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Deforming the Reform

The Impact of Elites on Romania’s Post-accession Europeanization

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About this book

This open access book presents an actor-centered study on Europeanization, based on the assumption that EU-driven reforms are highly dependent on the behavior and interests of the key domestic actors. Whether or not a state pursues a European and democratic agenda depends on domestic lawmakers. Further, political elites are pre-eminent in deciding on the nature, form and content of any law, and on the extent to which the rule of law is actually enforced. Elites can overcome structural or institutional barriers that stand in the way of achieving their goals. The empirical study on Romania presented here lends this observation a more profound meaning: it shows how, in contexts where high level corruption is the norm rather than the exception, self-serving political elites cannot be expected to genuinely commit to adopting sound anti-corruption reform. The book is an inquiry into the motivations that drive legislators to make particular decisions, but also into the structural characteristics and dynamics of the elite that invite a selfish rather than responsible and responsive behaviour.

This publication was supported by funds from the Publication Fund for Open Access Monographs of the Federal State of Brandenburg, Germany.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Open Access

Chapter 1. Introduction: The European Paradox of Expecting Corrupt Political Elites to Lead the Fight Against Corruption
Abstract
Martin-Russu starts her analysis from an empirical puzzle: Romania’s abrupt shift from observing European norms and standards, towards increasingly diverging from them after having gained full EU membership. Romania’s pre-accession drive to curb corruption, very much aligned with the EU’s requirements, contrasts with the state’s post-accession backslide and the gradual deterioration of already adopted public integrity reforms.
The introduction sets the basis for discussion by arguing that in contexts corroded by high-level corruption, claims of successful Europeanization, particularly in the area of public integrity, are highly counter-intuitive. The priority attached by the EU to the rule of law and justice reform can hardly eliminate the fundamental incentive for political corruption. A self-serving political elite remains unable to genuinely commit to the implementation of substantial anti-corruption reforms.
Luana Martin-Russu

Open Access

Chapter 2. Towards a Theory of De-Europeanization, an Elite-Based Approach
Abstract
Martin-Russu offers a critical analysis of the existing scholarship, focusing in particular on enlargement-led Europeanization studies and locating them in the wider context of European Integration research. She identifies two major gaps in the literature: the lack of a theoretically grounded model of de-Europeanization substantiated through fine-grained analyses of domestic transposition; and the lack of sufficient empirical research on the relevance of domestic political elites for the success and stability of EU-led reforms. This chapter illustrates how her study bridges these gaps. It proposes a theoretical framework that explains Romania’s selective backsliding—its reversing of reforms in some domains much more than in others—and links this reform reversal with the pursuit of narrow personal interests by the domestic political elite.
Luana Martin-Russu

Open Access

Chapter 3. Fragmentation: A Trait of the Romanian Political Elite
Abstract
With this chapter, Martin-Russu starts her empirical analysis by examining the structural factors that influence the composition and conduct of the Romanian political elite. The observed high level of fragmentation of this elite during the last decades results from a narrow and shallow pattern of elite renewal, from conflicting institutional or organizational interests and from a lack of value consensus among elite members. All these factors exacerbate a struggle for power, they work in favour of a pursuit of narrow particular interests at high levels of decision-making, leading to the failure of democracy even where democratic institutions are in place.
The chapter shows a political environment in which the major Romanian political parties experience numerous splits and mergers, several opportunistic coalitions are forged in the run-up to or midway between parliamentary elections, and numerous party members abruptly change their affiliation in order to obtain secure political positions. It provides a revealing example of over-fragmentation: a political climate of distrust, uncertainty and unpredictability that favours self-interested behaviour, and in which elected elites can be bound neither to take account of the preferences of their own party, nor to take into account the concerns of their electorate.
Luana Martin-Russu

Open Access

Chapter 4. Romania’s Justice and Anti-Corruption Reform: A Stubborn Divergence from European Norms in Pursuit of Personal Gains
Abstract
In this chapter, Martin-Russu shifts towards an in-depth observation of the elite’s legislative conduct in the area of anti-corruption. The analysis focuses on the concrete developments of Romania’s public integrity law (i.e. the initially adopted act, its different provisions and its development over more than a decade), which clearly show a pattern of diluting existing legislation, with repeated subtle attempts to reverse positive reform steps already undertaken.
The chapter illustrates how the use of inadequate and hasty procedures and the adoption of amendments inconsistent and ill-fitted to the scope of the law can hardly be justified as being in the interests of society as a whole, being driven solely by the narrow self-serving purposes of the elite. This self-serving conduct of the political elite has dire consequences for the quality of legislation, for the quality of institutional interactions, and more importantly, for the level of public trust and the political engagement of the nonelite.
Luana Martin-Russu

Open Access

Chapter 5. Romania’s Nature Conservation Reform: A Surprising Convergence with European Law in Response to Societal Concerns
Abstract
To grant more plausibility to the theoretical argument, Martin-Russu includes a second case study in her empirical analysis: an inquiry into Romania’s nature conservation reform and the framework regulating the protection of environmentally significant habitats and species. The evaluation of the legislative performance of the Romanian political elite in the field of nature conservation shows a questionable use of procedures, but this time coupled with a far higher level of responsibility and responsivity to societal concerns.
The chapter reveals a reality at odds with the expectation that limited capacities lead to non-compliance; it shows how the lack of institutional capacities led, through the involvement of civil society actors, to a gradual improvement of EU-driven reforms. Martin-Russu provides a detailed account of how the expansion of protected areas in preparation for EU membership generated an increased need for their effective management, which translated into a legislative solution that allowed civil society organizations and the scientific community to assume responsibility for the administration of protected areas on an equal footing with the government. This, Martin-Russu argues, allowed citizens to pursue their interests through the actions and reactions of civil society, promoting the latter’s growth and gradually strengthening its voice.
Luana Martin-Russu

Open Access

Chapter 6. Conclusion: Civism Against Cynicism
Abstract
Martin-Russu’s book explains Romania’s reform reversal in the field of public integrity and the fight against corruption by providing evidence of legislative behaviour at the highest levels of policy-making that shows how a highly fragmented domestic political elite pursues private gains by diluting the legislation in force. Her understanding of Europeanization, modelled as a reversible process highly dependent on the interests pursued by political elites, offers a quite pessimistic prospect for reform. However, Martin-Russu suggests a solution to reform instability, found in the empowerment of sectoral civil society to participate, in one manner or another, in the law-making process. Improving the capacities of civil society to participate more effectively in policy formulation and implementation, she argues, makes democratic consolidation more feasible and allows for genuine Europeanizing reform.
Martin-Russu’s book provides a cautionary tale about the naivety of expecting domestic corrupt political elites to lead the fight against corruption, an account of the failure of the EU’s push for reforms to produce genuine and lasting change, and a demonstration of how important it is for the EU to find new ways to support civil society in its member states.
Luana Martin-Russu
Backmatter
Metadata
Title
Deforming the Reform
Author
Luana Martin-Russu
Copyright Year
2022
Electronic ISBN
978-3-031-11081-8
Print ISBN
978-3-031-11080-1
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-11081-8