threatens to get really cross next year with
European Commission last week reprimanded the EU’s newest members
combat corruption and organised crime, but chose not to impose any sanctions on
the two states.
reports are a reality check. They show how the Bulgarian and Romanian
governments are tackling judicial reform, corruption and organised crime,” the
President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said last week.
Barroso added that there now needs to be more emphasis on implementing laws
rather than just passing them.
corruption is still one point of weakness. Both governments are aware of this,”
Franco Frattini, the Italian Commissioner for Justice and Home said at a press
conference shortly after the Commission adopted the six-monthly progress
reports on both countries.
Commission’s reluctance to impose any kind of punishment beyond the reprimands
in the progress reports published last week, it stated that it might if there
were still problems next year.
Romanian judges in the dock too
Commission highlighted concerns that the Romanian judiciary does not understand
its role in the fight against corruption. Romanian judges have a tendency to
impose suspended sentences in cases of corruption and appear reluctant to deal
with cases involving politicians. In general, the EU appeared to damn the
reform of the legal system with faint praise: “Overall,
achieved some progress in the reform of its judicial system,” the report read.
Unsolved killings in
also pointed to the problem of contract killings. Between 2001 and 2006 over
150 people were assassinated in the capital
added to the worries about the state of Bulgarian reforms: “Contract killings
continue to be of great concern, and in particular [the] most recent killings
of local politicians since January. To date, no prosecution and conviction has
taken place,” the report said.
was also criticised for its lack of effort in fighting organised crime and
confiscating criminals’ assets.
existing member states were known to be reluctant to sanction the membership of
order to be allowed to join on 1 January this year both states had to agree to
what is supposedly a strict monitoring system. Last week’s reports were
produced as part of this process. The next reports are due in six months’ time.
monitoring process includes the possibility of “safeguard clauses” – EUspeak
for punishments which can be imposed during the first three years following
accession. However, the fact that both countries have already joined the EU
means that the organisation has lost its main source of leverage over them –
the threat of withholding membership. The main punishment still left in the
EU’s arsenal is the ability to cut funding, an option the EU has not gone for
this time, but may when the next reports are presented in 2008.
Commission adopted the reports,
Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev was quoted by local news agency Novinite as
saying: “The criticisms that are likely to be levelled at
concerning the organised crime and corruption fight are well-founded and quite
reasonable. We continue working on solving these problems”. Nevertheless, the
prosecutor could not resist taking a dig at the report, pointing out that it
contained factual errors and insisting that they were “quite serious”.