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Sweet and Sour Pork, à la Roumaine (EN)

. 3 min read

On July 23, the European Commission issued a new Report regarding Romania’s progress towards justice reform and the fight against corruption, as already convened under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. As you may know, when Romania and Bulgaria joined the Union, on 1 January 2007, a special verification tool was established, unlike the case of the previous 10 Member States. If you ask me, the special verification tool, crowned with the “menace” of the sanctioning safeguard clause, was the right way ahead of a possible deadlock. The four benchmarks of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism convened with Romania relate to the shortcomings of the Romanian justice system, and to Romania’s poor capacity to fight corruption. Therefore, two weeks ago, before the floods, everybody was breathlessly waiting for the Report–would there be sanctions, would there be cuts, would there be sticks or carrots?!? In my opinion, we were offered a nice bowl of (originally Chinese) sweet and sour pork, and encouraged to add some domestic rice to eat it–preferably with locally-made chopsticks!

It’s sweet, because the Report found it appropriate to praise Romania’s progress on a number of issues and directions. For instance, while I’m not very happy with the pace, (lack of) procedures and even direction at the Integrity Agency, the Report applauds the birth and rapid development of the institution, awaiting, just like every one of us, the results of the first investigations (about 90 cases being opened, reportedly). For a second, the Report sees the consolidation of the Anti-corruption Prosecution in a favorable light, although it notes some deficiencies regarding the success rate of convictions in court. For a third, the Report acknowledges the adoption of a sectoral strategy regarding the fight against corruption in the administrative system, in spite of not properly wording the concern that Romania failed to adopt the third National Anti-corruption Strategy. Not in the least, it’s sweet by contrast to the wrath bestowed on our neighbors to the South–golyamo sazhelenye! Why sour, then, will you ask? Simply because such a Report exists, mirroring Romania’s incapacity to fulfill a set of requirements, obligations or duties that would make her fully compatible/fit within the European Union. Sour, as well, because our leaders and decision-makers (including the Superior Council of Magistracy, Parliament, Cabinet and Presidency) are incapable of presenting even an estimate date for ending their bickering and getting the job done 🙁

And I guess you must be curious as to why I pictured pork, why a(n originally) Chinese dish? You may well know the story with the Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times!” It’s quite interesting how the Report (just as others, before) warns Romanian leaders to refrain from turning anti-corruption into a political tool or too hot of a political debate. I couldn’t agree more! Instead, losing sight of the importance of good governance (meaning inclusive!), Romanian politicians debated over the findings and the recommendations of the Report in an exclusively political key: The socialists proclaimed the ultimate failure of the right-wing regime, the liberals focused on their success in avoiding tougher sanctions (as seen with the Bulgarian counterparts), while the populars scorned at every criticism regarding the Anti-corruption Prosecution, as if that were their exclusive prodigy… Interesting times, wouldn’t you agree? Adding to the domestic injury, an EU official expressed the opinion that institutions may be personalized, that specific persons (rather than good structures, proper procedures and appropriate human resources) offer guarantees for institutional performance, and that institutional stability may prove a good guise for success 🙁 Facing such mixed, even conflicting, messages, Romanian politics exploded on the TV screens smearing the Report recommendations in the mud. And that’s exactly where you find the pigs that should be carved and served for dinner, praying that this porky spectacle should stop!

Assume that we manage, somehow, in the upcoming elections, to slaughter the pigs, depoliticize the anti-corruption effort, and put an end to these interesting times–and make them normal… What next?!? Of course, we need to add a side of rice to the pork: The Parliament still needs to finalize the Codes, and it better gets it right from the first cooking! The judges and prosecutors still need to clean up their own backyard (and I don’t mean just the CSM), and make sure culprits not only are convicted, but also serve their time, for we are quite fed up with suspended sentences! The Cabinet still needs to get its act together in adopting an Anti-corruption Strategy for 2009-2012, as well as find a way to finance all of the anti-corruption efforts properly! And I guess the President should be able to provide the chopsticks in all of this arrangement, if he were more concerned with grand policies of vision, depth or breadth, with mobilization or concertation, rather than small-scale politicking in favor of tic-tac-toe… But, hey!, if all of these things would happen, the dish wouldn’t then be à la Roumaine… N’est-ce pas?!?