Corruption: Romania in the dock, still
21 July 2010
Mired in internal debates regarding the future of its anti-corruption efforts, Bucharest has been severely criticised by the European Union. "Are the Romanians treated worse than the Bulgarians, their delinquent neighbours?" the local press wonders.
In its July 20 report on the state of justice in Romania and Bulgaria, the European Commission lauded the efforts of Bulgaria, while pointing a finger at Bucharest's lack of progress. In particular, Brussels has accused the Romanian senate of "mutilating the law concerning the National Agency for Integrity (ANI)". Last June the agency, which had been charged with verifying the tax declarations of Romanian dignitaries and bringing those not in accordance to trial, saw its powers greatly reduced.
No act in this Romanian soap opera has earned the good graces of the Commission: neither the fact that the Constitutional Court had ruled the law establishing the ANI contrary to the Constitution, nor the June vote relegating the ANI to puppet status. Even more alarming: several members and ex-members of the Romanian parliament accused of corruption have yet to be tried, while others are enjoying seemingly endless trials.
Where is the true seat of corruption in Romania?
"The ANI is not an institution that is found in most other member states. Nevertheless, the curtailing of its powers has met with a severe reaction on the part of the Commission," notes Adevarul. "If other States have less corruption without an ANI, then why make such a big deal out of it?"
While the Constitutional Court has again been called upon to rule on the ANI legislation, this time at the behest of President Traian Basescu, the daily notes that "if someone whose papers are in order steals, then it is obviously difficult to find a trace of corruption." Where is the true seat of corruption in Romania?" asks Adevarul. "It is in the special nature of corruption, because in the last 20 years, it has developed in a system that has made it into a legal phenomenon!"
Lagging behind Bulgaria
However, reports Gândul, "Traian Basescu has become unhinged by the comments that Romania has not respected its commitments to the European Union." "Such a conclusion is inadmissible," affirmed the president to the paper. To demonstrate his good faith, Basescu has decided to convene Parliament on 1 August to adopt a new law on the ANI that answers the European Commission’s complaints. At the same time, notes Gândul, Basescu has promised a counter-report which will be sent to all member states. "I have already informed president Barroso," confirmed the Romanian president, who also wondered if the Commission "intends to interfere with the problem of Schengen Agreement compliance (applicable for Romania in 2011)", since how could the "enlarging the scope of this report to domains such as public acquisitions" be seen as anything else?
"So once again Romania is lagging behind Bulgaria", concludes Jurnalul national. "The tone of remarks made in the July 20 report couldn't be more different toward these two countries, observes the daily. "Even on the question of organised crime, one of Sofia's greatest problems, the Commission has mentioned significant strides, in spite of the fact that the trials are proceeding at a snail's pace!"