Shortly before assuming the rotating EU Presidency, the Romanian government has set itself on a confrontational course with Brussels. Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă and the leader of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, accused the EU of discriminating against their country on Sunday. Dăncilă rejected EU criticism of her government and called on her party to “stop accepting these attacks.” Dragnea complained that other countries in the EU were “even more corrupt” than Romania, but were less criticised.
Romania is scheduled to take over the chairmanship of the EU Council for six months on 1 January but the EU accuses the Romanian government of not doing enough to fight corruption. It also fears a weakening of the independence of the judiciary through judicial reforms.
Speaking at a PSD congress on Sunday Prime Minister Dăncilă said that the EU’s critical stance was “solely because Romania is an Eastern European country.” She added that she is a “convinced pro-European,” but demanded that Romania “be respected.”
Dragnea, who is considered the strong man behind the government, said: “Romania will no longer accept being treated as a second-class member state.” Romania insists on the “right to express its own opinions”. Since joining the European Union in 2007 Romania, along with Bulgaria, is subject to regular assessments of its efforts to fight against corruption and organised crime. In its most recent report, the European Commission warned that “recent developments [in Romania] have reversed progress.”
Public distrust over the government’s proposed reforms have led to some of the largest demonstrations Romania has seen since the end of Communism. Critics argue that the intention behind the reforms is to weaken corruption legislation largely for the benefit of the PSD, whose leader, Liviu Dragnea, is banned from holding political office due to convictions for electoral fraud and abuse of office.