Jul 31st 2008 | BUCHAREST
From The Economist print edition
An anti-corruption crusader faces the sack
FIGHTING corruption in a country that tolerates it is a lonely job, and may not have his for much longer. Intensely disliked by most of Romania’s politicians and vilified in the media, he reaches the end of his term as head of the Romania’s anti-corruption agency . A government announcement on his future—and likely replacement—is expected imminently.
If so, Romania’s hottest political issue will become an international one. A on July 23rd criticised Romania’s lacklustre effort against wrongdoing, but did not impose sanctions as it did against Bulgaria. It praised Mr Morar’s agency, and a spokesman says his status is a “test case” of Romania’s readiness to curb high-level corruption after joining the EU in 2007.
The Romanian parliament, however, does not share this admiration. It uses its veto to prevent Mr Morar’s hottest cases from going to court. And of the 109 cases that were prosecuted in 2007, only 25 resulted in prison sentences, mostly for the minimum three years, or (with mitigating circumstances) even less.
Critics say that Mr Morar is pursuing political vendettas on behalf of his backers, chiefly Romania’s president, , whose supporters are the main opposition Democratic Party in parliament. Mr Morar’s agency has indeed chiefly gone after politicians from other parties; but it has prosecuted some important figures in Mr Basescu’s camp too.
Mr Morar’s difficulties are a symptom of something else: a culture in which corruption does not equate with disgrace. Transparency International ranks Romania as the most corrupt EU country. Bribery is endemic, typically to secure medical treatment or teachers’ favours.
At an off-the-record seminar organised by a German think-tank recently, judges said punishing corruption severely would be hypocritical and harsh. The Romanian language has no precise word for “accountability”.