2012. 11. 15.
|Subject: Legal certainty in Romania||
In the summer of 2012, pursuant to a judicial decision in Romania, the Székely Mikó College in Sepsiszentgyörgy reverted from the ownership of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania to state ownership. The three people who had applied the legislation in effect in Romania when passing the judgment on the return in 2002 have been sentenced in first instance to imprisonment.
The case of the renationalisation of the college is not primarily an issue affecting the rights of a national minority and therefore is not a matter of national competence. It goes beyond the category of the protection of minority rights and impinges on the question of overall legal certainty, which falls within the competence of the EU. The decision calls into question the faith placed in Romania in the legislation and court decisions and may create a precedent for the renationalisation of church property.
This aspect of the decision contravenes the pledges made by Romania prior to its accession in 2007 and its commitments made under the Copenhagen Criteria and the chapter on justice as well as during the accession negotiations. The Commission should therefore examine this matter from the standpoint of overall legal certainty.
1. Does the Commission intend, when it examines Romania’s compliance with the commitments it made in the area of justice in connection with joining the Schengen Area, that the report to be adopted will include the case of the Székely Mikó College as one which contravenes the principle of overall legal certainty?
2. What further action does the Commission plan to take in order to make Romania accountable for its commitments made prior to accession?
|Answer given by Mrs Reding on behalf of the Commission|
The EU and the Commission do not have powers with regard to the restitution of property which, in principle, falls under national competence. According to Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the provisions of the Treaty shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership. This Article implies that Member States are free to determine the scope of property restitution and the choice of the conditions and institutional modalities under which they agree to restore the property rights of former owners.
The Commission undertook within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM)(1) to assist Romania to remedy the shortcomings in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption that could prevent an effective application of EC laws, policies and programmes, and prevent Romanians from enjoying their full rights as EU citizens. The Commission regularly verifies progress against four benchmarks set for this purpose and has published reports twice a year since 2007.
The Commission's report(2) which was adopted on 18 July 2012 under the CVM raised serious concerns for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Romania(3). The report includes a number of urgent recommendations, which have already been the subject of commitments made by Prime Minister Ponta.
The Commission will issue a further report under the cooperation and verification mechanism before the end of the year to assess whether its concerns have been addressed and democratic checks and balances have been restored.