Romania continues to fulfil the political criteria.
The political will to address administrative and judicial reform exists and a number of positive initiatives have been launched over the last year to reform the public administration and the judiciary. For example, the Civil Servant Statute was revised and a major reorganisation of the court system was launched. However, the reform process is at an early stage. The Romanian civil service remains characterised by cumbersome procedures, limited transparency and a limited capacity for policy execution. The judicial system needs to improve the management of cases and the consistency of judgements as well as to increase the independence of the judiciary. These key issues must be urgently addressed.
Romania still needs to develop a strategy to address reform of the policy and legislative process. Progress was made with the restriction of the use of emergency ordinances. Laws on the freedom of information and transparency in the legislative process are also positive developments but have only been partially implemented. Constitutional reform of the parliamentary system should be accompanied by measures to increase parliamentary capacity to effectively scrutinise draft legislation.
Corruption in Romania continues to be widespread and affects all aspects of society. A number of high-profile measures were launched over the reporting period - but the implementation of anti-corruption policy as a whole has been limited. The measures taken have yet to have an impact and substantially increased efforts are needed.
Romania continues to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and has made good progress in a number of important areas.
Structures have been established to implement anti-discrimination legislation and a number cases of discrimination were sanctioned. The capacity of the Ombudsman’s office was strengthened. The good progress noted in last year’s report in reforming the system of child protection has continued and further initiatives have been taken to enhance the rights of national minorities. The implementation of the Roma Strategy has continued although a lack of resources has meant that the results have been somewhat limited. Similarly, the process of property restitution has continued, but remains far from complete.
Reforms have been launched in a number of other areas: modernisation of the police, improving care for the disabled, reducing social exclusion, improving the social dialogue. To date, the main work in these fields has consisted of developing strategies and preparing framework legislation. The challenge for the future will be the effective implementation of these initiatives. While the proposals to reform the Penal Code are positive developments, further efforts are needed to strengthen the freedom of expression. Additional measures are also needed to further reduce prison overcrowding.
Romania can be considered as a functioning market economy once the good progress made has continued decisively. In addition, a vigorous and sustained implementation of its structural reform programme is required in order for Romania to be able to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union in the near term.
Further progress towards macroeconomic stability was made as inflation continued to decline from a relatively high level despite further adaptations of regulated prices. The external position remained sustainable and fiscal policy prudent. Measures to improve tax administration are being progressively put into place. The commitments to control the total wage bill in the public sector were broadly respected and some actions were taken to enforce enterprises’ financial discipline, most notably a somewhat higher disposition to disconnect energy users in arrears. Privatisation and restructuring of public enterprises accelerated. Public ownership also decreased in a banking sector that continued to develop its intermediation role. Administrative improvements of market entry and exit mechanisms were undertaken along with various initiatives to improve the business environment.
The authorities should now consolidate the progress achieved in these areas while addressing more decisively those issues where advances were insufficient. In order to preserve the momentum towards greater macroeconomic stability, the recent tightening in monetary policy should be accompanied by prudent fiscal and wage policies as well as by a continued reduction in the quasi-fiscal deficit. Medium-term fiscal prospects also need to be strengthened by advancing expenditure reform and improving tax compliance. This would help strengthening enterprise financial discipline which remains a key, unresolved issue. Measures should focus on the root causes of the continued accumulation of arrears to the budget and the energy sector. Efforts to improve the workings of the market mechanism must be completed by a greater willingness to liquidate loss-making enterprises and establish natural gas prices that appropriately reflect short and long-term costs. Having moved beyond the initial phases, restructuring and privatisation in key sectors, such as energy, mining and transport, must be brought forward. This would greatly support the establishment of a functioning market economy and the development of Romania’s capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.
Romania has made steady progress with the adoption of the acquis and is on track to transpose the required legislation before the planned date of accession provided the current pace of progress is maintained. Weaknesses in the legislative process mean that the quality of legislation transposed is uneven and in some cases revisions will be needed before laws can be implemented.
