July 2023 | Care home abuse scandal leads to resignations
Revelations of severe abuses at care homes for the elderly and disabled have led to resignations in Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu’s one-month old government, including Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Marius Budai, and Minister for Family Affairs, Gabriela Firea. Prosecutors have indicted 26 suspects for human trafficking, fraud and organized crime in a scheme to illegally collect the benefits of the elderly and infirm, pocketing the funds instead of using them for their care. Acting on reports from NGOs and neighbours who had seen residents begging for food, authorities raided three nursing homes near Bucharest, uncovering inhumane treatment, physical abuse, and deprivation of food and medical care. Subsequent nationwide controls of over 1,000 care homes led to the closure of 13 homes, and the suspension of a further 43. Investigative journalists have shown that the government and state agencies had long been warned about the mistreatment and delayed action.
June 2023 | Marcel Ciolacu becomes Prime Minister amid long-awaited reshuffle
Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă (National Liberal Party, PNL) resigned along with his cabinet as part of a power-sharing deal within the ruling coalition, originally slated for 25 May but delayed by teacher strikes. Marcel Ciolacu, leader of the Social Democratic party (PSD), was appointed the new Prime Minister following a vote in Parliament. The coalition agreement reached in 2021 between the centre-right PNL, the centre-left PSD and the ethnic Hungarian Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) group included a rotation system, which provided for Ciucă to switch places with a PSD nominee. Following negotiations this month, UDMR refused to approve the new government and resolved to leave the coalition. PSD holds ten ministerial positions in the new government, while PNL has nine ministers. The cabinet retains several key ministerial positions (including the Defence Minister, Education Minister, Minister of Health, and Minister of Transport) while replacing others.
May 2023 | European court finds Romania is violating same-sex couples’ rights
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Romania violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, protecting the right to private and family life, after a total of 21 same-sex couples brought complaints to the court over the lack of legal recognition of their relationships between 2019 and 2020. The ruling finds that Romania must make domestic legislative changes to recognise same-sex relationships in line with its commitments as a Council of Europe member state, while the exact nature of the legal regime is to be determined by domestic legislators. Romania’s civil code currently specifies that marriage should be between a man and a woman; the country has had a civil partnerships bill pending in Parliament since 2019. A recent report from LGBTQIA+ rights group ILGA-Europe ranked Romania in the bottom ten countries in Europe for human rights protections of LGBTQIA+ communities.
January 2023 | GRECO notes improved compliance with anti-corruption recommendations
The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, found that Romania has satisfied over half of the body’s recommendations. It thus lifted Rule 32, which requires increased engagement and reporting. The findings were published as part of GRECO’s Third Interim Compliance Report, which monitors the implementation of recommendations issued in 2016 further to an evaluation on corruption prevention among MPs, judges and prosecutors. GRECO noted adequate enforcement mechanisms for MPs’ code of conduct, strengthened criteria for lifting immunity of parliamentarians, and measures designed to detect and prevent risks to the integrity of judges and prosecutors. The GRECO report underscored areas for further action. It urged improvements to the transparency of the parliamentary process, and called for new rules on how MPs engage with lobbyists and for addressing conflicts of interest.