Rector Doctor Pricopie, Your Excellency, colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very honored to be present here at the school in order to participate in a commemoration of International Anti-Corruption Day. Your words were both very strong and inspiring Rector Doctor Pricopie, words that I’m fully in agreement with.
The United States Embassy and my predecessors as Ambassadors to Romania, representatives of the United States of America have for many, many years strongly supported the Romanian fight against corruption. In recent years the success of the efforts launched to fight corruption, particularly in the area of prosecution, criminal prosecution, has been remarkably successful. And I use that term “remarkably” deliberately because I think due credit should be given to the sometimes brave decision of Romanian leaders to set up strong institutions able to investigate, indict, prosecute and then try those Romanians who have stolen from public resources for private gain. In addition Romania has taken efforts to ensure that its judiciary has the independence necessary, as well as the resources necessary, to be able to adequately try those individuals brought before a Romanian court on charges of corruption. The record of the National Directorate for Anticorruption, the record that Romanian courts had over the past several years has been quite successful, indeed to the extent that Romania is becoming to be recognized internationally and particularly in this region of Europe as the pace setter for its judicial prosecutorial fight against corruption.
I strongly again commend those Romanian leaders who had the courage, wisdom and vision to establish these institutions, and strongly congratulate the very clear statement that the new government, under prime minister Ciolos announced at the beginning of his administration, a statement on corruption and his intent and the intent of the government to continue to wage a fight against corruption and provide resources to wage that fight, a statement I believe could not have been more clear in his intent.
The United States will continue to be a strong voice in support of Romanian efforts to fight corruption. We will continue to support what needs to be done in the full spectrum of the fight against corruption. It is very important to have the judicial independence and the prosecutorial wherewithal to fight corruption, but there is surely more that can be done to immunize the society – as you put it, Rector – from the scourge of corruption; more to be done as your institution is doing already in the area of education.
It’s probably also worthwhile to look at the full scope of judicial assets that may be available to wage an effective fight against corruption. Very recently, the Romanian Parliament approved a law to establish a new agency to coordinate asset seizures and forfeitures. Romania already had statutes on the books, so to speak, to enable the judicial and prosecutorial authorities to seize those assets stolen by private actors from public resources. But the management of those assets has not been as effective and it is our hope that the establishment of this new agency will make it possible so that those who are for example convicted of crimes of corruption are not able to enjoy the fruits of their crime, to emerge from prison and have again access to bank accounts and property that was stolen from the people of Romania.
Another area that I think is worthy of investigation, whether adequate laws are in place to prevent or at a minimum discourage bribery. In the United States, several decades ago we undertook the initiative to put into place a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The United States Congress passed a law in 1977, so almost 40 years ago, which forbids American companies and companies which are traded on a U.S. stock exchange from paying or promising to pay anything of value to foreign officials, foreign political parties or their officers or candidates for foreign office in exchange for influencing the action of a foreign official in exercising his/her official duty. This law is called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
This Act was enacted following an investigation in the middle of the 1970s in which over 400 top U.S. companies were found to have paid millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials, and secret slush funds were used to contribute to political campaigns in the United States and in political campaigns abroad. After this investigation became public, citizens questioned their faith in the marketplace, their faith in the private sector, their faith in capitalism actually, and in the most basic of democratic institutions: elections. FCPA was passed in order to restore that faith and create a level playing field for all democratic stakeholders. To a large extent, it has worked quite well and I know my colleagues in the American Chamber of Commerce will attest that American companies operating overseas are very, very conscious of their obligations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and being aware of those obligations are quite restrained in any activity that is close to amounting to a bribe of a foreign official. FCPA also created a preventative framework that can serve as a guideline to keeping companies from crossing ethical and legal lines.
The penalties of an FCPA violation are sufficient that American businesses have changed their modus operandi, and the American public now expects American businesses to operate transparently and in full accordance with both American and foreign law.
With that Rector I would like to conclude by again thanking your institution for hosting today’s event, on enabling the conversation today in honor of International Anti-Corruption Day to consider what Romania has accomplished in this fight against corruption, what support it can still draw from its international partners who support Romania so strongly in this fight and what other tools can be designed and brought to the fight to finally fully immunize Romanian society, as you suggested Doctor Rector, from this danger to its democracy.