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We are deeply concerned about the Romanian Agency for Fiscal Administration's (ANAF) raid on the reputed investigative journalism platform RISE Project, which we feel was an attempt to intimidate and silence the press.

The context in which this “random” ANAF inspection took place (on Thursday, July 6th, exactly on the day when the journalists were announcing the publication of a new episode from their investigative report series regarding the PSD leader and the second day after Liviu Dragnea had publicly cast doubt upon the sources of RISE Project’s financing), as well as the unconvincing explanations of the ANAF leadership indicate that we are dealing with a show of force meant to pressure journalists and the free press through a state-run body. Such practices are often met in the former Soviet space controlled by Vladimir Putin and in Recep Tayyp Erdogan’s Turkey and they are incompatible with the values of a member state of the European Union and of NATO.

The signatory organizations consider unacceptable that normative acts of such importance as those regarding collective pardons for criminal sentences or amending the Criminal Codes are secretly drafted and included on the Government’s agenda without effective consultation of the Romanian society. There was no opportunity for the civil society, representatives of the judiciary system and other interested parties to formulate a point of view, or indeed to know what is going on. Such practices throw Romania back to the early, authoritarian stages of the post-Communist transition and are incompatible with the normal practice in EU member states.

Manifesto for Reconciliation
Romanian civil society urge the European leaders to show wisdom, restraint and a sense of history when dealing with the effects of the Brexit referendum, at this Council and beyond


We, the undersigned, feel shocked and aggrieved by the events unfolding these days in UK and a number of EU capitals, after the Brexit referendum. We plead with our European leaders for reason, maturity and restraint when dealing with the aftermath of the vote, whether they are in charge of governments, EU institutions or elected in the national and European parliaments.
The vote has left a great European society – Britain – deeply divided, causing rifts in families, friendships, among colleagues and neighbours, divisions that will take years to heal. The unity of the country itself is in doubt, again. These is not laughing matter for politicians in charge with the continent’s destiny. Leaders are there not to entertain, or create rifts in societies, but to heal them.

The Brexit referendum is a major setback for the whole European Union. Yes, there were moments of crisis before since, as many analysts have noted, EU was not predestined, but a makeshift project by jealous nation states. Other outcomes were possible for Europe after World War II, but with good luck and common sense, institutions were created which secured an unprecedented half a century of peace and prosperity together.
We should not romanticize the past: those who had a vision of tolerance, freedom and prosperity have been a minority from the beginning of the project and had to navigate the turbulent waters of Realpolitik. The disconcerting feeling today, however, is that destructive views become mainstream at the highest echelons of governance and that populism, hysteria and irrationality disguise themselves increasingly successfully as “speaking the truth to the people”, in the new era of instant media.
Yes, EU is perfectible and, among other things, has to communicate better. It is clumsy or sometimes outright incompetent at explaining itself, allowing urban myths and disinformation to spread which makes it guilty for fictitious mistakes; or for those made in fact by the national governments; or by failing to show how it stands for the greater common good and against petty, parochial interests; or by becoming the rhetorical scapegoat for unpopular but necessary measures carried out by national leaders. It has become by default the lighting rod of choice for all European demagogues, left and right.

The Brexit vote was thus a failure for all of us. We failed to listen to citizens' concerns, with patience and empathy. We failed to fight irresponsible populism and shameless propaganda in more than one country of the EU; we failed to see the discontented and build a bridge to them. And, maybe, too many generations in Western Europe have spent their life in common security and prosperity to notice how precious and unprecedented these achievements are. They tend to take them as God-given, like the air they breathe. We, East Europeans, are here to remember them that it is not so: it is easy to destroy and very difficult to build.

The citizens of Britain will remain Europeans, no matter how they voted. Their opinions must be respected, even those we disagree with. Half of the British society opted to remain with us and they will have to live with consequences they did not vote for. The other half felt frustrated and not represented at the EU level. We need to listen, understand and think where we, as Europeans, failed. We must behave responsibly and not escalate the divisions. It is in our shared interests to have a strong, united Great Britain in a united, peaceful, and tolerant Europe. Let your decisions not punish those who wanted to remain in the EU, alongside those who opted out. Let your decisions not break up a country.
This is not the time to let loose the anger, frustration and the temptation to retaliate, since irreversible decisions will cause even deeper divisions among Europeans. Strong, decisive, definitive ruptures will not discourage populists in other countries: they will escalate the fear, hate, xenophobia and claims for isolationism. The damage they have done and continue to do in more than one country of our Union can be cured only by reconciliation, reason and patience. If there is one lesson to be learned from the Brexit experience, let it be only that no people in Europe should ever be asked to make a choice that could break up their society and country, or be exposed to a campaign that brings out our darkest devils – despair, anger, fear and intolerance – and offers no plausible solution to citizens’ concerns.
Bucharest, June 29th 2016

