The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has said that recent reforms of Romania’s justice system will ‘weaken the fight against corruption’.
The group, which serves as an advisory body on constitutional matters, say the changes “seriously weaken the effectiveness of its criminal justice system to fight corruption offences, violent crimes and organised criminality”.
The warning comes as Romanian lawmakers push forward with controversial plans to change how the country’s judiciary works, similar to changes seen in other eastern European countries like Poland and Hungary.
Under the proposals, judges and prosecutors would be able to take early retirement after 20 years of work, which could lead to around a third of the country’s top prosecutors and judges retiring.
Changes could also see the number of years required to work in Romanian anti-corruption agencies nearly double from 8 to 16 years. It is also expected that the power of the President to appoint chief prosecutors will be revoked.
The combined early retirements and tougher barriers into the service would “adversely affect the efficiency, quality and independence of the judiciary, with negative consequences for the fight against corruption”, according to the Venice Commission.
Over the last five years, the country’s anti-corruption prosecutors have secured nearly 5,000 convictions, including ministers, council bosses and mayors across the country. Liviu Dranea, leader of the ruling Social Democrats party, was banned from becoming the country’s prime minister after an anti-corruption investigation was launched against him.