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Romania tops legislative amendment ranking in CEE, report says

Romania tops the regional chart of legislative amendment in CEE for the third year in a row, with over a quarter (299 laws) in the total of 1,098 adopted laws during August 1, 2015-August 1, 2016, reads the latest Grayling’s report on legislative changes across Central & Eastern Europe. Grayling is a leading global communications network.

The report was drafted by Grayling Central & Eastern Europe’s Public Affairs Practice Group and examined laws passed in six CEE countries, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Political environment

Related to the current political environment, the report says that the Cabinet led by former European Commissioner Dacian Ciolos was the result of a political compromise reached in November 2015, when the Social Democratic government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta resigned amid mass protests sparked by a night club fire that left many young people dead. Protesters blamed widespread corruption and politicians for the incident and forced a quick change in the government, as well as a repositioning of all of the political parties.

“Almost a year after the appointment of the technocrat government, Romania’s two major parties, the leftist Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the centre-right National Liberal Party (PNL), continue to dominate the domestic political scene, even without making major changes within their own ranks – they won nearly 80% of the vote in June’s local elections.

In office until 2019, President Iohannis assumed the role of mediator over a political class under siege by anti-corruption investigations, political infighting and a lack of credibility,” the report points out.

Number of approved acts, on the rise in the region. Romanian, Polish MPs, most productive

1,098 acts were approved in the six CEE countries between August 2015 and August 2016. The number of adopted laws increased by 57 (5.47%) compared to last year, and is 207 (23.34%) more than in 2013/2014.

Although the number of approved acts decreased significantly this year in Poland and Hungary, the order of countries with the most active legislators – Romania, Poland and then Hungary – has not changed over the past two years.

The most productive MPs work in Poland and Romania.

Although the proportion of adopted acts with a direct impact on business submitted by the government is lower than last year, most of the acts were still initiated by the governments (361 laws, or 74.74% of the total). In line with that, MPs have become more active as 24.22% of the acts were submitted by them, compared to the 16% of the last year.

Romania (27%) and Bulgaria (25%) were still among the countries with the most active MPs, while in Hungary the proportion of acts proposed by representatives remained around 22%.

The number of acts submitted by MPs in Romania increased for the second year in a row. The main reason is the approaching end of the parliamentary term. Likewise, the new electoral law will reduce the number of MPs in the next Parliament, which stimulates lawmakers to make an impression in an attempt to secure eligible seats on their party’s candidate list.

With a general election due to take place on 11 December 2016, parliamentary activity over the last year has been marred by populist debates, with lawmakers rushed to promote bills with a visible social or economic impact.

Impact on business

91 out of the 483 adopted laws with impact on business, or 18.8% of the total, were approved through an extraordinary procedure to speed up the implementation process.

Similar to last year, the number of acts adopted by extraordinary procedure was the highest in Romania: 66 acts (51.66%) were approved by that method. As well as Romania, this method can also be witnessed in Hungary and Poland.

Higher media coverage

Almost half of the adopted acts generated significant media coverage (48.4%), which is 15% higher than last year. The biggest increases were recorded in Slovakia (39%) and Romania (20%).

In Romania, the final year of the current parliamentary term has introduced important legislative changes with an impact on both society and business. The laws that generated most media buzz were the new fiscal code introducing significant tax cuts, the debt discharge law on offering property against debt relief, new provisions to increase wages for state employees and several pieces of legislation introducing restrictions on food trade and smoking.

“The increased media attention is partially due to the fact that Romania is approaching general elections. Additionally, the current technocratic government, appointed in November 2015, has been more transparent in its decision-making, publicly defending its position on major legislative initiatives, which has contributed to the increased media coverage,” the report mentions.

Across CEE, media attention was greater for the acts which had an impact on business, being 58.59% this year. As above, Slovakia and Romania led the way in this field too, but most of the countries were between 40 and 60%.

Outlook

The Grayling report concludes that, with general elections scheduled for 11 December, a new political government is expected to replace the current technocratic cabinet led by Dacian Ciolos.

“At the official start of the campaign, the two largest parties in Romania get ready to fill in at least two thirds of next Parliament’s seats. Main leftist party, the Social Democratic Party, ranks first in the polls, at an apparent comforting 40% voting intention.

PSD’s main foe, the National Liberal Party – PNL (centre-right) constantly comes second, at a steady distance of 10%, very close to reaching the psychological verge of 30% that any great party in Romania needs to overcome in order to have a chance to rule the country.

One third of the seats, however, are still auctioned off. Several parties across the political spectrum are in for the battle of their life, with few expected to actually come out well, or alive, at least. By Romanian law, a political party needs to reach a minimum 5% threshold in elections to win seats in the Parliament. The polls suggest many of the small parties are on the edge in reaching the threshold. But those who make it on 11 December will be the ones able to tip the balance towards the next parliamentary majority,” reads the report’s conclusion in Romania.

About Alina Grigoras Butu