Thursday

8th Dec 2016

EU commission still 'very worried' about Romanian democracy

  • 'We will look at the facts, not at the promises', said commissioner Reding. (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Wednesday (25 July) said she remains 'very much worried' about the state of democracy in Romania, noting that Bucharest has yet to fulfill the reform promises it has made.

"I am still very much worried about the state of democracy in Romania and so is the commission," Reding said during a press conference in Brussels.

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The EU commission last week set out an 11-point to-do list for the Romanian government so it could "come back to an equilibrated democratic behaviour", but "nothing new" has happened since, Reding said.

"We will look at the facts, not at the promises. We will look at the laws and the implementation of the laws, not at the letters," she said, adding that a report will be issued before the end of the year. "Until then the situation will be under very narrow observation."

Asked if she had received a letter from a group of Romanian academics backing the actions of the Prime Minister, Reding said: "I receive hundreds of letters and some of them really make part of shocking developments."

Meanwhile in Romania itself, political infighting is intensifying ahead of a referendum on Sunday when voters will be asked whether they want to dismiss President Traian Basescu from office - the main political objective of the Ponta government.

One of the EU's demands - the restoring of a minimum turnout for the referendum to be valid - has complicated the Social-Liberal alliance's plans to get rid of their arch-rival on the centre-right.

If less than half the registered voters (around 9 million) cast their vote, the referendum is annulled and Basescu stays. There is one loophole, however, as the parliament - which voted for the impeachment earlier this month - "should decide on the steps to follow" if the referendum is not valid.

Amid accusations that the government will rig the vote, the centre-right opposition has recommended voters not participate in the referendum. Basescu, however, said he will cast his ballot.

Ponta wrote a letter to the EU commission noting that the minimum turnout and the powers of the Constitutional Court have been restored in line with EU demands, but that the opposition is now "instigating" Romanians to boycott the vote. The letter also claimed opposition politicians are seizing ID cards so Romanians are unable to vote.

And on Wednesday, Ponta also took several teams of TV journalists to a government-owned villa Basescu allegedly re-fitted for himself to move into once his mandate expires. Basescu demanded the prime minister show evidence to support the accusations. "The only regret I have is that I appointed a prime minister who is a liar," he said.

Meanwhile, the political instability is affecting the country's frail economy. The national currency, the leu, is rapidly depreciating against the euro, even though the common currency itself is falling.

"Until recently, Romania’s economy was on track to record robust growth in 2012, after a recovery in 2011. However, the slowdown in the eurozone is already having a significant dampening effect on Romania’s exports (...) and the political crisis that arose in July could negatively affect short-term growth," the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said in a report earlier this week.

Analysis

Austrian far-right: beaten, but not defeated

Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer's loss to Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen sent relief across Europe, but his party is still in a good position to head a government in the future.

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