Corruption and Romania are two words that you’ll often hear in the same sentence. I know. I’ve grown up here and the only thing I’m certain about when it comes to this country is the fact that wherever you go, wherever you look, corruption will be lurking around the corner. But for a while, that’s all it was.
Corruption was lurking, hiding in the shadows like in every second-world, post communist-era country—or any country, for that matter—and we turned a blind eye, because, well, what is there to do when you’re a 15-year old looking to fight an entire system? Things have changed, however, and corruption in Romania is no longer lurking: it’s walking down the street next to you, laughing in the subway cart, driving your taxi, breathing down your neck. Why? Because of the political party PSD, whom a lot of us have gotten to know as the “red plague,” a play on their campaign poster and the very obvious fact that they are, well, killing us all.
Things have changed, however, and corruption in Romania is no longer lurking: it’s walking down the street next to you, laughing in the subway cart, driving your taxi, breathing down your neck.
So what have they actually done? You’ve probably heard of the massive Bucharest/nationwide protests that gathered over 500,000 people in one night and over 1.5 million just this year. International media has covered them a few times, but the truth is people have been protesting every day for the past year. They are angry because the current political party is deleting laws, changing them and saving thousands of criminals from prison. It started off “small” back in February, when they tried to decriminalize corruption by imposing an executive order that stated officials accused of stealing less than $48,500 would only receive a fine. The order would’ve removed corruption charges that PSD party leader Liviu Dragnea currently faces after defrauding the state of around $26,000 and would’ve allowed him to become prime minister, something which he couldn’t have done while facing these charges.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="689"] 5th of February 2017 Protest, Bucharest, Victory Square (Time Magazine)[/caption]
This past week, however, things have gotten much worse. While the rest of the country was mourning as the casket of our last king, Mihai I, who was carried throughout the streets of Bucharest, PSD was changing the criminal code, and some of the changes are horrifying.
For one, judges will no longer be allowed to use videos as evidence in a trial. Yes, you read that right. Say, for instance, you have a case like the one we were faced with just this week. A woman throws a random girl in front of an incoming subway, ultimately killing her. The only thing that links the murdered to the murder is the recording made by one of the security cameras on the platform. These new changes would not allow the judge to use that recording and the woman would walk free. If a politician were to be filmed accepting bribes, that would not be enough to launch an investigation.
Another change is that the public will no longer be made aware of certain investigations/suspicions regarding individuals, so if our president or the mayor of a county were to steal money from the annual budget or E.U. funds and an investigation would be launched, we would never know and he or she might be elected again the upcoming term. People accused of certain crimes will now also be able to participate in hearings, so if an abused wife were testifying against her husband, he would get to be there. Her husband would also be made aware of the charges against him the second an investigation is launched, and if this were to not happen, then all documents and proof gathered would mean nothing.
A man who just sexually assaulted your daughter will no longer be detained, if a serial killer were roaming the streets the public will not be told about it and if a year passes without any arrests, the case will be closed and the murderer will walk free. Rapists, murderers, thieves, drug dealers and corrupt politicians are also being released from prison as I write this on the basis of “overcrowding.” One of the men released early from a 10-year rape sentence was arrested just four days after his release after robbing and sexually assaulting a woman in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The list goes on.
Once these new developments are fully implemented, they will be sure to take Romania back hundreds of steps in its battle against corruption. The United States government has also expressed concern regarding the changes in a statement addressed to PSD leaders. Now, with these huge setbacks in mind, the question remains what is next to follow and whether Romania will ever get to come up for air again.