European Commission interim report calls for more from Bulgaria, Romania

The European Commission in its interim report released today criticized Bulgaria and Romania for certain weaknesses which remain in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption, while noting that progress had been made in certain fields.

“The Commission calls upon Bulgaria to further extend its reform efforts in order to reach concrete, measurable and significant results. Bulgaria should continue its efforts to reform penal procedures and strengthen asset forfeiture.

“In addition, Bulgaria should strengthen the capacity of the judiciary in order to demonstrate concrete results in high-level cases,” the EC said in the report.

Bulgaria is also urged to implement a strategy to fight organised crime, focussing on serious crime, money laundering as well as on the systematic confiscation of assets of criminals.

Today’s report is the first by the European Commission that assesses the measures undertaken by Bulgaria’s new centre-right government led by the GERB party, which swept the elections in July and made an attempt to shake off the country’s reputation for rampant graft and crime. The report was initially expected to be released at the end of February, Novinite reports.

In its assessment of Romania, the report says Bucharest should intensify efforts to adopt criminal and civil procedure codes.

“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.

“The electoral period in the second half of last year delayed the parliamentary discussion of the draft civil and criminal procedure codes which are an important next step in judicial reform,” the report said.

In addition, 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 two Balkan states joined the European Union in 2007 and are subject to monitoring of their efforts to combat widespread graft and, in the case of Bulgaria, to fight organised crime, through the CVM, the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism.

In 2008, the Commission froze millions of euros in EU infrastructure and farm aid to Bulgaria due to failures to crack down on graft.

Last year, a European Commission preliminary report urged Romania to step up efforts to combat high-level corruption. It criticised judges for using minor excuses to delay cases and condemned parliament for delaying corruption inquiries involving high-ranking officials.

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