Romania annuls emergency ordinance to quell protests

The Romanian government has announced the withdrawal of a controversial decree which decriminalized minor corruption offensives following five days of mass nation-wide protests.

Tens of thousands protested for the third night in Bucharest, the capital, and thousands more in some 20 other Romanian cities, calling for the government to resign after issuing the watered-down emergency degree a day earlier.

Protests in Bucharest on February 3.

It will enter into force next week, but faces a legal challenge in the Constitutional Court.

Dragnea is banned by law from serving as prime minister because he was handed a two-year prison sentence in April 2016 for vote rigging.

It could have also put an end to the ongoing trial of Liviu Dragnea, the head of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD), who is viewed as the real power behind Grindeanu's government. But critics say they are created to help political allies like Liviu Dragnea, the influential Social Democratic Party leader blocked from becoming prime minister after being convicted of electoral fraud and accused of abuse of office.

"It is a project by emergency decree which will very severely affect the anti-corruption fight, basically if this project is adopted, the fight against corruption becomes irrelevant", she told Euro News.

Only last week the European Commission commended the efforts on graft by ex-communist Romania, which joined the European Union together with neighbouring Bulgaria in 2007 as the bloc's two poorest members.

The amendments have been criticized both domestically and overseas and has caused large-scale protests across the European country.

Some analysts say the government hopes the court will overturn the most contentious elements of the decree.

"We came to protect our country against criminals; who tried to dismiss the rule of law in Romania, to protect our rights and interests, not theirs", one protester said.

The decree approved last Tuesday has triggered the biggest street protests Romania has seen in years, and has also drawn global condemnation as a major step backwards on reforms.

In their statement on Wednesday, Juncker and Timmermans said last week's progress report "acknowledged the track record achieved so far by prosecutors and judges in Romania in addressing high-level corruption".

On Wednesday, The Stream looks at Romania's latest unrest and asks whether street protests and civic action will have a long-term impact on the government and society.

"I want to be optimistic", said Andrei Ivan, a 27 year-old commercial photographer in Bucharest.

  • Rogelio Becker