In the area of the internal market, Romania has continued to make progress with the transposition of sector specific legislation on the free movement of goods and public procurement. Particular attention must be paid to developing the ability to administer the public procurement, the foodstuffs and food safety acquis. Romania should also continue the screening for measures that may be incompatible with the principle of free movement of goods. Progress on the free movement of persons has been limited and additional efforts should now be focused on preparations for implementing the acquis on mutual recognition of professional qualifications. Work to identify barriers to the free movement of services has continued - although only a few restrictions have been removed. While alignment with the acquis on free movement of capital is steadily improving greater efforts are needed to improve payments systems and the fight against money laundering.
Romania has made progress in the field of company law as such. Implementation of new accountancy and auditing rules should be prioritised. Greater efforts to protect industrial and intellectual property rights are needed. While the Romanian competition legislation is broadly in line with EC anti-trust rules, in the area of state aid there is not yet sufficient control. In the steel sector, Romania's obligations for transparency with regard to direct and indirect state aid should continue to be respected.
Further progress has been made in transposing the agricultural acquis and in the restructuring of the agricultural sector. Enforcement of legislation is hampered by limited management and administrative capacity. Particular attention should therefore be paid to reinforcing the administrative capacity to implement and enforce the acquis, in particular in the veterinary and phytosanitary fields. Only limited progress has taken place in the fisheries sector and delays have occurred with regards to the transposition of the acquis, in particular on the Fishing Vessel Register. The administrative capacity needs to be considerably reinforced.
Romania has continued to make good progress with the transposition of the transport acquis and with the establishment of the required administrative structures but maritime safety remains a concern. Priority should be given to developing institutions to enforce the new legislation and securing the funding needed to make the heavy investments required.
Romania has made some progress in aligning with the acquis on taxation and particular attention should now be paid to the modernisation of the tax administration and improvement of IT systems. The adoption of the Labour Code was a major step forward in the transposition of the acquis on social policy and employment. The main focus of future efforts should be ensuring the implementation of the various initiatives that have been taken and to strengthen the administrative capacity. Legislative progress in the energy sector needs to be matched by establishing effective implementation structures, carrying through with structural reforms and improving the functioning of the internal energy market.
The building blocks for a modern industrial policy are now in place, but the key challenge is its implementation as structural weaknesses limit the capacity for enforcement. Considerable efforts have been made to improve the business environment although the situation facing Small and medium-sized enterprises, remains difficult. Romania has made significant progress in the area of telecommunications with the establishment of a regulatory body, the liberalisation of the telecommunications market and the transposition of the new telecommunication acquis.
The institutional framework for regional policy and co-ordination of structural instruments is still not clearly defined and specific arrangements for financial management and control have still to be made. Considerable further efforts are needed to bring the administrative capacity up to the level required. In the area of the environment, although Romania has transposed a considerable amount of legislation, administrative capacity and financial resources dedicated to the sector remain inadequate.
Legislative alignment on consumer and health protection has continued and Romania has made some progress as regards market surveillance activities and the co-ordination of control activities between competent ministries and authorities.
Legislative progress has been made in most areas of justice and home affairs and especially so in migration, organised crime, fight against money laundering, and judicial co-operation in civil matters. However, implementation capacity remains weak in almost all areas and Romania should increase its efforts to develop administrative capacity and inter-agency co-operation.
Progress has also been made in the area of customs although additional efforts should address corruption within the Customs Administration and prepare in advance for the application of measures that will be introduced at the time of accession. Considerable progress has been made in the financial control area. Further efforts should concentrate on implementing sound financial control systems, completing legislative alignment, and strengthening the administrative capacities.
Steady progress is being made in the other chapters of the acquis.
In a number of important sectors, there has been a continued gap between progress in legal transposition and the limited overall capacity of the public administration to implement and enforce the newly adopted legislation. This represents a major constraint on Romania’s accession preparations and to address this issue will require a comprehensive, structural reform of both the public administration and the judicial system. These concerns extend beyond adoption of the acquis and also apply to the management of EU financial assistance. Progress in establishing the new institutional structures required by the acquis has continued although results to date have been uneven.
In the accession negotiations, 20 chapters have been provisionally closed. The commitments made in the negotiations are with a view to accession in 2007. They are generally being met, although delays have been noted in certain specific areas.