Wednesday, April 21, 2010

AP: Court moves to close Romanian anti-corruption body

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA

Officials and democracy activists on Tuesday criticized a move by a Romanian court to close down a government agency that reviews the assets of public officials -- including the court's judges -- and recommends prosecution for wrongdoing.

Horia Georgescu, general secretary of the National Integrity Agency, said the move is a blow to democracy and to attempts to make Romania's politicians publicly accountable. Laura Stefan, an anti-corruption expert called the decision "shameful."

The Constitutional Court made a surprise ruling Friday that the agency was unconstitutional. The ruling came after it was revealed on the same day that the agency was investigating several of the court's judges for concealing information about their assets.

The court is due to publish the reasons for its ruling this week. The court began to study the issue unilaterally. Several politicians have launched public attacks against the agency.

Prime Minister Emil Boc said he planned to reverse the court's decision with an emergency decree that would allow the agency to continue to function.

The National Integrity Agency was set up in 2007 at the recommendation of the European Union to make Romanian public officials more accountable and crack down on endemic corruption. It has targeted politicians and officials in all parties.

Although the Romanian media has exposed alleged wrongdoing of public officials, prosecution has been very rare. Critics say the agency is inefficient and is mainly aimed at showing that Romania is concerned about corruption, rather than actually fighting graft.

Romania joined the EU in 2007 but its justice system, accused of corruption and political bias, is still monitored.

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