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MEP Ramona Mănescu (EPP): Looking for big fish in Romania, EU missed its whales in the west

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While East Europeans are being taught lessons of anti-corruption, problems are rising under the slightest sense of carelessness, and Europe as a whole, together with its citizens, will discount the effects, MEP Ramona Mănescu warned in an analysis signed for Calea Europeană, highlighting corruption issues faced by other European countries, not just Romania.
The analysis comes as the European Parliament voted on Tuesday a resolution on the rule of law in Romania and after EP adopted on Wednesday a resolution in which the European legislature calls on the Commission to adopt a “comprehensive mechanism for democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights” .
“In 2004, European Commissioner for Enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, speaking before the European Parliament about the state of play of EU enlargement towards Romania and Bulgaria said that he hoped that “justice would get to do its job properly” and that “big fish will also get behind the bars, not just the less important ones.” It has been 14 years since then and Romania brought to justice a bunch of fish, both large and small.
Meanwhile, beyond the borders of Romania, in the rest of the European Union, things seem to be not less than perfect. Citizens’ perception of corruption, from countries like Germany, the Netherlands or Denmark, confirms this.
 
Then why is the European Parliament trying, for the second time since 2016, to convince the European Commission of the “Need for a Comprehensive Mechanism for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights”? We understand that the 54% of the Dutch, who say that corruption is a rarity in their country, are wrong.
 
The document I just voted Thursday, together with my colleagues I draw attention to a reality that the Commission, supported by a number of highly influential Member States, ignores it. Paragraph N says: “Previous anti-corruption reports at EU level and 2018 country reports in the European Semester show that corruption in several Member States raises serious concerns, eroding the trust of citizens in institutions and the rule of law.”
 
The resolution lets us can guess a much more serious situation, which Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam or Paris are not willing to admit publicly. While Eastern Europeans are taught lessons of anti-corruption, the problems accumulate under a thick layer of indifference, and Europe as a whole, along with its citizens, will take the toll.
 
What are we talking about? The best example is the current scandal involving Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest commercial bank with a 150-year-old tradition, “a giga scandal” as Margrethe Vestager, the Danish European Commissioner for Competition, described it. This scandal began with the opening of a money laundering investigation, which involves more than €200 billion, through a branch of Danske Bank in Estonia. Black money come from Russia and are connected both with President Putin’s family and with Russian intelligence.
 
Unfortunately, this scandal is not the only one of its kind. It comes after the case involving ING, the largest Dutch bank. This dossier was finalized in 2018 with a fine of $ 900 million for money laundering (which happened between 2010 and 2016). One of the accuses in the case of ING, VimpelCom (VEON now), a company controlled by Altimo, which belongs to Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman, transferred through ING $ 114 million bribe in Uzbekistan for access to the local telecoms market.
 
Another recent case concerns Deutsche Bank, the largest bank in Germany. It has agreed to pay a $ 630 million fine in 2017 for laundering $ 10 billion, money also coming from Russia.
 
Similarly, BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, and the $ 8.9 billion fine for money laundering (2014) in Sudan, Iran and Cuba, cannot be overlooked. Three years later, BNP Paribas paid another fine of € 10 million for lack of interest in implementing anti-money laundering measures.
 
All of these scandals have ended with lawyers’ agreements, the recognition of charges and the payment of penalties.
 
A legitimate question is: how deep the investigations went in these cases? Also, has been clarified the suspicion of involvement of the state authorities in facilitating, covering or sharing the benefits obtained from such illegal practices?
 
If there were only one case, explaining it through individual mistakes might be acceptable.
 
Unfortunately, we see a true pattern, shared by the most powerful European countries. It involves huge amounts of money, intentionally breach for long periods of time some of the most important European laws, corruption, and favouring foreign powers, declared adversaries of the European project.
 
It would be futile to believe that all this happens without the knowledge and tacit acceptance of the leadership of these great European powers.
 
