In the aftermath of the report issued by the European Commission on the Romanian justice system and fight against corruption, many comments and interpretations have emerged in the Romanian press . This was to be expected. One of the most prominent debates stirred by the report these days is about the re-confirmation of Daniel Morar as Chief Attorney of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). (more here, here and here)
His mandate is due to expire on August 12 and various scenarios have been voiced in the media that all aim at Morar’s replacement. The Social- Democrats (PSD) want to change the procedural rules that regulate the appointment of the head of DNA. The Liberals, that for a while now have, more openly than not, sided with the Social-Democrats (yes, Romania is definitely not a good case study of political doctrines!), are also opposing Morar’s second term. Fears of being prosecuted for corruption, as well as the quasi-paranoid assumption that the DNA (and implicitly its leader) is a political tool of President Basescu can be traced as the main roots of these positions.
One should not forget that this discussion takes place only few days after the Commission harshly criticized Romania precisely for the politicization of the justice system and fight against corruption. So, as could be imagined, all this political maneuvering is not at all well seen in Brussels. The Commission is probably remembering the case of Monica Macovei, former Minister of Justice, who was also becoming “uncomfortable” for some parts of the political arena, and therefore had to leave her position, notwithstanding the great appreciation and support she had in Brussels.
A clear sign that the Commission has had enough is the declaration made by the EC spokesman Mark Gray on the topic:
We have seen the comments published by the Romanian media, quoting so-called sources in Brussels, referring to the reconfirmation of Morar as head of DNA. Our position is very clear. We expect the reform process to go forwards, not backwards. We constantly emphasized the good DNA results and the importance of institutional stability in investigating files and in initiating investigations in high-level corruption cases. Reconfirming the chief prosecutor will be a test for the renewed commitments of Romanian authorities
Usually the European Commission does not interfere in questions regarding the staffing policy of Romanian institutions. But they do it in cases where they see that there is a real danger of a deterioration. The intervention will, surely, be criticized by the Social- Democrats and Liberals, as biased and outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate. But the Commission probably realised that its neutral approach leaves too much room for interpretation to Romanian politicians. By putting aside the diplomacy for a moment and calling the facts by their name, the Commission is increasing the pressure on Romania. Controversial as it may seem, this attitude might prove to be the only “mild” weapon the Commission has left before it starts deploying its artillery of sanctions and safeguard clauses.
Written by Anda
Today the European Commission released the monitoring reports on Romania and Bulgaria, foreseen by the “cooperation and verification mechanism”.
On the whole, not many surprises: the rough tone that was expected, telling off the two countries for the very small (if existing) progress regarding judicial reform and fight against corruption. This time, Bulgaria is more severely punished, with part of its funds being suspended. Romania receives yet another warning but still no decisive measure such as the activation of the safeguard clause or retention of European funds.
What is the Commission’s assessment of Romania? In the usual diplomatic slang, the report notes that Romania presents a “mixed picture”. However, it does not take great further reading to realize which are the predominant shades in this “mixed picture”: although Romania seems to have re-established its commitment to judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the “legal and institutional framework is still fragile” and decisions on (especially high level) corruption are highly politicized. Some progress is acknowledged, but so is the lack of political consensus regarding justice reforms.
In conclusion, Romania still has a (rather long) way to go in fulfilling all the benchmarks set at the time of accession and will continue to be closely monitored by the Commission. A crucial element is the political will to fully implement all the commitments made by Romania when joining the EU; and looking at the Romanian political arena at the moment, this does not seem to be a safe bet.
One can almost hear the sigh of relief in the high governmental offices in Bucharest, at the confirmation of the fact that (1) no safeguard clause will be activated, (2) no funds will be suspended, (3) Bulgaria is considered to do worse and is more harshly sanctioned. ‘Schadenfreude’ and relief, that’s all.
Unfortunately. Now they can happily continue their holidays. They “escaped” this time again. This makes me doubt the effects of such a neutral report. Maybe next time the Commission can act more severely. It is sad, but only a “shock therapy” might make the Romanian political class aware of the importance of fulfilling its commitments and not just indulging in the mere satisfaction of doing slightly better than the neighboring country.
Written by Anda
A short reminder for the European Commission that will issue the progress report for Romania next week, dealing with the progress made in judicial reform and the fight against corruption … safeguard clauses, anyone? (check here for the so called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism)
Click here to watch the video.
(Hat tip to The Short Story Made Long)
Oh yes, and Bulgaria (more…) has even bigger problems …
Russia Blog: The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism
This looks interesting. Don’t forget the other 5 parts! “Kevin Cyron, an American living in the Russian Federation who recently graduated with a Masters degree in Sociology from St. Petersburg State University, has agreed to Russia Blog publishing his thesis titled, “The Misconception of Russian Authoritarianism (doc)“.
Continental drift (pdf)
More on the difficult relationship between Britain and the EU: “Britain is becoming semi-detached from the rest of the EU – and an establishment in denial of the political nature of the European project is to blame, argues Peter Sutherland”. Also read the response by Certain ideas of Europe here.
Democratic deficit or simply boredom?
An opinion piece by Lisbeth Kirk: “In a word, the danger is not so much that the EU is perceived as undemocratic but that it is seen as increasingly boring and irrelevant.” She continues by asking “What if the US were like the EU?”
Romania corruption scoop
The European Commission will publish a progress report later this month, hopefully with some clear statements regarding corruption. A strong statement could be to trigger the safeguard clauses…
The Wider Black Sea Region in the 21st Century: Strategic, Economic, and Energy Perspectives (pdf)
The Black Sea region, once on the periphery of European consciousness, has become the next frontier in transatlantic strategic thinking in terms of energy security, trade, migration and other key policy areas. In this volume leading international experts examine the new dynamics of the Black Sea region, including perspectives from the region, trans-regional issues such as energy security, cross-border conflicts, democracy, civil rights, the rule of law, and future relations with Russia, the EU, NATO and other key actors.
