Romania

   

Quality of Democracy

#38
Key Findings
With continuing tension between the government and civil society, Romania falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 38) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points since 2014.

Political parties routinely circumvent campaign financing laws, with sanctions rare even in blatant cases. The government exerts strong control over the public media, and most private media are owned by oligarchs that do not respect editorial independence. Journalists are routinely harassed by the police. A non-binding referendum banning amnesties for corruption offenses was strongly improved.

Civil rights are generally respected, but preventive detentions and security-service surveillance activities have drawn criticism. Massive street protests have continued, with civil-society groups protesting against a variety of government actions. The state has not effectively countered discrimination against LGBT people, individuals with disabilities and members of the Roma community.

The government has actively sought to undermine judicial independence, sparking a fierce political battle. The EU and other bodies have been strongly critical of the government’s interference with prosecutorial services and anti-corruption bodies. The judiciary has continued to prosecute high-level corruption offenses.

Electoral Processes

#39

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
7
Electoral legislation was amended in the first half of 2015 with an eye to the local and parliamentary elections in 2016. One amendment substantially lowered the typically high stakes involved in establishing a political party. Moreover, the requirement to submit financial deposits for candidate registration was lifted, and citizens have been allowed to support multiple candidates and parties with their signatures.

In the European Parliamentary elections of May 2019, a total of 465 candidates from 23 political parties and seven independent candidates competed for 32 seats in the next European Parliament. As of September 29, 2019, 14 candidates representing 13 parties and one independent were competing for the presidency.

A major problem that has not been addressed in the period under review, has been the candidacy rules for the four deputies and two senators elected by the Romanian diaspora. As criticized by the Federation of Romanians’ Associations in Europe and others, diaspora candidates are discriminated against because they were required to collect 6,090 signatures rather than 1,000 to enter the race. Moreover, their electoral colleges extend across several countries, impeding the collection of required signatures.

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
5
Romania’s media environment suffers from excessive politicization and deliberate disinformation. Ruling political parties tend to exercise undue influence on media, either through consolidated ownership, or harassment of journalists in an effort to gain more favorable coverage. For example, pro-government TV channels like Romania TV and Antena 3 were found to have shared disinformation during the major protests of 2018 and, during the 2016 election, to achieve more favorable results for the Social Democratic Party. Romania TV was also the channel behind a politically motivated smear campaign against Laura Codruța Kovesi, former head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate.

Romania is also susceptible to external media influence during elections, particularly from Russia, and lacks the mechanisms to counter the “fake news” phenomenon challenging democracies around the world. In January 2019, President Iohannis weighed in on the issue saying the spread of erroneous articles and politically targeted media campaigns can be stopped through the efforts of honest journalists.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
6
Voting and registration rights were in the spotlight this year after disfunctions at polling stations in the diaspora restricted the ability of some Romanians abroad to cast their ballot in the European Parliament elections on May 26, 2019. The government opened more polling stations abroad, but lines remained significant, leading to long waiting times and even an inability to vote. This prompted protests and calls for the resignation of Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Melescanu, who issued an apology to the Romanians abroad who found it difficult to access a polling station and ordered an inquiry into the problems. National Liberal Party (PNL) president Ludovic Orban threatened to file a criminal complaint against Minister Melescanu for hampering the vote abroad, claiming that the Ministry operated an insufficient number of polling stations abroad in an effort to reduce the number of diaspora votes (which traditionally favor parties other than the PSD). President Klaus Iohannis called on authorities to resolve the issue quickly.

Following the elections, the PNL and the People’s Movement Party requested an inquiry into the limitation of the right to vote of Romanian citizens in the diaspora. The establishment of a committee to amend the election law was approved in June 2019. The Chamber of Deputies then adopted amendments that allowed Romanians from abroad to vote over a three-day period from Friday to Sunday. Weeks later, President Iohannis promulgated a law introducing early voting and voting by mail in presidential elections.

