Transparency International (TI) today welcomed the Government of Romania's stated commitment to combat corruption, following a meeting between recently-elected President, Traian Basescu, and senior TI representatives, where President Basescu presented his country's ongoing anti-corruption reforms. TI is the leading global non-governmental organisation engaged in the fight against corruption.
Corruption remains the most serious obstacle to Romania's chances of joining the European Union in 2007. Romania is due to sign its historic EU Accession Agreement on 25 April 2005. According to a safeguard clause in the agreement, accession in 2007 will only go ahead if substantial reforms are enacted, including demonstrable progress in the fight against corruption.
After his election in December last year, President Basescu defined corruption as a threat to the national security of Romania. Miklos Marschall, TI's Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, welcomed President Basescu's strong stance towards tackling corruption. Mr Marschall also encouraged the government to establish a truly independent watchdog institution to monitor the government's anti-corruption strategy: "It is vital that such a watchdog institution reports to the Parliament and has the power to scrutinize ministers, magistrates and MPs." An independent watchdog could also enforce crucial public disclosure and conflict of interest regulations.
TI reiterated the concerns of its chapter in the region, TI Romania, on the benefits of restructuring the National Anti-Corruption Prosecution Service, as proposed in a recent Freedom House report commissioned by the Government.
"Popular support for any anti-corruption initiative is crucial," said Cobus de Swardt, TI's Director of Global Programmes. "In a rather cynical environment, it is very important that the new leadership demonstrates that it means what it says."
Mr de Swardt drew attention to TI's Anti-Corruption Legal Advice Centres, which facilitate active participation of the public. "The ALAC in Romania has received over 3,000 calls which demonstrates that when people have an opportunity to be involved in the fight against corruption they will seize it. They must continue to be provided with this opportunity."
Mr Marschall concluded, "There is a window of opportunity offered by the culmination of the EU accession negotiations and the inauguration of the new government. If this is missed, the government's anti-corruption efforts are likely to be perceived as mere window-dressing."
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