September
2008
POLITICS NEWS
 
Vol. 4 No.7  
 

Government sacks key justice reformer praised by EU

 
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Romania’s Government has refused to renew the mandate of the chief-prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA), Daniel Morar, despite his department receiving high praise from the EU in its efforts to fight corruption.
However he was likely to remain in his post until November, as we went to press.
Last July the European Commission singled out Morar’s department for showing a good track record in its prosecution of high level corruption cases.
“While there is a strong will by the prosecution to achieve tangible results at the pre-trial phase, the same determination is not demonstrated throughout the judicial process,” stated the report. “The positive reform efforts by the government, the DNA or the General Prosecutor can only be successful if they receive unequivocal support from all actors at all levels.”
Instead, Minister of Justice Catalin Predoiu decided to replace Morar with one of his own counsellors, prosecutor Monica Serbanescu. Predoiu said that Daniel Morar has been criticised by the Romanian political class and he had to make “a compromise” between the Romanian Government’s perspective and those of Brussels.
The DNA’s chief prosecutor had the choice between remaining in the department as deputy chief prosecutor or taking a position in Brussels, created especially for him. Morar has refused.
But Romania’s General Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi has decided to prolong Morar’s mandate by three months. President Traian Basescu, who has always praised Morar’s activity, has to make a decision by the end of November over the chief prosecutor’s replacement.


No results in justice reform

July’s European Commission report stated that Romania failed to generate effective results in its efforts to fight corruption, but stated there was a “re-establishment” of judicial reform after a period of uncertainty.
The six-monthly report from the European Commission on reform in justice points out that the framework is in place to perform judicial reform, but the results remain to be seen.
The document attacked the lack of real progress in ten key cases into key ministers including investigations into ex-Prime Minsiter Adrian Nastase, due to Parliament blocking investigations and the High Court’s overturning of decisions.
The report also argued that the National Integrity Agency (ANI), a department tasked to monitor the declared wealth of public figures, such as members of parliament, still has to demonstrate it can function. This is despite EC calls for it to be operational by October 2007 and its crucial role in the run up to this November’s general elections.
The EU can still threaten Romania with the derecoginition of judgements made in its national courts, the so-called ‘safeguard clause’, until the end of 2009.
The report took a swipe at the political class of Romania, attacking the lack of political will to tackle corruption.
The EC issued a strong request to the Government to bury controversial ammendments to the current Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure which limit the time a prosecutor can spend on an anti-corruption case to six months. The changes also stipulate that if a prosecutor wants to search the house of a suspect, he has to give the individual 24 hours notice. The EC report says these changes “should be dropped [because] they would seriously restrict meaningful investigation.”


Floods in Romania worst in 40 years

Romania’s flood destruction this summer has devastated five northern counties as the River Prut burst its banks.
Five people died and a further 10,500 were evacuated as the deluge hit Moldavia, causing damages to 9,000 houses. Around 1,500 homes will need to be rebuilt, said the Ministry of Interior. The Government will grant 2,700 Euro to each owner of a destroyed home as part of a 14.66 million Euro aid package. A further 100 million Euro will be allocated by the Government to rebuild the road infrastructure and sewage networks affected by the deluge in Suceava, Neamt, Botosani, Maramures and Harghita.
But this figure falls short of the funds needed for repair. About 1,600 kilometres of roads and about 1,900 bridges need repairs after this summer’s floods. Elisabeth Byrs, the spokesperson of the UN’s Humanitarian Aid Section, said that this summer’s floods are the worst Romania has seen in 40 years. Following disastrous floods in 2005 and 2006, a law was proposed to make house insurance mandatory. This did not pass through Parliament and many of the homes devastated in this year’s floods were uninsured.
The current deluge eclipsed the floods in 2005 and 2006 in the level of damage. In both those years, around 1,000 kilometres of roads and more than 250 bridges needed repairs, according to the National Company for Motorways and National Roads in Romania (CNADNR).
To rebuild the road infrastructure the Government took out external loans worth around 680 million Euro, of which around 450 million Euro remain unspent. This cash could be lost as the loans begin to expire next December. CNADNR officials blame the Ministry of Economy, which allocated small amounts of money to infrastructure repairs. For example, only 15 per cent of the 480 million Euro loan taken from the European Investment Bank and half of the 44 million Euro taken from the Development Bank of the Council of Europe have been spent.


