Language of document :

Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 21 December 2021 (requests for a preliminary ruling from the Înalta Curte de Casaţie şi Justiţie, Tribunalul Bihor – Romania) – Criminal proceedings against PM (C-357/19), RO (C-357/19), SP (C-357/19), TQ (C-357/19), KI (C-379/19), LJ (C-379/19), JH (C-379/19), IG (C-379/19), FQ (C-811/19), GP (C-811/19), HO (C-811/19), IN (C-811/19), NC (C-840/19)

(Joined Cases C-357/19, C-379/19, C-547/19, C-811/19 and C-840/19) 1

(Reference for a preliminary ruling – Decision 2006/928/EC – Mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption – Legal nature and effects – Binding on Romania – Rule of law – Judicial independence – Second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU – Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Fight against corruption – Protection of the European Union’s financial interests – Article 325(1) TFEU – ‘PFI’ Convention – Criminal proceedings – Decisions of the Curtea Constituțională (Constitutional Court, Romania) concerning the legality of the taking of certain evidence and the composition of judicial panels in cases of serious corruption – Duty on national courts to give full effect to the decisions of the Curtea Constituțională (Constitutional Court) – Disciplinary liability of judges in case of non-compliance with such decisions – Power to disapply decisions of the Curtea Constituțională (Constitutional Court) that conflict with EU law – Principle of primacy of EU law)

Language of the case: Romanian

Referring court

Înalta Curte de Casaţie şi Justiţie, Tribunalul Bihor

Parties in the main proceedings

PM (C-357/19), RO (C-357/19), SP (C-357/19), TQ (C-357/19), KI (C-379/19), LJ (C-379/19), JH (C-379/19), IG (C-379/19), FQ (C-811/19), GP (C-811/19), HO (C-811/19), IN (C-811/19), NC (C-840/19)

Interested parties: Ministerul Public – Parchetul de pe lângă Înalta Curte de Casaţie şi Justiţie – Direcţia Naţională Anticorupţie (C-357/19, C-811/19 and C-840/19), QN (C-357/19), UR (C-357/19), VS (C-357/19), WT (C-357/19), Autoritatea Naţională pentru Turism (C-357/19), Agenţia Naţională de Administrare Fiscală (C-357/19), SC Euro Box Promotion SRL (C-357/19), Direcţia Naţională Anticorupţie – Serviciul Teritorial Oradea (C-379/19), JM (C-811/19),

and in the proceedings

CY, Asociaţia ‘Forumul Judecătorilor din România’ v Inspecţia Judiciară, Consiliul Superior al Magistraturii, Înalta Curte de Casaţie şi Justiţie (C-547/19)

Operative part of the judgment

Commission Decision 2006/928/EC of 13 December 2006 establishing a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption is, as long as it has not been repealed, binding in its entirety on Romania. The benchmarks in the annex to that decision are intended to ensure that Romania complies with the value of the rule of law, set out in Article 2 TEU, and are binding on it, to the effect that Romania is required to take the appropriate measures to meet those benchmarks, taking due account, under the principle of sincere cooperation laid down in Article 4(3) TEU, of the reports drawn up by the Commission on the basis of that decision, and in particular the recommendations made in those reports.

Article 325(1) TFEU, read in conjunction with Article 2 of the Convention drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, on the protection of the European Communities’ financial interests, signed in Luxembourg on 26 July 1995, and Decision 2006/298 are to be interpreted as precluding national rules or a national practice under which judgments in matters of corruption and value added tax (VAT) fraud, which were not delivered, at first instance, by panels specialised in such matters or, on appeal, by panels all the members of which were selected by drawing lots, are rendered absolutely null and void, such that the cases of corruption and VAT fraud concerned must, as the case may be further to an extraordinary appeal against final judgments, be re-examined at first and/or second instance, where the application of those national rules or that national practice is capable of giving rise to a systemic risk of acts constituting serious fraud affecting the European Union’s financial interests or corruption in general going unpunished. The obligation to ensure that such offences are subject to criminal penalties that are effective and act as a deterrent does not exempt the referring court from verifying the necessary observance of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, but does not allow that court to apply a national standard of protection of fundamental rights entailing such a systemic risk of impunity.

Article 2 TEU, the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU and Decision 2006/928 are to be interpreted as not precluding national rules or a national practice under which the decisions of the national constitutional court are binding on the ordinary courts, provided that the national law guarantees the independence of that constitutional court in relation, in particular, to the legislature and the executive, as required by those provisions. However, those provisions of the EU Treaty and that decision are to be interpreted as precluding national rules under which any failure to comply with the decisions of the national constitutional court by national judges of the ordinary courts can trigger their disciplinary liability.

The principle of primacy of EU law is to be interpreted as precluding national rules or a national practice under which national ordinary courts are bound by decisions of the national constitutional court and cannot, by virtue of that fact and without committing a disciplinary offence, disapply, on their own authority, the case-law established in those decisions, even though they are of the view, in the light of a judgment of the Court of Justice, that that case-law is contrary to the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU, Article 325(1) TFEU or Decision 2006/928.

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1 OJ C 288, 26.8.2019.

OJ C 246, 22.7.2019.

OJ C 372, 4.11.2019.

OJ C 54, 17.2.2019.

OJ C 201, 15.6.2020.