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A Bittersweet Alliance

In the year 2006, controversy shrouded talks of Romania and Bulgaria’s possible accession into the European Union (EU) on New Year’s Day in 2007. For Romania and Bulgaria, it was an opportunity for their countries to join an economic powerhouse; an international community that would bring about vast economic rewards. However, existing member states had several concerns and they were not to be brushed aside. Controversy brewed within individual states about the impact that the “free movement of workers” would have on their states. The concerns of the European Commission (EC) were also deep-rooted. Both countries have had to co-operate with the EU to ensure they increase transparency in the public sector. To effectively monitor the progress of both nations against the benchmarks set, the EC introduced what is now known as the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). The CVM is “a combination of benchmarks and obligations of a country to report on a regular basis on the progress in addressing issues around organised crime, judicial reform and the fight against corruption.”

If the EU is to be considered a fair and balanced economic powerhouse, the concerns of Member States by all mean must be addressed. These issues, as we know, are contributory to the very reason the likes of the United Kingdom sought a referendum on an exit from the EU. Of course, the issue of the ‘free movement of workers and the single market’ and the fight against financial crime in Central and Eastern Europe is only a snippet of a variety of concerns raised. As such the discussion of Romania’s financial crime climate as replicated in this blog, somewhat contributes to the volatility of the EU today.

Unfortunately, fraud and financial crime targeting retail banks have been synonymous with Romanian crime groups. In December 2016, it was reported in the Daily Mail that a Romanian organised crime group built ATM skimming devices to be distributed worldwide from a garden in Colchester, Essex. Promisingly, law enforcement agencies on the ground in Romania have been working to change the ethos of its people by actively advocating for a zero-tolerance approach to corruption. Speaking at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, 2016, Romania’s Minister of Justice announced the nation’s commitment in fighting corruption and laid emphasis on the steps that will be taken to improve and achieve transparency in the public sector. If corruption, including financial crime is tackled amongst the upper echelon of government, undoubtedly, it could have a positive effect on the wider society.

As such, Romania’s anti-corruption agency, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) has begun to gain credibility for its success in bringing corrupt public officials to book. In 2015, the DNA convicted the richest man in Romania for illegally financing a Presidential Campaign; Mayors of various Romanian cities for abuse of office, procurement fraud and bribery related offences; and lastly the agency convicted two sitting ministers for accepting bribes and for embezzling public funds.

Yes, Romania’s fight against corruption is a work in progress and according to the Corruption Perception Index, Romania’s ranking has risen since being monitored under the CVM. Can we completely eliminate corruption anywhere in the world? The answer to that is a definite no but so long as the public’s perception of the government and its agencies continues to change positively, it is a step in the right direction. Romania may not be on par with its fellow EU member states but the good news is they are certainly not where they used to be and that in itself is promising.

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