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Chapter: 

IV. Governance issues

E-government

The e-government portal was launched in September 2003.1 Users can register for interactive and transactional services. Links to all central and local government departments are also included. There are nine fully online interactive services and 687 administrative forms that can be downloaded, filled in, signed, and electronically submitted to the appropriate authority. Moreover, a Unique Form Service system gathers together nine e-services for businesses. The number of available services and forms is continuously being extended. The e-services are designed for large contributors and provide unified access for e-government services.2

In order for the portal front-office to be a single point of access to e-government services, the National Electronic System (NES) has been developed in parallel to serve as the portal's infrastructure. NES routes requests to a back-end system using XML-based web services. All Romanian institutions are legally required to provide access to their online services through the portal and NES. NES works as a data interchange hub that ensures interoperability with back-end systems across government. A citizen or business has access to the portal, signs on, and fills in and submits a form directed through the NES to the relevant government agency. Moreover, the NES provides a central authentication service allowing users to access all services using a digital certificate.3

Open government

The Law regarding Free Access to Information of Public Interest was approved in October 2001.4 The law allows any person to ask for \information from public authorities and state companies. The authorities must respond in a maximum of 30 days. There are exemptions for national security, public safety and order, deliberations of authorities, and personal data. Those whose requests have been denied can appeal to the agency concerned or to a court. The Law was amended twice in 2006. The amendments bring "any authority or public institution which uses or manages public financial resources, any state company (régie autonome), and any national company, as well as any commercial society under the authority of a central or local public authority and of which the Romanian state or a territorial-administrative unit is a single or major "shareholder" within the scope of the Law, and also makes procurement contracts publicly accessible.5

The 1999 Law on the Access to the Personal File and the Disclosure of the Securitate as a Political Police6 allowed Romanian citizens to access their Securitate (secret police) files. It also allowed public access to the files of those aspiring to public office. The law set up the National Council for the Search of Security Archives (CNSAS)7 to administer the Securitate archives. The law was amended in 2005 and 2006,8 and was declared unconstitutional by the Romanian Constitutional Court in 2008.9 The CNSAS continues its activities, however, under Governmental Emergency Ordinance No. 24/2008,10 which was passed less than two months after the Romanian Constitutional Court's decision.11

The Law on Protecting Classified Information was enacted in April 2002 at the behest of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.12 Its drafters used an expansive view of classification that will limit access to records under the access to information law. The law was strongly criticised by the Opposition and by civil society.13

In 2008, the Bucharest Court of Appeal partially annulled an order by the Prime Minister14 that classified the minutes of all government meetings as state secrets.15 The court ruled that this decision violated Law No. 182/2002 (protection of classified information) and Law No. 544/2001 (free access to public information), and that only passages that implicate national security matters could be withheld.16

Specific work done by NGOs -- especially the Institute for Public Policies (IPP)17 and Activewatch18 -- note that real access to public information is a major problem in Romania: "The legislation in force is not consistently, efficiently, and unitarily put into practice. The reflex attitude of clerks is to treat as secret the information that refers to the administration of the public money and assets. The restricting methods include delaying or ignoring requests or exaggerated costs. On the other hand, citizens, journalists, and non-governmental organisations do not know their legal rights, or the ones who know them do not exercise them because of the constant discouragement by the public clerks."

The IPP's reports of 2009 also show that "only 40 percent of Romania's citizens have heard of the existence of the law on the free access to public interest information" and only 20 percent have ever used the provisions of this law.

The IPP shows that the town halls "do not have the information organised so as to promptly make it public". Furthermore, the information that should be published online is not to be found on the Internet sites and "it is still extremely difficult and costly to get the public data on the local services". Some town halls simply ignore requests and even court cases and court decisions: "neither the law, nor the respect for the citizen seem to matter for certain town halls, as is the case of the one for district five of BucureÅŸti".

A general tendency is the decrease of court cases introduced in response to the refusal of providing access to information but, at the same time, the number of cases for the non-observance of answering terms and incomplete answers has increased.

Other developments

A series of media scandals made the front pages of newspapers in 2009 and 2010 that had as "informatic support" recordings or transcripts of private conversations (face-to-face or phone conversations).

On 10 November 2009, the daily Curentul published the transcript (and posted the recording on its website) of a conversation between two reputed journalists, Sorin Rosca-Stanescu and Bogdan Chireac, on the one hand, and the head of the National Agency for Integrity, Catalin Macovei, on the other. In the conversation, the two journalists exerted pressure on Mr. Macovei to give them access to information regarding highly-placed politicians (such as, for example, bank account numbers).19

On 10 December 2009, Senator Catalin Voicu (Social-Democrat) was invited for questioning by the Anti-Corruption National Department (Directia Nationala Anti-Coruptie or DNA). He was later arrested and investigated for corruption and trafficking in influence. The main accusations were based on phone calls between him and various other individuals. The transcripts of the incriminating conversations were leaked to the media and widely published/broadcast.20

On 3 March 2010, Antonie Solomon, the mayor of Craiova (south-eastern Romanian, a city of 200,000 inhabitants) was arrested for alleged bribery based on several discussions between him and the owner of a football club that were intercepted while the latter was under surveillance for corruption.21

On 21 June of the same year, the TV owner and journalist Dan Diaconescu was invited to DNA for questioning. He was later detained and arrested for 29 days under accusations of blackmail and threats against a local mayor. The accusations against him were also based on taped conversations between one of his employees and the mayor.22 Diaconescu appealed and is currently being investigated at liberty. His employee is still in preventive arrest.

Civil society advocacy

There have been limited campaigns by the private sector or civil society in the field of data protection. Most of the human rights associations have dealt with cases infringing privacy, but none has insisted on a special campaign in this domain.23

The beginning of 2009 was more active. The new data retention law in place and the launch of the biometric passport, inflamed a part of public opinion that was very actively and aggressively against the new provisions, especially biometric passports. Mainly, the opposition is due to their religious beliefs; they incorporated themselves into civil organisations that were dealing also with these aspects of privacy.24

International obligations

Romania has signed and ratified the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and acceded to its First Optional Protocol, which establishes an individual complaint mechanism.25

Romania is a member of the Council of Europe and signed and ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.26 In 2001, Law No. 682/2001 was enacted to ratify the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention No. 108).27 The Additional Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, Regarding Supervisory Authorities and Transborder Data Flows, was adopted in Strasbourg on 18 November 2001 and Romania ratified it by Law No. 55/2005.28 Romania also signed the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention on 23 November 2001, and ratified it by adopting Law No. 64/2004.29

Romania has been a member of the European Union since 2007.

 

Footnotes