Friday

23rd Feb 2018

New Romanian PM tries to reassure EU

  • "Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past," Mihai Tudose (r) said in Brussels. (Photo: European Commission)

"Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past," said Mihai Tudose, the new Romanian prime minister, during his first official visit to Brussels on Tuesday (11 July).

He was in Brussels two weeks after his appointment to address concerns among EU officials regarding the new cabinet’s stance on corruption.

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Tudose promised not to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Sorin Grindeanu, who tried in January to decriminalise misconduct offences.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said, at that time, that the measure was "threatening to reverse years of progress" in the fight against corruption.

Grindeanu's government was forced to backtrack in the face of EU warnings and mass protests across Romania.

Judicial reform and the fight against corruption were high on the agenda of Tudose's meetings with the three EU chiefs - Juncker, EU Council president Donald Tusk, and European Parliament president Antonio Tajani.

Tudose said after the meetings that he had committed to keep an open and transparent government "with Romanian ministers traveling to Brussels on a monthly basis to give explanations on the new policies that are being implemented".

He also said that he would take all the necessary steps to strengthen the judicial system so that the EU's Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) could be lifted by the time Romania takes over the presidency of the EU Council in January 2019.

The CVM is a mechanism put in place by the commission when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 to help monitor their progress in the field of judicial reform, corruption, and organised crime.

Tudose tried to present himself as a reliable partner, including on economic issues.

He told his EU interlocutors he will keep the deficit under the 3-percent threshold. He also said that he will not introduce a turnover tax, which has been criticised by business and the EU as stifling growth.

Tudose's visit to Brussels came amid heightened political tension back home, where divisive party politics led to the ruling coalition sacking its own government.

The crisis emerged last month when the Social Democrats voted Grindeanu, a fellow party member who is out of office, accusing him of failing to implement the governing programme.

Grindeanu has been increasingly at odds with party leader Liviu Dragnea, who was ineligible to become prime minister after the party won the elections in December, because of a prior criminal conviction for voter fraud.

The government's attempt to change anti-corruption laws earlier this year had been seen as a move to shield Dragnea from a suspended jail sentence in an abuse of power case.

After Grindeanu's sacking, and ahead of Tudose's visit, the commission had warned again that political developments in Bucharest should not undermine the fight against corruption.

Correction: This article originally referred to party leader Victor Dragnea, when his name is in fact Liviu Dragnea. The correction was made on 13 July 2017.

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Current anger over corruption laws can be traced back to a night-club fire in 2015, when many died because of lax safety standards. Romanians then realised that corruption can kill.

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