What is even more painful is to see how Germany, the Netherlands or France, with the help of some Romanians, marked Romania on the map of Europe as “the homeland of corruption”. This, while hundreds of billions, which fuel terrorism, arms, drugs, and people trafficking, or that keep entire regions of the globe underdeveloped, are passed from one bank account to another bank account through the largest and most respectable European financial institutions, and when the frauds are proven, the scandal goes out silently, through an agreement between lawyers.
 
Starting from the Bible verse, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”, I wonder for how long we will be blind to EU’s hypocrisy and the double standard whih has become the rule?
 
It is time for everyone to solve their own problems and not everyone to be concerned only with Romania’s problems, un-doubtful real, but incomparably smaller than others.
 
Few people remember the first anti-corruption report released by the European Commission at the level of all EU member states in 2014, which shows that Western states are facing serious problems within their own borders. For example, we find there Germany with a 13% underground economy (the equivalent of over $ 487 billion, two and a half as much as the entire GDP of Romania at that time!). In reality, “underground economy” is just a synonym for “corruption”. Meanwhile, in 2017, 41% of Germans were convinced, according to the European Corruption Barometer, that corruption is rare or non-existent in their country.
 
It is obvious that some are very effective in projecting a false image of perfection, both inside and out. The fact that Berlin and Bucharest are just talking about corruption in Romania, although the billions of euros washed by Deutsche Bank are more damaging to the EU than anything can happen in Bucharest, contributes to this false perception of cleanliness.
 
Just as a German, Dutch or French citizen has the right to know the problems and the level of corruption in another Member State, so a Romanian should know the real situation in other countries. It’s not a curiosity. It is our interest, given that reality has often proved how a small group of Member States has a decisive influence on European policies that affect us all. Certainly I will continue with a future article detailing the different European policies, how they are elaborated and influenced, and especially how these policies affect the Romanians. Let’s not be naive to think that bringing Romania to a corner comes from a pure and altruistic desire to respect a common set of values. Beyond the facade, there are financial interests, sustained and maintained by financial gains from high level corruption, and the need to maintain a status quo in which some dictate and others execute.
 
It is also the time that the major cases of corruption, of EU legislation breaching, some of which I mentioned above, despite the constant effort to minimize them (although directly involving money and benefits for businesses and individuals), are being analysed from the point of view of the effects.
 
When hundreds of billions are involved, the implications cross the borders of a single country. The neighbourhood, defence and security policies of an entire continent are endangered.
 
These are not pure speculations. The links clearly appear in the various investigation reports. The best example is the August 2018 document by BaFin (Federal Financial Supervisory Authority of Germany), which analyses Deutsche Bank’s progress. One year after Deutsche Bank’s huge fine for money laundering, it continues to have major downsides in preventing money laundering and terrorist financing.
 
Terrorism and money laundering do not happen accidentally in the same phrase. Let us not forget that terrorism is the problem constantly pointed out by 500 million Europeans as the main cause of concern in recent years. After the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the first and most important step that should be taken to prevent this plague from reappearing in other parts of the world is cutting off funding sources. And ISIS’s main source of funding comes from the same organized crime networks that use EU’s banks as they please. It is obvious that loundering hundreds of billions of euros does not only finance the pleasures of oligarchs but also the needs of terrorist organizations.
 
Unfortunately, these cases of corruption and infringement of EU legislation are not just about banks. It is very fresh in memory the GasGate example, which linked Gazprom to Germany through preferential gas prices for some and overloading others. The investigation was conducted by DG Competition, concluded in 2018, and is a vivid proof of how illegal practices affect Europe’s energy security, not just the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism.
 
Furthermore, as many of these files involve Russia, whether it is black money or gas, we no longer have to wonder about Moscow’s strong influence within the EU. Hundreds of billions of euros transferred from one account to another, gas sold cheaper to the stronger and more expensive to the weaker – all of this not only bring vulnerabilities to an entire continent but also buys goodwill, votes, or successfully shuts down investigations.
 
Those who are left to hold the sack are the smallest, simple citizens or less influential European states. If we want the EU project to have a solid future, the rules must be equal for all and in practice, not just on paper. Romania has a profound interest in supporting the European project because the well-being of the Romanians depends to a large extent on the success of the EU. That is why Romania and the Romanians have a rightful voice in calling for the cessation of the artificial stigma of our country and the courageous approach of the big files that have been gathering for years and are well kept behind closed doors in Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam or Paris.
 
