EC 'greatly concerned' over Romania backtracking in fight on corruption

EC 'greatly concerned' over Romania backtracking in fight on corruption License: Creative Commons CC0

BUCHAREST (Romania), February 1 (SeeNews) - The European Commission on Wednesday expressed concern over Romania weakening its fight against corruption, after thousands protested in Bucharest and other Romanian cities against a government attempt to water down the country's anti-graft legislation.

"The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone. We are following the latest developments in Romania with great concern," European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and his deputy, Frans Timmermans, said in a joint statement. "The Commission warns against backtracking and will look thoroughly at the emergency ordinance on the Criminal Code and the Law on Pardons in this light."

The Commission also noted that the irreversibility of the progress achieved in the fight against corruption is essential for the Commission to assess whether at some point monitoring of Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) could be phased out.

"Our CVM Report, published last week, acknowledged the track record achieved so far by prosecutors and judges in Romania in addressing high-level corruption. At the same time, it made clear that any steps which undermine this progress, or have the effect of weakening or shrinking the scope of corruption as an offence, would have an impact on any future assessments," the EC added.

Some 50,000 people marched on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in Bucharest and other Romanian cities to protest an emergency government decree which attempts to weaken the fight against corruption and help several politicians avoid criminal prosecution on graft charges.

The emergency decree, approved by the government at 21.00 CET on Tuesday and hastily published in Romania's Official Gazette, decriminalises several offences and makes abuse of office punishable by incarceration only if that offence has resulted in a loss of more than 200,000 lei ($47,500/44,000 euro).

Liviu Dragnea, leader of the governing Social Democrat Party (PSD), can potentially benefit from the new decree. Dragnea is currently on trial on charges of abuse of office that has led to a loss of 108,000 lei to the state. He also has a two-year suspended jail sentence for a referendum fraud in 2012, which prevented him from becoming prime minister.

The government alos decided to send to parliament a draft pardon bill which, if adopted, will set free inmates serving sentences of up to five years for non-violent crimes. The government initially intended to grant the pardon by way of an emergency decree.

(1 euro = 4.5240 lei)


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