Romania is not following in the footsteps of Hungary or Poland. This is the pro-European Union message that Romania’s Social Democrat (PSD) prime minister Viorica Dancila is trying to spread at home and abroad.
But Dancila is finding it hard to convince opponents – especially those critical of the government’s “amnesty statute” to protect politicians from prosecution for corruption. The bill is going through parliament despite huge street protests.
As reported by The Irish Times, the prime minister’s key rival is the country’s president, Klaus Iohannis, a member of the centre-right EPP. He made clear to journalists on January 11 that he hoped the legislation would be shelved – and not just for the duration of the presidency. His insistence, backed by the courts, that he and not Dancila will represent the country at meetings of the European Council has been a major source of friction.
A defiant Iohannis is not backing off and did not shirk from criticising the government to visiting journalists, apparently revelling in the prospect of elections this year.
Meanwhile, Dancila promised EU commissioners, and then the press, that she would see to it that Romania’s internal difficulties would not be allowed to contaminate Romania’s presidency, and EU officials suggested she had promised to put the amnesty law on hold.
In a separate report, Euronews online noted that this is not the first time that Romania’s ruling PSD has tried to decriminalise some corruption offences, including abuse of office, defined as officials not doing their jobs properly and causing damage.
In addition to opponents at home, the European Commission has also criticised the move.