Maybe the Romanians are cooking their own goose. We know that Romania still has enough problems to solve internally to become a good foreign partner. We all need to be aware of this reality and most of all to take the necessary steps to solve the problems. But the effort must belong to us and must not come from outside.
 
In the same time, hundreds of millions of euros laundered, undermining Europe’s energy security or sabotaging the fight against terrorism, are harming both the Romanians and the other 480 million Europeans. It is time for the artificial noise of false talks to stop and the really serious problems that compromise the entire European construction to be tackled.”

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European Committee of the Regions, local authorities from Alba Iulia and Calea Europeană organise a local dialogue on digitalization and smart city (LIVE, February 20, 11:00)

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European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Romanian National Delegation to CoR and CaleaEuropeană.ro organise, with the support of Alba County Council and Alba Iulia City Hall, and in partnership with the European Parliament Office in Romania, a local event designed as a platform of dialogue between local and regional authorities and citizens and focused on a key subject both for local and regional development and for the EU’s capacity to innovate and reduce development gaps through technology and digitalisation.

The event, entitled ”New technologies and digitalisation: Connectivity and smart city opportunities” takes place on Wednesday 20 of February, at the Principia Museum in Alba Iulia, starting at 11:00. The event will be broadcast live on CaleaEuropeană.ro

In dialogue with citizens will engage Robert Negoiță, President of the Romanian National Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (PES, RO); Ion Dumitrel, President of the Alba County Council, alternate member of the Romanian National Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (EPP, RO); Mircea Hava, Mayor of Alba Iulia; and Nicolaie Moldovan, City Manager of Alba Iulia.

The debate is part of CoR’s ”Future of Europe” new initiative and aims to pave the way for the CoR’s 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities, scheduled for 14-15 of March 2019, in Bucharest, ahead of the European Council Summit in Sibiu on 9 of May 2019 and during Romania’s EU Council Presidency. This local dialogue subscribes also to the awareness campaign for the European elections from 23-26 of May 2019 (www.thistimeimvoting.eu), at the 40th anniversary since the first European Parliament elections.

This local dialogue will be held after the #SOTREG 2018, State of the Union: the view of Regions and Cities address, a speech held on October 9th by the President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz within the European Week of Regions and Cities frame, which has also marked the approval of CoR opinion on the Future of Europe, entitled „Reflecting on Europe: the voice of local and regional authorities to rebuild trust in the European Union”.

”Future of Europe” campaign in a nutshell

In 2016 the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, asked the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – as the voice of cities and regions – to submit its recommendations on the future of Europe. Subsequently, the CoR launched its “Reflecting on Europe” campaign whereby members held local events with citizens in their regions and cities to hear their views. Now, the opinion and speech mentioned above form the basis of the CoR’s efforts to contribute to the debate on the ”Future of Europe” ahead of the meeting of the EU leaders in Sibiu on 9 May and the European elections on 23-26 May 2019.

The ”Future of Europe” campaign is an initiative of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) providing a platform for regions, cities and their citizens’ engagement in the debate on the future of Europe.

Over 40.000 citizens in more than 180 local debates organised across Europe already shared their views, concerns and ideas. The CoR is committed to ensuring that the voice of regional and local authorities and their citizens is heard within the EU, in an effort to make the European project more transparent and democratic and develop new forms of participative democracy.

The European Committee of the Regions invite Romanian citizens to share their view on the future of Europe (Fill the survey by clicking the image below)

In the context of the “Reflecting on Europe” initiative, the European Committee of the Regions launched a survey in 2016 on the main issues that people identify in the city or the region they live in. So far, More than 22.000 European citizens have responded to the survey, while more than 1.000 are from Romania.

At both European Union and Romanian level, unemployment, youth policies and mobility and public transport are considered the three main issues at local and regional level.

In Romania, the three mentioned problems have been classified by citizens as followed: 27% of them consider that mobility and public transportation is the main problem at local and regional level, while for 24% the main challenge is represented by youth policies and also, 23% see unemployment as the main issue.

