2. Romanian anti-corruption summer
BSSB.BE intellinews.com 17.07.2018
* The remarkable gains made by several East European states in the crusade against corruption in the name of the rule of law can no longer be considered secure.
The DNA’s effectiveness was further called into question when it failed to secure convictions of high-profile officials in several recent cases. The agency’s reputation was badly damaged by the collapse of one of Romania’s biggest ever corruption probes (dubbed the Microsoft case) on a technicality. Dragnea’s predecessor as head of the PSD, former prime minister Victor Ponta, was also acquitted of corruption charges in May, allowing him to return to the political fray.
Overall, however, the DNA has been instrumental in cleaning up corruption in Romania. Its ability to secure convictions and send ministers and party heads to jail has had a profound impact on corruption by making it a dangerous occupation. Romania’s international porters including fellow EU member states and the US have strongly criticised Bucharest’s judicial reform efforts, urging in late June for “ all parties involved in amending Romania’s criminal and criminal procedure codes to avoid changes that would weaken the rule of law or Romania’s ability to fight crime or corruption”.
“Romania has shown considerable progress in combatting corruption and building effective rule of law. We encourage Romanians to continue on this path,” the statement adds.
Taking on the “first family”
Critics have similarly slammed Calovic-Markovic’s dismissal in Montenegro as politicised, and most likely intended as retribution for her NGO’s exposés concerning President Milo Djukanovic and his family.
MANS called the parliament’s decision part of a “political cleansing” undertaken by Djukanovic. “[I]t is completely clear that the replacement of Calovic-Markovic is revenge for revealing criminal activities of Djukanovic and his closest circle, and an attempt to stop the fight against corruption,” the NGO said in a statement.
Under Calovic-Markovic’s leadership, the NGO has published evidence connecting Djukanovic and his family to allegedly corrupt deals. Most recently it claimed majority state-owned power utility EPCG had purchased Rudnik Uglja coal mine from shareholders, including the president’s brother Aco Djukanovic, at inflated prices.
Calovic-Markovic has a long history of trouble with the Montenegrin authorities. She has been tried and fined by the courts several times. In 2013, she was fined €600 in absentia by a Montenegrin court for her participation in an action accusing the constitutional court of serving the interests of the first family. Her lawyer argued that the court’s decision to fine her in absentia was in breach of both Montenegrin and EU legislation.
At the same time as removing Calovic-Markovic, MPs also voted to dismiss Irena Radovic from the post of deputy central bank governor. Radovic claimed she was dismissed because she failed to support governor Radoje Zugic, who is among Djukanovic’s most loyal party members, after he ordered her to impose tougher control over some banks while leaving others to operate without any supervision, daily Vijesti reported. For his part, Zugic accused her of incompetence and lack of professionalism.
Montenegro can’t be seen as a beacon of the anti-corruption fight in the way Romania has been in recent years, as little has been achieved when it comes to throwing the book at corrupt top officials. When the former president of Serbia & Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, was sentenced to 46 months in jail for his participation in the so-called Budva affair in 2016 it was hailed as a milestone in the country’s fight against top level graft. Yet despite admitting guilt, Marovic never actually went to prison, going missing shortly after he was sentenced by the judge.
In April, the European Commission slammed Montenegro for its lack of progress in the fight against organised crime in its progress report and said that the country needs to make further progress in most other areas. “Despite some progress, corruption is prevalent in many areas and remains an issue of concern,” the report noted. At the time, the EC also commented on “Challenges to the credibility, independence and priority-setting” of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
Leading by example
The effectiveness of the DNA in bringing top officials to account in Romania has naturally attracted the attention of the country’s neighbours to the south and east, who lag behind in the fight against corruption.
Officials in Bulgaria, which was once well ahead of Romania but has recently languished and is now considered the most corrupt country in the EU, have been looking to the Romanian example to revitalise their own struggles against corruption. As far as ordinary people are concerned, Bulgaria is still years away from Romania, which is seen as the example of what could be done if only the right people are put in power.
In Bulgaria, the third government of Boyko Borissov promised to fight corruption — just as his two previous cabinets promised. The current government has established a new special prosecution unit that is supposed to fight high-level corruption. However, so far it has proven ineffective, as it has not launched a single new case. A recent report in daily Dnevnik revealed that so far the special prosecution has either worked on old cases or has filed cases where the procedures were not properly met or there is insufficient evidence to launch a trial. Four cases were ended by courts, while in one case the accused was found not guilty.
And with the ongoing implosion of the anti-corruption fight in Romania, what hope is there for its neighbour to the east, Ukraine, that together with Russia is ranked as the most corrupt country in Europe.
The ongoing struggle over the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court (ACC) illustrates the troubles Ukraine has had in making improvements, even with intense pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international donors.
The ACC is intended to be one part of a triumvirate that will provide a politically independent mechanism for charging those in high office with corruption. However, the administration of President Petro Poroshenko has vigorously resisted international pressure to set the court up. When the law on the ACC was finally adopted, it had one critical loophole allowing regular courts to overturn ACC rulings on appeal. This was sneaked into the final draft of the law by the government. NGOs were up in arms at the loophole and have demanded its removal, as has the IMF’s managing director Christine Lagarde, who praised President Petro Poroshenko for putting the law through but said explicitly that the cause that allows decisions to be appealed in regular courts must be removed. The IMF has effectively frozen its desperately needed $17.5bn support programme for the Ukraine until the law is changed.
With additional reporting from Denitsa Koseva in Sofia and Carmen Simion in Bucharest.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: intellinews.com