Are Recent Anti-Graft Efforts in Romania Credible?

 

Recent convictions of high-level public officials, such as judge Georgeta Buliga and former prime minister Adrian Nastase, seem to show that Romania is strengthening efforts to curb corruption, in response to pressure from the European Union (EU). However, some people remain skeptical about how sustainable these efforts are and whether they will bring about long-lasting changes in the country.

Since it joined the EU in 2007, Romania has been under special monitoring with regards to improvements in its anti-corruption policies. The latest assessments by European institutions acknowledged recent efforts to prosecute politicians and officials accused of corruption, but pointed out that there is still much more to be done, such as tackling corruption in the judiciary and applying tougher sentences to graft cases.

Some reforms in this direction have taken place, for instance the implementation of new rules to check the workings of the judiciary. A bill to simplify procedures to seize assets is also being debated in Parliament.

Nevertheless, scholar Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, has alerted that repressive tactics are not enough to fight systemic corruption.

According to Laura Stefan, member of the EU team that oversees anti-graft policies in the region, there is fear that some of the steps taken to fight corruption are only ‘cosmetic efforts’, and that the country might even regress on that front following the next parliamentary elections in November.

In addition to the EU, the government also has to convince the population that real changes are taking place. The feeling of distrust toward public institutions, including the justice system, remains strong among Romanians, after many years of impunity and unequal treatment to people in power.

For additional information, read the article “EU pressure finally spurs Romania into graft action” on uk.reuters.com.

Beyond Perception: Has Romania’s Governance Improved since 2004?

Romania and Bulgaria encounter today problems in joining the visa-free Schengen area. The main one in the public eye is corruption. Both countries pledged to improve their rule of law when signing their accession treaties in 2005, yet little progress is perceived by observers or captured with governance measurements relying on perception, such as CPI and World Bank Governance indicators. This paper explores real policy, with fact-based indicators, to trace progress in the area – or lack of it – since 2004 to the present.

Beyond Perception: Has Romania’s Governance Improved since 2004?

Romania and Bulgaria encounter today problems in joining the visa-free Schengen area. The main one in the public eye is corruption. Both countries pledged to improve their rule of law when signing their accession treaties in 2005, yet little progress is perceived by observers or captured with governance measurements relying on perception, such as CPI and World Bank Governance indicators. This paper explores real policy, with fact-based indicators, to trace progress in the area – or lack of it – since 2004 to the present.

Romanian Coalition for a Clean Parliament: a Quest for Political Integrity

This book is about an anticorruption campaign that took place in Romania in 2004 and which prevented nearly one hundred controversial MPs from being reelected. While this campaign was considered original by many observers, the problems it addressed are widespread in the postcommunist world: political elites which at times look more like predatory elites, high state capture, constituencies with low civic competence and low interest in politics. This situation looks at times hopeless in the Balkans and former Soviet Union. But it is not. By and large, what we present here is a success story.

Romanian Coalition for a Clean Parliament: a Quest for Political Integrity

This book is about an anticorruption campaign that took place in Romania in 2004 and which prevented nearly one hundred controversial MPs from being reelected. While this campaign was considered original by many observers, the problems it addressed are widespread in the postcommunist world: political elites which at times look more like predatory elites, high state capture, constituencies with low civic competence and low interest in politics. This situation looks at times hopeless in the Balkans and former Soviet Union. But it is not. By and large, what we present here is a success story.

New Study Shows Outside Influence on Key Romanian Institutions As Main Weakness

Transparency International’s national chapter in Romania has released a new National Integrity System study revealing that the public administration, political parties and the business sector are the most vulnerable components of the countries governance system. The relationship between political and interest groups and the public sector, marked by the politicization of public office and high level of discretion in the allocation of public resources, is pointed out as one of the main factors behind widespread corruption in the country.

According to the study, one of the reasons for the vulnerability of Romanian institutions to outside influence is the lack of sufficient resources and independence to resist political interference and pressure by interest groups. Another main weakness present throughout the pillars constituting the national integrity system is the limited transparency and disclosure of information about the public administration.

