Accessibility links

Romania Repeals Corruption Decree As Mass Protests Persist

  • RFE/RL

Romania's government has formally repealed an emergency decree that decriminalizes some official corruption in response to nearly a week of massive public protests.

Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu's cabinet confirmed the withdrawal of the measure in a statement that was issued after an emergency meeting on the issue.

The government also declassified the transcript of debates during the February 5 cabinet meeting when the decree that would have protected dozens of politicians from prosecution was approved.

But Grindeanu received no respite, as according to estimates on television around 200,000 people protested in Bucharest while many called for his resignation.

Protests were also reported in other cities.

In an sudden about-face, Grindeanu said on February 4 that he would implement the measure because he didn’t want to "divide Romania.... Romania in this moment seems broken in two."

His announcement came as tens of thousands of people gathered at protests across the nation for the fifth straight day.

On February 4, police estimated the total number of demonstrators at 330,000, making them the largest protests in the country since the 1989 fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

While the announcement was broadcast live on television, some of the protesters outside Grindeanu’s office -- which police estimated to number 170,000 -- waved the Romanian flag and chanted, "Resign! Resign!"

Under the January 31 decree, abuse of power would only be an offense punishable by prison time if the amount involved exceeded 200,000 lei ($47,500).

The government justified the decree by saying the current law did not conform the constitution and claiming it would help ease prison overcrowding.

Critics said the real goal was to help some of the several thousand officials and politicians caught in an anticorruption drive in recent years, many of them from Grindeanu’s PSD. Grindeanu took office a month ago.

The government's pullback could be seen as a victory for President Klaus Iohannis, who filed a Constitutional Court challenge against the decree, arguing that it undermined the rule of law and efforts to combat corruption.

Some members of the European Union had expressed concerns about the decree.

Romania joined the EU in 2007, but it, like Bulgaria, is still under the bloc's mechanism for monitoring whether they are meeting EU requirements.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters
XS
SM
MD
LG