“The current topics on the Romanian legal market are the GDPR’s implementation and the recent decision of the country’s Constitutional Court concerning the dismissal of the National Anticorruption Directorate's chief,” says Germin Petcu, Partner at Dobre, Tulei & Asociatii in Bucharest. “There is quite a political struggle right now in Romania,” he adds, noting that in the long term this may affect businesses and foreign investment in the country.
Turning back to the GDPR, Germin Petcu says that he is still receiving mandates to look into clients’ compliance processes and to evaluate the risks that they might face for not being 100% GDPR ready. “According to recent evaluations, only 25% of the Romanian companies were absolutely aware that they needed to be fully GDPR compliant by May 25th. It doesn’t mean that these companies were actually compliant; it means they knew about it.” In fact, he says, “the same statistics showed that virtually no company from Romania was fully GDPR-compliant by May 25th. Obviously, the level of compliance was higher among the big IT & telecom companies, banks and a few other industries, but if we are talking about your average – not necessarily limited-liability – companies, which are also impacted by the act, the percentage is rather low.”
In Petcu's opinion, the subject of personal data protection was never of great significance to average people in Romania. "Probably due to its recent historical and cultural background, people never paid real attention to these matters — never considered questioning why their personal data was required from them, [and were] never cautious about it," he says. "There is no general awareness on the importance of personal data protection.” He adds that, “at company level the owners know about GDPR and its rather vast ramifications, but they do not dig into it. They rather know that the fines are really high and that is why they need to comply.”
Turning to the second topic that is currently keeping Romanian jurists wired, Petcu explains that lately the Romanian judicial system seems to have taken sides. “Upon the Justice Minister’s proposal to revoke and replace the head of the National Anticorruption Directorate, the Romanian President, who opposed the decision, was ultimately faced with the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which settled the matter, let’s say, in favor of the Ministry of Justice," he says. "The decision sparked a lot of debate in the judicial academic environment, the political sphere, and even in the civil society."
According to Petcu, "the name of the game is, ultimately, control,” and he reports that "some of the voices from the civil and political arena are saying that with this move the governing party is trying to place the country's judicial system under political control." The significance of the debate is not limited to the individuals involved, he says, adding that "because of this political turmoil, I believe investors might be more reluctant to come to Romania in the near future.”
Indeed, in Petcu’s opinion, foreign investment is already slowing worldwide due to global political instability, and the situation is reflected on the Romanian market. “Because of the commercial war between the US and the other major players, like China and the EU, foreign investors seem a bit reluctant to invest money. Look around: the stock exchanges are going down. And because business and politics are always connected, I would say that this is a turbulent period not only for Romania.”