Romania

   

Executive Accountability

#39
Key Findings
With only a few bright spots in this area, Romania falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 39) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Individual parliamentarians have minimal resources, but fairly broad formal oversight powers. The current audit-court president is close to the head of the governing party, and parliament has proposed diminishing the body’s independence further. The data-protection authority’s president is tarnished by corruption charges. A new ombudsperson has raised hopes of greater independence.

Despite a wave of citizen activism and protest, the general level of policy knowledge remains low. Media coverage is highly partisan. Romania ranks first among EU countries in the spread of “fake news.” While the country has begun to fight disinformation and external media infringements, many journalists claim that the Romanian government is the main threat to press freedom.

The major Romanian parties remain controlled by leaders that are isolated from the party membership. Business associations and unions play only a minor role in proposing concrete policy measures. Despite a dependence on international financing, a number of NGOs have significant analytical capacities.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#41

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual public policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
5
Public knowledge of government policy remains low. Most of the population, especially in rural areas and small towns, have no clue as to what government policies are being proposed or implemented. They might know the name of the president, but not the names of the prime minister and individual cabinet members; they know nothing at all about policy, but judge government activity mostly in ideological terms.

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
4
Romania joined the international Open Government Partnership in 2011, emphasizing the overarching goals of increasing transparency, promoting new technologies and engaging citizens. Within the framework of the partnership, four action plans have been approved since 2011. In 2013, the government established an open data portal (data.gov.ro) which now provides over 1,000 datasets from almost 100 public bodies. From 2015 to 2017, the Ministry of Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue oversaw the implementation of the action plans. Since its disbandment in January 2018, the implementation oversight has rested with the Secretariat General of the Government. A quick look at the website of various ministries and agencies shows that the information provided is patchy, outdated or partial. Some of the websites are hard to access or are difficult to navigate.

Citations:
Romanian Government (2018): Open Government Partnership: National Action Plan 2018-2020. Bucharest (http://ogp.gov.ro/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Romania-2018-2020_NAP_EN.pdf).

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#27

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
6
The Romanian parliament has a Department of Parliamentary Studies and EU Policies, which is divided into two divisions: the Division for Legislative Studies and Documentation and the EU Division. Together, these divisions offer members of both chambers, as well as parliamentary group leaders and committee chairs, useful documentation, studies and research materials, expertise and assistance. In addition, all members have equal access to the parliamentary library which provides references as well as research and bibliographic services. However, members of parliament have relatively limited individual resources. In practice, they tend to rely on assistance from former parliamentarians or political-party staff rather than on the expertise of the Department of Parliamentary Studies and EU Policies or independent experts.

A new set of regulations for the organization and functioning of the departments assisting the Chamber of Deputies was adopted in February 2019. It brought no changes to the Department of Parliamentary Studies and EU Policies and the Divisions for Legislative Studies/Documentation and the EU. The Senate had adopted similar regulations in 2018.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
7
According to Article 111 of Romania’s constitution, “the government and other agencies of public administration shall, within the parliamentary control over their activity, be bound to present any information and documents requested by the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate or parliamentary committees through their respective presidents.” However, this access is limited in case of documents containing classified information, especially with respect to national security and defense issues. Members of parliament also complain about delays in the provision of documents and information.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
9
According to Article 54(1) of the Chamber of Deputies Regulations, ministers are permitted to attend committee meetings, and “if their attendance has been requested, their presence in the meeting shall be mandatory.” Furthermore, ministers are requested to present a work report and strategy of their ministry before committees once per session. Sometimes ministers send deputies who are not always able to respond to queries raised by parliamentarians. Notably, the frequency with which ministers attend committee meetings is not documented.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
According to Article 55(2) of the Chamber of Deputies Regulations, “committees may invite interested persons, representatives of non-governmental organizations and experts from public authorities or from other specialized institutions to attend their meetings. The representatives of non-governmental organizations and the experts may present their opinions on the matters that are under discussion in the Committee or may hand over documents regarding the matters under discussion to the Committee President.” The frequency with which experts are invited has differed among committees.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
6
The number of committees in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies is roughly in line with the number of ministries in the government. However, the legislature’s oversight capacity is reduced by the incomplete match between the task areas of ministries and parliamentary committees. The number and task areas of the ministries changed significantly after the Dăncilă government was replaced by the government of Ludovic Orban, but, as in the past, these changes have not led to changes in parliamentary committees.