Expert Forum (EFOR), Bucharest, www.expertforum.ro
Freedom House, Romania, www.freedomhouse.ro
Romanian Center for European Policy (CRPE), Bucharest, www.crpe.ro
Funky Citizens, Bucharest, www.funkycitizens.org

 

 

The European Commission published on the 27th of January 2016 its annual report regarding the progress made by Romania in the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). It recognized the importance of the civil society in documenting and highlighting corruption problems, mentioning a number of projects held across the country by Freedom House Romania (FHR) and our partners from Expert Forum (EFOR) and the Romanian Centre for European Politics (RCEP) for the prevention of corruption in local administration and in the process of public procurement.

Moreover, the report concretely mentioned the website of the “Justitie Curata” Initiative (FHR, EFOR, and RCEP) – justitiecurata.ro – which offers journalists from local publications a platform for publishing articles about public procurement and the activity of local administration, along with monitoring actions by specialty NGO’s (Grupul pentru Dialog Social, Freedom House România, Expert Forum, Institutul pentru Politici Publice, Centrul Român de Politici Europene) regarding the selection process for the Chief Prosecutor position of the Directorate for Investigation of Terrorism and Organised Crime (DIICOT).

The report noted “a number of areas of continued progress showing signs of sustainability, notably through the action taken by the key judicial and integrity institutions to address high-level corruption and the increased professionalism in the judicial system as a whole”.

The tragic events which took place on Friday night in Club Colectiv showed us the true dimension of the havoc caused by corruption and disregard for the law. Corruption does not only breed poverty, it also kills when manifested in relation to state institutions which are meant to ensure citizen safety and watch over the enforcement of and compliance with the law. Furthermore, the death of police officer Bogdan Gigina, on the 20th of October 2015, was the result of misuse of authority, blatant disregard for the law and discretionary use of power by the Romanian Minister of the Interior.
 
These tragedies must not happen again. It is our firm belief that the fight for rule of law, for integrity in the public arena and against corruption must continue within the confines of the democratic and constitutional system in Romania (that is a NATO and EU member state) through firm and definite measures on the part of the governing parties and clear demands from the part of the Romanian civil society.
 
It is important to completely understand the context that led to the tragedies from October 20th (the death of police officer Gigina) and 30th (the tragedy in Club Colectiv): institutional corruption, misuse of authority and frequent disregard for the law.
 
As such, we demand the following:
 
-Well defined and fast-acting measures to favor the opening of the political system and, implicitly, ensure true representativeness and real alternatives in the upcoming 2016 local and general elections, among which:
 
  • Reinstating the two-round system in the case of local elections;
  • Reducing the number of MPs, in accordance with the already expressed popular will;
  • Instating correspondence voting through a functional law: as such, we ask President Iohannis not to promulgate the recently adopted bill and send it back to Parliament;
  • Limiting parliamentary immunity strictly to political declarations.
 
-The resignation of the Romanian Ombudsman, Victor Ciorbea, and the appointment to this high office of a person corresponding to its requirements and with the determination to correspondingly apply themselves to this mandate, especially regarding discretionarily-issued Government Emergency Ordinances.
 
-Compliance with the independence of the judiciary and dismissal of the many bills presently in the judicial commission of the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, bills threatening to change the anticorruption and integrity legal framework or aiming to diminish the DNA competencies.
 
-The creation of the National Agency for the Management of Seized Assets through the adoption of the bill currently discussed by the Chamber of Deputies.
 
These demands are essential so that Romania –EU and NATO Member State- can truly be considered a democratic country, in which rule of law is respected, with a functional market economy that produces wealth for its citizens.
 
Freedom House Romania                                                                                                                 November 5th, 2015


The signatory organizations, members of  the Initiative for a Clean Justice, greet the Romanian Government’s decision of making public the drafts of the first two laws on public procurement.
At the same time, the signatory organizations demand a 60 days extension for public debate.

The current time frame for public consultation, of only 10 days, expires on the 1st of August and is completely unsuitable for such an important legislative package.

Over 20 legislative initiatives placed on the agenda of the Chamber of Deputies’ Judicial Committee place under the question mark some commitments that the Romanian state has made since the 2006 implementation of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. They clearly disrespect the commitments taken by Romania in insuring the quality and stability of the legislative anti-corruption and integrity framework.

Current legislation has demonstrated its effectiveness in combatting corruption and insuring integrity.  

The Romanian judicial system has the necessary legislation to correct the naturally-occurring problems.

The Superior Council of Magistracy has all the necessary levers to address critiques on the unfolding of the judicial process.