Romanians rely on the European Union and on a local engagement to building the Future of Europe

Asked about the political level they most rely on, Romanian citizens grant a 82% trust rate to the European Union (60%) and to the local level (22%) to identify solutions and to provide them with security and prosperity. In this context, public perception itself favors dialogue based on local engagement and discussion on the European themes for defining the Future of Europe.

 

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CaleaEuropeana.ro became member of OpenEUDebate, a European network that will be launched in Madrid by academic institutions and experts in EU politics

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CaleaEuropeana.ro became member of OpenEUDebate, a Jean Monnet network of academic institutions (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain; the National University of Political and Administrative Studies – SNSPA, Romania;, Institut d’études européennes de l’Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and Agenda Pública, Spain), practitioners and experts in EU politics and policies that marks its lauch in Madrid by organizing debates on the future of Europe, on 21-22 January, in the context of the next Elections to the European Parliament, that are expected to be held in 23-26 May 2019.

Foto: OpenEUdebate/ Facebook

The upcoming May 2019 EU elections will determine to a great extent the direction of the European project. The struggle for the soul of Europe is not only between nationalists and pro-Europeans, but also between different European projects with different public policy proposals on issues such as climate change, inequality or migration.

Rather than an abstract debate on Europe per se, citizens need to hear and engage in a conversation on this set of public policy proposals in order to have a meaningful vote.

Tackling issues of EU citizens’ common concerns requires an open public debate, the first round of which, between Spanish MPs and MEPs, will take place on Monday, 21st January 2019, from 19:00 – 21.00 h.

The venue of the event is the office of the European Parliament in Madrid (Paseo de la Castellana 46), and the debate will be livestreamed in Spanish and English.

The event launches the public activities of the Jean Monnet network OpenEUdebate, which will put EU expertise at the service of journalists, civil society and political actors to improve public debates about Europe. OpenEUDebate is not yet another EU discussion outlet from the “Brussels bubble”.

It follows a bottom-up approach to match EU’s policies with politics at the national level. OpenEUDebate will launch an online platform that will connect the debate in the EU institutions and transnational civil society platforms with national publics.

The event on Monday, 21st January, from 19:00 – 21.00 h features a keynote speech by former EU Commissioner Laaszlo Andor on the challenges of the social union and a Eurozone unemployment benefit scheme, and a debate on the future of Europe with MP Melisa Rodríguez (Ciudadanos, ALDE), MEPs Jonás Fernández (Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, PSOE) and Ernest Urtasun (European Greens/European Free Alliance, Catalunya en Comú), and a representative of Partido Popular (European People’s Party). Journalist Claudi Pérez (El País) will moderate the debate. The livestreaming will be available in Spanish and English.

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EPP MEP Ramona Mănescu: “By coordinating the Council successfully, Romania can leave a strong imprint on European policies and the lives of the 500 million European citizens”

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“By coordinating the Council successfully, Romania can leave a strong imprint on European policies and the lives of the 500 million European citizens,” wrote MEP Ramona Mănescu in a post on the official Facebook page following her participation the debate on the ”Future of Romania”, a debate organized by the Grand National Lodge in Romania.

To facilitate the clarification of issues concerning major issues that concern Romania today, the Grand National Lodge in Romania organizes a series of conferences and debates, in a broad framework, with the involvement of civil society and stakeholders.

The first conference took place in Bucharest, a conference attended by MEP Ramona Mănescu on January 15, 2019.

While the debate was devoted to the importance of taking over the Presidency of the EU Council, the MEP stressed that “Romania has the most important maturity exam in the last 12 years! For six months now, Romania has a very complex task – technically and politically. Moreover, we must do this while the eyes of the whole of Europe are fixed on us. For the first time since joining the EU, we have to show what we can do for Europe. We have to demonstrate the capacity to handle large dossiers that far outweigh the country’s borders. “

“By coordinating the Council successfully, Romania can leave a strong mark on European policies and the lives of the 500 million European citizens. It’s a moment of great prestige! And it’s happening for the first time since joining the EU! “added Ramona Mănescu.

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