EU warns Romania against backtracking on corruption fight

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday warned Romania about reneging on its commitment to fight corruption and wants the country’s parliament to rethink its approach to new justice laws.

Tens of thousands of Romanians protested last weekend against the legislation, which critics say will make it harder to prosecute crime and high-level corruption.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his deputy warned Romania “against backtracking,” and said the Commission will examine the legislation for any “impact on efforts to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and combat corruption.”

Romania has remained under Commission monitoring since joining the bloc in 2007 to ensure that it fights corruption and organized crime. The monitoring was intended to last three years.

Romania’s two parliamentary speakers, Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who are supporters of the new justice laws, said they were “surprised” by the letter and suggested the commission hadn’t been properly informed about the content of hundreds of amendments to the justice system which have been passed or are still under debate.

They added that the EU should have refrained from comment until Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled whether the amendments were constitutional. Both Dragnea and Tariceanu face corruption probes.

Dragnea who also leads the ruling Social Democratic Party is unable to be prime minister due to a conviction for vote-rigging. He has also been charged with embezzling EU funds. He denies wrongdoing.

The Commission says the justice laws are a litmus test of Romania’s efforts.