Problems and critiques can and must be solved in the already-existing legal and institutional framework, through the application of current legislation and by fully, independently and transparently claiming the role that each institution has, especially through the actions of the Superior Council of Magistracy.

On the other hand, the lack of transparency is noteworthy, along with the haste with which the Judicial Committee acts, through actions such as ad-hoc supplementation of the daily order or by granting clearly unrealistic terms – one week – to the leadership of SCM and the High Court of Cassation and Justice in order to formulate standpoints.

A simple reading of the conclusions and recommendations of the most recent CVM Report, issued to the public on January 28, 2015, reveals the chasm and even the contradiction between the objectives which Romania has taken within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and the legislative proposals that envisage the justice performed by the Members of Parliament.

Under these circumstances, we consider the numerous modifications which envisage the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Statute of magistrates, proposed by the majority of the MPs of the governmental arch, have as purpose the diminishing of the effectiveness of the fight against corruption, and on sheltering dignitaries from certain investigations regarding the conflict of interest and the service offences.

16 June 2015
 
Freedom House Romania (FHR)
Expert  Forum (EFOR)
Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE)
 
FHR, EFOR and CRPE are part of the Initiative for a Clean Justice

On June 2nd, 2015, with contempt towards the Constitutional Court rulings, the Romanian Senate defiantly placed MP Dan Şova above the law.

The Parliament has, therefore, continued to practice the arbitrary, objectivity-lacking manner of handling the policy towards the Anti-corruption Directorate’s requests for lifting the immunity of MPs, despite the public commitments made by the leaders of the most important parties earlier this year, after the last Presidential elections.

At the same time, we express our deep concern about the avalanche of legislative proposals to amend the Criminal Procedure Code as well as the anti-corruption and integrity legislation.

If adopted, the proposed amendments would have serious consequences on the effectiveness of fighting corruption and crime in general.

We also express our concern over the resurgence of politically-motivated attacks aimed at the leading magistrates of the judiciary.

MPs and senior government officials continue to make statements on pending cases, including those pending on the High Court of the Cassation and Justice.

Public procurement should be monitored in real time by civil society, in order to detect violations, the director of Freedom House Romania has recommended.

According to Cristina Guseth, director of Freedom House Romania, 80% of public procurement in the country is fraudulent, flawed or manipulated. She adds that the figure is more a perception than a result of measurement.

Guseth gave as an example the monitoring made by Freedom House with the Romanian Ministry of Education, where it was found that for the purchase of electronic textbooks, the turnover threshold of companies who could participate in the tender was set at excessively high levels, in order to make sure that specific companies would qualify.

Following the intervention by Freedom House Romania and the press, the turnover thresholds have been reduced at one tenth of the initial figure.

The recent public statements by senior Romanian officials and the Prime-minister himself are sources of concern as to the commitment of the current government to protect the freedom of speech, pluralism and to allow critical views to be aired.

We consider the aggression of three journalists perpetrated by “Antena 3” News Channel’s supporters as an act of intimidation and a violation of the freedom of speech.

These incidents are the result of totalitarian-inspired campaigns, incitement to hatred and violence.

Carried out with contempt for the law and with the complicity of some of the National Audiovisual Council’s members, the illegal political advertising campaigns, the violent speech and direct threats uttered by a few of Antena 3's anchors from “Sinteza Zilei” and “In Gura Presei” TV programs, have turned last Sunday (August 10th, 2014) into physical violence.

While the gendarmes watched with a casual attitude, two female journalists - Ioana Moldoveanu (Vice Romania) and Mădălina Dicu (B1 TV) – were assaulted and abused.

Cristian Dorombach - blogger and journalist with Realitatea TV who tried to defend his female colleague from B1 TV – was also aggressed in this intensively-promoted unauthorized protest of Antena 3’s anchors.

We have asked the Ministry of Administration and Interior to investigate the passive attitude of the Romanian Gendarmerie towards the assault on the journalists

Wir halten den Angriff von den Anhängern des Nachrichtensenders „Antena 3“ auf die Journalisten für eine Verletzung der Meinungsfreiheit und für ein Akt der Einschüchterung.


Diese Vorfälle sind das Resultat mancher Kampagnen mit totalitären Tendenzen und mit Aufstachelung zum Hass und zur Gewalt.

Durchgeführt mit der Verachtung der Gerechtigkeit, jedoch mit der Zusammenarbeit und mit der Mittäterschaft einiger Mitglieder des Nationalrats der audiovisuellen Medien (CNA), entwickelten sich die Kampagnen der politisch illegalen Werbungen, die gewaltvolle Sprache und die ausgesprochene Drohungen einiger Fernsehmoderatoren von den Sendungen „Sinteza zilei“ und „In Gura presei“ letzten Sonntag (der 10. August 2014) zu physischer Gewalt.

