It all started with a fire in the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest. Fireworks used indoors in the over-crowded club ignited non-fireproof insulation foam, which triggered a stampede towards the only exit, leaving many trapped inside the blazing building.
"Activism doesn't have to be full time. It can be a small hobby."Winner: European Personality of the Year
One of 30-year-old Florin Badita's friends died in the fire, along with 63 others, provoking him to set up "Corruption Kills", a rallying cry that soon became a movement, and which has most recently won him the European Personality of the Year award at the European Leadership Awards.
Why Corruption Kills? The movement was named, he explains to Euronews' Sophie Claudet, because the fire deaths were caused by Colectiv's State-sanctioned non-compliance with health and safety regulations: "the authorities knew about it and did nothing".
He is not alone in drawing attention to corruption in Romania -Transparency International has long been highlighting alarming developments in the country. However, Badita has succeeded in doing what many NGOs have failed to achieve: he has made the link between tragedies such as the Colectiv fire and the culture of bribery, making corruption more tangible, and therefore more immediately objectionable, to the general public.
The idea behind Corruption kills is very simple: "we use protests to apply pressure on the government," explains Florin Badita.
The group also puts tools available to every citizen to good use in investigating the extent of corruption in Romania. During the first six months, Badita put in Freedom of Information requests to each of the 320 cities in the country, asking them about the contracts they awarded for clearing snow. Combining all the answers to this one seemingly innocuous request enabled him to build up a picture of the shadowy way that contracts are awarded at a national level.
If this seems like a lot of work for one unpaid activist, Corruption Kills has been training up willing volunteers. It recently organised a hands-on conference for Romanian civic activists, teaching them useful skills such as public speaking, and how to fill out Freedom of Information requests. "We have to be really practical" explains Badita.
Not a politician
Despite his huge internet following, Florin Badita has no ambitions to become a politician himself. "The opposition will always protest because it is the opposition," he explains. He feels that, by remaining on the outside, he can legitimately represent the interests of the general public in an authentic way.
Not becoming a politician also means that Badita is unpaid. "We do it because we think it's the right thing to do, to create a better society for the future," he said.