The European Commission today (2 February) refused to comment when faced with allegations that it had quietly shelved a regular anti-corruption report, as massive anti-graft protests took place in Romania.
The decision drew condemnation from transparency campaigners, who criticised it because of political turmoil in Romania regarding an emergency decree that many are against.
According to a statement released by Transparency International, the “EU Anti-Corruption Report” is published by the European Commission every two years, providing an assessment of anti-corruption efforts in each EU member state coupled with recommendations for each country.
The report first began in 2014, and work for the second report was near completion before the Commission shelved it.
Bucharest bypassed its parliament on 31 January and issued an emergency decree. It frees politicians who illegally pocket cash, provided the stolen amount is less than €44,000.
The move drew a stern warning from the Commission, which accused Romania of backtracking just a week after the executive gave Bucharest a largely positive report on its anti-corruption initiatives.
Crowds call for head to roll
“While hundreds of thousands of citizens are protesting the weakening of anti-corruption efforts in Romania the Commission has quietly shelved its flagship anti-corruption report,” Alex Johnson, of Transparency International, said.
The massive crowds at the protest were heard chanting “Thieves!” and “Resign!”
“Their only aim is to protect themselves from justice and keep hold of their ill-gotten fortunes,” Malin Bot, editorialist at the centre-right Romania Libera daily, said.
The EU executive refused to say whether or not it would publish the report when quizzed by reporters in Brussels today.
It repeated what Commission First Vice-President Timmermans said in the European Parliament. He likened the decree to nearing the end of a marathon and then at the last moment turning around and running in the opposite direction.
Because of the decree, charges against appointed leader Liviu Drangnea, who is among the highest-profile politicians to benefit form the decree, will be dropped.
Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said the issue in Romania had been debated in the College and there was clear concern about the recent developments.
“The main concern is backtracking on what was, even just a few days ago, a highly acknowledged effort in the fight against corruption,” Šefčovič said.
“We would simply like them to notice that we see this as a great matter and we think backtracking on the fight against corruption is not a good thing to do and sends a very wrong signal,” the Commissioner said.