[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] released its semi-annual Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report [text; PDF] on Romania Wednesday, warning the nation to end political pressure on the judiciary amid continuing concerns over corruption. When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 the EU established [commission decision, PDF] a special “cooperation and verification mechanism” to address shortcomings in judicial reform, corruption and organized crime in those countries. The CVM has set certain benchmarks Romania must reach. According to the report, in 2012 the Commission
received a large number of representations from judicial institutions concerning direct criticism by politicians and politically motivated media attacks on individual judges, prosecutors and members of their families, as well as on judicial and prosecutorial institutions.
Among the key concerns for the EU is a 2013 bill passed by the Romanian parliament that would effectively take lawmakers out of the scope of legislation covering corruption offenses. The bill was subsequently declared unconstitutional [JURIST report] by the Constitutional Court of Romania [official website] earlier this month. Judicial data presented in the report points out that 28 Romanian parliamentarians have been convicted or are on trial for corruption. The report labeled recent appointments of high-level judicial officials as “mixed,” pointing to appointments of head and deputy heads of section in the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) where procedural anomalies in the nomination process indicate corrupt practices. Just prior to the release of the EU’s report, the US top diplomat in Romania, Duane Butcher [official profile] voiced the opinion [Reuters report] that doubt’s about Romania’s justice system could harm the nation’s economy. In remarks on Wednesday before the Bucharest Stock Exchange Butcher warned [text] that,”investors will hesitate to come to Romania and those already on the ground will not expand their investments if the playing field is not level, or the rule of law is not consistently enforced. The Charge d’Affaires also reiterated the US commitment to maintain its alliance with Romania and aid in the fight against corruption and the enforcement of the rule of law.
Romania is one of the most corrupt nations in the EU, ranking [TI profile] just ahead of Greece, and 69 out of the 177 nations globally according the watchdog group Transparency International [advocacy website]. In September Romanian prosecutors charged [JURIST report] Communist-era prison commander Alexander Visinescu with genocide. Visinescu, the former chief of the Ramnicu Sarat prison under Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu [Telegraph profile] faces genocide charges for beating and starving political prisoners between 1956 and 1963, the height of Communist repression against dissidents. Last January the Bucharest Appeals Court [official website, in Romanian] ruled [JURIST report] that a former Romanian defense ministry official can be extradited to the US on charges of trying to illegally export military equipment to Iran.