Romanian Europe minister resigns on cusp of EU stint

File photo. Romanian Minister for European Affairs Victor Negrescu t during an European General Affairs council meeting at the European Council, in Brussels, Belgium, 12 December 2017. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

Romania’s Minister for European affairs Victor Negrescu has resigned just weeks before the country takes on the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in January, media reported Saturday (10 November).

“From what I understand this resignation has happened,” the agency quoted minister for European funds, Rovana Plumb, as saying.

According to news site he chose to quit after his ruling Social Democratic Party found he had failed to win Brussels’ support for controversial judicial reforms.

The website of the daily Evenimentul zilei writes that Negrescu left the government after a tense government session.

In a Facebook post, Negrescu mentions lack of support from his colleagues in cabinet and “press attacks” against him following “rumours” spread by an unnamed party colleague.

In June, 12 western countries warned that some of Romania’s judicial reforms could “impede cooperation (with Romania) in international law enforcement.”

Western states warn Romania reforms threaten co-operation

Twelve Western countries issued a joint statement yesterday (28 June) warning that controversial judicial reforms proposed by Romanian lawmakers could “impede international law enforcement cooperation”.

Last month, the country’s highest court ruled that a number of changes to the penal code recently pushed through by the Social Democrats were unconstitutional.

The constitutional court’s nine judges unanimously rejected about 60 amendments to the penal code that had already come under fire from the European Commission in Brussels and Romanian president Klaus Iohannis.

Critics have argued that some of the changes will allow Social Democratic Party leader, Liviu Dragnea, to ask for a “review” of a two-year jail sentence he received in 2016 for electoral fraud.

Romanian ruling party leader sentenced, thousands rally against his government

The head of Romania’s ruling Social Democrat party, Liviu Dragnea, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the Supreme Court yesterday (21 June) for inciting others to abuse of office, prompting thousands to rally against his government.

And they suggest that the amendments will help him escape prosecution in two other cases.

The European parliament is on Tuesday due to adopt a resolution denouncing several laws passed in recent months by the Social Democrats in the belief they threaten the independence of the courts and the fight against corruption.

Prosecutors have had some success in the clamping down on corruption in Romania, one of the EU’s most graft-ridden countries, but the government accuses them of overstepping their power.

After winning elections in late 2016, the Social Democrat-led government attempted to water down anti-corruption legislation, but abandoned the plans in face of the biggest wave of protests since the collapse of communism in 1989.

The European Commission only last month urged Bucharest to ensure it respects the rule of law as Romania prepared to take over the EU presidency for the first time.

Jourova: EU expects Romania to manage its presidency without hiccups

Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová made it clear today (26 October) that the EU is worried about government attempts in Bucharest to violate the independence of the judiciary, also in the perspective of the upcoming Romanian EU Presidency.

On Wednesday the Commission is due to publish its yearly report under the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, monitoring the country’s reform of its law enforcement system.

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