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US Criticizes Plans to Weaken Romania Anti-Corruption Fight

Protesters rallying against changes in tax and justice laws fill a main boulevard in Bucharest, Romania, Nov. 26, 2017.

The U.S. State Department on Monday expressed concern about planned legislation it said could weaken Romania's fight against corruption.

The proposals threaten "the progress Romania has made in recent years to build strong judicial institutions shielded from political interference," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The statement urged Parliament "to reject proposals that weaken the rule of law and endanger the fight against corruption."

A man holds a banner during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Nov. 26, 2017.
A man holds a banner during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Nov. 26, 2017.

Justice Minister Florin Iordache, however, told public broadcaster TVR that the proposals wouldn't damage the independence of the justice system. He said lawmakers would take into account U.S. concerns.

Romanian magistrates, the general prosecutor and the anti-corruption prosecutors' agency have also criticized the proposals.

Romania has been praised for efforts to clamp down on high-level corruption in recent years. However, the left-wing government wants to revamp the justice system, which has sparked protests. On Sunday, tens of thousands demonstrated across Romania.

One proposal is to legally prevent Romania's president from blocking the appointment of key judges. President Klaus Iohannis says he will use constitutional means to oppose the plan.