Sunday, July 27, 2008

Romania Parties Bicker over EU’s Graft Report

23 July 2008 Bucharest _ Romania’s government praised an EU report on the Balkan country’s fight against corruption, while opposition parties and analysts took a more critical approach. "The report is fair and balanced as it stresses that Romania has made progress in its fight against corruption," Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu said in a press statement.

On his part, Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said the government will continue the policy of "zero tolerance" against graft.

On Wednesday, the European Commission said in a report that Romania needs to step up efforts to combat high-level corruption, notably by its parliament and courts, where judges often used minor excuses to delay cases.

The report condemns parliament for delaying corruption inquiries involving the former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and other top officials.

It also calls on Romania not to adopt legal changes that would make it much harder for prosecutors to search the homes and wire-tap the phones of corruption suspects.

Opposition politicians had a different opinion on the report than that of the government.

"The findings of the report are unfair. There was no delay in parliament, on the contrary. There wasn't any lack of political will by deputies to fight graft," Nicolae Vacaroiu, the speaker of Romania's Upper Chamber, the Senate, said.

Vacaroiu is also a leader of opposition Social Democratic Party.

Experts say Romania still has a long way forward in its fight against corruption.

"The greatest liability in Romania is that the fight against corruption has become a political instrument in the power struggle among parties,” explained Victor Alistar, Executive Director of Transparency International Romania.

“This is why a national consensus on anti-corruption policies has failed and no high-level corruption case has been concluded so far. We believe that any new anti-corruption reform must be designed on a purely technical basis and backed by strong political will," he added.

Romania, together with Bulgaria, are the newest EU members having joined the bloc in 2007. They have been under stringent monitoring over concerns they will be unable to absorb millions of euros in EU funding amid fears of corruption and organised crime.

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