In other words, and as shown in section 1 of this post, the cumulative effect of Romanias ruling partys systematic and ongoing attempt to legalise fraud to save its members from prosecution and sanctionshas now reached a level where it structurally threatens not only the rule of law but also the financial interests of the EU. On February 11, the Prosecutors Section of the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM), the judiciarys self-governing body, issued negative opinions for two of the proposed candidatesScutea and Hosuand a positive opinion for Bologa. Thus, however quickly the parliamentary majority could get legislation through Parliament, the legislative process has remained too slow and unpredictable given Mr. Dragneas urgent legal needs. In addition, Romanian authorities are warned that the Commission will not hesitate to swiftly open proceedings under Article 258 of the TFEU against any related infringement of EU law it may identify (as the Commission has already done in particular with respect to the so-called Polish judicial reforms and the multiple, arbitrary pieces of legislation adopted by Hungarian authorities regarding the Central European University, NGOs, free speech, etc.). Parliament, however, remained solidly in the hands of the PSD and its allies, which meant that very few of the reforms demanded during the past three years of street protests could pass. The main challenges for civil society in 2020 consisted of pandemic-related rights restrictions and limited sector fundinga recurrent problem only made worse by the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, and as decisively, the absence of impact assessments and inclusive public and stakeholder consultations, the unpredictability of the legislative process also create further risks to the rule of law. Two former parliamentary parties, Popular Movement (PMP) and Pro Romania, did not cross the 5-percent electoral threshold. Embezzlement, for instance, is no longer to be investigated ex officio but only pursuant to a complaint made by the entity that has suffered damage, the withdrawal of the complaint resulting in the removal of criminal liability. Unilateral executive action has been the preferred legal tool for the party jurists.
Under the current administration, however, the government has begun to demonstrate signs of democratic backsliding in an effort to fight back against anti-corruption reforms. Join the Freedom House monthly newsletter, 1850 M St. NW Floor 11 4. The upstart, progressive USR-PLUS party, with an antisystem discourse and younger and more professional cadres entering politics for the first time, won Bucharest and four other large cities as well as positions in local councils which the party had never held before. And since the Commissions recommendations under the Framework are to be made public, they could also be communicated to the European Parliament and the Council, in compliance with Article 2 of the 2016 decision. Minister and extend the current elite aggrandizement to executive aggrandizement. Only one round of voting was held, as Parliament failed to approve a two-round system. In the letter, separation of powers and loyal cooperation between different powers of the state are also mentioned. Nancy Bermeo, in her paper On Democratic Backsliding, outlines new trends in democratic Racist, sexist and otherwise discriminatory comments will not be published. The local elections took place in a relatively orderly fashion. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic. The fact that the Commissions strategy of replacing the CVM with the Framework would be legal does not say anything, however, as to whether it would be successful. In a relatively poor market, this level of aid was massive and controversial: while mainstream channels applauded the measure, These concerns were not groundless. As a result, he has had to pursue his agenda through puppet prime ministers. Article is tendentious. The amendments allowed for more members in electoral commissions, and also granted extra seats to national minorities. In the early months of the pandemic, there was substantial informal civic mobilization to support the medical sector with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies, provide basic support for vulnerable groups, and also help authorities with technical solutions to develop better databases or visualizations for the public. The Constitutional Court, siding with Parliament, ascertained that the parallel regulation of this issue was unconstitutional,3 This appointment ended the long interim leadership of one of the most important Romanian prosecution offices. During the COVID-19 crisis, the PSD attempted to use these handouts to grow its base of support while avoiding executive responsibility. on party leader Liviu Dragnea. On Monday, 27 May, the Supreme Court of Romania sentenced Liviu Dragnea, leader of the Social Democratic Party and president of the Chamber of Deputies, to a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for abuse of power. To begin with, and to state the obvious, which is sadly necessary in the case of Romania, emergency measures should be adopted only when there is a