Country Reports

Short political reports of the KAS offices abroad

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ECJ ruling on Romania. Failed „Judicial Reform“ of the PSD led former Governments

European Court of Justice rules: there is a significant need to improve the Romanian judicial laws amended between 2017-2019 by governments of the PSD

On May 18, 2021, in a long-awaited judgment, the ECJ ruled on the legal nature of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (also referred to as the "Mechanism for the cooperation and verification of Romania's progress" - henceforth: CVM) and the EU Commission's progress reports, and their binding effect for the Romanian courts. In addition, the ECJ commented on various legal changes concerning the institutional design of the judiciary in Romania, introduced by the judicial reform in 2017-2019 and heavily criticized by the public. However, a clear distinction must be made here between the phase of PSD-led governments, during which these "reforms" were decided, and that of the governments led by the EPP member party PNL. The PNL has been in government since October 2019 and rejects the PSD "reforms", currently reversing them in the parliamentary process.

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Same „Game“, Different Borders

Romania as part of the Balkan route and possible further focal point of European migration policy

Recently, media attention focused on the increasingly precarious situation at the European Union’s external borders in the Mediterranean area. Yet, the dilemma of Europe’s migration policy is found at the Union’s Eastern borders as well. Once again, reception centres are overwhelmed. Once again, many migrants seek to avoid registration to be able to continue their journey to particular EU member states, such as France or Germany. Many seek shelter in abandoned houses and vacant buildings which lack access to clean water, electricity, and heating. And once again, migrants attempt to cross the frontier eluding border guards. This situation is indeed not new. It stood in the focus of attention in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in last year’s winter. But this time the "game", that is, the repeated attempt to cross the border unrecognised, is not only taking place at the notorious borders like the Bosnian one. The "game," as the migrants themselves call it when they repeatedly try to cross the border illegally until they succeed, has shifted. While the so-called Balkan route used to run mainly through Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary, now Romania has become part of the route. Why has Romania become another stop of the "Game" now?

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Romania's judiciary before the ECJ

An investigation into the so-called “judicial laws”, the legality of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), and rulings of the Romanian Constitutional Court

Since joining the European Union, Romania has been in the process of evolving towards harmoni-zation with the fundamental principles for which the EU stands. The European Commission has been supporting this process through the Cooperation and Control Mechanism (CVM) from the moment of the accession in 2007. As part of the monitoring, which was originally planned to be short-term but now lasted for almost a decade and a half, the European Commission reports annu-ally on the progress of the member states Bulgaria and Romania with regard to the situation of the rule of law: At the moment, several cases dealing with central aspects of the Romanian judicial system are pending before the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ). In addition to an assessment of the controversial judicial reforms in Romania in 2017-2019, the question of the extent to which the CVM recommendations of the EU Commission are binding is another subject of decisions to be expected shortly. The analysis of the cases pending before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the appli-cations of the Advocate General already allows for a number of conclusions to be drawn.

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Belated lustration in the Republic of Moldova

A pretext to strengthen the PSRM

The current draft law for a lustration in the Republic of Moldova, in its current form, will further strengthen the politicization of the civil service and take the wind out of the sails of the efforts to fight corruption.

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Unstable Political Situation in Kosovo

The Kosovo Special Tribunal Confirms the Most Important Charges

On 5 November, Hashim Thaçi, President of the Republic of Kosovo and former political leader of the UÇK (Kosovo Liberation Army), resigned from office as State President following confirmation of his indictment by the Kosovo Special Tribunal in the Hague. During a press conference, Thaçi explained that he would step down as President to safeguard the integrity of Kosovo and would present himself to the Hague. A few hours earlier, Kadri Veseli, Leader of the PDK (Democratic Party of Kosovo, third strongest party in the 2019 elections), former President of the Parliament and Chief of the Kosovo Secret Service during the war, declared that the indictment against him had also been confirmed in the Hague, and that he would voluntarily present himself to the Special Tribunal.

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Camelia Bogdan v. Romania: a case of arbitrary suspension of a judge

European Court of Human Rights: Romanian judge Camelia Bogdan, who was suspended from the judicial service in her home country, had no legal remedy

The case "Camelia Bogdan v. Romania", involving a Romanian judge, represents a further stage in the litigations of representatives of the Romanian judiciary before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The case is to be viewed in the context of the disputes between the Romanian judiciary and the Social Democrat-led coalition in power until 2019. Camelia Bogdan (the applicant) was temporarily suspended from her office for questionable reasons without being able to effectively challenge the relevant decision. This is illegal according to a decision of the ECtHR of October 2020. Her right to a fair trial (Article 6 (1) ECHR) was infringed.

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Controversial NGO law passed in the Republic of Moldova

Support of political parties is crucial

On June 11, 2020, the Moldovan parliament passed the new “Law on Non-Governmental Organizations” (NGO law). It quickly became a bone of contention within the government led by the Socialist Party (PSRM). A reform of this law was mentioned as a prerequisite for further macro-financial assistance by the EU. The main innovations concern rules for the support of political parties provided by NGOs. Close to a month after its adoption, the official legal text is still not available, however key elements are known and are briefly presented below.

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The case of KÖVESI v. ROMANIA

The European Court of Human Rights rules: Kövesi's dismissal as head of the Romanian anti-corruption agency was illegal

The current head of the newly created European Public Prosecutor's Office, Laura Codruța Kövesi, comes from Romania. There, she served as Attorney General for six years and heades the Romanian Anti-Corruption Agency (DNA) from 2013, until she was released in July 2018 in a controversial case and after a decision by the Romanian Constitutional Court. Kövesi appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg against this dismissal. On May 5, 2020, the ECtHR ruled that her release has run against the standards of the European “Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” (ECHR). In this (particularly in Romania) highly anticipated decision, the Court found that the Romanian state's dismissal of Ms Kövesi had violated her rights to freedom of expression and fair trial as laid down in Article 10 and Article 6 ECHR.

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Curfew unconstitutional

Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (more precisely, its entity “Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina” which covers slightly more than half of the country, including its capital Sarajevo) at the beginning of the corona pandemic has imposed one of the strictest curfews in Europe for two groups: minors and elderly people above 65. This curfew has now been subject of a decision by the Bosnian Constitutional Court. The court did not completely annul the measure, but ordered a revision. The imposed curfew is considered to not meet the required proportionality. It is one of the first Constitutional Court decisions on the legality of emergency measures imposed during the Corona crisis. Other Constitutional Courts in South East European countries are also expected to take decisions soon.

Reuters

Debatte um das Religionsgesetz in Montenegro

Gesetz über die Religions- und Glaubensfreiheit sowie die rechtliche Stellung religiöser Gemeinschaften

Anfang Januar dieses Jahres trat in Montenegro das kontrovers diskutierte „Gesetz über die Religions- und Glaubensfreiheit sowie die rechtliche Stellung religiöser Gemeinschaften“ (Gesetz über die Religionsfreiheit) begleitet von tumultartigen Szenen im montenegrinischen Parlament – am Ende befanden sich 18 Abgeordnete in Haft – und Protesten Zehntausender auf den Straßen in Kraft.