Romania Slapped by EC Report

Romania’s judicial reforms have backslid, while Bulgaria needs to prosecute organized crime, according to a scheduled report from the European Commission Thursday. The justice and home affairs reports, part of the monitoring agreement both countries agreed to when they became the European Union’s newest members in January 2007, slammed Romania’s pace of progress in meeting EU standards. Some observers expected Bulgaria – which lost €220 million in aid last year over failures to stamp out organized crime and corruption – to bear the brunt of the chiding but Romania appears to face a possible loss of funds if it fails to shape up by the time the next EC report is due in July.

Blocks of Corruption Probes Cited

The EC’s Romania report notes that a number of high-level corruption probes are being blocked by the Romanian parliament and that vacancies within the judiciary remain “unacceptably high.”

Romania must demonstrate the existence of an autonomously functioning, stable judiciary which is able to try and sanction corruption and the rule of law,” the Commission stated. “It is important that the Romanian authorities regain momentum on judicial reform and the fight against corruption so as to reverse certain backward movements of recent months.”

Bulgaria, as expected, was also chided for its lack of follow-through on organized crime cases last year. “The statistics presented by the Bulgarian authorities show no significant change in the prosecution and judicial follow-up of organized crime cases in 2008,” the report said. “No major court decisions on high-profile cases of organized crime have been taken in recent months.”

While the report welcomed Bulgaria’s “initial steps” in attempting to restructure its prosecution office and justice and interior ministries, the EC did not restore the lost €220 million in aid.

-- Beth Kampschror