Saturday

6th Mar 2021

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 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.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. China and Russia abusing corona for geopolitics, Lithuania says
  2. Worries on Europe's infection surge, after six-week drop
  3. EU wants large firms to report on gender pay-gap or face fines
  4. EU Commission cannot hold Frontex to account
  5. Orbán leaves EPP group - the beginning of a long endgame
  6. 'Corporate due diligence'? - a reality check before EP votes
  7. Austrian ex-minister joins list of EU's pro-Kremlin lobbyists
  8. Internal Frontex probe to deliver final report this week

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us