23rd June 2015 London, UK

Transparency in Romania

This is a guest post by Felicia Alexandru from BE Bucharest.

As part of our work across the FCO network to mark International Open Data Day the British Embassy in Bucharest joined the Romanian Prime Minister’s Office and the Civil Society Coalition along with the  US and Dutch Embassies to talk about transparency in Romania. The day included sessions on transparency, justice, business, and culture, all of them focusing on how to improve public sector transparency. Over 100 people from various central and local authorities, Parliament, NGOs, media, business sector and independent experts attended this high level event.

The UK was represented in the opening panel by Belinda Volans, Head of the Political Section BE Bucharest. Prime Minister Victor Ponta also joined, and President Iohannis sent a message of support.odd152

There were some key messages that were delivered during the event, which we think are central to our work in Romania:

  1. A domestic culture in favour of transparency is crucial. Both Romania and the UK are part of the Open Government Partnership initiative. This means transparency has become a Government commitment. There are now 65 countries taking part in the OGP where Governments and civil society are working together to promote the reform of the public sector and improve accountability.
  2. Transparency contributes to the effectiveness of the public sector. Feedback from the public can be an important factor in the decision making process and makes the Government more accountable. This means not just supplying information on request, but making information available proactively in the form of open data. In the UK there are numerous examples of how open data improved radically public services in the UK and even help cut spending in areas like healthcare.
  3. Open data is crucial in driving more prosperity and growth. Better access to public data fosters innovation and it encourages especially the SMEs holding the knowledge in this field. The UK was recognised as having a leading role in this field as well and any expertise we could share would be highly appreciated.

The conference provided an excellent opportunity to raise several sensitive issues here, in particular the link between open data and anti-corruption in Romania, or the implementation of the EU Public Sector Information Directive in the oil&gas industries. James Royston from Publish What You Pay UK also joined the panel on open data in the extractive industries sector. The US Embassy in Romania spoke in favour of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Although Romania still has a long way to go, the Government has made significant progress over the past few years by putting in place the first open data portal. But key challenges remain in particular at a local level, where authorities are still reluctant to proactively make public information widely available. The British Embassy in Bucharest will continue to support Romania’s transparency and open data agenda. This is part of our wider bilateral efforts to assist the Government’s efforts on the reform of the public sector and anti-corruption. We firmly believe that opening data can have essential benefits for the quality of life in Romania.