Tens of thousands protest against corruption in Romania

People return to the streets in the graft-plagued EU member to oppose laws that would weaken judicial independence.


Tens of thousands of Romanians marched through heavy snow in Bucharest on Saturday in protest against proposed laws that critics say will make it harder to prosecute crime and high-level corruption. An estimated 50,000 people marched towards parliament, blowing whistles, waving flags and chanting, “thieves”. Protesters briefly scuffled with riot police as they massed in the capital’s University Square, while thousands more demonstrated in cities across Romania.

The left-wing government pushed through a judicial overhaul through parliament in December, despite criticism from the European Commission, the US state department, thousands of magistrates and the centrist president, Klaus Iohannis. Critics say the bills would weaken judicial independence and they have been challenged in the constitutional court, where they await a ruling. “I came out today because I have two little boys and they deserve a better life in this European country,” said Florentina Caval, 34. “I honestly don’t think we will manage to overturn the judicial bills, but we need to try.” Diana Gradinaru, a 45-year-old economist, said the new legislation could result in “terrible thefts” by high-level officials, citing legislation that meant video and audio recordings could no longer be used as evidence in prosecutions.

An attempt by the ruling Social Democrats to decriminalise several corruption offences at the start of 2017 triggered Romania’s largest street protests since the 1989 fall of communism. Prime minister-designate Viorica Dancila supports revamping the judicial system. She is an ally of Liviu Dragnea, the Social Democrats chairman who can’t be premier due to a conviction for vote rigging. Iohannis, who needs to sign off on the laws, on Friday wrote to the constitutional court, saying one amendment that would allow public officials to own businesses “diminished the standards of integrity” expected from public officials.

Transparency International ranks Romania among the EU’s most corrupt states.

The Guardian

22 January 2018

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