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
5
The legal framework for party and campaign financing was amended in 2016. One important amendment has required parties to declare all contributions received along with the sums earmarked for television ads and posters while identifying the contributors. A second amendment strengthened the obligation of parties to document the use of public funds, which constitute a significant portion of party resources. While these amendments have enhanced the transparency and accountability of party financing, other changes have pointed in the opposite direction. In early 2016, the two biggest parties, PSD and PNL, both highly indebted, colluded and reduced the possibility for creditors to get their money back from parties. However, the main problem still is lagging implementation. Parties circumvent regulations through a variety of methods such as the creation of fictitious positions and party structures, thus enabling them to hide additional sources of income. As a result, spending by parties and candidates surpasses their declared resources, and true donor support exceeds parties’ stated income. Sanctions are rare even in cases of blatant legal breaches.

During the period under review, there have been no significant legislative or political developments with respect to party financing in Romania. However, the Standing Electoral Authority conducted an audit of the ruling Social Democratic Party’s finances in 2019. No irregularities were found. The audit was triggered after documents indicating potential problems in the party’s financing were presented to the National Anti-corruption Directorate in December 2018 and January 2019. The Directorate is investigating the Social Democratic Party’s treasurer for potential embezzlement. The former Standing Electoral Authority’s president is also being probed in relation to the embezzlement case.

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
4
According to the constitution, national referendums are required automatically for any revision to the constitution (as happened in 1991 and 2003) and following the impeachment of the president (as in 2007 and 2012). In addition, the president can (after consultation with parliament) call for referendums on matters of national interest, as in the case of the 2007 electoral-system referendum and the 2009 referendum on parliamentary reform. For referendum results to be legally binding, turnout needs to exceed 30%. At the national level, citizens do not have the right to initiate a referendum. However, if more than 500,000 citizens support a change to the constitution, parliament can approve a revision, which then must pass a nationwide referendum. Citizens can initiate referendums at the county level, but such initiatives are subject to approval by the County Council and are rare.

A consultative national referendum with two ballot measures was held at the same time as the European Parliament elections in May 2019. Proposed by President Iohannis in an attempt to curb the Social Democratic Party’s assault on the judiciary, the measures involved a ban on amnesty and pardons for corruption offenses, and the government adopting emergency ordinances in the field of justice and criminal policy. Despite being challenged by the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, the resolutions were soundly accepted by the electorate. Over 85% of the 7.9 million ballots cast were in favor of the measures and turnout was above 25%, thus validating the results. Following the results, the president convened the political parties for consultation on implementing the results.

Access to Information

#39

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
3
In Romania, the independence of the media is limited. The government exerts strong control over the public media, and most private media are owned by shady oligarchs that do not respect editorial independence. Many have strong ties to national or local politicians and some of them have been charged with corruption. Harassment of journalists remains a key concern, with journalists routinely subjected to physical and verbal abuse by police.

Citations:
Prysiazhniuk, M. (2019): Threatened from the Inside: Why State Disinformation Is the Main Concern in Romania. Visegrad Insight, October 22 (https://visegradinsight.eu/threatened-from-the-inside/).

Reporters without Borders (2018): Romania’s press freedom in free fall as its takes over EU presidency, December 29 (https://rsf.org/en/news/romanias-press-freedom-free-fall-its-takes-over-eu-presidency).

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
4
Concentration of media ownership remains a key challenge in the Romanian media environment. Owners maintain close relationships with politicians and routinely use their media outlets to circulate systemic disinformation. Several owners have been convicted of corruption offenses and, as of October 2019, at least ten were under investigation by the National Anti-corruption Directorate for corruption-related offenses.

As journalists continue to face harassment and violence as their work is politicized, many have begun launching their own investigative media outlets. These investigative media outlets are increasingly a main source of news in the country that circumvents National Audiovisual Council regulations and administrative parameters.

State-owned media also came under threat this year following the elimination of taxes and the TV license fee, a main source of income for Romania’s public radio and TV broadcasters. While often subject to political interference, state-owned media may provide a balance to the agendas of privately owned media outlets. Within this context, a positive development in January 2019 was the reopening of the Radio Free Europe Romania news service, one of the few news services that provided information during the communist era. The move was praised by President Iohannis as being a positive step in ensuring independent media in the country.

