The Group of State against Corruption of the Council of Europe (GRECO) warned Romania today that the new Criminal Procedure Code amendments could affect mutual legal assistance with other countries and justice system’s capacity to deal with serious forms of crime, including corruption.

In a report on Romania published today, the Council of Europe’s GRECO expresses serious concern about certain aspects of the laws on the status of judges and prosecutors, on the judicial organisation and on the Superior Council of Magistracy recently adopted by Parliament as well as on draft amendments to the criminal legislation.

“The intended amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code discussed by the special parliamentary joint committee in relation to the EU Directive on the presumption of innocence, reportedly go beyond the purposes of the said Directive. These proposed amendments are raising serious concerns both domestically and among other countries for their potential negative impact on mutual legal assistance and the capacity of the criminal justice system to deal with serious forms of crime, including corruption-related offences,” the report says.

The report notes that the amendments to the three laws on the judiciay adopted by the Parliament in December 2017 do not contain some of the most controversial proposals presented initially in the summer. However, GRECO is concerned about their potential impact, including for the staff structure in the courts and prosecution services. Despite the importance and wide scope of these reforms, their impact was not properly assessed, and the legislative process was also questionable.GRECO calls upon Romania in particular to abandon the creation of the new special prosecutor’s section for the investigation of offences in the judiciary. The report also takes note of the controversial process to dismiss the Head of the specialised anti-corruption prosecutor’s office (DNA), initiated in February 2018, and it reiterates its call for additional safeguards in relation to appointments and dismissal procedures for senior prosecutors by the executive branch of power.

GRECO is equally critical about the draft amendments to the criminal legislation which, if adopted, would clearly contradict some of Romania’s international commitments, including the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. Amendments to the criminal procedure currently discussed by the special parliamentary joint committee are perceived by foreign countries as a threat for the effectiveness of mutual legal assistance.

In addition, the report criticises a series of draft laws initiated in the Senate on 21 December 2017 which would considerably weaken the incrimination of various corruption-related offences in the Criminal Code; for example, bribery and trading in influence would not anymore apply to elected officials and with regard to the abuse of office offence the amendments would completely decriminalise all acts committed in relation to damages up to 200,000 euros.

“Another attempt is made at amending the offence of abuse of office in a way which would decriminalise completely all acts committed in relation to a damage of up to EUR 200,000 (in a country where the average monthly wages are in the range of EUR 600 to EUR 800),” GRECO noted.

The group asks Romania to present an update on the state of the proposed reforms at its next plenary meeting (18-22 June 2018) and to refrain from passing further criminal law amendments which could undermine its anti-corruption capacities, the report says.