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EU Warns Romania Over Rule-Of-Law Failures, Urges Reform

European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans (right) said he had spoken several times with Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila in the past two months.

BRUSSELS -- A top European Commission official has warned Romania over problems with its judicial system and adherence to the rule of law while making clear that Brussels will act swiftly if Bucharest does not take real action toward reform.

European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said on April 3 that "Romania urgently needs to put the reform process back on track -- this means going forward, not backwards, and refraining from any steps which reverse the progress accomplished over the past years."

He added: "I want to warn against any governmental action that would disrupt the Romanian judicial system by creating a systemic, de facto impunity for high office holders who were sentenced for corruption. Such a move would compel the commission to act swiftly."

Timmermans noted he had spoken several times with Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila in the past two months and that the commission had handed more than 40 issues to her, warning that the EU needed results "urgently."

"But I've always made clear that talking for the sake of talking will not be enough and concrete actions from the Romanian side will be needed and will be needed sooner rather than later," he said.

Although not saying what steps Brussels was considering if Bucharest failed to act, a senior EU official confirmed to RFE/RL under condition of anonymity that "all options are on the table," including "infringement procedures" and launching Article 7 procedures similar to those leveled against Hungary and Poland -- a process that could lead to a country losing its voting rights in the bloc's council.

The criticism from Brussels comes only a week after the commission spoke out against Bucharest's move to indict former anticorruption prosecutor Laura Koevesi on corruption charges, which prohibits her from traveling abroad without consent or working in her post at the Prosecutor-General's Office. It also bans her from speaking to the media.

Koevesi, who is the front-runner to become the EU's first-ever antifraud prosecutor, ran Romania's anticorruption agency, known as DNA, until she was dismissed last year by the new leftist government for alleged abuse of power.

Timmermans confirmed that he had raised the commission's concerns regarding Koevesi to Romanian officials.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani also stated in parliament on April 3 that Romanian officials should not "put in place obstacles" to Koevesi's candidacy for the position of EU chief prosecutor and that Koevesi "remains our candidate and continues to enjoy our respect and our support."

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.