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
6
Law 544/2001, known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), ensures citizens’ access to public information. Its remit creates obligations for all central and local state institutions, as well as public companies for which the state is the majority shareholder. Along with ministries, central agencies and local governments, public universities, hospitals, and many off-budget central and local public companies have to comply with the terms of law 544. However, actual enforcement differs from the terms of the existing legislation. Authorities often try to withhold information or to restrict access through cumbersome or obstructive administrative mechanisms. Privacy and secrecy considerations, be they real or pretended, often trump the transparency principle.

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#35

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
5
Civil rights are guaranteed by the constitution and are generally respected in practice. Romania responded to a European Court of Human Rights decision by adopting a new civil procedure order, which came into effect in February 2013. However, court protection has continued to suffer as a result of long and unpredictable proceedings. There is no equal access to the law since well-positioned individuals, including politicians, are given preference by the courts. More specific concerns have been raised by the disproportionate use of preventive detention, often in conflagration of European legal standards, the bad conditions in Romanian prisons, and the large-scale surveillance activities of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). NGO legislation introduced by the governing coalition in 2017 has weakened civil rights watchdog organizations.

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
7
Romanians continue to exercise their political liberties through well-attended public demonstrations and assemblies. While in 2019 protests did not reach the levels of preceding years, smaller sized groups frequently took to the streets to express their disappointment with various political decisions or missteps. For example, in February 2019, thousands protested against the emergency governance ordinance reforming judicial laws (which was later revised in response to the outrage), and 1,600 taxi drivers gathered in Bucharest demanding an amendment of the taxi service law and thereby allow for a penalization of unlicensed taxi activities. In May, around 1,000 protesters demonstrated during a visit to Galati by the former Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea, just two weeks before the Supreme Court upheld his conviction on corruption charges sentencing him to three and a half years in prison. In July, around 2,000 people protested the police and government’s slow response to the killing of a teenager in the town of Caracal. The largest protest of the year occurred in August, when some 20,000 Romanian expats protested in Bucharest against the Social Democratic government’s corruption and attacks on the judiciary. However, protesters and some of the NGOs involved faced a smear campaign by the governing coalition.

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
5
The Romanian state has been ineffective in countering discrimination against a number of vulnerable groups, including members of the LGBTQ community, those infected with HIV, people with disabilities, and members of the country’s large Roma community. Massively backed by the governing coalition, the 2018 referendum calling for a constitutional amendment to specifically define a “union” as that between a man and a woman, though ultimately defeated, has fostered discrimination toward the LGBTQ community. Human Rights Watch criticized the referendum for being “little more than a thinly veiled attempt to scapegoat a vulnerable minority.” In November 2018, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats voiced support for legislation which would allow for civil partnerships or unions for both heterosexual or LGBTQ couples. While a draft law was tabled in parliament to recognize civil partnerships in Romania, the draft law is yet to be considered by both chambers. As a result of the June 2018 ruling of the European Court of Justice, same-sex married partners of EU citizens must be recognized for the purpose of establishing a right of residency in Romania. On April 18, 2019, the International Roma Day, President Iohannis made a statement renewing his commitment to protecting citizens of all ethnic minorities.

Citations:
Reid, G. (2018): Cynical Romanian Referendum Tries to Redefine ‘Family’. Human Rights Watch, October 3 (https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/10/03/cynical-romanian-referendum-tries-redefine-family).

Rule of Law

#38

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
3
Legal certainty has strongly suffered from the tug-of-war over the reform of the judiciary. Moreover, the Dăncilă government made widespread use of government emergency ordinances (OUG). To cite but two examples, it used them both for its hectic tax reforms at the end of 2018 and for controversial reforms of the judiciary in early 2019. Since Article 115 of the constitution provides for OUGs only in exceptional circumstances, their frequency represents an abuse of the government’s constitutional powers and undermines legal certainty. The use of emergency government ordinances (EGOs) remains a routine mechanism for the Romanian government to pursue legislative or judicial reforms, without appropriate preparation or consultation that often results in considerable controversy.

In February 2019, the American Chamber of Commerce in Romania issued a statement asserting that the pace of changes to legislation by emergency ordinance is unjustifiably fast and non-transparent, sounding the alarm on what the Chamber considered to be “accelerated degradation” of the quality of public policies, regulation and governance in Romania. The Chamber stated that emergency ordinances have “turned the National Reform Program into an obsolete document for outlining nationwide reform priorities,” and called on the government to ensure predictability and align with the EU’s “better regulation” approach.

