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Democracy in Romania facing its ‘gravest danger since 1990’

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Democracy in Romania facing its ‘gravest danger since 1990’

A protester struggles with police during an anti-government demonstration
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Democracy in Romania is facing its gravest threat in a generation, campaigners have claimed in a letter to European Union chiefs.

They have penned a missive to Brussels institutions calling on them to intervene in the country, which has seen a wave of anti-government street protests.

The latest demonstrations have been over new laws that critics allege will put the justice system under political control.

The government says there is no evidence to support this claim.

Romania’s anti-corruption chief, Laura Kovesi, told Euronews last month the legislation would obstruct her fight to rid the country - ranked by Transparency International among the EU’s most corrupt - of graft.

Now campaigners - comprising 70 different groups, some from the Romanian diaspora elsewhere in Europe - have written an open letter to MEPs, the European Commission and the European Council.

The letter, published by Bucharest cultural hub Make a Point, reads: “Romania is being dragged down a path similar to the one on which Hungary and Poland have gone for some time now.

“With the independence of the judiciary under attack by the governing majority … democracy in Romania is at its gravest danger since 1990.

“Romanians and Europeans cannot afford to just let this happen, we have to take up the fight for Romanian democracy together.

“If states degrade to pseudo-democracies in Europe, like dominoes, the wave might reach all of us, sooner or later. And every state that goes down the illiberal road weakens Europe as a whole.

“We therefore urge all democratic actors of Europe, heads of state, prime ministers, ministers, Members of Parliament, lawyers, journalists, the civil society and citizens alike to take immediate action in order to prevent Romania from falling victim to this assault on democracy and freedom.”

The legislation has been introduced by the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) who swept back into power a year ago on a ticket of higher wages and pensions.

That came a year after a PSD government resigned following protests over corruption in the aftermath of a deadly blaze at a Bucharest nightclub.

The letter added: “The argument that all actions of the majority in the Romanian parliament should be accepted as the democratic will of the people, following elections, does not stand.

“The current changes of law regarding the judiciary are certainly violating the Romanian constitution.

“The Romanian constitution explicitly protects the independence of the judiciary, including the operational independence of prosecutors from influence of the executive.”

Earlier this year Romania saw its biggest protests since the 1989 revolution after PSD tried to push through controversial anti-corruption reforms at the start of the year.

It announced a new decree - later withdrawn after the demonstrations - that would have decriminalised some corruption offences (abuse of office) that cause less than 44,000 euros of financial damage.

The Romanian government has not yet responded to Euronews’ request to comment on this open letter.