Monday

18th Jan 2021

Romanian PM under fire on corruption charges

Members of the lower house of the Romanian parliament have voted against lifting the immunity of prime minister Victor Ponta, who is facing allegations of forgery, tax evasion, and money laundering.

Romanian law-makers on Tuesday morning (9 June) voted 231 to 120 against lifting Ponta’s immunity.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

President Klaus Iohannis has asked Ponta to resign, something he refused to do unless MPs pass a vote of no confidence scheduled for Friday (12 June).

“I was appointed by the parliament and only the parliament can dismiss me”, Ponta said in a statement.

The corruption scandal risks exacerbating the power struggle between Ponta and Iohannis, who are political rivals.

The socialist PM, in office since 2012, tried to become president last year but Iohannis won the post in a surprise victory.

Last Friday (5 June), Romania's anti-corruption agency announced it had opened an investigation into Ponta on questions that relate to his former work as a lawyer.

The agency also wants to investigate more recent conflict-of-interest suspicions during Ponta's time as PM. But this requires the Romanian parliament to lift Ponta's immunity – the Romanian prime minister is also a member of parliament, whose immunity can only be removed by his peers.

Following publication of the allegations, Iohannis said “it is an impossible situation for Romania to have a prime minister charged with major offences” and asked for him to step down.

He added that “the worst thing that could happen to Romania now is a political crisis”, according to Romanian news agency Agerpres.

On Monday, the Chamber of Deputies' legal affairs committee adopted a motion to maintain the PM's immunity, by 18 to 7 votes.

Meanwhile, the political battle has been brought to the European Parliament.

The largest political group, the centre-right EPP - of which Iohannis is a member - said it's “shocked” by the outcome of the committee vote.

“We expect the plenary of the Romanian parliament to clear the way and enable the prosecutors' investigations of prime minister Ponta”, said a statement by EPP president Joseph Daul ahead of the vote.

Reacting to the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, Manfred Weber, head of the EEP faction in the European Parliament said: “We are very worried about this and we need clear steps from Ponta”.

Centre-right Romanian MEP Cristian Preda said he wants the EP plenary “to discuss the political crisis in Romania” this week in Strasbourg.

But the leader of Ponta's political family in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella, sees no reason for Ponta to resign, according to Romanian news agency Actmedia.

“Romania is a sovereign state and I respect the independence of the Romanian authorities”, Pittella said.

Analysis

Romania's Obama moment

Romania's election of an ethnic German is being compared to America's election of a black president. But who is Iohannis and what does he mean for Romania and the region?

Romanians elect first ethnic German president

In a surprise result, Romanian voters have elected Klaus Iohannis as their first president to come from the German ethnic minority, defeating Socialist prime minister Victor Ponta.

Dutch government resigns two months before election

The four parties of the Dutch government, lead by prime minister Mark Rutte, have decided to let the government fall. On 17 March, two months from now, there are parliamentary elections in the Netherlands.

News in Brief

  1. Navalny arrest prompts calls for EU sanctions
  2. Portugal's EU celebration caused corona risk
  3. Women's rights protesters 'evil', Poland's Kaczyński says
  4. Eurostar says government help needed for survival
  5. German party elects Armin Laschet to continue Merkel's line
  6. Vaccine-apartheid on show in EU neighbourhood
  7. Hacked EU files show pressure for quick vaccine approval
  8. EU court and Irish dog make history

EU pushes back against rising homophobia

The EU Commission plans a proposal to ensure recognition children-parent relations in cross border situations, and legislation to support the mutual recognition of parenthood between member states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. How one man and his dog made a mark on EU history
  2. Frontex spent €94,000 on a dinner in Warsaw
  3. EU's AI military strategy poses 'threat to Europeans'
  4. EU leaders seek to speed up vaccinations This WEEK
  5. EU name change masks new restrictions in development sector
  6. Frontex and Europol pledge greater access to documents
  7. Dutch government resigns two months before election
  8. The battle for Germany's ruling party that will change Europe

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us