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Interview / Vera Jourova: I can't make promises but I would really like to finalize CVM

vera jourova

Vice-President of the European Commission (EC) for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova, said in an interview with AGERPRES in Bucharest on Tuesday that she could not make promises, but that she would really like that the community's executive put an end to the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for Romania and Bulgaria, which occupies the Commission's capacities, and transfer the assessment of our country in the annual report on the rule of law for all EU states. The senior European official said that there was political momentum in Romania for the adoption of laws to address the issues included in the CVM reports and that she had seen "strong statements" including from the president and prime minister.

In this context, she drew attention to the fact that the new structure that replaces the Special Section for the Investigation of Magistrates will be monitored by the Commission, which wants to see the new structure "doing its job properly, being independent, impartial and fulfilling its purpose". Also, Vera Jourova said, the attempts of some institutions in Romania to challenge the primacy of EU law were not a "pleasant surprise" and said that one of the objectives of her visit was to ensure that there is a clear recognition of EU law in Romanian legislation and that Romanian judges, who are also European judges, must be able to apply EU law without fear that they will be penalized for it.

Last but not least, Vera Jourova spoke in the interview given to AGERPRES about the problems faced by the media and what could be done to overcome them and expressed the full readiness of the European Commission to continue its support for Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova in carrying out the necessary reforms after both states have received the status of candidate countries for accession.

AGERPRES: Madame Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency how would you sum up these 2 days in Romania, with justice, Ukrainian refugees and media freedom high on the agenda?

Vera Jourova: I had two very rich, fruitful days in Romania. The mission started in the refugee center, and I'm deeply impressed by what Romania and Romanian people are doing for the refugees and also doing other things in relation to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, because also they are creating the lines for the lanes, for the transport of the food and all the measures relating to stronger defense. I'm deeply impressed and to send a million people for taking such a strong position. I also met the key representatives of the country. I have to mention first the President of the country, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, Minister of Home Affairs. I spoke to the key figures representing Romanian judiciary, prosecution and magistrates, other stakeholders. I spoke to the representatives of the media to understand also the situation in the media scene. So fruitful two days, I have to 'swallow' everything to compare notes, what I have in my materials and what I heard from real people who have a lot to say on the situation in Romania. And I will continue cooperation with Romania on many different issues.

AGERPRES: How do you feel about the attempts of some Romanian institutions, like the Romanian Constitutional Court, to challenge the primacy of EU law?

Vera Jourova: I have to say, it was not a nice surprise. It was something which we didn't expect. And that's why also I am here to see that there will be clear recognition of the primacy of the EU law in the Romanian legislation, because we believe that the Romanian judges, who are also European judges, should be able to apply the EU law without a fear that they will be penalized for that. And I had an opportunity to have a very good discussion with the President of the Constitutional Court. And we discussed also the basic principle of the privacy of EU law. I tried to explain something what the President, of course, knew that the primacy of EU belongs to one of the pillars on which the European rule of law is built. So we would like to see the primacy of the EU law to be fully recognized in Romania.

AGERPRES: You have been speaking in a recent interview about the possibility of a last CVM report for Romania. After the meetings you have had the last two days would you say, in fact, that this perspective is really there? How would that work?

Vera Jourova: I believe here is a political momentum now because I had a strong declaration and determination from the site of the President, Prime Minister, Minister of justice, other important figures that now is the momentum to adopt the laws which will address the issues which we list in the CVM report, which will enable us to finish the CVM and transfer the assessment of Romania under the new measure or tool which we have, which is the rule of law report, which is a standard assessment which covers all the EU member states. So I think that the momentum is here. There are things to be done. I cannot promise, but I can be honest with you. I would really like to finalize the CVM reporting because, among other things, it's also occupying the capacities of the Commission. And because we have this new tool, we might do this, I don't know, take the step from the CVM to the rule of law report assessment. It will depend on Romania.

AGERPRES: The Special Section investigating magistrates was recently dismantled, which was one of the Commission's recommendations. Do you think that the structure that is replacing the Special Section is meeting the Commission's requirements?

Vera Jourova: The new structure on investigation of judges and prosecutors will be fully monitored from our site because indeed, we said that the Special Section should be dismantled, but now we want to see the new structure doing the proper job and being impartial and being independent, impartial and fulfilling the purpose. So this is now to be monitored by the Commission.

AGERPRES: Are there are other issues except for the dismantling of the specialization that are essential to the ending of the CVM?

Vera Jourova: What's absolutely important is the recognition of the primacy of the EU law and the recognition of the fact that the last word on interpretation of the EU law is being set in Luxembourg by the European Court of Justice. And the European Court of Justice's decisions are legally binding. So this is essential thing. Also, of course, we want to see the stabilization of the status of magistrates, all the safeguards protecting their independence. And what is relatively new for me after my talks here there are a lot of issues relating to the practical things like conditions for the work of the judges and prosecutors, the stability, the financing, the good planning of human resources, and sufficient human resources for the sector of judiciary. So I have a lot of ideas which I received from the practitioners, which is very valuable.

AGERPRES: There is a lot of criticism in the Romanian media about a new draft package of national security laws and some of those concerns probably have reached the European Commission. Are you aware of the issue and if so, is this something that you are watching closely?

Vera Jourova: I am not personally covering security laws and it depends on which stage the laws are. The Commission can react on the law which have been adopted. We are always assessing whether the law is in breach with EU law and in case it is true then we can launch some procedure.

AGERPRES: Another important issue of your visit in Romania was media freedom and fighting disinformation. Would you say Romania is dealing with setbacks in media freedom or would you rather say that there are issues that have not been properly addressed so far?

Vera Jourova: I see similar problems as in some other member states, especially the economic weakness of media. And the lower you go to the regional and local level the more we see media struggling for survival because of economic distress, so I see similar problems, we also see issues which related to possible political pressure on media also by means of allocation of public funding. Also one specific thing for Romania on the excuses based on GDPR should not have access to some information because of GDPR is a country specific Romanian issue. That's why I decided to collect these complaints and ask Romanian Data Protection Authority to check the situation and to take some measures if necessary.

So I informed your colleagues from media that we are working on Media Freedom Act, which should be legally binding set of rules for all the member states.

It should in a concrete way protect media sector better against politisation, against financial pressure, against non-transparent funding and relating things, so we will adopt this law in September and I think that it might improve the situation or so far Romanian media.

AGERPRES: I would like to have one last question about Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, which received the status of candidate countries at the last European Council. You will need to make many reforms in areas that you are familiar with. Are you considering a way to work more closely with the two countries to encourage them and help them make the necessary steps in the judiciary and so on?

Vera Jourova: Indeed, it's something which was ongoing already before the war in Ukraine. We are investing also some funding into the reforming efforts in Ukraine. I was myself engaged in the discussions with the Ukrainian bodies and we will continue the technical support and the opened dialogue helping Ukraine and Moldova to fulfill the commitments which are now listed under the accession candidacy proposal.

It's not easy to imagine that Ukraine will face the war, the aggression and at the same time to take the other steps towards reforming the judiciary, combat corruption, money laundering and all these things, but we have very strong commitments verbally expressed by the Ukrainian colleagues that they started the work, so we will help as much as we can.

AGERPRES

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