By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The American Chamber of Commerce in Romania criticized the Romanian Government for failing to submit to public debate measures with major impact on the business environment and the population, in strategic areas such as taxation, insolvency, infrastructure, public procurement, transparency of the legislative system, and curbing corruption.
“The American Chamber of Commerce in Romania (AmCham Romania) expresses its concern about the inefficient, opaque and delayed consultation process conducted by the Government and line Ministries with regard to important measures either adopted or proposed for adoption, with major impact on the business environment and the population, especially in strategic areas such as taxation, insolvency, infrastructure, public procurement, transparency of the legislative system and curbing corruption” it said in a statement.
AmCham’s reaction comes shortly after lawmakers approved amendments to the Penal Code which exempt them from corruption crimes, sparking fierce reactions from the European Commission and Western embassies in Bucharest which warned the amendments, voted without any public consultation and secretly, equal to one step backward for Romania, already under strict scrutiny from Brussels for its unconvincing anti-corruption fight.
“This move by the Parliament is a step away from transparency and rule-of-law and is a discouraging sign for investors, which will negatively affect Romania’s economy. Transparency, predictability and stability are critical factors for all investors, domestic and international, when they consider where to invest” the US embassy warned in a communiqué.
PM Victor Ponta voiced dissatisfaction about the embassy’s harsh reaction. “The reaction was a mistake and I will tell them that” Ponta said. “Chevron is investing in Romania and it can leave if the law is not applied” he said, a comment that was quickly denounced by President Traian Basescu as a “blackmail”. “It was blackmail against USA, I never thought it would get to this sort of statements, it was a plain blackmail” Basescu said a day later.
AmCham also pointed out it is equally concerned with the lack of a responsible impact assessment, rather than a contextual or biased one, of subjects debated within the Parliament commissions and plenary meetings. “Incidents, through which legislative projects insufficiently fundamented or irrelevant for the general interest are abruptly proposed for adoption, without prior consultation and promotion on the public agenda, are impairing the democratic mechanisms. We are disapproving such attempts to hastily approve pieces of legislation without prior genuine consultations in areas such as the fight against corruption, conflict of interests’ regulation, lobby, and the scope of the Romanian Chamber of Commerce” it further said.
In the end, President Basescu warned that, unless the amendments to the Penal Code are reversed, Romania risks severe consequences. “I assure you that, if we don’t make the necessary corrections quickly, there will be extraordinary consequences, including the suspension of the vote in the European Council” the head of state underlined today.