Word Count: 1883
After writing two exhaustive inquiries into the workings of the DNA, I was highly eager to read the MCV reports published on January 27, 2016 for Romania. Yes, they’re filled with dense technical terms and legalistic writing but hey, that’s what gets me excited.
I’d already read media stories that the MCV report this year on Bulgaria was far more critical than the one for Romania, so I was looking forward to digging into all the juicy details about how Romania has progressed over the past year.
Unfortunately, very little positive has transpired in Romania. To be completely fair, I’ll highlight those “wins” below but the majority of the MCV report on Romania can be summed up as “good things are on the horizon but were stalled yet again for another year”.
Furthermore, in a strange new development, the quality of the English in the final report was rather abysmal. I skipped over the first two typos thinking that even the best writers make mistakes but deeper analysis shows a number of disturbing errors beyond misplaced commas, including subject/verb errors, words being omitted and non-natural sounding modifiers.
I know that the EU employs some very skilled translators but it’s obvious that, in this case, the translators speak the original language of the report better than they do English. With words being capitalized incorrectly, the whole thing comes off looking quite rushed.
Just for funsies, I looked at the Romanian-language version of the report, which was translated much better, but it’s still clear that the original author wrote his/their report in some language other than English OR Romanian. Since a Dutch politician is the EU chief in charge of the MCV and the individual who gave the press conference about the MCV reports, I’ll just have to assume that the ORIGINAL version of the MCV report was written in either Dutch or German.
Translation errors and poor syntax aside, let’s see what the report actually said!
Note: My summary is my summary, so read the whole thing for yourself if you want more details ;)
Romanians care about corruption, as evidenced by the October 2015 protests following the Collectiv nightclub fire. And Romanians really seem to think that the DNA is doing a super job.
We (the MCV team) recommended a bunch of stuff in 2015 and most of it hasn’t been implemented but we really hope that this year (2016) it’ll happen. The EU is once again spending a ton of money to try to help, so fingers crossed!
Arresting the DIICOT boss on corruption = the judiciary is independent. It’s hard to hire people for top jobs in the judicial system but it looks more fair and independent than it used to be.
The CSM (governing body of prosecutors and judges) is becoming more independent, which is great. But all kinds of politicians, including President Klaus, keep fucking with the CSM. Parliament is the worst, as they regularly go on TV and criticize everything that the courts do, which is totally not cool.
The different law codes (criminal, civic, etc) were all overhauled in 2014. But, thanks to all kinds of dicking around by Parliament and the Justice Minister, nothing is clear and everyone is still waiting around for things to get straightened out. The CSM, though, is doing a great job training judges and clerks on how to interpret these constantly-changing law codes. Oh, and even though all this should’ve been finished before the year (2016) began, everything is way, way behind schedule.
Meanwhile, in a bit of positive news, the ICCJ is doing a good job of training judges how to properly interpret the law consistently instead of continually making willy-nilly rulings that clog up everything due to the huge number of appeals.
The Justice Ministry’s budget went way up (43% increase) partly to implement an electronic system to file cases and report on judicial decisions. It isn’t working yet except for in a few test cases, but we’re hoping it’ll be ready soon, especially as the World Bank just loaned Romania a ton of money to make it happen.
Oh, and the problem of nobody collecting fines due the court continues, as plenty of fucking around in parliament means that no one is responsible for collecting these fines. When a court in Romania orders that a defendant pay a fine, the defendant usually just laughs it off, so everyone loses out.
After the head of the ANI (Integrity Agency) got hit by a DNA anti-corruption probe, the ANI upgraded the vice-president of the ANI to the top job in what looked like a fair process.
Meanwhile the NIC, which is the group whose job it is to monitor the ANI, was defunct for a while and did nothing. But after being reformulated, the NIC did exactly one thing, which was organize the hiring of the new ANI boss. Other than that, they’re not doing much of anything at all.
The ANI, though, is on fire. They’ve filed a ton of cases against politicians, which proves that nobody in the Romanian government understands the rules of what is and what isn’t acceptable. Which we tried to explain but nobody quite seems to get it.
There’s supposed to be a computer system in place to help politicians understand how to make purchases (on behalf of their government department) without engaging in corruption, but it isn’t working yet, although we hope it’ll be up and running soon. But even when it is working, it can only be used for EU money.
Meanwhile, politicians right and left are ignoring ANI rulings that state that they (the politicians) can’t run for office. Since there will be two elections in 2016 (locals in June, parliament in November), the ANI will have its hands full this year!