Citations:
American Chamber of Commerce in Romania (2019): Warning Signal: Counterproductive Measures Adopted without Impact Assessments and without Observing the Legal Requirements for Transparency Reach an Alarming Level at the Beginning of 2019. Bucharest, February 1 (https://www.amcham.ro/communication/amcham-press-releases/warning-signal-counterproductive-measures-adopted-without-impact-assessments-and-without-observing-the-legal-requirements-for-transparency-reach-an-alarming-level-at-the-beginning-of-2019).

European Commission (2019): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2019) 499 final, Brussels (https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/progress-report-romania-2019-com-2019-393_en).

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
4
Weakened independence of the judiciary continues to threaten Romania’s capacity for judicial review, with the executive often influencing judicial matters. In the period under review, government influence on the management process of key judicial institutions, including the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM) and the Prosecutor’s Office, continued to raise concerns about the judiciary’s independence and authority. The government’s role in appointments of prosecutors was of particular concern during 2019. In August 2018, when the term for the management team at the SCM expired, the government did not launch a public and competitive process but instead filled the position of chief inspector through an emergency government ordinance on an ad interim basis. The ad interim appointment remained until May 2019, when the same chief inspector was formally appointed to the role. The establishment of ad interim management compromised the ability of the SCM to provide effective checks and balances to defend the independence of judicial institutions. These concerns were exacerbated by the government’s amendments to justice laws which made it possible for decisions on key issues to be determined by only a few members of the SCM. Additionally, statements issued by the SCM are often signed by only some of its members, pointing to fractures within the institution.

The Minister of Justice continued to control the functioning of the judiciary at the highest level, which is evidenced by Justice Minister Toader’s efforts to remove the prosecutor general in 2018-2019, despite objections by the SCM and the European Commission. In late 2018, the minister indicated his intention to remove Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar. The request was denied by President Iohannis in January 2019. In April 2019, Toader moved forward with establishing an appointment process to fill the vacancy following the anticipated expiration of the prosecutor general’s term in May 2019. The minister rejected all candidates, including the candidacy of the incumbent prosecutor general, Augustin Lazar. In the midst of this process, Justice Minister Toader resigned from his position on April 19, 2019, after failing to put forward the government’s controversial emergency ordinance amending the criminal code. The incoming justice minister then canceled the appointment process to “avoid deterioration of the situation and give space to improve the procedure.” With no candidates and no appointment process, the deputy prosecutor general at the time, Bogdan Licu, was selected by the Prosecutor’s Section of the SCM as interim prosecutor general. The position continues to be filled on an interim basis, following a broader pattern of interim management at the highest levels of the Romanian judiciary.

Government interference and uncertainty in top prosecutorial positions have raised criticisms within Romania and abroad. Partially in response to the country’s deteriorating capacity to maintain an independent judiciary free from the influence of government or powerful individuals, the European Commission’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) added eight additional recommendations to their 2018 progress report for Romania. In 2019, the Commission continued to point to backtracking on rule of law-related issues, highlighting the dismissal of the prosecutor general as a point of concern. The Commission cites the pattern of disciplinary proceedings against magistrates, document leaking, and the government’s prolongation of management positions as threatening judicial review in the country.

At its investiture, the Orban government announced that the appointment of prosecutors general was its top priority, and promised to make the process transparent and meritocratic. Orban noted that most top prosecutors are ad interim. The selection process for appointing prosecutors is scheduled to end by late January 2020.

Citations:
European Commission (2019): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2019) 499 final, Brussels (https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/progress-report-romania-2019-com-2019-393_en).

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
5
According to Article 142 of Romania’s constitution, every three years three judges are appointed to the Constitutional Court for nine-year terms, with one judge each appointed by the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the president of Romania. Since there are no qualified-majority requirements in either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, and since these appointments occur independently (i.e., they do not need to be approved by or coordinated with any other institution), Constitutional Court justices are in practice appointed along partisan lines.

