- Title: Romanian president attends cabinet meeting to help safeguard anti-graft drive
- Date: 18th January 2017
- Summary: BUCHAREST, ROMANIA (JANUARY 16, 2017) (REUTERS) GOVERNMENT BUILDING FLAGS
- Embargoed: 1st February 2017 13:41
- Keywords: Romania Iohannis anti-graft drive
- Location: BUCHAREST, ROMANIA
- City: BUCHAREST, ROMANIA
- Country: Romania
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0015ZLY989
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3
PART QUALITY AS INCOMING
Romania's president attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (January 18) to urge ministers not to amend the criminal code via decree, seeking to ease EU concerns about backsliding on Bucharest's commitment to tackle corruption.
Local media said the leftist government was leaning towards passing emergency decrees that grant prison pardons and decriminalise some offences, like abuse of power, that account for a third of anti-corruption investigations.
The government, which took office after a Dec. 11 parliamentary election, has cited a need to get the criminal code in line with recent constitutional court rulings.
The European Commission keeps Romania's legal system under special monitoring. It has praised magistrates' efforts to fight widespread graft, but noted Romanian politicians have a history of trying to pass legislation to weaken investigative powers.
"There are two elephants in the room and no one is talking about them: the emergency pardoning decree and the decree that changes criminal codes," Iohannis, a centre-right leader, said at the start of the cabinet meeting.
Critics have raised concerns about legislating via decree rather than going through parliament, where the government has a solid majority but would face a challenging debate.
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu told reporters the two decrees were not on the agenda this week, but that they could be once the judiciary is consulted.
"I think it is equally constitutional for the president to attend a government meeting, as it is for us to issue emergency decrees in all areas that the law allows us to," he said.
Ex-communist Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, has long been dogged by a reputation for high levels of corruption despite efforts by prosecutors to crack down on graft. Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International rated it third most corrupt EU country after Bulgaria in Italy in 2015.
In 2016, an International Monetary Fund report cited "a high perception that public funds are being diverted and frequent experiences of irregular payments and bribes".
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