Romania Constitutional Court strikes law allowing politicians to own businesses

Romania Constitutional Court strikes law allowing politicians to own businesses

[JURIST] The Romanian Constitutional Court [official website] on Tuesday struck down [press release and judgment, in Romanian] a law that would have allowed politicians to own their own private businesses.

The bill, known as Law no. 161/2003 [text, in Romanian], first came before the Romanian Senate in November, where it was ultimately rejected in its entirety. However, less than one month later, the bill was passed into law by the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, a move which some said violated Romanian principles of bicameralism. The law allowed any member of the federal or local government, from a deputy mayor to a senator, to conduct and own a private business.

On January 18, President Klaus Iohannis [official website], sent a letter [text, in Romanian] in which he referred the matter to the court and voiced to the court his opinion’s regarding the law’s unconstitutionality. Iohannis began by stating that the Chamber of Deputies violated the constitutional provisions regarding bicameralism by failing to resubmit the law to the Senate after it’s approval. He then stated that the law “diminishes the standards of integrity” Romanian lawmakers should be held to. He also argued that the law would also create an unworkable conflict of interest between a lawmakers business interests and the interests of the nation.

In making his plea to the court, Iohannis cited a 2014 report of the European Commission [text, PDF] concerning corruption in Romania. Quoting directly from the report, Iohannis stated that the European Commission charged Romania with “ensur[ing] that there are no exceptions to the applicability of legislative acts on incompatibility, conflicts of interest, and unjustified wealth.”

Following deliberations, the court unanimously voted to accept the referral of Iohannis and declared the law unconstitutional. The court stated that the law ran afoul of constitutional requirements “ensuring transparency in the exercising of power by public dignities in public functions.”