Bulgaria, Romania legal systems need improvement: EU report

[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) [official website] released reports [press release] Tuesday that said Bulgaria [report, PDF; summary, PDF] and Romania [report, PDF; summary, PDF] must do more to combat corruption and organized crime, and conduct judicial reforms in order to enjoy their full rights as members of the EU. The reports represent the sixth assessments for the newest members of the EU under the Control and Verification Mechanism (CVM), which was setup as a way to verify progress of the two nations in meeting EU benchmarks on the issues. The EC said Romania has struggled to keep momentum on judicial reform, but commended it for making progress on corruption while warning more work is needed:

Only limited results can be demonstrated in judicial reform while no effective improvement could be noted for the difficult human resourcing situation in the judiciary and the capacity of the judicial system has been put under further strain by net staff losses. Regarding the fight against corruption, the report commends the continuously convincing track record of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate in the investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption cases. ... However, continued delays in high-level corruption trials, together with inconsistency and leniency in penalties applied by the courts, continue to present important challenges for Romania.
The EC made similar comments on Bulgaria:
Since mid-2009, Bulgaria responded to some recommendations of the Commission notably by an initiative to improve the objectivity of the annual appraisal of magistrates, the results of which however cannot be yet assessed. ... With regard to the fight against corruption and organised crime, Bulgaria plans to improve the effectiveness of the forfeiture of criminal assets by applying forfeiture to a wider group of persons related to a crime unless the legal origin of assets can be proven. ... Although a number of new investigations and indictments for high-level corruption and organised crime have recently been reported, delays in important cases continued and no conviction in a high-level case could be reported since mid 2009.
According to the EC, it will continue support for the countries and provide its next assessment by this summer.

The current assessments echo statements made in previous CVM progress reports [materials; JURIST report]. In January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania officially joined the EU [JURIST report] following six years of accession negotiations. Both countries have been required to comply with a series of benchmarks; failing to do so could result in EU intervention and the potential loss of economic aid under Articles 36-38 of the Act of Accession [text], which lays out safeguard mechanisms [EC backgrounder] in the event of problems posing a threat to the functioning of the EU.

 

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