Während die Gendarmen interesselos zugeschaut haben, wurden zwei Journalistinnen – Ioana Moldoveanu von Vice Romänien, Madalina Dicu von B1 TV, angegriffen und verletzt.

Cristian Dorombach – Blogger und Journalist von Realitatea TV, der versucht hat seine Kollegin von B1 TV zu verteidigen, wurde ebenfalls in diesem von den Unterstützern des Antena 3 nicht autorisiertem Protest angegriffen.

Wir verlangen vom Innen- und Verwaltungsministerium (MAI) die passive Haltung der Gendarmen während des Angriffs auf die Journalisten zu untersuchen.

Freedom House Rumänien

Timisoara Gesellschaft

 

The assault on Madalina Dicu (B1TV) and Cristian Dorombach (Realitatea TV)




The assault on Ioana Moldoveanu (VICE Romania)



Agresarea ziaristei Ioana MoldoveanuAgresarea ziaristei Ioana Moldoveanu

The undersigning organizations request from the members of the Romanian Parliament the following:

- not to obstruct anymore the judicial process involving their colleagues;
- to vote openly on the requests from the Anti-corruption National Directorate (DNA) to waive the parliamentarian immunity;
- to stop making public statements that are undermining justice.

 HotNews.ro journalists had discovered the imposition of some illegal qualification requirements in this particular tender

Education Ministry's decision to cut nearly 10 times the amount of turnover required as a condition of qualification shows the importance of monitoring public procurement.

The signatory organizations are concerned to see a perpetuation of practices that are extremely detrimental to Romania’s image, in terms of letting candidates run for office while they have integrity problems.

We are specifically speaking about persons who have been convicted by courts of law on criminal charges or have been found by the Courts to be in a state of incompatibility, conflict of interests or unlawfully-acquired wealth.

It is unacceptable to have such persons make the law in a rule-of-law state, and for such persons to even represent us in the European Parliament.

We are concerned to find that former Senator Mircea Diaconu is collecting signatures so he can run for European Parliament, even while a definitive court ruling has found Mircea Diaconu to have been incompatible when he simultaneously exercised the public dignity of Senator and the position of Director of the Bucharest theater “C. I. Nottara.”

The signers of this appeal demand the authorities to urgently investigate the threats and pressures made against the family of the director of the “Telegrama” newspaper, based in Ploiești.

It is with grave concern that we notice that the cases involving pressures and threats made against journalists have multiplied, ending up today to also include physical aggression.

On the evening of the 25th of February, the son of Mr. Cristi Constantinescu, the director of the “Telegrama” magazine, was robbed and threaten by four individuals wearing masks, because his father had covered the case of the Prahova County Council president, Mircea Cosma.

Nobody is asking Brussels to form battalions of volunteers and intervene to defend its unexpected new converts. But you, dear EU leaders, can at least try for a moment to shed the air of embarrassment that someone has really fallen in love with you and the values you are supposed to stand for.

The co-signers of this appeal want to publicly condemn the decision of the Romanian National Broadcasting Council (CNA) to penalize the B1 TV station with the record fine of 70,000 RON ($23,000, 15,000 EURO) for the opinions expressed by journalist Robert Turcescu.

We also warn about repeated attempts to silence the Romanian journalists whose views differ from those of the government.

The CNA decision from February 6, 2014, is a violation of freedom of expression and an attempt to intimidate the press.
Since last autumn, the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the National Anticorruption Directorate, the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism and the Superior Council of the Magistracy have highlighted officially the articles of the new Codes that will obstruct the fight against corruption, organized crime and terrorism. Moreover, they have also flagged up those provisions that stand to cause chaos within the justice system. They proposed solutions, which have been noted in the latest CVM report. They did not received any official response from the government.

If the new codes will enter into force tomorrow, without being amended trough an Emergency Ordinance, then they will lead to the irremediable destruction of important files, they will seriously compromise the fight against corruption, organized crime and terrorism, they will disrupt Romania's international cooperation with the US and the EU member states in matters of criminal investigation and they will damage the image of the justice system in the eyes of the public, as courts will give different interpretations in similar cases.

After the 1st of February, the new codes will turn the justice system upside down. Although this signal has been sent through all the channels, being integrated in the CVM report as well, the government is refusing to make the necessary changes to the new Codes. The situation is more serious than we can imagine. 

Since the beginning of the year, Justice Livia Stanciu, the head of the High Court of Cassation and Justice, has demanded the government to adopt as quickly as possible emergency decrees for changing the weak elements of the codes. Her request has remained hitherto without answer, being added to the written petitions that the National Anticorruption Directorate and the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism have sent to the Ministry of Justice for modifying the deficient elements.

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