News 05 Feb 13

Romania President Rejects Law on MPs' Immunity

The President has refused to promulgate a law that would strengthen the immunity of MPs from criminal investigation and potential prosecution.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

Aiming to support Romania’s efforts to tackle high-level corruption, President Traian Basescu on Monday rejected a bill that would have boosted MPs'immunity from prosecution.

Basescu said “confusing paragraphs” had to be eliminated from the law, while the law had to match existing legislation.

“Public consultation is needed as well, as are more opinions from relevant institutions before the law is put into practice,” Basescu added.

On January 22, deputies overwhelmingly approved the law, which would have made it harder for prosecutors to investigate cases of graft or conflicts of interests.

Prosecutors need parliamentary approval to launch criminal probes against MPs. Under the current rules, parliamentary legal committees assess the requests and issue a non-binding approval or rejection before a mandatory vote in the chamber.

Under the proposed changes, parliament would not need to take a vote if the committees rejected the requests of prosecutors.

Another change approved by the MPs proposed to curb the powers of the National Integrity Agency, ANI, an anti-graft body set up after Romania joined the EU in 2007, to investigate the wealth and potential conflicts of interest among politicians.

Over the past few years, the ANI has accused 42 lawmakers of conflicts of interest, or of amassing dubious wealth. Two minister have resigned following ANI investigations.

Romania is still considered one of the most corrupt states in the European Union and has made only limited progress in fighting graft and organised crime since it joined the EU.

The country has faced repeated criticism from the European Commission for its failure to tackle the problem.

In its last report, on January 31, the European Commission said Romania had implemented several - but not all - of the Commission's recommendations.

The Commission said it remained concerned about persistent pressure on judicial institutions and lack of respect for their independence.

The Commission also warned of public campaigns orchestrated by media owners who use their outlets to wage personal wars, or who pay lip service to the government to gain advantages.

The Commission also noted another major setback. A report by the National Integrity Agency, ANI, on ministers and senior officials under criminal investigation, was published in November 2012 but did not lead to any resignations.

The ANI deemed three ministers incompatible with their jobs. None resigned, though following the general elections in December, they were not re-appointed.

Meanwhile two other serving ministers are under investigation for corruption. Parliamentarians who are under similar investigations have also stayed on. About 20 MPs elected in December to the new parliament are the subject of ongoing corruption cases.

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