Recent investigations of "smart guys” contracts have helped reduce corruption within the Romanian energy sector, and have accelerated the country’s market liberalisation, at a time when the Ukraine crisis has forced Bucharest to assume a more important role in region.

The Romanian energy sector has undergone important changes in recent years. Through consistent judicial and legislative efforts, both the fight against corruption and the legal framework regulating the sector have greatly improved.

A 2014 report of independent think tank Expert Forum notes that with the adoption of new legislation in 2012, the Regulatory Authority for Energy has become more independent of political pressure, and that some of its activities have become more transparent.

The report contends that there still remains a need to increase the transparency and quality of the Authority's actions, though, as well to tackle remaining corruption issues.

Market liberalization

As an EU member, Romania had to start the process of liberalising its energy sector.

Almost immediately, Romanians were confronted with predictions of higher prices. The government subsequently postponed the process.

Asked by EurActiv Romania to comment on what an open gas market will mean for Romanians, Expert Forum analyst Otilia Nuțu said that gas consumers should be able to switch suppliers.

Romanians do not understand is that they are not required to purchase energy exclusively from the company that manages the distribution grids (EON or GDF), Nuțu explained.

She added that customers would be able to purchase from any of the 120 suppliers in the market, and that the distribution companies managed by EON and GDF will be required to ensure access to gas from suppliers, at regulated distribution tariffs.

What is needed is a well-designed social safety net, where the government can provide targeted income support for consumers who are too poor to afford price increases.

Romanians must also change their understanding of consumer protection. It does not mean "cheap gas", but affordable energy, of good quality, without unexpected interruptions, with information about what is supplied.

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