Anti-corruption drive in Romania disappoints

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s efforts to curb corruption, taken under European Union pressure, have so far failed, the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International (TI) said yesterday. It said corruption in Romania, as perceived by foreign and domestic investors, decreased only slightly compared with last year but was still worse than other EU candidate countries. The TI index gives a score of between one and 10 with 10 the maximum for a perfectly incorrupt country. «The rise in this year’s index, of 0.1 percentage points, does not signal continuity in the government’s fight against corruption,» said Victor Alistar, TI coordinator for Romania. «Anti-corruption laws did not bring the expected results.» The EU has told the Balkan state, which hopes to join the bloc in 2007 along with its southern neighbour Bulgaria, to crack down on corruption, which has taken deep root in the impoverished country in the 15 years since the end of communism. TI said Romania got a corruption perception index of 2.9 this year compared with last year’s 2.8, still worse than Bulgaria’s 4.1, Turkey’s 3.2 and Croatia’s 3.5. Finland got the best score out of the 146 countries surveyed with 9.7 and Haiti and Bangladesh the worst with 1.5. It said the average corruption perception index for the 10 new, mostly former communist EU member states which joined in May was 4.9. The 15 old EU countries scored an average of 7.78. «In Romania, although we have legislation harmonized with the EU laws, it is not enforced,» Alistar said. Last year, Romania adopted a package of laws to reveal conflict of interest by members of parliament and government as part of a drive to ease international concern and smooth its path to EU membership. But Alistar said the political will to implement it was lacking at all levels of the government and it was essential to reform the justice system and civil service to root out graft. «Whistleblowers in the civil service can only report corruption cases to their superiors, they are punished by law if they tell about them to anyone outside the system,» Alistar said.