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Controversy over anti-corruption fight: Romania: EU law does not take precedence

Dispute over anti-corruption fight
Romania: EU law does not take precedence

As with Poland, a dispute between the EU and Romania is now breaking out: It is about the priority of national or EU law. The Romanian Constitutional Court does not want to recognize the latter. The EU hoped for a more efficient fight against corruption in the country. It is lame there.

A dispute is emerging between Romania and the EU over the primacy of EU law over national law. That emerges from an opinion of the Romanian Constitutional Court. The background to this is a ruling by the European Court of Justice on Tuesday, according to which EU law even takes precedence over the national constitution. According to this, Romanian courts can in certain cases ignore decisions of the constitutional court of the country. This is the case, for example, if, in the fight against corruption, there is otherwise the danger that convicts will not be punished.

This jurisprudence cannot be applied in Romania as long as the constitution has not been amended accordingly, said the Constitutional Court on Thursday evening. The background to the ECJ ruling on Tuesday are cases before the Romanian Supreme Court. He had convicted former parliamentarians and ministers for corruption and influence in connection with EU funds. Afterwards, the Constitutional Court declared the decisions null and void for formal reasons. However, this could drag the cases out and become statute-barred. According to the ECJ, this could prevent “effective and dissuasive sanctions against persons who hold the highest offices in the Romanian state” and who have been convicted of fraud or corruption in office.

The south-eastern European country has been under special observation by the EU Commission since joining the EU in 2007, because at that time it did not meet all the requirements against corruption and organized crime, as well as to strengthen the judiciary.

After initial progress through increased activity by the anti-corruption unit of the public prosecutor’s office, according to critics, there is almost a standstill. One of the reasons for this is a special unit of the public prosecutor’s office (SIIJ) created by the then social democratic government in 2018, which alone has the right to investigate judges and public prosecutors. This removes competences from the anti-corruption unit. The EU Commission has long been demanding that the special unit SIIJ be abolished.

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