real emergency. Delays continued during the later state of alert, as suspects refused to go to hearings, claiming their health would be endangered. Media associations complained about this secrecy, which was compounded by the fact that many relevant public institutions had not appointed spokespeople.10 According to law, neither the president nor the prime minister may dissolve the legislature and call for early elections; they may only be organized in the event the cabinet falls and two new cabinet proposals are then rejected in succession by Parliament. In some cases, the GSC blocked rather than facilitated the flow of information. The letter mentions various examples of crimes for which EU secondary law explicitly requires the Member States to impose such sanctions (counterfeiting currency, market abuse and child pornography). A new, half-hearted no-confidence motion was introduced by the PSD in Parliament during the summer, but in spite of the partys nominal majority, this failed to pass because of individual defections. It is our submission that Romanian authorities have deliberately and repeatedly violated this Treaty provision and the obligations therein via a number of positive measures (i.e., measures essentially legalising corruption via the reduction of prescription periods or of sanctions for certain offense such as abuse of office, new rules limiting the possibility to provide evidence of bribery crimes, etc.) After several troubled years, the atmosphere around the justice system and the fight against corruption calmed down in 2020. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. In fact, the regulations for the electoral campaign period were announced only several hours before it commenced. In February, Crin Bologa was appointed head of the DNA by President Iohannis, upon the proposal of Justice Minister Predoiu and supported by the SCM. On June 23, the DNA started criminal investigations against the general manager of Unifarm, the state-owned pharmaceutical company, on suspicions of bribery, abuse of office, and influence peddling related to how Unifarm awarded a public procurement contract for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) against COVID-19. Top positions in the prosecutorial service were fillednamely, the Prosecutor General, the head of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), and the head of the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT)yet vulnerabilities brought to light by the media concerning the new DIICOT head eventually led to her resignation after her husband was convicted for corruption. In August of 2018, over 150,000 people joined protests in cities across Romania against the PSD-led governments attempts to weaken anti-corruption legislation. Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. Just as with posts, we make a choice. Only the Ombudsman can challenge ex ante the legality of an emergency executive decree and, sure enough, the governing coalition has appointed a politically compliant Ombudsman. The EU and the Council of Europe, through the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (hereinafter: CVM) and reports from the Venice Commission, have been actively monitoring and regularly criticising Romanias justice reforms. the 2003 UN Convention against Corruption but also the 2006 Commission Decision establishing a CVM for Romania, recital 3: the rule of law implies for all Member States the existence of an impartial, independent and effective judicial and administrative system properly equipped, inter alia, to fight corruption) and that the time has come for the Commission to remind Romanian authorities but also every other EU Member State that Article 325 TFEU subjects national authorities to a positive obligation not to undermine their anti-corruption capacity.
The government continued the politicized practice of distributing funds to municipalities through the Reserve Fund, a line item in the state budget to be used for emergency and unforeseen situations.
Election authorities did not properly communicate with the public, and some of the decisions of the Central Electoral Bureau, the ad hoc body responsible for organizing the vote, were questioned.8 1. Independent Media rating declined from 3.75 to 3.50 due to concerns about clientelism in the sector arising from the states purchase of public information advertising related to the pandemic. There were situations in 2020 wherein the courts initially validated the mandates of public officials who later were not allowed to occupy their public positions based on final court decisions, bringing into question the true degree of adherence to rule-of-law principles. Article 325 TFEU itself is about combating fraud. Overall, the crisis laid bare the consequences of a system with few to no performance evaluations but with an excess of patronage. There were similar results in the Senate (Parliaments 136-seat upper house). Several CSOs requested parliamentary control over the Permanent Electoral Authority due to the poor management of the electoral process.7 Accusations of fraud were voiced in several sectors in Bucharest during the local elections, Sector 1 registering the most complaints.
