The embassies of 12 Western countries have released a joint statement calling on the Romanian government to refrain from bringing in judicial reforms that would weaken the rule of law and Romania’s ability to fight corruption. Meanwhile the European Commission has said it will “act within days” if the Romanian government passes decrees that could give officials and politicians accused of corruption immunity.
In a rare joint letter, the ambassadors of twelve states, including Austria, Canada, France, Germany and the US, expressed their deep concern about the integrity of the Romanian judiciary, which they said has been “shaken by unpredictable changes that do not strengthen Romania’s efforts to consolidate progress in the field of justice.”
They also say that the emergency decrees proposed by the government “will have the potential to impact on the independence of Romania’s judiciary, which would undermine Romanians’ and partners’ trust in the justice system, and in Romania’s government as well.”
The warning comes in response to Bucharest’s plans to press ahead with the introduction of a statute of limitations on several offenses, which could see a number of ongoing corruption cases immediately shut down.
The Romanian parliament has also backed a second decree that would allow politicians and others convicted of corruption since 2014 to retroactively challenge their convictions.
Meanwhile, European Commissioners also discussed Romania’s proposed judicial reforms during the weekly meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. At a press conference after the meeting, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans warned the Romanian government not to take any action “that affects the judiciary and creates impunity for high-level officials who have been convicted of corruption.”
Timmermans also said that the Commission will draw up a plan to reinforce the EU’s intervention tools against member states found to be in violation the rule of law.
“This is a lesson for the EU, that issues of rule of law should be solved by states before they join the EU. The assumption made back then, that issues could be solved after becoming a member state, was an optimistic one,” Timmermans said.