Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Questions (120)

Niall Collins

Question:

120. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Romania and planned legal changes which could undermine the rule of law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21602/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

When Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007, the EU established the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) as a transitional measure to assist the new Member State in addressing issues in regard to the rule of law, particularly in relation to judicial reform and the fight against corruption.  The European Commission reports annually to the European Parliament and the Council on progress towards meeting the established CVM benchmarks. The Commission’s annual assessments are based on careful analysis and monitoring, drawing on a continuous dialogue with the Romanian authorities and with other EU countries, civil society, international organisations, independent experts and a variety of other interlocutors.

Romania was deemed to have made good progress over a number of years.  However, over the past three years the European Commission has conveyed concerns to the Romanian Government.  Earlier this month, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans wrote to the Romanian President, the Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and the Prime Minister, setting out in some detail the Commission’s opinion that various legislative amendments, which have mostly been introduced via emergency ordinances that bypass normal stakeholder consultations, have contributed to the weakening of judicial independence and the fight against corruption and crime. He warned that unless corrective measures were quickly applied, or if further negative steps were taken, the Commission would initiate the Rule of Law Framework enabling dialogue between the two sides aimed at avoiding the triggering of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union.  The Rule of Law Framework would temporarily replace the CVM process, although it would take account of the CVM benchmarks and recommendations.  Mr. Timmermans also noted that the CVM would remain operational into the future, until its benchmarks and recommendations were fully and satisfactorily met.  Furthermore, the letter warned that the Commission would act swiftly in response to any EU Treaty infringements by Romania.

Ireland shares the objectives of the Commission, which are to help the Romanian authorities find solutions to the rule of law issues that have emerged, and to resume and indeed accelerate progress towards meeting the CVM benchmarks and recommendations. The Irish Embassy in Bucharest and Embassies of twelve like-minded countries issued a joint statement in April, which called on all parties involved in drafting emergency Government ordinances to avoid legislative changes that would weaken the rule of law and Romania’s ability to fight crime and corruption. Legislative changes currently under consideration risk breaching common European values, undermining the rule of law, and negatively impacting on Romania’s economic development and the well-being of its citizens. We have urged the Romanian Government to take into account the steps recommended by the European Commission, the European Parliament, the EU Council, and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and GRECO. The fact that Romania currently holds the EU Presidency places Romania in a special position of responsibility, and we have urged the Romanian Government to reaffirm political commitment to our shared values. Action on these issues is in the interests not only of the people of Romania, but of the EU as a whole.