Romania’s governing Social Democratic Party (PSD) has announced plans to push through highly controversial reforms to the country’s criminal code by way of an emergency ordinance, according to Romanian website Hotnews.ro.
A series of controversial articles could be passed through the emergency ordinance, including reducing criminal sentences, reducing the time required for conditional release, abolishing the crime of negligence in service, and altering the definition of trafficking in influence, as well as the definition of an organised crime group.
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. They have also been condemned by the European Union, which last month released a highly critical report, accusing Romania of undermining the rule of law with its proposed justice reforms.
In February the Romanian Supreme Court ruled that parts of the proposed legal reforms, were unconstitutional and needed to be changed. These included measures aimed at limiting the powers of the country’s anti-corruption investigative body and the president’s right to block the appointment of senior prosecutors.
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, who made the announcement on Monday, said that the ordinance would allow the government to enact those amendments to the Criminal Code which have already been approved by the Constitutional Court, while those that have been declared unconstitutional will return to Parliament for further amendments to bring them into line with the law.
Dragnea, who serves as House Speaker said on Monday that the party had decided that an emergency ordinance was needed because the current legislative process is too slow.
Meanwhile, Balkan Insight reports that MEPs on Tuesday adopted a report calling for Romania and Bulgaria to be admitted into the Schengen Zone despite rule of law issues that persist in the two countries.
“The countries have already met the criteria, the Commission has said this, the experts have said this,” the European Parliament’s rapporteur, Bulgarian Socialist Sergey Stanishev, told his fellow MEPs during a debate in Strasbourg on Monday night.
“The [EU] Council simply doesn’t know what to say. For the past five years the Council has been in breach of European rules failing to adopt a decision on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area,” Stanishev said.