Public Paricipation in the Romanian legislative process Developments and lessons learned Cristina
Beginnings • With 1989 the breaking point from communism,the legislative process took a series of modifications • With a bi-cameral Parliament comprising the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the legislative process is subject to its analysis • The legislative process is divided between the 2 chambers and is subject to extensive consultations
Appearance of public participation laws in Romania • Both the profit and the non-profit sector now have the opportunity to participate in the legislative process through the open public consultations available in Romania • The process was the result of the need to actively signal the aspects of legislation that produced effects on different elements of the economy, justice and non-profit sector • The legislation adopted soon became a tool for all parties in order to be able to express different point of view and other grievances during consultations
Evolution of the legislative process targeting transparency • 2001- the first step in transparency law-making through law 544 on transparency for revealing public information • 2003 – the essential in transparency legislation targeting public through law 52 concerning transparency in decision making of public administration
Law 544 on transparency of information for non-governmental bodies • Law 544 became the most important tool for NGOs and all other organizations in asking for information from public institutions • Adopted in 2001 due to NGO sector efforts it worked as the first linkage between public servants and civil society as well as the profit oriented community.
According to law 544… • Public institutions and officials are supposed to provide solicited info in a term of 30 days from the solicitation • This provision targets all information that can be described as being of public interest beginning with public servants information to activities, legislation, internal regulations that have a direct impact on the public sector
Law 52 – decision making transparency and the essential in transparency evolution ● 2000 - a project concerning transparency in Romanian Public Administration initiated by the the IRIS Center Romania representing mostly a private sector initiative proposed the introduction of the sunshine law concept in adopting normative acts • The sunshine law concept was at the core of many democratic societies relying on the principle of allowing a high degree of transparency to citizens and concerned parties in the legislative making process referring mainly to allowing for an accessible system of information
Reasons for law 52 • A preliminary study was completed by the same initiators with Transparency International regarding consultations in public administration, their existence and efficiency. The preliminary conclusions revealed the following problems concerning civil society participation in consultation processes: · There is no coherent or consistent approach on behalf of the administration with respect to consulting and involving civil society in the decision-making process,regardless of whether the adoption of normative acts is at stake; · Although cooperation between public institutions and non-governmental organizations represented a success in some instances, the rule is lack of transparency; · Institutions which prefer opacity justify their stance through restrictive or abusive legal interpretations, that reflect the secrecy culture of Romanian public administration;
Reasons for law 52 Institutions which prefer opacity justify their stance through restrictive or abusive legal interpretations, that reflect the secrecy culture of Romanian public administration; · Non-governmental participation in decision-making processes was the result of the NGOs' initiative. Such initiatives were successful only with few public institutions,whose openness was due to certain individuals in the top management; · Dialogue between authorities and civil society is accepted in principle, rather than called for in concrete decisions; · Consultation techniques are at their beginning; hence, hesitation is characteristic, even if already been practiced. State institutions seem more interested in such techniques as an end, rather than the means. Practical aspects that ensure their success are nottaken into consideration, and contributions from the process are ignored when establishing the final version of the act.
Law 52 • The law mainly aimed at public consultations in decision-making • The process of consultations included: making public the legislative initiatives, initiating public meetings and consultations and taking note of the proposed changes by other parties. • The work was made in joint venture with the Ministry of Public Information that was invited to the project and meetings of IRIS • The Ministry soon forwarded to the public in 2002 its own legislative project concerning the public character of transparency legislation
Law 52 • The law was adopted through the vote of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies in December 2002 as a result of the support of NGO’s and public officials as well • To whom is the transparency law addressed? • The transparency law implies cooperation between two partners: public administration and persons to whom the regulations adopted by the administration will apply (citizens, nongovernmental organizations and business communities). • Besides the public administration and public institutions, the law refers to public services, although such bodies have no direct attributions in the process of drafting future regulations.
Public information access and public consultation access • Unlike the law 544/2001, which allows the citizens’access to public information managed by public institutions, the transparency law offers to citizens the possibility to take part actively in the process of regulation drafting, through suggestions addressed to public administrative authorities. • The transparency law does not give citizens the right to take a final decision concerning future regulations. Such role will continue to be exercised by public administrative authorities, which will decide whether or not they would include within the drafts of future regulations information or suggestions coming from citizens, non governmental organizations or from the business community.
Benefits • For the public administration: · Obtains free information concerning the activity which will be affected by the futureregulation; · Explains the need for the proposed regulations; · Prevents the problems that could occur during the implementation process due to the lack of awareness of addressees’ towards the future regulation; · Prevents the problems that could occur during the implementation process due to wording deficiencies; · Earns the public’s trust.
Benefits • For those targeted by the future regulation: · They acknowledge the drafts regulations proposed by the public administration; · They get a chance to express their point of view with respect to such drafts; · They have the time to adapt their activities to the requirements of the future regulations.
How public consultations are orgnized • Both according to the law and common practice, public consultations are supposed to be organized with the following participants: the presidium organizing the meeting, the experts commission, mass media and public formed of other interested parties • Citizens and NGOs can form coalitions in order to increase the impact of their proposals through increasing the number of their constituency. • The consultations on normative acts are a process whereby the agenda is set by public institutions. Public institutions decide according to their priorities what acts to be drafted.
Public Consultations • Most ministries initiated their own practices in consulting with third parties before deciding – however the putting into practice of the system is still difficult and NGOs complain about insufficient intervention • The Transparency Law mentions several times that the opinions expressed by citizens or organizations during consultations are mere recommendations. The decision remains with the public authorities.
Public Consultations • From the ranks of the civil society, demanding public debates can be done only by organizations, not by private individuals. Nothing forbids citizens to participate in debates, even if they do not represent any organization. Although public authorities are not necessarily the direct beneficiaries of the processes regulated by the Transparency Law, they can ask that public debates be organized. Civil society can use those public institutions open to transparency in order to convince other authorities of the benefits of transparency.
Practical applications for the private sector • Advantages brought to the private sector: - soon after the adoption of the law the private sector had the possibility to take advantage of the regulatory framework for business advantages – monitoring the legislative process in order to sustain profit and economic development by involvement The non-profit sector became able to finally become active in the decision-making process by taking into consideration most aspects