Corruption in Romania

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In the opinion of some, the extent to which corruption would surface as a visible trait of post-communist transition societies was completely unexpected and perhaps even treated with blatant disregard by most of the world. A prime example of this is the country of Romania, which has struggled with the aftermath of Nicolae Ceausescu and the resulting trail of corruption and ethical dilemmas leading well into the 21st century, far after his own death. Despite the birth of these perplexing problems, Romania is still seen as a strong potential for the pursuits of globalization and foreign investment, as it aspires to join the ranks of the European Union this upcoming year of 2007. The following information contains prescribed basics for anyone considering business ventures in this particular country.

According to one well-known watchdog group of worldwide corruption, Transparency International, in comparison with western states’ levels, perceived corruption remains high in Europe's former communist countries (qtd. in Stracansky). In order to question why this is so, we must look more closely at what laid the foundation for the collapse of communism in Romania, being one of these countries. The following excerpt from Adam Tolnay’s “Ceausescu’s Journey to the East” briefly explains this and sets the theme for what came shortly after Ceausescu’s deposition in post-communist era Romania: Historically speaking, “by the mid 1980s Romania had the distinction of being the only Soviet Bloc country whose population as a whole was living at subsistence levels, with gasoline, heating, electricity and food rationed. Politically Romania was marked by a strange fusion of independent action in international politics, a mix of nationalism and Communism as sources of ideological legitimization, and a Leninist party system ravaged by corruption yet controlled by a personalistic dictator with a cult of personality” (2).

Even after the execution of Ceausescu and his wife at a cursory military trial intended to put a swift end to this regime, simply doing so would not eradicate what had by now become deeply ingrained in Romania’s culture itself (U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs). Robert G. Kaiser of the Washington Post writes that “according to President Iliescu [who many people here feel acted much more like a communist in his first terms in office from 1990 to 1996 than he has since winning re-election in 2000], "we will need two generations to change radically . . . the feelings and perceptions of the people” (Kaiser F5) . For example, while under communism, corruption was simply an accepted fact (Stracansky 1). “Small 'gifts' of sweets, alcohol and other goods were taken to doctors or civil servants to get proper or quick services. Waiting periods of months for imported or scarce goods could be shortened considerably by offering officials 'gifts' or money” (1). The list goes on, sadly. David Rennie of the UK’s Telegraph also writes that “angry locals can cite the sums needed in all aspects of life. In public hospitals, not only doctors must be bribed, but every nurse on every shift, if loved ones are to receive decent care” (2). All this couldn’t possibly be more spot on even a decade or so later, given the situation still held alarmingly true throughout the vast majority of Romanian society. Admittedly enough, not much had changed until more recently. According to the Citizens Department of the United States Embassy in Bucharest, Romania re-hauled its corruption laws in 2000 by “expanding the scope of the pre-existing laws, and increasing some penalties. These amendments are now in force. Under these amendments, private business managers are now exposed to the same penalties as public employees for accepting a bribe or influence trafficking” (1). Despite all this, the most sweeping changes of reform had not occurred until two very motivated individuals stepped into the arena to try and take on corruption...
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