Romania has just given the EU the finger, quite literally. In response to the EU’s new report condemning the state for democratic slippage, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Florin Iordache vowed to press on regardless with the judicial reforms, before ending his speech by holding up both fingers at the Commission.
“We’ll go on despite all the opposition from the European Commission… We want to be independent, we want to make the decisions according to our constitution and not because of the pressure coming from other quarters.”
The EU’s core values are not only being ignored, they are being laughed at. The reforms in question are precisely the sort of ‘soft on corruption’ moves that the EU is desperate to eradicate.
Along with Hungary and Poland, Romania is another former communist state having major difficulties transitioning to the sort of democratic foundations that the EU expects to be built and maintained. Issues of the rule of law and judicial propriety are cornerstones of the EU ethos.
The leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party, Liviu Dragnea, is a good friend of Iordache. Dragnea is barred from becoming prime minister because of his criminal record, making him precisely the sort of person to benefit from a softer legal regime surrounding corruption. Iordache has not ruled out pushing back on the report at the European Court of Justice, but this is not thought likely to yield many gains.
The Commission has demanded Romania “suspend” the judicial reforms “immediately”. Along with a resolution in the European Parliament, the EU has made plain it takes the matter extremely seriously, deeming such developments a real risk that the country’s gains over the last decade are being reversed.
Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “I regret that Romania has not only stalled its reform process, but also reopened and backtracked on issues where progress was made over the past 10 years.
“Things are now moving backwards in a way that would be damaging for the place that Romania has built as an EU member state in recent years.”
Tensions are particularly high because Romania is due to take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on January 1, something the former leader of the National Liberal Party, Klaus Iohannis, has warned would be a mistake because there would be “no chance of a good government or proper involvement in European affairs”.
Placed under special monitoring by Brussels since its accession in 2007, Romania is still ranked by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt states in the EU.