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Corruption, power plays keep Romania under scrutiny

The European Commission has announced plans to prolong its monitoring of Romania. According to a report, the country shows inadequate progress in respect for democracy and its fight against corruption.

Romania had hoped that the monitoring would end last year. The European Union had put the monitoring in place in 2007, when the country joined, to ensure that the new member would meet EU standards. Romania considers the monitoring program to be a stigma that, along with the country's exclusion from Europe's passport-free Schengen zone, makes it a second-class EU member.

To fall in line with EU expectations, Prime Minister Victor Ponta has committed to a list of 11 "points of concern" issued by European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso last week. Romania's progress will be checked in a report to be issued by the end of the year.

"A well functioning, independent judicial system, and respect for democratic institutions are indispensable for mutual trust within the European Union," the current draft European Commission report on Romania reads. "The Commission considers that recent steps by the Romanian government raise serious concerns about the respect of these fundamental principles."

A wild couple of months

Romania's current instability began when Ponta's government took office on May 7. Since then, the government has threatened to replace Constitutional Court judges, ignored a court decision and passed an emergency decree to override a minimum-turnout requirement for a referendum to impeach President Traian Basescu.

Bowing to EU pressure, Ponta has agreed to reinstate the turnout threshold. However, Romania's parliament, dominated by Ponta's Social Liberal Union, plans to debate the referendum this week and could decide to remove the turnout requirement again, setting up another row with the Constitutional Court and the EU.

Source News Feed: EMEA Picture Service ,Germany Picture Service Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta addresses a news conference after meeting European Parliament President Martin Schulz at the EU Parliament in Brussels July 11, 2012. Romania's prime minister assured European leaders on Wednesday that his government was fully committed to democracy and the rule of law after drawing fire for suspending President Traian Basescu by a vote in parliament. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) /eingest. sc

Ponta committed to the EU's points of concern

Ponta's campaign against Basescu has resulted in uncertainty and policy paralysis that have rattled markets and raised concerns over a 5-billion-euro ($6.1 billion) International Monetary Fund-led aid deal. The leu remains close to an all time low and is hurting the two-thirds of borrowers who have loans in foreign currencies.

Basescu says the rush to oust him was triggered by government politicians' fears of ongoing corruption investigations. Anti-graft prosecutors had scored a string of high-profile convictions, including that of Adrian Nastase, a former prime minister and mentor to Ponta.

In its report, the European Commission praised the conviction of Nastase, stating that it provides "a demonstration that the High Court is beginning to deliver decisions even against the highest ranking and politically influential defendants."

mkg/mz (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)