Romania has recently been hit with a series of corruption scandals which have gravely affected the parliament’s image.
In September 2012 Transparency International Romania (TI-Ro) with the help of two other NGOs specialized in the field, Pro Democratia and Centre for Legal Resources put forward a proposal for a Code of Conduct in the agenda of the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament. After preliminary meetings, all political groups have welcomed the proposal, and we are now in position of having an agreed version of the code to be proposed for adoption.
The notion of a code of conduct is not new in Romanian legislation. The root of the problem in Romania is that specific legislation does in fact exist, but it does not cover all issues. In fact, we have designed and adopted several codes of conduct in other fields such the Code of Conduct for civil servants, or the one for police officers or magistrates. However, because there is no specific Code of Conduct designed for MPs and also because there is specific legislation and general legislation which tend to regulate the same problems but in different ways, a flawed system is created which gives MPs the possibility to avoid penalties.
During the last several years, there seem to have been many initiatives to design and adopt a proper code of conduct, however all previous attempts have been unsuccessful. Meanwhile, more offences and misconduct cases have been registered, and in most of the cases penalties were not applied.
The situation at present suggests that this is as great a time as any to promote our initiative onto the Parliament’s agenda. On the one hand, there is external pressure, coming from the EU, to adopt a Code of Conduct for the Members of Parliament, especially due to the recent events which have tainted Romania’s image on a European level. On the other hand, there is also internal pressure, with the upcoming elections.
According to the National Integrity Study conducted by Transparency International Romania, there is a need for stronger mechanisms which could ensure more accountability for fraud and corruption.
The proposed code of conduct establishes a definition for the conflict of interests, and imposes penalties when provisions from the Code are breached. Breaches will be considered disciplinary offences and sanctions would be applied consequently.
Technically, the Code will be adopted as an Annex to the Regulation of the Chamber of Deputies, which is a qualified law, in order to give it the same legal power.
The European Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, commended the initiative and stated that this is a positive sign from the Romanian Parliament .
Taking into consideration the MPs’ willingness to pass the Code before the upcoming elections in order for it to be implemented by the newly formed parliament, and the positive signs of encouragement from the Commission we can only say that this represents a first step towards a more accountable, responsible and transparent parliament.