Romania is not the most corrupted country in Europe, but we have to say it’s got quite a bad reputation for this over the years. This is why Romania, along its neighboring Bulgaria, is still closely monitored by the European Commission through the infamous CVM – Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. CVM allows the EU institutions to verify the level of corruption in the two countries and the progress being made in terms of justice independence.
CVM is a political mechanism and each year the two countries receive a report on their progress, meaning additional tasks and observations made by the monitors. On the other hand, this mechanism was a compromise which in 2007 let Romania and Bulgaria adhere to the European Union even though no country succeeded in closing their chapters regarding Justice.
Romania, in particular, has a worse image than Bulgaria and the latest reports on the matter showed Bulgaria has progressed a lot, while Romania has stalled.
Now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, two Romanian officials, including a high official from the Ministry of Interior, has asked for immunity regarding the public acquisitions during the emergency situation. Why?
It is clear that the two official have not spoken only in their name. The governing party has clearly accomplished quite a number of public acquisitions, paying tens of millions of Euros so far, not all of them respecting the public acquisition procedures.
An example was one particular strange acquisition of medical masks, done through a shell company from Giurgiu, a county close to Bucharest. The shell company proved itself to be nothing else but a cheap pub from a Romanian village. Where did that pub have money to acquire millions of medical masks? This is another question, but the Romanian media speculated that the Romanian Ministry of Finance approved for the pub to take a down payment from the Government for purchasing the masks from another country and import them for selling them to the Government. Not a good practice in public acquisitions, right?
Not to mention that, following this public acquisition, the Minister of Health resigned from his office, avoiding to justify his act.
Why Do Romanian Officials Ask For Immunity For The Acquisitions During COVID-19 Pandemic? They say that if abiding by the law, the acquisitions would have taken longer and the crisis would have escalated in the lack of sanitary and medical equipment. On the other hand, though, when having in mind the example of purchasing masks by using a village pub as a shell company, questions remain unanswered.
The Romanian magistrates already protested against this attempt from the Government to get immunity for its members. They argued that the Venice Commission always stated that the rule of law should be respected even in the emergency situations.
Will the Government officials be investigated for their deeds? It is hard to tell at this moment, but, after the emergency situation will end in Romania, the official announcement for this mentioning May 15, the magistrates will be able to make their move in defending justice once again.