Book: Romania and the role of Legal Service and Landaburu related to acquis

Friday, 8 December 2000

By coincidence I had met a while ago a colleague, a human rights specialist, who had been responsible for the Romanian children file for a short while in 1999. I had asked her if she knew what the status of the UNCRC was. She thought it had a strong status, but found it wiser to ask this question to the Commission’s Legal Service.

Today she had indeed sent a note to the Commission’s Legal Service explaining why in her view the Convention should be considered acquis (the EUs legal basis) and requesting their opinion. When I had met her, she had also told me she had analysed law 3/1970. The law that according to De Combret was responsible for the high number of children in institutions. She had concluded it was a rather normal child protection law. It was not law 3/1970 that was the reason so many children were in institutions, but much more complex reasons related to poverty, discrimination of the Roma minority and the attitude towards single motherhood. Law 3/1970 regulated family placement of children without parental care, and as a last option placement in an institution. Her opinion at the time had been wilfully ignored and the Commission had preferred to follow the De Combret-line that because of Ceaucescu’s law so many children were in institutions.

Wednesday, 18 April 2001

Enrico had sent to the Romania Team, for information, the acquis list of DG Justice. And what did I see under Human Rights acquis, the UNCRC. I had forgotten about the note sent to the Legal Service end of last year, and to which no answer had been received. But this was clear: the UNCRC was acquis.

As this had seemed such a touchy issue, I decided not to react to anyone. I just saved the list for future use.

Monday, 11 June 2001

During a meeting with the , LDirector General of the Commission’s Legal Service [Michel Petite] landaburu had asked about the status of the UNCRC. A surprised colleague, who assisted at the meeting, came to tell me this. Was it acquis or not? The Legal Service did not know and would come back to it. Did they not know it was on the Commission’s formal acquis list?

Monday, 20 September 2004

Recently several people had again said the UNCRC was not EU acquis. I had ignored it at the beginning, thinking this discussion had long been resolved. But when some days ago again someone expressed doubts, I sent an e-mail to one of my DG Justice contacts. Half jokingly I told her ‘To be or not to be acquis, that seems still to be the question for some’. She had replied instantly. To be on the safe side she had checked the acquis list and the UNCRC was no longer there!

She had given me the contact details of one of her colleagues who dealt with the acquis list and after some twisting and turning he admitted the UNCRC had been taken off. It had been DG Enlargement who had wanted an updated acquis list, and during an internal meeting where also the Legal Service was present, the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been taken off the list, as it held no direct obligations for Member States related to their EU Membership. I had called the Legal Service person who had been at that meeting: no reply. I had sent e-mails: no reply.

Of course I went to see the DG Enlargement colleague who had initiated the meeting. The young man told me he had organised the meeting at Landaburu’s request. I told him I was quite upset about striking the UNCRC from the acquis, as we had had internal discussions before about this. It was important for my work that the UNCRC was acquis, as otherwise there was no legal basis for the Commission’s involvement nor clear benchmarks for the Commission’s monitoring of children’s rights. His defence was as simple as shocking: children’s rights are a grey area… Speechless I left his office, but not without telling him that his position did not seem very European to me.

I had informed some of my colleagues and the hierarchy. They were all of the opinion that this needed formal dealing with. I prepared a note for DG Barbaso’s signature addressed to the Director General of DG Justice.

Thursday, 4 November 2004

After many internal exchanges of opinions, some of them copied to me by thoughtful colleagues, we received a formal reply of the Director General of DG Justice. It was true that DG Justice, when DG Enlargement had announced they wanted to update the acquis list, after consultation with the Commission’s Legal Service, had taken the UNCRC from the acquis list, he wrote:

‘However, at the time Commission services were not aware of a Council document from 1998 on the Justice and Home Affairs acquis which listed the Convention as being inseparable of the attainment of the objectives of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty of Amsterdam’.

DG Justice would, as we had requested, restore the UNCRC to the acquis list.