Tuesday

14th Aug 2018

Romanian protests continue despite government climbdown

  • Protesters say they've lost trust in the government, after it tried to push through a measure to decriminalise certain types of corruption. (Photo: Reuters)

A sea of light flooded Bucharest's Victory square on Sunday (5 February) evening as people flashed their mobiles on the building in front of them: the government headquarters.

Earlier that day, the social democrat government had repealed the emergency decree that would have weakened the country's anti-corruption laws, but people still gathered for the largest anti-government protest in Romania's post-communist history.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

An estimated 250,000 marched in the capital, another 350,000 took to the streets elsewhere. Romania's population is 20 million.

Robert, a 36-year old CEO, had taken part in every protest against the decree except on Thursday, when his son David celebrated his fourth birthday.

His company, a foreign multinational, supported the protest by offering tea, coffee, and internet connection for the people chanting outside in the cold.

“I don’t want corrupt politicians anymore, I want decent people that work their way up in life, not steal from the others”, said Robert. He had been spraying anti-government slogans on pieces of carton.

“I want our kids to be respected, not stolen from during the night," he added.

New government

Romania's prime minister Sorin Grindeanu's cabinet assumed office on 4 January with 45 percent of the vote from the parliamentary elections. They had run on a platform of higher salaries and pensions.

But instead of bringing campaign promises to life, the government's first move was to try and pass two controversial decrees that would rollback Romania's recent anti-corruption efforts.

One set out to commute prison sentences; the other decriminalised graft as long as the fraud was valued under €44,000.

Both decrees were seen as tailor-made to protect social democratic leaders, including party chief Liviu Dragnea, who is serving a suspended prison sentence for trying to rig an election in 2012; he is also facing an upcoming trial for defrauding €24,000.

The decrees were blocked by the president, Klaus Iohannis. But one of the two “elephants in the room”, as Iohannis called the bills, came back last Tuesday evening, when the cabinet passed an emergency ordinance to decriminalise corruption, in a surprise move.

Mass protests

Mass protests erupted the same night. People have since stayed on the street despite a government announcement on Saturday that it would hold an emergency meeting the next day to rescind the law.

Ioana, a 21-year old storekeeper in a shopping mall, said on Saturday evening she felt double-crossed by the government.

“I don’t trust these people anymore!”, she said.

“I’ve been here since they issued this, I was coming home from work and my sister called me and told me that they issued it. I don’t want my government to issue laws for corrupt people.”

"This government is a lie. The whole party won the elections on a huge process of throwing bribes to the people," Mihai, a 29 year old student and IT specialist from Cluj, said on Sunday.

"I travelled by train from Cluj [a nine hour train ride] because they granted free train tickets to students. I used their weapon to come here and shout against them, because I’m sick of this kind of leadership”, Mihai explained.

Standing there with his sister, he said he would stay in Bucharest, despite his exams.

Earlier in the weekend, a 3-year old child was seen dragging a toy rat with "Liviu" written on it.

The government, on the other hand, shows no intention of stepping down. The prime minister - pictured as a convicted felon wearing jail clothes on many cartoons across the square - said he would go ahead with the parliamentary debate on the country’s budget for the next two days.

Grindeanu said he would demand explanations from Florin Iordache, the justice minister, for the poor communication of the bill. He may be forced to resign, but many fear that would alleviate the blame of other government members.

Some 2,500 people also staged a pro-government, anti-president rally in front of Iohannis' office, a few kilometres away from the Victory square.

EU commission drops anti-corruption report

Transparency campaigners are livid after the EU commission scuppered plans to publish an EU anti-corruption report amid unfolding corruption scandals in Romania and France.

News in Brief

  1. Malta to allow Aquarius migrants to disembark
  2. Juncker sends condolences over Genoa bridge collapse
  3. EU pledges €500,000 more for Indonesian earthquake island
  4. EU commission in talks with states on new Aquarius migrants
  5. Man held after car crashes into UK parliament security barrier
  6. Brexit delays better readability of medicines' instructions
  7. Masked youths set dozens of cars alight in Sweden
  8. Spain and Italy refuse new Aquarius-rescued migrants

UK poll suggests Brits would now vote Remain

Most UK voters in a YouGov survey said they would remain part of the European Union should a second referendum be held now. The poll follows reports the EU is willing to make a concession on British exit demands.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU commission steps up legal case against Poland
  2. Separation of powers instead of 'Spitzenkandidat' process
  3. Revealed: ExxonMobil's private dinner with Cyprus' top EU brass
  4. What Salvini teaches us about Operation Sophia
  5. 14 lobbyist meetings with Oettinger and Canete went unminuted
  6. UK poll suggests Brits would now vote Remain
  7. Some EU states face delays in 5G preparation
  8. Nordic and Baltic farmers urgently need EU support

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us