Tag Archives: Romania

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The Romanian face of justice

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

Latest monitoring report on Romania- definitely not the last

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

Corruption in Romania

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 …

Kosmolinks #18

  • 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)“.

  • 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.

  • 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?”

  • 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 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: A period of stagnation (2003–2006), followed by a period of depression (2006-present)…

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.”

  • 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?

Blogs – A new image tool for Romanian Social Democrats

Blogs are one of the latest additions to the Romanian political landscape. From a totally unknown concept, they have turned overnight in fashionable tools, a “must have” for any politician who wants to be taken seriously. In fact, most of the politicians pay small fortunes to have a blog (although most of them use free services such as blogger.com and wordpress.com). A lucrative business for young IT students and graduates. Here you can read sharp (and often quite critical) and to the point analysis (including statistics) on the inclusion and impact of new media tools (especially blogs) in Romanian politics.

But apart from the mere presence in the blogosphere, do the Romanian politicians’ blogs have any real impact on their image or their electoral capital? This remains to be judged, taking into account the election results. However, what is more interesting and tells a lot about the personality of the blog owners is the way they use the blogs and their way of dealing with comments.Having spent the last fours years in the opposition, the Romanian social-democrats (PSD) are trying to win back people’s trust in the context of the electoral year 2008. Nothing unexpected, so far. However, this time they are making use of a bit more than the usual campaigning methods. Already for about a year now, quite a few leaders and notorious members of the Social-Democrat Party started having blogs, where they comment (some more frequently than others) the latest developments and describe, in the eve of elections, their electoral campaigning trips throughout the country.

Maybe not surprisingly, in dire need of a new, fresh image, the social-democrats are the most active new members of the Romanian political blogosphere. Be it a former President or Prime Minister or a Member of the European Parliament, they all try to catch the attention by describing (arguably some more eloquently than others) their daily business, reacting to various events and declarations, advertising and commenting books (theirs or others’) as well as their TV appearances. Thus, an important number of blog posts are issued every day, generating a reasonable amount of traffic and quite a few comments. Until now it actually sounds like a very good example of what a blog is meant to be: an open forum of ideas and debates. However, if you start reading the whole thread of comments (which sometimes can get extremely irritating, I confess), you soon realise that something is not quite as it should be. Most of the comments are just praising the author, in a completely uncritical way, the very same people (one merit has to be acknowledged: a very loyal, if small, audience was created around these blogs) comments in the very same way on all the blogs, the authors are very often complimenting and quoting each other and so on. Sometimes it really gives the impression of a spider web, a closed network where the elements are clearly positioned to reinforce each other, a  game of mirrors that, only when observed from outside, reveals its artificial, “closely directed” nature.

In fact, the blog of the Electronic Communication Service of PSD might give a hint on the organisation of the “red” Romanian blogosphere: it acts as a hub for all official blogs of PSD politicians but also includes some “recommended blogs” that, at a closer look, turn out to be the very active and passionate commentators of the former.

A few critical comments per post are allowed, of course, as a hint towards an “open dialogue”, but any unfavourable opinion (on their own blog or on any other) is quickly countered, usually giving birth to a new defensive blogpost. It is not the idea of replying to comments in itself that is bothering, it is more about the passionate towards aggressive tone adopted by the writers for their replies.

Baring all this in mind, it has to be said that some of the social-democrat bloggers  do provide some quality content. For instance, some of the Romanian MEPs (also, not surprisingly, some of the more active ones) are regularly updating their readers about their activity in Brussels and Strasbourg. In my opinion, this is an effort that has to be appreciated, as it sheds a bit of light on what is going on on the EU arena and on the involvement of the Romanian representatives.

An electoral device, purely an image tool, or a new defense mechanism, the blog has become a daily presence in the Romanian political arena and it is interesting to see if it will make a difference in the eyes of the electorate.

Written by Anda

Dysfunctional Romania

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.

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Sarkozy and the shiny Romanian pen

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