letter, though, states, “As magistrates, we cannot turn a blind eye to the repeated presence of false affirmations in the CVM reports on which some of the (Commission’s) recommendations were made.�

The three bodies defend their right to highlight the issue in such a way because of the “necessity for magistrates, the justice system, institutions and citizens to receive accurate, exact and rigorous recommendations.�

The highly critical letter adds: “In recent years, our professional associations have argued that the means by which information was gathered for CVM reports gave way to errors, inaccuracies and truncated affirmations which can only inflict harm on the independence of justice.�

The groups, in the letter, make several recommendations to address the issue, including in the fight against corruption.

The letter says: “The CVM reports have mainly viewed progress made in the justice system through the lens of the fight against corruption with the wrong impression that these objectives – whose importance to society cannot be denied – would involve all or most of justice system activity.â€�

However, the letter says that the “place and role of courts were mostly forgotten�.

“When referring to the fight against high-level corruption, CVM reports have targeted the DNA (the Romanian anti-corruption agency) and sporadically High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ), focusing on ‘DNA independence or effectiveness’.

“Courts of Appeal were seldom mentioned with reference to fighting high-level corruption and when fighting corruption on all levels was addressed the reports unjustifiably ignored the courts.�

The letter, which is addressed to all 28 EU justice and home affairs ministers, is signed by Forum of Romanian Judges president, Judge Andreea Ciucă; Judge Dana Gârbovan, president of the National Union of Judges in Romania and of Association of Romanian Prosecutors president Elena Iordache.

Source:: EU Reporter Feed

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