The two nine-year appointments in May 2019 have confirmed this pattern. First, President Klaus Iohannis appointed his former adviser, Simina Tanasescu, to replace judge Lazaroiu whose nine-year term expired. Tanasescu was the subject of controversy after being forced to resign as Iohannis’ adviser following a meeting with Lazaroiu in June 2018. The meeting was perceived by members of the public and the media as an attempt by the president’s office to pressure Lazaroiu following the judge’s involvement in the decision to dismiss Laura Kovesi as head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate in 2018. After the meeting, which resulted in Tanasescu’s resignation, Lazaroiu stated that his discussion with Tanasescu could have been an attempt by the president’s office to create a conflict over his mandate in order to cast doubt on the Constitutional Court’s decision that forced the president to dismiss Kovesi. The second appointment, made by parliament, replaced judge Stefan Minea with Gheorghe Stan, the head of the Section for Investigating Magistrates. Nominated by the ruling Social Democratic Party, Stan played a key role in the criminal investigation of Laura Kovesi and declared publicly that recommendations made by the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and the Venice Commission are non-binding. Stan was confirmed with 174 votes in the house through secret ballot.

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
4
Romania continued to face scrutiny from the European Commission on corruption prevention. In July 2019, a Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) report criticized Romania’s lack of progress in adopting measures to prevent corruption among lawmakers, judges and prosecutors and addressing concerns about its controversial reform of the judiciary. The November 2018 Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report recommended Romania immediately suspend the justice laws and emergency ordinances, revise them in light of the recommendations of the Venice Commission and GRECO, suspend all ongoing appointments and dismissals for senior prosecutors, appoint a new head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), and annul amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. The European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans lamented the recent “regrettable regress related to amending the laws on justice, the magistrates’ independence, and the fight against corruption.” Justice Minister Teodor Toader criticized the report for containing double standards and political undertones.

Anti-corruption efforts were also hindered by the ad interim leadership of top anti-corruption agencies – the DNA and the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT). After the dismissal of its top prosecutor Laura Kovesi in 2018, deputy chief prosecutors became DNA interim top leaders. While the DNA continued to work, these temporary appointments added uncertainty and vulnerability to the Directorate. Similarly, the DIICOT operated without a chief prosecutor several months until President Iohannis appointed Felix Banila, although DIICOT prosecutors criticized Banila for an “inexcusable and superficial knowledge” of the DIICOT’s activity. President Iohannis dismissed Banila on October 1, 2019 for lack of professionalism and credibility in a high-profile case.

Despite the uncertainty at top levels and lack of independence, the judiciary continued to prosecute high-level corruption-related offenses. The DNA focused primarily on recovering damages, with criminal files focused on high-ranking officials of the state, magistrates, policy officers, company managers, and officials in the education and health systems. The DNA sent to the courts case files with total estimated damages at €412 million, which was more than double that of 2017. The DNA received just 1,513 complaints from citizens, about half of the previous year. The number of yet unsolved files fell by 19% to 9,191. Further, in the first half of 2019, the High Court of Cassation solved three high-level corruption cases at first instance and settled four high-level corruption cases by final decision. The Public Ministry solved 2,065 corruption cases, and the DIICOT seized more than €1 billion in provisional measures related to tax evasion, €24 million in money laundering, and €10 million in smuggling.

The PREVENT system is an important deterrent to corruption in the public procurement process. It has analyzed 33,384 public procurement procedures and issued over 100 integrity warnings that amount to over €243 million.

The anti-corruption effort was partly derailed by the continued hounding of former DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Kovesi, who was appointed as the first Chief Prosecutor of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Complaints against her included corruption-related offenses, accepting bribes and abuse of offices. Kovesi rejected the charges as intimidation attempts. The Superior Council of Magistrates president took issue with the “continuous and aggressive way” the allegations were pursued which serve to “intimidate and seriously affect” the independence of the prosecutors involved in solving a case which implicates Kovesi.

Citations:
Council of Europe, Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)(2019): Follow-up Report to the Ad hoc Report on Romania (Rule 34). Greco-AdHocRep(2019)1, Strasbourg.

European Commission (2019): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2019) 499 final, Brussels (https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/progress-report-romania-2019-com-2019-393_en).
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