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Austrian leader says tax could deter investment in Romania

December 21, 2018
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, left, shakes hands with Romanian Premier Viorica Dancila at the Victoria palace in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Friday suggested that foreign companies could pull out of Romania after the government unveiled a surprise plan to levy extra taxes on banks and energy companies.

Kurz was visiting Romania before it takes over the European Union’s rotating presidency on Jan. 1 and his remarks were less encouraging for the East European country as it prepares for the presidency for the first time.

He said Austrian companies could “take their things and leave,” adding the measures could lead to job losses and price hikes, or deter investors.

He also directed criticism at Romania’s Social Democratic government over its contentious judicial overhaul that opponents say will undermine efforts to fight high-level corruption.

His message will be embarrassing for Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, 10 days ahead of taking over the presidency from Austria.

Kurz used the one-day visit to stress the importance of the rule of law, saying it was “important when there is a negative development for us to react and try to correct” backsliding.

He praised centrist President Klaus Iohannis for being “a guarantor of these things, he watches them and reacts to correct them. ” Iohannis regularly criticizes the government over the overhaul.

Romania’s government says prosecutors have too much power and Romania should be allowed to decide its own laws.

Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici on Tuesday presented measures to remedy a fiscal shortfall that risked exceeding the EU’s limit of 3 percent of GDP.

The Romanian stock exchange dipped to a 10-year low after taxes on energy, banks and telecommunication companies were announced. Austria’s OMW gas company fell by 13 percent on what was dubbed “Black Wednesday.”

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