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Romanian President Opposes Plans for Judicial Overhaul

FILE - Romanian President Klaus Iohannis speaks with a reporter at the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest, Romania, Feb. 8, 2017.

Romania's justice minister proposed a significant overhaul of the judicial system Wednesday, which the president called an attack on the rule of law that would set the country back a decade.

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

Attempts by the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and junior partner ALDE to weaken a crackdown on high-level corruption triggered the country's largest street protests in decades at the start of the year.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader proposed a slew of changes on Wednesday, ranging from a change in the way chief prosecutors are appointed to establishment of a special prosecuting unit for crimes committed by magistrates.

"The proposals ... constitute an attack against the rule of law, the independence and proper functioning of the judiciary as well as the anti-corruption fight," centrist President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement.

"If this mix of measures is adopted by the government and approved by parliament, Romania's efforts for more than 10 years will be wiped out and the justice system will go back to a time when it was subordinated to politics."

Under Romanian law, the president appoints chief prosecutors who have been proposed by the justice minister and received nonbinding approval from the Superior Magistrates Council (CSM), the top watchdog that safeguards judicial independence.

Judicial inspection control

Toader also proposed that the justice minister, who is politically appointed, take control of the judicial inspection unit from the CSM. Analysts and magistrates have said this would lead to political interference in the justice system.

The prosecutor general's office said these proposals were an alarm signal, adding that prosecutors had not been consulted.

Toader declined to answer questions but told reporters the proposals were "within normal and necessary parameters for the rule of law."

The proposals will be send to the CSM for an opinion before being submitted to the government and ultimately parliament for approval.