The European Parliament has declared it is “deeply concerned” by Romanian judicial reform and amendments made to its criminal law procedures.
A resolution put forward yesterday by the European Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) called on the Romanian government to implement safeguards to protect the checks and balances currently in place; as well as countering potential measures to decriminalise corruption in office. The resolution singled out recent Romanian judicial reform measures, which have been accused of weakening the independence of the judiciary; and changes made to the Romanian Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, alleged to be unconstitutional and enabling of corruption.
Violence by Romanian riot police during Bucharest protests over Romanian judicial reform in August 2018 came in for criticism, with the resolution denouncing the police’s behaviour as a “violent and disproportionate intervention” and calling for a full, independent investigation. The Romanian Intelligence Service, which is alleged to have interfered in judicial processes, was held up as an example of the need to reinforce the government’s oversight of the country’s intelligence services.
The European Commission’s annual progress report on the development of anti-corruption regulation in Romania, also released yesterday, was scathing, accusing Romania of backtracking on its anticorruption efforts and ordering the government to “suspend immediately” its efforts to implement Romanian judicial reform and rewrite criminal codes. One measure proposed by the government which garnered stern condemnation would see a financial threshold imposed on bribery convictions, so defendants would face lighter punishments if the bribe they offered was less than €44,000 (£38,000).
Romania is due to begin its term in the rotating presidency of the EU Council in January 2019, despite the ongoing dispute over Romanian judicial reform and increasingly prevalent concerns from outside observers and much of its own government that the country is drastically underprepared. The government, currently overseen by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila – alleged by many to be a figurehead, with the real power lies with Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ruling party who cannot become prime minister due to a previous conviction for vote-rigging – was described by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis this week as an “accident of democracy” which had “gone off the rails”. Victor Negrescu, the Minister for European Affairs and ostensibly the man in charge of preparing Romania for the impending presidency, resigned suddenly and without comment last week.