Sunday, July 27, 2008

Romania says EU criticism to motivate reforms

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania pledged on Wednesday to step up the fight against corruption after the European Commission criticised the new member for poor progress in combating widespread abuse.

Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu said the special report from Brussels would "motivate" Romania to press ahead with reforms to clean up and improve the justice system.

"I assure European Commission representatives that we will accelerate measures ... We want every Romanian citizen to feel that justice is done correctly," Tariceanu said.

Though Romania has overhauled its justice system and its anti-corruption measures, observers say reforms are slow to produce results.

Brussels is concerned in particular with meagre progress in combating top-level abuse, saying parliament and judges often use minor excuses to delay cases.

A handful of investigations against senior politicians, including against former prime minister Adrian Nastase, are stalled by delays in courts and changes in legislation.

A Constitutional Court ruling that requires prosecutors to seek parliament's approval for checks on some politicians has effectively frozen some cases.

In June, a parliamentary committee recommended a request to probe Nastase, who denies the allegations, on bribery allegations be rejected. Parliament later failed to make a decision because too few deputies voted, causing further delays.

Observers blame the foot-dragging on too many Romanian politicians being entangled in powerful interest groups that oppose reforms while others simply protect their own practices.

Tariceanu said he would "appeal to all political parties to adopt constructive speech regarding (corruption) issues".

"The biggest enemy of justice is the politician who uses quarellsome speech. I invite all representatives of political forces to start a constructive dialogue to enable the continuation of progresses we made in the justice field."

Despite the criticism, Bucharest escaped sanctions which Brussels had levied on Bulgaria, Romania's southern neighbour.

Also on Wednesday, the European Commission suspended aid to Bulgaria worth hundreds of millions of euros (pounds) and barred two key payment agencies from receiving EU funds over corruption and mismanagement.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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