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Bulgaria and Romania off the hook for judicial deficiencies – EURACTIV.com

Stock MarketsBulgaria and Romania off the hook for judicial deficiencies – EURACTIV.com

The European Commission’s monitoring of Bulgaria and Romania under the so-called “Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” (CVM) officially ended after 16-and-a-half years on Friday (15 September), with much of the work in the meantime taken over by the annual Rule of Law cycle covering all member states.

Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová posted on X, formerly Twitter, a congratulatory message to Bulgaria and Romania, announcing the formal closure of CVM.

She posted a photo of herself with ‘martenitsa’ (‘mărțișor’ in Romanian), an amulet with white and red colours symbolizing spring, popular in both countries.

The announcement was expected, as it was again Jourová who announced in July, replying to a question by EURACTIV, that the positive decision on CVM was imminent.

Looking back

When Bulgaria and Romania were preparing to join the EU on 1 January 2007, deficiencies remained in both countries in the fields of judicial reform and fight against corruption, as well as against organised crime for Bulgaria.

As the political sentiment in favour of enlargement at that time was strong, the Commission made a compromise: It decided that the two countries could join, but that during the first years of EU membership, they would be monitored under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism.

At the time, neither the Commission nor Bulgaria and Romania thought CVM would continue for so many years.

Initially, the annual CVM reports written by the Commission had a huge impact in the two new EU members, as the EU executive did not hesitate to point out the sensitive issues. Civil society in Bulgaria and Romania was hoping the reports could help change a corrupt status quo the respective governments did not want to – or could not – disturb.

Later, and especially under Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the reports lost their teeth, although the situation in the respective countries did not significantly improve.

CVM has produced thousands of pages of reports. The last report on Bulgaria was in 2019 and the last on Romania was published in 2022.

Bulgaria and Romania have recently gained strategic importance, especially in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. In the meantime, other EU countries, including some older members, have become the cause of alarm in terms of the rule of law.

Looking forward

Ending the CVM matters for both countries in the context of their bid to join Schengen, the EU’s passport-free area. Although the two issues are not related, the Netherlands has refused to back their Schengen accession as long as the CVM does not produce “positive” reports.

The Commission has meanwhile decided not to use CVM with the other EU hopefuls. Nowadays, the EU executive expects new members to join without deficiencies that would require special monitoring.

The decision to put an end to CVM was also facilitated by the introduction in 2019 of the Commission’s European Rule of Law Mechanism, which monitors all 27 member states, including Bulgaria and Romania. These days, the countries in the spotlight from this mechanism are primarily Hungary and Poland.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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