Saturday

8th Aug 2020

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

Support quality EU news

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.

News in Brief

  1. Germany breached rights of Madeleine McCann suspect
  2. EU offers trade perks to Lebanon
  3. Germany charges four ex-Audi chiefs on emissions cheating
  4. UK quarantines Belgium, as European infections climb
  5. Bulgaria's Borissov mulls resignation
  6. EU prolongs anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel
  7. Swedish economy contracted less during April to June
  8. EU offers help to Lebanon after port explosion

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Iraqis paid €2,000 each agree to leave Greece
  2. EU's most sustainable islands are Danish 'Sunshine Islands'
  3. Worrying rows over future EU chemicals policy
  4. Rainbow flag protesters charged by Polish police
  5. An open letter to the EPP on end of Hungary's press freedom
  6. Renew Europe has a plan to combat gender-violence
  7. Why EU beats US on green pandemic recovery
  8. Azerbaijan ambassador to EU shared anti-George Floyd post

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us