On September 24, Hosu resigned following the conviction of her husband by a court of first instance on corruption charges. The response time to requests for public information under FOIA legislation doubled during the state of emergency. We look forward to welcoming you on July 4-6, 2022 for our Annual Conference on Global Problems and Prospects in Public Law. USR-Plus secured 6.58 percent of the vote. The 2016 decision contains essentially procedural provisions. Like all semi-presidential regimes, Romania has had to work out rules and convention to establish an equilibrium within its split executive. But again, this would not necessarily be a legal problem since the 2016 decision has been adopted by the Commission itself. With the creation of specialized institutions to monitor and persecute corruption under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism the aim was to slowly strengthen the judicial system thus protecting it from political interference in a country that is considered to have the highest level of corruption in the EU. However, a second round was organized in three localities where two candidates obtained the same results. Reliance on the concept of chilling effect, similar to the one used by the European Court of Human Rights, is a welcome acknowledgement of the fact that, for a judge to be truly independent, he or she must feel independent and not be in fear of arbitrary sanctions. Regrettably, this diagnosis is also fully valid as regards Hungary and Poland where we have had many examples of arbitrary laws being incredibly rushed via diverse subterfuges designed to avoid debate and scrutiny all in the name of the will of the people.
The sudden COVID-19 crisis put an end to this political game. Another proposed emergency decree would make it possible for politicians convicted of graft since 2014 to challenge the High Court for Cassations rulings on their cases, because the countrys Constitutional Court ruled that one of the judges on the High Court was not appointed properly in 2014. In addition, the President has routinely exercised his prerogative to contest the legality of acts of Parliament such as the recent judiciary reforms. They have gone so far as to use EU demands for the decongestion of prisons as cover to justify collective pardons for those serving sentences for crimes including corruption. The letter seems, however, to indicate a suspension of the CVM while the Framework is being used.
The Social Democrats Party of Romania, or PSD, are the current leading party of the Romanian parliament, having won 46% of the vote in the 2016 election. On the downside, the COVID-19 crisis immediately revealed cracks in the healthcare system due to long-ignored weaknesses, namely, the uneven distribution of resources, lack of specialized personnel, incompetence, and clientelism. While his past illegalities had resulted a past conviction for electoral fraud that disqualified him from serving as prime minister, Mr. Dragnea understood that his political future would be over if convicted on the new, abuse of power charges. on the power of the executive through apparently legal avenues. Media freedom was further threatened by the states uneven support for individual outlets during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the instrumentalized public funding of political ads masquerading as public service announcements ahead of the 2020 elections. The worst fears of the Ministry of Finance materialized when, during the local elections campaign, the parliamentary majority passed the aforementioned pension proposal and other social expenditures that make the national budget unsustainable in 2021 and beyond. For Romania, the CVM is based on a 2016 decision of the Commission. Romania began the year 2020 with a new, center-right cabinet formed by the PNL and a freshly reelected President Klaus Iohannis. If the situation in Hungary and Poland has taught us anything is that there is no point dialoguing with would-be autocrats all too happy to establish autocratic regimes while pocketing EU funds. Generally, in-person hearings were halted during the state of emergency. If, in 2020, the governing machine did not improve much in terms of effectiveness, at least it moved in a more democratic direction under the PNL.
