3 min

Why has the global open government community been silent on Romania?

Drone view of people gathered to protest.
Written by
Ana Brandusescu
Published on
February 10, 2017

The world has been watching the protests in Romania unfold on many digital mediums for the past couple of weeks. Citizens started protesting two Sundays ago, mainly in Bucharest. Ever since, the protests spread like wildfire throughout the country to 55 cities and counting.

#rezist, #vavedem, #anticorruption…are just three of the hashtags shared via social media. The protest signs are glorious. But this isn’t about the signs. It’s about what sparked the protests.

On the night of January 31st, the Romanian government passed a decree without input from its parliament to decriminalise official misconduct. The decree would decriminalise abuse of power cases where politicians caused financial damage totaling 44,000 euros or less in value would receive a get-out-of-jail card. Increasingly worrying, is that the decree would include a provision where all public officials would be exonerated from any criminal responsibility for issuing laws, ordinances or local administrative decisions. Currently, “anti-corruption prosecutors are investigating more than 2,000 abuse-of-power cases. They indicted more than 1,000 over the past three years with damages worth up to 1 billion euros.”

As events unfolded, international governments took notice. Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States embassies supported civil society efforts by releasing a joint statement “over the government’s actions […] which have undermined Romania’s progress over the last ten years with the rule of law and the fight against corruption.”

Protests rose to over 300,000 people by the weekend across the country. Finally, by Saturday, February 4th, the Romanian government announced that it had planned to withdraw the corruption decree. Despite this, the demonstrations peaked at over 500,000 people last Sunday. The protests have turned to current governing party. The people are now questioning whether the government should be overturned. They are still on the streets today.

The protests have now been covered by Al Jazeera, Reuters, BBC, The Economist, CNN, TIME, New York Times, to name a few. But not by the open government community. No email to date has been sent on the Open Government Partnership (OGP) mailing list. No post written in February’s OGP newsletter. I have yet to discover a blog post written on this topic (and if you find any, please let me know!).

It is strange, considering Romania is a member of the OGP. In fact, last year the country released its third OGP National Action Plan cycle spanning 2016–2018. The latest post on Romania and open government was written six months ago by civil society on the latest OGP NAP [at the time] draft.

According to international measurements, Romania’s place on this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index, now ranked at 57, showing a gradual decrease over the last five years. This stands, despite a 70/100 score on OpenCorporates’ registries on company data, where the country has perfect scores on publishing basic company data search, licensing, and freely available data (over an API). The 30 percent missing is due to no publicly available data on company directors and shareholders, with no freely available Annual Accounts.

So why the silence?

The latest newsletter to the open government mailing list doesn’t even include a mention of these protests.

We talk about collective action and change in civil society, but now that it is happening in front of our eyes in Romania — the circles outside Romania seem quiet. We should include these facts in our conversation on anticorruption and support our fellow civil society colleagues in Romania by acknowledging their actions, as the anticorruption movement has just now gained momentum.

Subscribe to newsletter

Subscribe to receive the latest blog posts to your inbox every week.

By subscribing you agree to with our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Continue reading

People waving pride flags.

Post-Pride: Supporting LGBTQ+ Employees Year-Round

This year’s Pride Month has been filled with festivities all around the globe in honour of LGBTQ experiences and voices. However, the celebration and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people should not be a once-a-year affair, especially in the workplace.
July 6, 2023
5 min