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EU Commission Concerned About Romanian Judicial Overhaul


FILE - A large European Union flag is displayed in front of Romania's parliament building in Bucharest, May 9, 2013.

The European Commission has asked the Romanian government for more details of a proposed overhaul of the judiciary, expressing concern it may be a step back in the fight against corruption.

Romania is seen as one of the European Union's most corrupt states, and Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring.

The planned overhaul, presented by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader on Wednesday, would give him control over the judicial inspection unit, currently managed by the Superior Magistrates Council (CSM), the country's judicial watchdog.

The overhaul would also change the way in which chief prosecutors are appointed, set up a special prosecuting unit for crimes committed by magistrates and give more powers of controlling the judiciary to the justice minister, who is a political appointment.

President Klaus Iohannis said that if the measures were approved they would set reform efforts back by a decade.

Protest, criticism

The proposals triggered a small street protest outside government headquarters late Wednesday and drew sharp criticism from magistrates, opposition politicians and analysts.

In a statement Thursday, the EC said: "We are asking the Romanian authorities for the draft laws and additional explanations.""

"The irreversibility of the progress achieved by Romania in the fight against corruption in the last 10 years is essential for the commission," it said.

The measures come half a year after attempts by the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and junior partner ALDE to weaken a crackdown on high-level corruption triggered Romania's largest street protests in decades.

Social Democrat Party leader Liviu Dragnea said Thursday that the announced measures were merely principles and that critics were too quick to judge.

"It is only the beginning of a process that will not be simple," Dragnea told reporters. He said it would be reviewed by the Superior Magistrates Council, the top judicial watchdog, before going to parliament.

Toader has yet to publish the draft of the proposals, which he presented at a news conference without taking questions.

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