Prosecution of ministers steps up, but effectiveness is still wanting

Although Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, the Parliament’s lower house, has decided to stop probes into ex-Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and former Minister of Transport Miron Mitrea, investigations into ministers accused of high level corruption are moving forward.
Accusations against Mitrea and Nastase include bribe-taking and abuse in service.
According to new laws issued by the Parliament, an MP can be investigated by prosecutors only if the Parliament grants its approval.
However Mitrea has resigned as an MP in an attempt to clear his name. This will give prosecutors a three-month window to begin investigations into the ex-Minister. He intends to run again in the parliamentary elections this November and has a high chance of re-election. If he returns as an MP, any further investigation will need the approval of Parliament.
The EU’s report on justice in Romania issued last July underlined the country’s lack of political will in bringing high-level corruption cases to trial. Romania’s Senate speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu said he was surprised that the European Commission had the “nerve” to criticise the Romanian Parliament.
Meanwhile Parliament has decided to allow the investigation into former Minister of Economy Codrut Seres, a member of the Conservative Party, and Minister of Labour, National Liberal Paul Pacuraru. Codrut Seres is suspected of undermining the national economy, betrayal and economic espionage. Paul Pacuraru is suspected of bribe-taking.


Short News

Russia ready to push
forward ‘solution’ for Transnistria

Fresh from an offensive into Georgia, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has pledged to solve the frozen conflict in Transnistria. Meanwhile Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has hinted the result may involve the 2003 Kozak Memorandum, where the Republic of Moldova forms a federation with Transnistria and the leaders in Tiraspol have a strong say in the political, social and economic affairs of the entire country. Chisinau strongly rejected this proposal in 2003 over fears the Russian military presence in Moldova would persist. In Soci, during a meeting with Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin, Medvedev continued the Russian attack on Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili by stating that South Ossetia “proved once again how dangerous the frozen conflicts are if leaders, such as the Georgian leader, lose their head”. Voronin assured Medvedev that he “will not allow the situation in Transnistria to worsen”. Transnistria declared independence in 1992 after a short war with the Republic of Moldova, but has not been recognised by any member of the international community as an independent state. Around 4,000 Russian peacekeeping troops are currently stationed in Transnistria.

European Commission blocks
agriculture payments

European Commission (EC) has blocked all agricultural payments to farmers from the pre-accession SAPARD funds. The decision was taken after EC experts found deficiencies in the management of the agency which operates the payments in agriculture. For example, Romanian officials reduced the 90 day period for assessing the proposals of Romanian farmers to 30 days. This will block around 62 million Euro in payments to farmers this year. The Commission demanded a plan of action to be ready before the end of August. Minister of Agriculture Dacian Ciolos has said he will make changes in the management of the agency. He aims to convince the European Commission to un-block the SAPARD funding program by October.

Romanians: high in IT scam list

Romanians are the highest non-English speaking nation in the world responsible for Internet crimes, according to a report by the FBI, the US National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Americans (63.2 per cent), British (15.3 per cent), Nigerian and Canadians rank in the first four places, followed by Romanians. Most of these crimes involve paying on-line with fake credit cards or organising fraudulent  Internet auctions.

Left-wing Cluj rebels move to
party background

Rebel leaders of the breakaway Cluj branch of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) have resigned from the high level posts held in the party after criticising the leadership of the leftist party. Ioan Rus, Vasile Dancu and Vasile Puscas have a reputation for sticking to their principles and avoiding controversial statements and allegations of corruption. Now they are being courted by all the other major parties, who are all centrist, right-wing or right-of-centre. However the three politicians have reiterated their support for Social Democratic ideology and remain party members, although they will not candidate  in the next general election. They will continue to work for NGO Transylvania Social Democratic Foundation.

Greater Romania Party
searches for friends for election

Extreme-right wing Greater Romania Party (PRM) has opened negotiations with all the parties, except for the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), to maximise the party’s chances of entering Parliament after this autumn’s parliamentary elections. After 2000 the nationalist party has lost sympathy and members and now risks, for the first time in its 19 year history, not meeting the five per cent threshold of votes necessary to enter Parliament. Some MPs have left to the Social Democrats, while most have moved to the Conservative Party (PC), which has a similar nationalistic base and support from older members of the electorate. The PC has offered the Greater Romania Party a merger, but the PRM’s leadership will only agree to an electoral alliance.

 
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