Wednesday

22nd Mar 2017

Romanian MPs decriminalise political corruption

The Romanian parliament on Tuesday (10 December) exempted top politicians and lawyers from corruption crimes, in a move which flies in the face of agreements with the EU.

The snap amendments, voted without parliamentary debate, say that the country's President, senators, members of the lower chamber, as well as lawyers, are no longer to be considered "public officials."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The Romanian parliament has 28 members on trial for corruption who may walk free (Photo: Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

This in turn means they can no longer be held to account for abuse of office, bribery, conflicts of interest and other corruption crimes.

Those who have been convicted may walk free if the law comes into force.

With many ministers also being parliamentarians and lawyers, the new immunity extends to government members.

Meanwhile, mayors and other local officials would no longer be held liable for conflicts of interest.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, who still has to sign the law for it to be enacted, on Tuesday promised to send it back to the parliament.

But he can only do so once and the parliament is not obliged to take his objections into account.

"I thank them for thinking about me, but I don't need it," Basescu quipped in reference to the exemption, which also applies to his office.

"This change means 10 years of regress," he added in a press conference in Bucharest.

According to the Romanian anti-corruption prosecutor's office (DNA), 28 members of the Romanian parliament have been convicted or are currently on trial for corruption.

In addition, over 100 mayors and vice-mayors are on trial for awarding public contracts to family and friends or for similar abuses.

"This legislative change puts Romanian law in flagrant contradiction with the international agreements Romania has ratified in 2002 and 2004, respectively: the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of the Council of Europe and the United Nations' Convention on Corruption," the anti-corruption office said in a press statement.

Both international conventions require states to give a comprehensive definition of public officials and to explicitly refer to corruption of lawmakers.

The new exemptions also mean that Romania will "no longer meet the criteria of international judicial cooperation and will be unable to execute requests for judicial assistance when it comes to these kind of persons," the DNA added.

The country's ethics body for judges and prosecutors (CSM) - which had not been consulted on the legislative changes - has also criticised the bill.

It said the proposed law would "basically exonerate" the President and lawmakers from any responsibility for crimes.

It is not the first time Romanian lawmakers have tweaked laws in a bid to protect themselves from investigation.

In summer last year, changes aimed at limiting the powers of the Constitutional Court were politically motivated as the state institutions got caught up in a political war between the centre-right President and the centre-left prime minister.

It ended with a failed referendum to impeach the President.

Romania, as well as its southern neighbour Bulgaria, is still under a special monitoring mechanism by the European Commission, which assesses its progress in terms of respect for the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Romanian government hit by corruption cases

Political infighting has flared up once again in Romania - a development likely to set alarm bells ringing in Brussels over the independence of the country's justice system.

EU still unhappy with Romania's rule of law

Romanian ministers accused of corruption should resign and MPs should stop shielding themselves from anti-graft investigations, the EU commission plans to say.

Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

News in Brief

  1. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  2. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack
  3. Brussels attacks remembered with minute of silence and noise
  4. Magnitsky's lawyer injured near Moscow
  5. Trump to travel to Brussels on 25 May for Nato summit
  6. Polish defence minister accuses Tusk of treason
  7. Fillon slips in polls as new allegations emerge
  8. Brexit summit for EU-27 will be on 29 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Advertisements
  2. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  3. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  4. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  7. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  8. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  10. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  11. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  12. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst

Latest News

  1. EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times
  2. Terror attack shuts down UK parliament
  3. Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum
  4. La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale
  5. EU doing well in global energy ranking
  6. Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'
  7. French socialist woos Europe with new vision
  8. EU to Macedonia: 'Stop playing with fire'