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New Romanian Protests Break Out Against Overhaul of Judiciary and Taxes

In the largest protests this fall, around 30,000 people expressed their discontent with several legislative proposals put forth by the Social Democrat coalition.

27 November 2017

“Justice, not corruption!” shouted protesters in downtown Bucharest in the latest march yesterday evening against a proposed justice overhaul that critics fear would mark a step back in fighting corruption, Reuters writes. The slogans also included calls for the current government to step down.

 

In the absence of official numbers, estimates put the number of protesters at 30,000 in Bucharest, and at around 20,000 combined in another 70 cities throughout the country, Reuters writes. Romanian news website Digi24.ro said the total number was around 45,000 people nationwide, and that the Sunday protests were the largest out of those that have taken place this fall.

 

Speaking about the proposed judicial reform in early November, the government said that current legislation must be overhauled to increase the power of the minister of justice over the judicial system, as well as preserve the independence of magistrates. The many critics of the bill, however, say the proposals, if approved, would dramatically increase the possibility of political interference in the judiciary.

 

#proteste #bucuresti #ciumarosie #psdciumarosie

A post shared by Bogdan Munteanu (@munteanuepestetot) on Nov 26, 2017 at 10:53am PST

 

A special parliamentary committee tasked with debating the bill started its work last week, with the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) aiming to pass the bill by the end of the year, Reuters writes.

 

Another major source of discontent motivating the protesters were fiscal changes that would come into effect on 1 January 2018, which would require all employees to pay their own social security contributions, and which many people worry would lead to a reduction of their income.

 

Writing on Facebook, former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos observed that legitimacy does accrue to politicians from the trust of their supporters and their votes. But, he wrote, “false promises [and] attacks to fundamental principles of a democratic state, such as the independence of the judiciary, annul such a legitimacy.”

 

“They [the ruling coalition] lost this trust because of a simple reason: they are directly interested in how justice does its work, since they are the subjects of judicial investigations. They, and other members of their parties, pretended they couldn’t see a conflict of interest. How can you trust wolves to lay down the law in a sheepfold?” Ciolos added.

 

Ciolos’s reference was to the case against Liviu Dragnea, the PSD leader, among others. In mid-November, Dragnea was indicted for fraud, creating an organized criminal group, and misuse of office, according to a statement from the European Commission’s anti-fraud office, OLAF. Romania’s anti-corruption police, the DNA, indicted eight other people on similar charges, after an investigation by OLAF.

 

 

  • PSD secretary Marian Neacsu told Digi24.ro that somebody should take responsibility for the protests. “Isn’t there somebody behind these protests, in the background? In a democracy, the notion of spontaneous meetings is quite questionable.”

 

  • A European Commission report released on 15 November on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism on Bulgaria and Romania said that, for the latter country, “the reform momentum in the course of 2017 was lost overall, slowing down the fulfillment of the remaining recommendations [in the area of judicial reform and the fight against corruption]. Challenges to judicial independence are a serious source of concern.”

 

  • At the time of their EU accession in 2007, the EC undertook to assist Romania and Bulgaria remedy their shortcomings through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, which included specific benchmarks designed toward that aim. 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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