The DNA is doing super awesome and is really just fantastic. That’s why the Romanian public loves the DNA so gosh darn much. And we love ’em too, golly.
Wow, the DNA bagged over 1250 defendants just in 2015 alone! And now the cases are getting run through the judicial system at lightning speed. Good job, DNA!
Unfortunately, parliament isn’t being nice and has refused to let the DNA prosecute some of its members. Bad parliament! So MPs and ministers continue stay on the job even if the DNA wants to arrest them.
Also, a bunch of other government agencies are refusing to cooperate with the DNA, which sucks. But in two years (2018), we hope that’ll improve.
Oh, and while previously 1 in 5 or 1 in 6 DNA cases “originated” from information provided by shadowy intelligence agencies, now only 1 in 10 cases do.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The fight against corruption is going so super awesome. But we have to give a sad face emoji because Romania keeps on ignoring a ton of things that we recommended in 2015 and 2014. Still though, the fact that Romania has promised to be better this year is a good sign!
Here’s what we recommend for 2016:
- Figure out a fair way to appoint top judges.
- Likewise, figure out a fair way to appoint top-level prosecutors.
- Make members of parliament respect the law and behave themselves.
- Get the CSM to shield anonymous judges from criticism.
- Figure out these law codes already! And we mean before the year 2050, please.
- Pretty please make politicians adhere to ANI rulings.
- Teach Romanian bureaucrats how to make purchases without constantly breaking the darn law.
- Quit letting politicians banned from holding office run for election.
- Spend more EU money to arrest even more people for corruption crimes!
- When someone is convicted of corruption, take their money and assets for realsies. And no stealing, guys!
- Figure out a fair way to prosecute sitting members of Parliament already.
Romania, as always, is moving at a snail’s pace almost entirely due to politicians interfering with literally everything, attacking what they don’t like and fiddling with the laws and law codes every few weeks.
A commenter recently responded here on the blog to my first piece (investigating the DNA) by saying that my in-depth analysis was a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. Essentially, he was saying that I should let a slightly flawed system (the “good” DNA) do its job and quit harping on them to be perfect.
To put it politely, no.
I’m not a politician and I have no major commercial interests in Romania. So when I criticize the DNA, it’s not because I’m trying to defend myself (or one of my buddies) from prosecution or scrutiny. In fact, the opposite is true. I wrote extensively about how glad I was that the loathsome mayor of Cluj (Sorin Apostu) was jailed on corruption charges. I want the bad guys to be arrested and to pay for their crimes!
But I don’t like the DNA because they rely on secret proceedings to convict people, denying defendants the ability to call their own witnesses. I also don’t like how all these cases are heard by secret judges in secret trials. Furthermore, a conviction rate of about 92% is clearly indicative that the process is unfair and that some innocent people are being convicted.
If the DNA had a few small problems, or goofed on the occasional case, I’d actually be happier because that’s a healthy indicator that the process is fair. But when one side (the prosecution) wins 92% of the time, using a lot of secret information gained from military intelligence agencies, that smacks of a star chamber judicial system.
Call me old-fashioned but I prefer to have terrorists, crooks, and corrupt politicians convicted in open court in a process that gives the most heinous defendant a FAIR CHANCE to defend himself. Then, and only then, if they’re found guilty should they be convicted and sent to jail.
The DNA (and the Romanian judicial system as a whole) is one big black box. Charges go in one end and convictions come out the other end with nobody allowed to see what happens in the middle. That is not fairness even if everyone likes the results.
The sad part is that Romania had a real opportunity in 2008 to escape the MCV (i.e bring everything up to EU standards) and implement real reform. Basescu had just been re-elected, his partner Emil Boc was the Prime Minister, Morar was the DNA chief, and Kovesi the “attorney general”. Parliament had the ball in their court, with legislation introduced to reform and streamline both the various law codes as well as make adherence to ANI/DNA rulings (and MCV recommendations) mandatory.
Instead, the whole idea of reform and adoption of EU standards got bogged down by political infighting and fallout over the subprime housing crisis in the USA which tanked the Romanian economy. Truly, a tragedy.
Will Romania ever really reform itself? I doubt it because Romania keeps getting a pass from the EU thanks to Bulgaria faring even worse and Poland sucking up all the air in the room with their latest shenanigans.
Romanians deserve a fair and impartial government, including the judiciary. But what they’ve got now is high conviction numbers being ginned up by a star chamber judicial system that’s packaged and sold as genuine progress against corruption.
And because it’s so tempting to want to believe that this is real reform, most people do.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE