“Many people in the key judicial and integrity institutions have shown a real commitment to reform,” the Commission president said, adding that the report also shows a “not straightforward” progress and that “advances in one area can be negated by setbacks elsewhere”.
“I hope this report will clearly highlight what still needs to be done to pursue and consolidate reform and ensure a positive and sustainable trend," Barroso continued.
The Commission president diplomatically regretted the lack of commitment to enforce the rule of law, and added that “a political commitment to this approach, as well as concrete and practical measures in the short term, is the best way to bring the process forward”.
In the past, the Commission has been much more generous to Bulgaria, stressing in 2010 that it saw “political will” and a “strong momentum of reform”.
Asked by EurActiv to explain how the Commission made those political assessments about the presence or the lack of “political will”, European Commission spokesperson Mark Gray noted there was a discrepancy between the evaluation done five years after Bulgaria and Romania’s EU accession and the one that done more recently.
He added that the report cannot be seen as an assessment of the current government as it covers a period of 18-months, as three different cabinets have been in office in Bulgaria.
Regarding Romania, Gray stressed that the country had made progress in many areas and that the track record of the key judicial and integrity institutions had remained positive, “even in sometimes difficult circumstances”.
Gray alludes to an attempt of the Romanian parliament last December to amend the country’s criminal code, by introducing a so-called “super-immunity bill”, sheltering MPs from corruption charges. Although the attempt did not succeed, as it proved unconstitutional, it raised eyebrows in Brussels.
The spokesperson also said that necessary and long-awaited legislative changes have remained on track and the spirit of cooperation between judicial institutions and the Ministry of Justice was helping managerial issues to be tackled.
“In this sense, the situation is benefitting from the calmer political atmosphere since spring 2013”, Gray said.
However, the Romania report expresses concerns about judicial independence and the appointment of key figures in law-enforcing show a mixed picture, Gray said.
The next Commission reports will come in one year’s time.