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EU warns Romania over judicial reform plans

November 14, 2018

The EU criticized Romania's judicial reforms, saying that Bucharest isn't following through on its rule of law commitments. Romania has come under increased scrutiny as it will take over the EU's presidency in January.

Two protesters hold Romanian flags in front of government headquarters
Image: picture-alliance/J. Arriens

Romania is backsliding on commitments to fight corruption and uphold judicial independence, the European Commission said in a report published on Tuesday.

"The developments over the last 12 months sadly have called into question and sometimes even reversed the progress made over the last 10 years," Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters in Strasbourg.

Timmermans outlined eight new recommendations for "immediate follow-up," including undoing laws on mandatory retirement for judges, halting recent changes to the country's criminal code and increasing media freedom.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament also overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Tuesday that sharply criticized Romania's disputed judicial reform plans. EU lawmakers warned that the planned reforms threaten to "structurally undermine the independence of the judicial system ... as well as to weaken the rule of law."

The EU's concerns stem from a series of legal and personnel changes that the Social Democrats have pushed through since coming to power two years ago.

Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democrat party, rejected the Commission's criticism, saying: "The real topics regarding Romania are beyond any report or monitoring mechanism."

'Romania has gone back in time'

With Romania set to take over the EU's rotating presidency on January 1, concerns have been raised over whether the country is prepared to do so.

Romania's centrist  president, Klaus Iohannis,  told reporters on Tuesday that his country is not ready assume the EU presidency.

"The Commission's report and the European Parliament's resolution address the same things," he said. "They tell us Romania has gone back in time to before its 2007 EU accession."

Since Romania joined the bloc in 2007, it has been subject to an annual review of its rule of law. The latest report jeopardizes Bucharest's bid to join Europe's passport-free Schengen zone, which can only be permitted if it adheres to EU standards.

rs/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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