June 5, 2019 / 7:28 PM / 3 months ago

Romanian president asks ruling party to revise controversial justice laws

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian President Klaus Iohannis asked the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) on Wednesday to agree to undo changes to judicial legislation that have raised concerns about the rule of law in one of the European Union’s most corrupt states.

FILE PHOTO: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis arrives at a European Union leaders summit after European Parliament elections to discuss who should run the EU executive for the next five years, in Brussels, Belgium May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

Since taking power in late 2016, the PSD has chipped away at the independence of the judiciary, prompting criticism from the EU and the largest street protests in decades in Romania.

Voters punished the PSD in a May 26 European Parliament election, which the party lost to centrist groupings. Romanians also overwhelmingly endorsed a non-binding referendum called by Iohannis to prevent the government from further changing legislation via emergency decree and from granting pardons and amnesty for graft convictions.

The party received another blow one day later when its leader, Liviu Dragnea, began serving a prison sentence for inciting others to commit abuse of office.

Iohannis held consultations with parliamentary parties this week about enforcing the referendum result. He also proposed a political pact across all parties that includes revising justice laws and decrees in agreement with recommendations from the European Commission and its advisory bodies.

This would include revising a special prosecuting unit set up by the PSD to investigate potential abuses committed by magistrates, which Brussels and other diplomats have criticised as a way to put pressure on judges and prosecutors.

“Romanians voted clearly and firmly against an anti-European approach,” Iohannis told reporters at the end of party consultations. “We didn’t enter the EU by accident or by mistake. We want to have the rule of law, an independent judiciary, good laws for the justice system.”

The Social Democrats said in a statement they will analyse Iohannis’ proposal before replying.

“PSD supports political consensus on major topics of national interest, especially when such an initiative is real and not an election campaign gain,” it said.

However, the leader of junior ruling coalition party ALDE, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, rejected the president’s proposed pact calling it a ploy by Iohannis to win a second term in a presidential election later this year.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Frances Kerry

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