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Editorial

This Victor Enjoys the EU’s Special Treatment

| June 23, 2015

Let us hope the EU will not continue to use double standards and will see that corruption, when based on serious allegations, poses a real threat to European values and stability. 

Responding recently to a question about the ongoing criminal investigation of the Romanian prime minister, Victor Ponta, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans had this to say:

“The European Commission never comments on specific cases in any member state of the European Union, Romania included.”

According to Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Agency, Prime Minister Ponta was involved in the forging of documents, tax evasion and money laundering as a lawyer during the period from 2007 to 2008. Prime Minister Ponta also faces accusations of having agreed with Minister Dan Sova to fabricate the payment of legal services. Sova is well known to those who follow current events in Romania. His appointment as the government’s minister responsible for parliamentary relations outraged the Jewish community because of his previous anti-Semitic statements. Members of the opposition and citizens were threatened by the government if they were to organize demonstrations.

This is not the first time that Ponta has stirred international controversy. In 2012, the prime minister, who comes from the Social Democratic Party, engaged in a serious conflict with then-President Basescu that ultimately brought about a constitutional crisis. The two argued over who has the authority to represent Romania at meetings of the Council of the European Union. For the EU, it was unseemly for a Member State to be arguing about such things.

But on that unpleasant spat and the recent criminal investigation, European institutions have remained conspicuously quiet. It seems that when it comes to certain governments or political figures European bodies “never comment”, but when the question concerns other governments, perhaps center-right leadership, then the seriousness of the “situation” calls for a more activist approach.

The government of Hungary has appeared regularly on the agenda of the European Parliament over the past five years, including remarks from Timmermans and others from the Commission. Some would argue that Hungary has become a bit of a whipping boy for European institutions, the most closely scrutinized Member State. At the June plenary, MEPs from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats pushed through a resolution on “The Situation in Hungary” expressing displeasure at the Hungarian prime minister venturing an opinion on the death penalty. They proceeded with this resolution even though the Hungarian PM had already spoken with the president of the European Parliament, a Socialist, and stated several times that the death penalty will not be reintroduced, nor will the government take any measures contrary to its international obligations. Socialists and liberals found the time for that resolution but somehow have nothing to say about today’s Romania. Could the reason be that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán comes from the center-right political family of the European People’s Party and Prime Minister Victor Ponta is one of theirs, a Social Democrat?

Let us hope the EU will not continue to use double standards and will see that corruption, when based on serious allegations, poses a real threat to European values and stability.