EU-Russia Relations, Toward a Way out of Depression (pdf)
EU – Russia relations: A period of stagnation (2003–2006), followed by a period of depression (2006-present)…
Serbia’s climate change
The formation of a new government in Serbia offers modest hope of progress in its path to European Union membership, say Daniel Korski & Ivan Zverzhanovski.
Grahnlaw: Anti-EU by any other name
Is the label “euroscepticism” misleading? The idea is that labels such “anti-EU” or “anti-Europe” would be more suitable to describe “Eurosceptics” since most people that would put themselves in this category actually oppose any Europe wide approach. Very interesting thought!
Fear and strange arithmetics: when powerful states confront powerless immigrants
Interesting essay by Saskia Sassen: “It is surprising to see the high price in terms of ethical and economic costs that powerful ‘liberal democracies’ seem willing to pay in order to control extremely powerless people who only want a chance to work. Immigrants and refugees have to be understood as a historical vanguard that signals major ‘unsettlements’ in both sending and receiving countries.”
National populism versus democracy – Antony Todorov
Populist movements are a threat not because they raise the issue of direct democracy, but because they advocate nationalist mobilisation based on xenophobia, writes Antony Todorov. Given the failure of the leftist projects of the twentieth century, it is telling that far-right populism is more anti-democratic in the new democracies of central and eastern Europe than in western Europe. Is populism identical to the crisis of democracy or rather a symptom of it?
Posted in Kosmolinks
Tagged anti-EU, Black Sea, corruption, democracy, energy, EU, Great Britain, immigration, politics, populism, Romania, Russia, Serbia
Corruption in eastern Europe | Talking of virtue, counting the spoons
The state of the elites in Eastern Europe. It seems as if especially anti-corruption agencies and justice ministries are very reform resistant. Or as the Economist puts it: “Yet from the Baltic to the Balkans, even politicians facing the most startling accusations of corruption seem not to suffer at the polls. A bit like Italy, really.”
Transatlantic Politics » Corruption in Eastern Europe: back to square one
“A survey made amongst Romanian judges showed that most of them don’t consider corruption as being a serious crime. “It’s not like you kill someone. And how can I sentence someone to many years of prison for corruption, when I have to bribe myself nurses and doctors if I go to the hospital”, said a judge as quoted by a German expert who ran the survey.”
Chatham House -The European External Action Service: Roadmap for Success
A Chatham House Report that sets out ten key policy recommendations for the EEAS.
A customized google search drawing on 172 websites (at the moment), including EU Blogs, Industry Federations, NGOs, Think Tanks, etc. Brought to you by the guys behind “Blogactiv”. It is certainly an interesting tool, however, it would be very helpful to have access to the list of these 172 websites… otherwise it is a bit difficult to suggest new content!
Putin – The bottom line
Another critical analysis of the developments during 8 years of Putin written by two former ministers.
EU: the most peaceful region in the world
Indeed an argument that should not be forgotten despite all the shortcomings of the EU…
Institutional Competences in the EU External Action: Actors and Boundaries in CFSP and ESDP (pdf)
Interesting but lenghty think tank paper…
EU Green Lights Partnership Talks With Russia
After 18 months of opposition, the 27 European Union member states finally agreed to launch strategic partnership talks with Russia. But how did the EU manage to get its act together? – A Lithuanian diplomat explains the procedure: “Now all of our concerns have been put into the annexes, we are happy.”
Silobreaker: European Union
The latest “news service” discovery and it looks as if it could become my favourite news aggregation page…
Gazprom’s Foreign Energy Policy (pdf)
“This issue of the Russian Analytical Digest analyzes Gazprom’s strategy toward foreign markets. It considers Gazprom’s perspective on international markets and examines the natural gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, the publication includes statistics on Gazprom sales and the Russian–Ukrainian natural gas trade.”
Sovereignty: The History of the Concept « Faustian Europe
Undergraduate essay on the concept of sovereignty with an emphasis on “internal sovereignty” with chapters on history, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, French Revolution, Soviet Revolution, National Socialists, Liberal democracy…
Posted in Kosmolinks
Tagged CFSP, corruption, Eastern Europe, EEAS, ESDP, EU blogs, European Union, gazprom, Putin, Russia, sovereignty
The Financial Times has a very accurate analysis of the state of politics in Romania:
One word probably best describes the political process in Romania, little more than a year after the country joined the European Union. It is dysfunctional.
A minority government is forced to scrape together a spendthrift budget with the erratic support of its sworn opponents. A venal parliament votes to protect its members from any investigation for corruption. Political parties baulk at obeying the orders of their elected leaders. A populist president blocks the prime minister’s decisions and appointments, but lacks the power to sack him. The bureaucracy itself is paralysed by fear of taking any initiative, lest it be accused of the very corruption its political masters refuse to acknowledge. All seem to conspire to undermine any hope of coherent decision-making.
“Who rules Romania?” is a perfectly valid question to ask. No one can give a clear answer. The government has been effectively hamstrung for the past year, ever since the ruling coalition fell apart bitterly in March last year just 90 days after the heady celebrations that marked EU accession.
It is unclear whether the real problem lies with the personalities, or the ambiguous constitution they inherited as part of the erratic post-Communist transition that Romania has pursued since the violent overthrow and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s dictator, in 1989. (read the rest of the article here)
Unfortunately the article does not elaborate on the institutional shortcomings that are in my opinion the major underlying problem of the constant political crisis in Romania.