The Washington Post reports: Corruption now comes in two forms in Romania. There is the big kind that can still land an official in jail. Then there’s the acceptable type that will bring nothing more than a knowing shrug.
The country’s governing Social Democratic Party shocked domestic and international observers Tuesday when it adopted an emergency measure to decriminalize official misconduct causing damage worth less than about $48,000. Thousands of Romanians protested the decision, calling it a blow to recent progress in fighting chronic corruption in a European Union nation where accusations of bribe-taking, favor-trading and bureaucratic abuses are part of everyday life.
The directive will stop ongoing investigations and prevent new ones from being launched. Another decree might end up freeing convicted officials from prison.
Officially, the measure is supposed to prevent “prison overcrowding.” According to numbers published by the European Court of Human Rights, worsening prison conditions in the country have indeed been a major concern recently. But critics allege that the government is now using the overcrowding to justify pardoning its own political allies.
The emergency directive was adopted the same day the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Liviu Dragnea, went on trial for abuse of power. He was already convicted of electoral fraud in 2015 in a separate case, preventing him from becoming prime minister. Now, he is widely considered to be the driving force behind the latest measure. [Continue reading…]