US criticizes plans to weaken Romania anti-corruption fight

November 27, 2017
People gather in front of the government headquarters at the start of a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Thousands have protested in Romania's capital and other major cities against planned changes to the justice system they say will allow high-level corruption to go unpunished and a tax overhaul that could lead to lower wages.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The U.S. State Department on Monday expressed concern about planned legislation it said could weaken Romania’s fight against corruption.

The proposals threaten “the progress Romania has made in recent years to build strong judicial institutions shielded from political interference,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The statement urged Parliament “to reject proposals that weaken the rule of law and endanger the fight against corruption.”

Justice Minister Florin Iordache, however, told public broadcaster TVR that the proposals wouldn’t damage the independence of the justice system. He said lawmakers would take into account U.S. concerns.

Romanian magistrates, the general prosecutor and the anti-corruption prosecutors’ agency have also criticized the proposals.

Romania has been praised for efforts to clamp down on high-level corruption in recent years. However, the left-wing government wants to revamp the justice system, which has sparked protests. On Sunday, tens of thousands demonstrated across Romania.

One proposal is to legally prevent Romania’s president from blocking the appointment of key judges. President Klaus Iohannis says he will use constitutional means to oppose the plan.

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