End of November, early December, monitoring missions come pouring in… Yes, EU experts and dignitaries, concerned with CVM—Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, land in Bucharest for a few days, interview lots of stakeholders, take notes, then pack up and fly out, to write their reports, which will come at a time when it’s no longer possible to make either corrections, or supportive budget allocations. Year after year, regardless of who’s in power, either in Brussels or in Bucharest (Prodi, Barroso or Tăriceanu, Boc, Ungureanu, Ponta), the same old scenario: We meet and talk in a room, essentially crying on each other’s shoulders, like hags in mourning—the same habit is present in Romania’s country-side, as you’ve all seen in Zorba, or as you may now see in this short movie from Sardinia.
We’re the same Romanian NGOs, under-budgeted and under-staffed, but dedicated to seeing Romania’s rule o’flaw turning into genuine rule-of-law; they’re usually different people, but always with the same task—to best use their limited time in identifying whatever trace of progress they might find. NGOs cry, emphasizing our lack of capacity for keeping our eyes on every single stupid and (more often) illegal thing, idea or action that goes through the minds of our decision-makers; EU monitors also cry, explaining that they have a limited mandate and can’t feature every single thing in their report…
What good is such a mechanism?!? As long as there’s no one permanent CVM staff, either in Brussels or in Bucharest, to document all of the daily wrong-doings, to keep track of specific indicators on all 4 benchmarks (BMs, further down), the EU won’t have the capacity to fix Romania’s either judicial reform or the fight against corruption! And won’t be able to rely on the NGOs’ support forever, either! Without a budget allocation, as a carrot, the CVMis just as
tooth tasteless as our national/macro strategies 🙁 Eventually, Romanian politicians realized that CVM is no stick either, that it’s more reactive than anticipatory, so now they push the limits of state capture, knowing that Brussels is unable to react sooner than 3 weeks to 6 months:
- BM1—the Codes still lack the impact assessments, so their implementation will strain all courts and prosecution offices, apparently just as under-budgeted and under-staffed as the NGOs; and will effectively pardon corruption-indicted culprits, with the intricate play on the statutes of limitations;
- BM1—the unification of judicial practice lags behind, as the Supreme Court and the Magistrates’ Council proved unable to coordinate their policy-making with the Ministry of Justice;
- BM2&3—the attributions/jurisdictions of the specialized anticorruption agencies get diluted by the day, weakening their capacity to identify and redress integrity incidents—the most recent news refer to ANI, but the same happened to DNA and DGA, earlier this year;
- BM2,3&4—other specialized/independent agencies (the Legislative, the Fiscal or the Competition Councils, as well as the Central Bank or the Financial Intelligence Unit) keep a low profile, outright marginalized in policy-making, or intimidated and self-restrained in fear of their attributions being chucked away by this trippin’ coalition in power, and a consenting opposition in Parliament;
- BM4—the decentralization law, utterly a-legal and poorly (or malevolently?) designed (decoupled also from the economies-of-scale arguments for regionalization and/or unification of administrative units), will increase the frequency of integrity incidents across central and local administration;
- BM4—the public procurement legislation gets twisted and thwarted to make room for PPPs with no competitive procedures; the budget allocations of local governments go to football clubs and churches, rather than education, healthcare and infrastructure; the transparency of decision-making legislation is completely disregarded at all levels of government; the timid evolution of open data cannot cover, or make up for, the gross violations to the right of access to information;
- BM1thru4—the constitutional revision mechanism transpires with our politicians’ mockery and despise at anything even remotely indicative of either Rule of Law or fundamental European rights, including private property, good administration, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly…
photo source: Mixtopia.ro
Under these circumstances, what to do with the German-Dutch-Finnish-Danish initiative and the Commission-backed scorecard? Will they do the trick, and prove a better carrot or a better stick? Can such a mechanism be effective without additional transfer of sovereignty to Brussels? Would a stronger Commission allocate staff and funds, create and monitor indicators, as well as intervene in anticipation, either in Romania or any other EU member-state? If you just answered I don’t know to any of the latter 3 questions, rest assured, your only hope of getting some valuable information (post-factum only!) will remain with the professional “mourning” NGOs 🙁
But mark my words, that civil society organizations are no Chuck Norris, and their stamina will soon wear out, as long as no regular report confirms their findings, no decisions and no financial mechanism supports their quests, their legal battles, their outreach to regular Joes and Janes across the EU. Romanian and Bulgarian politicians will continue to mock the CVM, Hungarian politicians will maintain their contempt of human rights, Spaniards will keep their secrets under wraps, Italians will protect their networks of undue influence and undue benefits, Maltese will sellEU citizenship, … the list may never end 🙁
So, dear CVM monitors, pencil in this particular note to your reports: Without a dedicated budget allocation, the race to the bottom will continue both in judicial reforms, and in anticorruption! You may choose to allocate the money to educate and integrate a cohort of specialized civil servants in Brussels, or you may earmark smaller funds (pp. 486-7) to the organizational development of existing, already specialized NGOs on the ground. But make that decision, already, as we’re tired of posing as Chuck Norris to our sickening government, when we got no money to pay the bills!
Update: Parliament practically dis-incriminated all public officials from all crimes of corruption, while the Minister of Justice reiterates that “the fight against corruption stays an irreversible course.” In the context of the International Anticorruption Day, the contrast between the Minister’s rhetoric and the Parliament’s action is, at best, laughable; in actuality, though, it’s a curse!, an irreversible curse! 🙁