The document also criticizes efforts to fight corruption just by pursuing convictions of a handful of corrupt officials at the Courts and calls for a broad and comprehensive anti-corruption strategy to tackle the weaknesses in all pillars and build preventive structures into the system.

Read the press release “Romania National Integrity System – Fail in the test of resistance to corruption” on transparency.org.

Building a Political Integrity Network in Southeastern Europe (SEEIN)

The overarching goal of the project was to promote transparency in the electoral process in Southeastern Europe and the accountability of elected officials. The specific objective was to assist civil society in Southeastern Europe in building effective anti-corruption coalitions based on the models, skills, and experience of the Romanian Coalition for a Clean Parliament (RCCP). The main activities of the project were to organize a regional conference to share experience on and discuss the effective solutions to fight political corruption, to set up a regional network of NGOs willing to engage in developing activities to fight political corruption, and to assist partner organizations in developing their own clean parliament coalitions.
SAR organized the regional conference on the creation of the East European Integrity Network (EEIN) during October 12-15, 2006. The conference attracted the participation of NGO representatives from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine, as well as representatives of the World Bank, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), European Parliament, Stability Pact.

Integrity in education: a study on corruption and ethical principles in high schools

  • Project aim and locale

The project aims to raise awareness regarding the benefits of ethical behavior in high schools, both on the part of teachers and administrative staff, as well as students and parents.

  • Project outcomes

• 8 focus groups with representatives of target groups;

• 4 training courses

• 1 final seminar to disseminate good practices and information on internal complaint mechanisms;

• 1 guide on applying ethical principles and fighting corruption in high schools.

Monitoring county councils on conflicts of interests and incompatibilities (2008)

This project proposal aimed at addressing the issue of the fight against corruption by the civil society after accession, with a particular focus on conflicts of interests and incompatibilities.

Conflicts of interest and incompatibilities lie at the heart of corruption as the latter is based on the infringement of the public interests and of the requirements of public office for goals regarding private interests and private positions.

Members of 9 local county councils and 32 presidents of local county councils were scrutinized for conflicts of interests and incompatibilities. At the end of the project, a report was created underlining the local administration corruption cases. The project had an advocacy component aimed at correcting the loopholes in the legislation or in the enforcement of the law.

The purpose of the project  was to monitor officials from a number of county councils and the presidents of all county councils in relation to incompatibilities and conflicts of interests. A total of 315 county council members from 9 counties were monitored on the two aspects, out of which 31 did not meet the integrity criteria. The situation of county council presidents was also assessed, and in 15 out of the 42 cases the integrity criteria were not met.
This project was continued before the first direct election of county council presidents, when 150 candidates were verified using the criteria designed for the Coalition for Clean Government project (namely, on corruption, conflicts of interests, political migration and collaboration with the secret police before 1989). Out of these, 54 were included on a “black list” for not meeting the integrity requirements imposed. In 9 of the counties, candidates appearing on the list of the Coalition lost the elections, even though they were considered favorites in the polls made public during the campaign. These 9 counties were Bihor, Bistrita-Nasaud, Botosani, Cluj, Galati, Giurgiu, Mehedinti, Timis si Tulcea.

Coalition for a Clean Parliament 2004

Alegeri locale şi generale

On the occasion of the legislative and presidential elections in November and December 2004, Romanian civil society organized itself for the first time into a broad coalition for integrity in politics: the Coalition for a Clean Parliament (CCP). Frustrated by the government’s lack of effectiveness in fighting large-scale corruption, civil society took matters into its own hands.

The CCP first determined the criteria that would make a candidate unfit for a clean parliament. These criteria were: 1) having repeatedly shifted from one political party to another in search of personal profit; 2) having been accused of corruption on the basis of published and verifiable evidence; 3) having been exposed as an agent of the Securitate (Ceauşescu’s former secret service); 4) being the owner of a private firm with important tax arrears to the state budget; 5) being unable to account for the discrepancy between one’s officially stated assets and one’s income; 6) turning a profit from conflicts of interest involving one’s public position. The second step was to discuss these criteria with the leadership of the political parties represented in the Parliament. The most important ones—the Social Democratic Party/Humanist Party of Romania coalition (PSD/PUR), the Justice and Truth Alliance (DA), and the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR)—agreed with the criteria and the process that we had designed, and they publicly announced their support for the CCP’s campaign.

Our third step was to gather information about the candidates of these parties. We collected material published in the press over the years and researched the websites of various public authorities in charge of financial and commercial matters. Then we double-checked our information. Our fourth step was to draw up lists of those candidates who met one or more of the agreed-upon criteria for being unfit to hold a seat in the future Parliament. The resulting “black lists”” were then sent to the political parties, with the request that they re-examine each case and decide whether to withdraw the candidate in question.

The CCP also offered to analyze any cases where individual candidates contested its findings. Step five consisted of the withdrawal by the political parties of significant numbers of their initial candidates. Some of the candidates appealed to the CCP, which approved or rejected their appeals and adjusted its lists accordingly. Our last step was to release the final CCP black lists in the form of nearly two million flyers, distributed in most of the 41 counties of Romania.

Coalition partners:

  • Agentia de Monitorizare a Presei – Academia Catavencu
  • Fundatia Freedom House
  • Centrul pentru Jurnalism Independent
  • Fundatia Dialog Social
  • Asociatia Pro Democratia
  • Alianta Civica
  • Asociatia pentru Apararea Drepturilor Omului in Romania – Comitetul Helsinki
  • Asociatia Revolutionarilor fara Privilegii
  • Liga Romana de Presa
  • Asociatia Studentilor la Facultatea de Stiinte Politice”

Coalition for a Clean Parliament – European Parliament Election 2007

Concept: fighting large-scale corruption by preventing the lack of information about the candidates for Members of Parliament; agreeing on criteria that make a candidate unfit for a clean Parliament with the leaders of the political parties; developing black-lists of the parties’ candidates in order to cleanse the candidate lists; making these lists public (website, flyers, press).
In the autumn of 2006 10 organizations decided to form the Coalition for a Clean Parliament – European elections. At the beginning of the year the formation of the coalition and the criteria used in the monitoring of the candidates were announced. The Coalition contacted all major political parties and negotiated the access to the preliminary list of candidates before the official announcement. The Coalition organized the network of journalists that collected and assembled the data. The preliminary findings have been discussed with all parties. Given the changes of the electoral system and the evolutions of the political scene in recent years, the organizations forming the Coalition for Clean Parliament have decided to resume the monitoring of the political representatives using a new methodology. Therefore, the coalition deemed that it was not sufficient for a candidate to merely meet a set of integrity requirements, but that dignitaries should also seek to serve public interest and respect the rule of law. Before the parliamentary elections of 2008, the Coalition designed a set of instruments that were better suited to capture this perspective:
– a Pact for the Rule of Law – politicians were presented with a document with several key points they should commit to respect during office;
– monitoring political migration, defined as changing formal party allegiance (more than twice);
– monitoring of the manner in which those in office between 2004 and 2008 had voted on a series of issues and laws considered by the Coalition as particularly important for the rule of law.
The results of these monitoring activities were published on the “Clean Romania” website, which was thus transformed into a resource site for anticorruption advocacy.

Magistrates’ perceptions regarding the independence of the system of justice 2006

The goal of the project was to identify and evaluate the perceptions of magistrates regarding their degree of professional independence, as well as the causes and circumstances with negatively or positively influence the independence of justice. The research aimed to be the starting point of efficient measures to consolidate magistrates’ independence and level of responsibility, and to eliminate those negative aspects currently manifest within the Romanian justice system. The project was developed at the request of the Superior Council of Magistracy.

First Step in Europe

The goal of this project was to ensure the fairness of the elections for the European Parliament (EP) in Romania, scheduled for November 25th, 2007. It did so through a thorough monitoring of all the institutions involved in the campaign, including the political parties and official authorities handling the campaign. Moreover, it wished to bring an international and particularly European view on the development of the campaign and the elections.

Coalition for Clean Universities

The CCU project was created as an exercise of watchdog and benchmarking, meant to give a complete image of the academic integrity in Romania.

The project developed an integrity ranking for Romanian state universities by applying an already tested methodology was used in a pilot phase of the same project (October 2007-May 2008, funded by a MATRA-KAP Grant of the Embassy of Netherlands in Bucharest).

External evaluators were selected for monitoring the integrity and transparency of the universities. The project started by mapping out the problems of integrity that exist in the Romanian higher education system, and classified them by categories.

  • the administrative transparency and probity – the publication of accounting documents; publishing income declarations and declarations of interests and those reflecting the status of not being involved in the communist political police; access to public records on acquisitions;
  • academic fairness – plagiarism, performance in research, academic unfolding process;
  • quality of governance – nepotism, involvement of students in decision making, usage of financial grants, filling teaching positions;
  • financial management – discretionary expenditure, managing public acquisitions processes.
  • 42 state universities were evaluated, out of a total of 56, during 3 months. At the end of this programme, the Coalition published the Integrity ranking of Romanian Universities.

The project received the support of the main stakeholders: The Ministry of Education, Research and Youth, Students’ Organisations (ANOSR), Trade Union (Alma Mater), The National Agency for Quality Evaluation in Higher Education (ARACIS), educational NGOs.
The Coalition for Clean Universities is composed of the following:

  • Centre for Independent Journalism (CJI),
  • Pro Democracy Association (APD),
  • Euroregional Centre for Democracy (CED),
  • National Association of Students Organizations from Romania (ANOSR),
  • The Group for Reform in Universities (GRU)
  • Group for Social Dialogue (GDS)
  • Romanian Academic Society (SAR)
  • University Solidarity Association (SU)
  • EduCer Association (EduCer)
  • Ad-Astra Association (Ad Astra)
  • Romanian Society of Political Science (SRSP)
  • FAR Association (FAR)
  • New Europe College Foundation (NEC)

Participation and integrity in local budgets 2004

 

The project aimed to increase transparency and integrity in public budget design and implementation, and to encourage participation of local civil society in community issues.

TI Romania delivered training to local civil society organizations, evaluated community priorities in regard to the local budget, evaluated the relationship between the local civilian and business communities and the administration, wrote the good practices guide and organized round tables with all stakeholders to debate on the negative and positive aspects of the situation and incorporated observations and suggestions for improving the way in which the administration-citizens relationship functions.

Outcomes

  • Training instruments for civil society organizations;
  • Guide to monitoring public budget implementation;
  • Evaluations of transparency and integrity focusing on public acquisitions and mechanisms to grant authorizations/licenses for business activities;
  • Good practices guide containing recommendations on how to address deficiencies noted during the project.
Budget:

            £ 73,944

Say NO to Corruption

The project developed a guide is intended to help young people with a batch of information about corruption and serious consequences of this fact.

The publication is divided into two chapters.

The first chapter contains general information about what is corruption, what is not corruption, influence traffic, serious consequences of this fact, methods to prevent it, national and international anti-corruption documents etc.

The second chapter contains results, ideas and opinions of young people resulted from developing various activities in the project “Youth against Corruption”, local and final debates on ethics in education and public administration, the findings of a research study on the effects of corruption in education and the results of a survey on the perception of young people about corruption.

This guide has been published in the project “Youth against Corruption”, coordinated by the Pro Democracy Association in partnership with the Romanian Association for Debate, Oratory and Rhetoric, funded by the European Union, through the Transition Facility 2007/19343.01.11 – Strengthening support of civil society in the fight against corruption.