On April 30, Marcel Ciolacu, the interim president of the Social Democratic Party, the main opposition party in Romania, stated on his Facebook page: “[…] The maximum level of fines in Romania is the highest in Europe, 6 times the average net salary, and the total sanctions applied reach 570 million lei […].”
He also compared the situation in Romania with the ones in several other European countries: Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom, showing the difference between the average net salary and the maximum fines during the state of emergency. The comparison was based on a visual that was originally published on the subreddit r/romania, but the data the original author used does not have a clear source.
Claim: “The maximum level of fines in Romania is the highest in Europe”
In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, Romania entered a state of emergency on March 16, 2020 for 30 days and then, on April 15, 2020, the state of emergency was extended for another 30 days. Since May 15, the country is going through a progressive relaxation of restrictions, but a state of alert is still in place.
At the beginning of the state of emergency, the fines in Romania ranged between 100 and 5,000 lei (roughly between € 20 and € 1000), according to the Emergency Ordinance no. 1 of 21 January 1999, Article 28, for persons who did not comply with the amendments. Then, according to the Emergency Ordinance no. 34 of March 26, 2020, article 28, the fines were increased, and ranged between 2,000 and 20,000 lei for individuals (€ 410 – € 4100).
According to latest data provided by the National Institute of Statistics, the average wage after taxes in Romania is 3,294 lei (approximately € 680). However, according to Eurostat, the average net salary in Romania equals € 633. In this context, the maximum fine you could get in Romania for not complying with the restrictions during the state of emergency meant 6 or 6.5 times the average wage.
The European context
According to a decree issued on March 25, Italians who do not comply with measures to prevent contamination, can be fined between € 400 and € 3000, but can also be punished with imprisonment of up to 3 months. The average net salary in Italy in 2020 is € 1801.
In France, fines range from € 135 to € 3,750 or up to 6 months in prison. French citizens earn an average monthly salary of € 2213.
In Spain, the fines range between € 100 and € 600,000. The € 100 to € 600 fines are applied for non-compliance with some basic rules regarding Covid-19, but they can increase up to € 30,000 if they do not have a proper attitude towards the authorities. The General Public Health Act includes fines ranging from € 3,001 to € 60,000 for serious offenses, such as the following cases: “refusal of support, assistance or cooperation to the agents of the medical authority or non-compliance with the instructions received from the competent authority, if this involves damage to others’ health”. Fines from € 60,001 to € 600,000 are for very serious cases of non-compliance: “repeated non-compliance with instructions received from the competent authority or non-compliance with a requirement thereof, if this involves serious damage to others’ health”. However, it must be mentioned that the maximum fine was never issued during the lockdown and it could only be used in severe cases of disobedience that put the public health at risk repeatedly. According to Eurostat, Spanish citizens earn € 1803 per month, which means that the maximum fine you could theoretically get is 332 times the average salary.
In Germany, fines for emergencies range from € 25 to € 25,000. Just for not wearing a protective mask, citizens risk a fine of € 5,000. Public meetings or participation in events with more than 10 can get people fines of up to € 2,500 or € 25,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years. In Germany the average monthly net salary is € 2639, so an average German citizen who gets the maximum fine must pay roughly 10 times his monthly wage.
Fines in Greece for those who break the laws on fighting Covid-19 reach up to € 300, and the average monthly salary after taxes is € 1316.
The last example given by Ciolacu in his post on Facebook is the UK. Here the fines range from £ 60 (about € 67) to £ 3200 (about € 3573) for those who break the law 6 times in a row. In UK, the average salary after taxes is £ 2529 (approximately € 2824).
“The maximum level of fines in Romania is the highest in Europe” is a false statement. Some of the information related to the average net monthly income suggested by the picture posted on Facebook is false as well. In countries such as Germany or Spain, the fines can be a lot higher than in Romania. Although the fines in Romania seem to be rather high when taking into account the average net salary compared to other European countries, the maximum level of fines is not the highest in Europe. However, some of the data presented by Ciolacu is true, which is a good reason to rate his statement as mostly false.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE : Elisa Bajzat
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