Media

#40

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
4
Media coverage of government decisions and public policy continues to be highly partisan and emphasize political scandals and politicians’ personalities rather than in-depth policy analysis. Many journalists believe that their media environment is protected from outside threats, although Romania ranks first among EU countries in the spread of “Fake News.” There is increased anxiety that Russia might exploit Romanian media’s limited ability to counter disinformation by fueling protests on the eve of the presidential election, funding fringe political parties, and spreading fake news to provoke civil unrest and divide society. These disinformation efforts are often helped by Romanian actors voluntarily or inadvertently. Romania has begun to fight disinformation and external media infringements, although many journalists claim that the Romanian government is the main threat to press freedom. Some journalists believe that pressures from western partners over Romania’s widespread corruption has prompted the Social Democratic party to be more critical of the West, which results in high levels of fake news that affect the uninformed citizens of rural Romania in particular.

Citations:
Boros, C., J. Cusick (2017): Bought and paid for – how Romania’s media is pressured by corporate and political masters. openDemocracy, November 22, London (https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/bought-and-paid-for-how-romania-s-media-is-pressured-by-corporate-and-polit/).

Parties and Interest Associations

#39

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
3
The major Romanian parties remain controlled by leaders that are isolated from the party membership and seemingly have little patience and desire to consult local organizations before making decisions. Delegates to national congresses are selected by local organizations in ways that are not always open and transparent, and which allow relatives of current leaders to be promoted. Romanian parties remain largely clientelistic, nepotistic structures in which the power of a handful of leaders outweighs that of large segments of the membership.

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Employers & Unions)
3
While policymaking in Romania is often influenced in a particularistic fashion by individual business interests, business associations are rather weak and have played a minor role in proposing concrete policy measures, much less offering cost-benefit analyses of the likely effects of such policies. Unions have not played an active role in policy formulation either. Union density has decreased considerably since 1990, with union structure fragmented and weakly developed. Unions have become increasingly distrusted as various leaders have joined political parties and sought political careers, often by sacrificing the interests of the union members to their own personal objectives. Moreover, when economic interest associations are capable of formulating relevant policies, this has been somewhat undermined by the unwillingness of the government to consider their views, as was demonstrated by the recent tax reforms which prompted significant criticism from labor organizations.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
6
While many NGOs have suffered from a lack of resources, quite a number of them have significant analytical capacities, especially in areas such as environmental policy and social protections. Many NGOs have benefited from international funding. The Romanian Orthodox Church, which represents as much as 85% of the population, has been a powerful actor, but has promoted a relatively narrow and conservative agenda.

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#35

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
8
The Court of Accounts is an independent institution in charge of conducting external audits on the propriety of money management by state institutions. Parliament adopts the budget proposed by the court’s plenum and appoints the court’s members but cannot remove them. The court president is appointed by parliament for a nine-year term from among the counselors of account. Thus, while court presidents tend to be appointed on a partisan basis, they are not always representing the current parliamentary majority. The court submits to parliament annual and specific reports that are debated in the legislature after being published in the Official Gazette. The annual public report articulates the court’s observations and conclusions on the audited activities, identifies potential legal infringements and prescribes measures. The appointment of Mihai Busuioc, who has been close to PSD leader Dragnea, as new court president in mid-October 2017 has raised concerns about its independence. These concerns have been aggravated by parliamentary proposals to alter the Court’s remit and to render it more amenable to the will of the government.

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
3
The Romanian Ombudsman was established in 1991 after the ratification of the country’s first post-communist constitution and is appointed by both chambers of parliament for a term of five years. In mid-2019, Renate Weber replaced the very controversial Victor Ciorbea, who had ignored the concerns of ordinary citizens and championed those of politicians, as Romania’s Ombudsperson. As was the case with Ciorbea, Weber is a lawyer. She was appointed for a five-year mandate, with the possibility of being renewed only once. Weber was nominated by the junior ruling partner, ALDE. Observers hope that she will break with Ciorbea’s legacy and strengthen the office by making it more independent from the Social Democrats.

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
5
Romania updated its data protection legislation in accordance with EU GDPR policy in May 2018. The responsibility for protecting personal data rests with the National Authority for the Supervision of Personal Data Processing (DPA), which has limited resources. The position of the DPA’s vice-president remained vacant until April 2019, when Mirela Nistoroiu was appointed by the ruling Social Democrat Party, in spite of her lack of specialized skills. The DPA President Ancuța Gianina Opre, named in 2013, has languished under corruption charges dating from 2009 when she was working for the National Authority for the Restitution of Properties.
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