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article imageRomania's parliament exempts itself from anti-corruption laws

By Martin Laine     Dec 12, 2013 in Politics
Faced with a host of investigations and indictments for corruption, the Romanian parliament this week voted to exempt themselves and several other government officials from anti-corruption laws.
According to an article on the EU Observer website, the Parliament voted Tuesday that the President, members of Parliament, mayors and vice-mayors, and lawyers should not be “public officials.” Because the country’s anti-corruption laws refer to actions such as abuse of office, bribery, and conflicts of interest by public officials, the law would no longer apply to them.
According to the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office (DNA), 28 members of Parliament have been convicted or are on trial for various corruption charges. In addition, 100 mayors and vice-mayors are being investigated for such crimes as awarding contracts to family and friends. If this change in the law is enacted, then pending charges against these officials would be dropped, and those who have already been convicted would be set free.
Tuesday’s vote was taken without debate.
“This change means 10 years of regression” said President Traian Basescu. He said he will not sign the bill, and will send it back for reconsideration. However, it may be a meaningless gesture, since apparently the Parliament can go ahead and enact the change anyway.
The Parliament’s action is only the most recent attempt to avoid compliance with an agreement sign with the EU as a condition for allowing Romania to join the EU. Earlier this year the Parliament tried to weaken the authority of the Constitutional Court which oversees many of these cases.
“This legislation puts Romanian law in flagrant contradiction of international agreements Romania has ratified in 2002 and 2004, respectively: the Criminal Law Convention of the Council of Europe and the United Nations Convention on Corruption,” reads a press statement from the DNA.
Romania has long been regarded as one of the most corrupt nations in Europe. In the most recent survey of corruption in 100 nations released by Transparency International last week, Romania ranked 66th, with Denmark, Finland and New Zealand ranking 1-3 as least corrupt.
As result of Romania’s reputation, the EU instituted a monitoring program to ensure that the country was taking steps to reduce corrupt practices by its public officials. Neighboring Bulgaria is the only other nation that has had a similar condition imposed on it.
How this act of Parliament will impact Romania’s participation in the European Union remains to be seen.
However, earlier this year the EU expressed their disapproval for a continuing high incidence of corruption, particularly surrounding an attempt by the Prime Minister to impeach the President.
According to an earlier article in the EU Observer, a referendum this summer apparently resulted in 87 percent of the voters favoring impeachment, but the Constituional Court overturned that result, saying the turnout was too low. Apparently the numbers had been tampered with.
Prime minster Livia Dragnea was charged with pressuring local election officials to tamper with voter turnout numbers to make it look like a sufficient number had voted.
Another 70 local officials were indicted for electoral fraud in connection with the case.
More about Government corruption, European union, Romanian parliament
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