Reforming the Judiciary and Fighting Corruption: Lessons Learnt from EU's Cooperation and Verification Mechanism

Eli Gateva

When Bulgaria and Romania became members of the European Union (EU) in January 2007 the European Commission set up a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) in order to evaluate their progress in addressing a number of outstanding issues in the areas of judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime. The latest set of reports illustrates the growing gap between Bucharest and Sofia. More than ten years after its accession to the Union, it is becoming increasingly evident that reforms in Romania have started to bear fruit. South of the border, Bulgaria is yet to translate reforms into tangible progress. Nevertheless, it is clear that the relevance of the mechanism is neither limited to the areas of judicial reform and fight against corruption, nor to domestic politics in Bulgaria and Romania. Although the literature has acknowledged the influence of the post-accession monitoring on the revision of EU enlargement policy, the effectiveness of the mechanism remains under-research. The aim of the paper is to reflect on the differentiated impact of the CVM and outline the key lessons learnt from ten years of post-accession conditionality. As the CVM has inspired and shaped the development of the EU's internal and external policies in the areas of anti-corruption policies and judicial reform, understanding its success and failure will provide the basis for new policy solutions at national and EU level.

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