Romania holds one of the last positions in the EU by the public's perception of the independence of judges and courts, according to the Eurobarometer released on Friday, on the occasion of the publication of the 2020 EU Justice Scoreboard, with only Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Slovakia and Croatia reporting an even more concerning situation in this regard.
A share of 45 percent of the Romanians have a rather poor or very poor opinion of the independence of judges and courts; in the last-ranked Croatia 68 percent of the general public thinks the same. At the level of EU-28, ie including the United Kingdom, this share is 33 percent. Conversely, just 37 percent of the Romanians have a good and quite good opinion about the independence of judges and courts, down 3 percent compared to 2019, while at EU level this share is 56 percent, the same as last year.
Among the reasons for this lack of independence, 49 percent of the Romanians consider that interference or pressure from the government or politicians matter a lot, while 27 percent said that they matter to a certain extent.
According to 44 percent of the Romanian respondents, interference or pressure from economic or other specific interests matter a lot in this negative perception, while the fact that the status and position of judges does not guarantee their independence is equally important for 21 percent of the respondents.
Overall, there has been a loss of confidence in the independence of the judiciary in two-fifths of EU countries. Denmark is on the first place in this ranking with 86 percent of its population having a good and very good perception of the independence of the judiciary.
European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said the report identified shortcomings and best practices in EU countries, noting that in several member states where legislative changes have been recently adopted that have affected judicial independence or where attacks on judges and prosecutors have intensified, the perception of independence has worsened.
According to the Justice Scoreboard, efficiency of proceedings in civil commercial and administrative cases has improved since 2012 in 11 EU member states, including Romania, and has decreased in eight others, including Hungary and Poland. Between 2012 - 2018, in Romania the estimated length of proceedings needed to resolve a case in court has decreased from over 175 days to under 175 days, while in Italy and Greece it is over 575 days.
As regards the average length of proceedings in money laundering cases, Romania has seen an increase in the length of trials from 2014 to 2018, our country being ranked in the top third of the EU countries with the longest trials in such cases.
As regards expenditure on the operation of the judicial system, Romania registers one of the biggest disproportions in the EU between expenditures on wages and salaries on one hand, and expenditures on fixed assets and operating costs on the other. While wage expenditures account for over 90 percent, operating costs account for only a few percentage points in Romania, Bulgaria and Portugal, and even less in Greece.
Romania scored better at the availability of electronic means to transmit claims and summons and monitor the status of legal proceedings, which are available in all Romanian courts.
The EC survey notes that there are major shortcomings throughout the Union, especially when it comes to the possibility to follow court proceedings online, a chapter where no member state has reached full deployment in all courts in all areas of law.