Last edited: December 05, 2004

Romania Risks European Scrutiny Over Slow Reforms

Reuters, June 27, 2000

BUCHAREST — Romania’s justice minister warned on Tuesday that delaying legal reforms could put the country under Council of Europe scrutiny again and jeopardise its European Union accession talks.

The Council of Europe suspended monitoring Romania in April 1997 after the former communist country made progress on democratic reform and gave it a year to improve its human rights record, in particular gay rights.

But successive rows within the five-party centrist coalition have slowed legal reforms.

"Talks are under way within the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe whether to resume monitoring of Romania or not," Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica told a news conference.

"If we do not move quickly and if we fail to pass laws to reform our legal system, we should not be surprised that we are being monitored again," Stoica, a Liberal, added.

Romania still metes out jail sentences of up to three years to homosexuals after parliament last year rejected a government proposal to decriminalise gay sex and align law with Europe-wide standards.

Parliament’s lower chamber of deputies started only on Monday to debate amendments to the penal code to end criminalising homosexuality, and one on insult and slander in the media.

The Council also asked Romania to increase freedom of expression, improve conditions in its overcrowded prisons, introduce probation and grant protection to witnesses.

Romania has also only made limited progress on returning confiscated property.

A law returning up to 50 hectares of farmland and 10 hectares of forest to former owners was approved last December.

A bill on returning houses and small enterprises to individuals is now being debate in the upper house, the Senate, after being passed in the lower house last year.

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