By Kevin Holland,
Romania is facing increased pressure over its judicial reforms, soon after taking over the rotating EU presidency. The plans in question will allow politicians to challenge the verdicts if found guilty of corruption.
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader unveiled the plans on Monday, under which corruption verdicts post-2014 would be open to challenge. The move caused a strong rebuke from Romanian president Klaus Iohannis.
Iohannis claims the move is nothing more than an attempt by the ruling Social Democrat party to ensure their politicians can escape justice. The PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, in particular, was blocked from becoming prime minister due to his convictions for vote rigging.
If the law comes into force it is believed Dragnea will be one of the first to challenge his conviction. Dragnea is still regarded as the effective ruler behind the current prime minister, Viorica Dancila.
It is not the first time Romania has come under close scrutiny from Brussels over its poor record on corruption. Its judicial reforms, in particular, are a source of ongoing tension.
In its defence, the government claims the verdicts in question lack legitimacy because the judges of the Supreme Court were not properly constituted. A ruling by the Constitutional Court in November backs the government.
The moves were roundly condemned by both opposition parties and the chief prosecutor.
A spokesman for the European Commission said, “It is essential for Romania to get back on track in the fight against corruption, to ensure an independent judiciary – and to avoid any further steps back”.