Romanian Parliament slams the door on anti-corruption efforts

Romanian Parliament slams the door on anti-corruption efforts

Bucharest, June 9, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Daniel Stroe

The Deputies’ Chamber in a plenary sitting on Tuesday voted, by 231 votes to 120, against a criminal investigation procedure to be launched against Prime Minister Victor Ponta who is suspected of corruption offenses, leaving the case in abeyance and further embarrassing the country just as the anti-graft fight was picking up.

Reacting to the vote, President Klaus Iohannis harshly criticized Parliament’s, showing that the Legislature has turned into a shield for the latter and that the solution is the resignation of the head of Government.

“I maintain my point of view according to which Parliament shouldn’t hinder the act of justice. I regret that today the ruling coalition imposed a contrary decision. At the same time, I regret the fact that Parliament has turned into a protection shield for the person Victor Ponta, suspected of criminal offenses. It is a proof of maximum irresponsibility and defiance against the citizens the fact that parliamentarians making up the majority prevent justice from doing its job, are willing to destroy the institution of Parliament, as it should function in a rule of law state, and affect Romania’s image in order to politically save one single person,” Iohannis said, according to a press release of the Presidential Administration.

He believes that the solution to come out of crisis is the Prime Minister’s resignation. “The parliamentary majority refuses to accept the signal given by the citizens, which was a very clear one: put a stop to corruption, [do] politics with integrity and responsibility. I still believe that the solution to come out of the current crisis is the resignation of Mr Victor Ponta from the Prime Minister office,” the head of state maintains.

Ponta is under criminal investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors in the Turceni-Rovinari energy complex case for forged documents under private signature (17 counts), accessory to continued tax evasion and money laundering, as a lawyer (legal representative of “Ponta Victor-Viorel” Individual Law Firm).

The vote also sparked reaction from the Western embassies in Bucharest, very sensitive about any political step hindering anti-corruption fight in Romania. Any accusations against government officials on breaking the law must be thoroughly and without interferences investigated and the law must be equally enforced for everybody, the US Embassy in Bucharest pointed out in the context of the request for the approval to open a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

The Dutch Embassy also highlighted it strongly believes that the law applies evenly and the recent evolutions in the Parliament raise broader issues as regards the attitude towards Justice and corruption in Romania, the Embassy of this state in Bucharest specifies in a Facebook post. The source reminds that “this concern” was highlighted in the CVM (Cooperation and Verification Mechanism) Report on 2015 of the European Commission. Romania is under close scrutiny from the European Commission concerning efforts to reform the justice field and streamline anti-corruption fight, which has seen an unprecedented drive lately. But many lawmakers use the parliamentary immunity to shield themselves from corruption related criminal investigations.