decrees that overturn previous corruption convictions, the PSD is One of the major varieties of this more gradual democratic backsliding is Moreover, in the current climate, emergency executive decrees are de facto immunized from legal challenge. executive aggrandizement, in which elected officials slowly weaken the checks
Anticipating difficulties, the PNL cabinet tried at the beginning of the year to use the momentum of President Iohanniss victory to press for early parliamentary elections, which, according to polls, would have created a new and more favorable majority in Parliament. . Romanian civil society organizations (CSOs) criticized the government for nontransparency in organizing the local elections and poor planning of safety measures.6 Numerous ministries and central institutions with branches in the regions banned all communications except through central offices located in Bucharest and warned against the spread of unofficial information. During the two months of Romanias initial lockdown, all communications about the pandemic were centralized in the Strategic Communication Group (GSC), made up of top government officials whose identities were kept secret.9 The Commission is (rightly) concerned about the possibility of certain crimes being committed with impunity, in particular those which, according to EU law should be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions hence establishing a link between the Romanian situation and EU Law, and therefore pre-empting any (ill-founded) accusation that it would be acting ultra vires. This means that whilst the choice of penalties remains within their discretion, national authorities must ensure in particular that infringements of EU law are penalised under conditions which make the penalty effective, proportionate and dissuasive. It has only so far been used against Poland, eventually leading to the Commission triggering Article 7(1) TEU against this country, due to the lack of any results under the Framework. PSD is still Romanias largest party in terms of the municipalities it controls, but it is now more clearly confined to poor, rural areas of the country. If the Commission decides to suspend the CVM in favour of its Framework, it would therefore only require an extra step: The Commission would have to amend, repeal or suspend the 2016 decision after consulting the Member States. That means not all submitted comments will be published. The rest of Romanias public administration had an easier time during the crisis since the demand for state services other than healthcare decreased significantly. Comments under pseudonym are allowed but a valid email address is obligatory. Washington, DC 20036, Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status. Despite his criminal charges, Liviu Dragnea remains the current leader of the PSD, due in part to the legislative changes and emergency decrees that have reduced or invalidated corruption charges for politicians. On March 16, the president declared an emergency situation, which was to last until mid-May; during this interval, the governments response to the crisis was organized with military-style decrees. Later, a state of alert, with fewer restrictions, was imposed on May 15 and remained in place for the rest of the year. Before her removal, Kovesi investigated and indicted a number of legislators and ministers, including current PSD party leader Liviu Dragnea. Whether it would be the case or not depends on what exactly the Commission means when it says that the Framework will replace the CVM. Developments may include a selection of links to news, high court decisions, new or recent scholarly books and articles, and blog posts from aroundRead , Grappling with the Civil-Common Law Divide in Constitutional Law. Voter turnout in the local elections was not affected by COVID-19 and was similar to previous years, reaching 46.02 percent in the first round. Further attacks on the independence and strength of the judiciary could allow Dragnea to overturn his own criminal charges and those of his fellow PSD members, which would allow him to finally become Prime Minister himself, and similarly allow incumbent allied politicians rely upon continuing corruption to protect their own interests. Prosecutors and judges have protested the undoing of an independent justice system both with public protests and legal action that have resulted in a number of preliminary references currently pending in Luxembourg. The PSD also attempted to postpone the parliamentary elections and therefore move the competence to set the date from the government to Parliament through a new bill approved by the Constitutional Court. The decree enacting the state of emergency permitted authorities to block websites when the content promoted fake news about the COVID-19 trends and the prevention measures.. Even during the selection process, concerns were raised publicly about Hosus integrityher 80-year-old mother and her stepson were shareholders in an offshore insurance company, and her husband was already indicted by the DNA in 2017 on corruption charges for illegally intervening for Carpatica, an insurance company, and illegally accessing a Ministry of Internal Affairs database in order to obtain information about family members of car accident victims. The Rule of Law Framework, also informally known as the pre-Article 7 TEU procedure, was adopted by the European Commission in 2014. Under this definition, Romania has begun to engage in behavior consistent with elite aggrandizement, weakening the checks on the PSD and affiliated political elites. Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. Article 325 TFEU is to be found in chapter 3 of the TFEU which concerns the EUs annual budget. The government launched a public information campaign, paying over 41 million for ads about the pandemic and preventive measures, to be aired on TV and radio and distributed online. Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. An infringement action directly based on Article 325 TFEU coupled with Article 19(1) TFEU regarding aspects relating to judicial independence as well as an application for interim measures to provisionally prevent the application of relevant national provisions is not only possible in our view but urgently warranted considering the pattern highlighted in section 1 of this post.
Outside of the criminal context, the ruling party has challenged the legality of arcane procedures for selecting trial chambers and introduced new appeal mechanisms to reopen cases that have the authority of res judicata.
Recall that Mr. Dragnea himself is barred from serving as prime minister.
Furthermore, in the unlikely event that a constitutional challenge is lodged, the Constitutional Court will likely treat challenges to the urgency of the executive decrees as a political question and limit its review to procedural matters.