EU lawmakers will convene in Strasbourg today to consider how proposed changes to member-country Romania’s justice system threaten the rule of law in the southeast European country.
Today’s discussion comes after Romania’s leftist ruling party introduced a draft bill late last year that would see abuse of office only designated a criminal offence if the sums involved exceed $245,000—a sum 400 times the average monthly income. Also being proposed is the decriminalisation of taking a bribe and restricting the use of wiretaps.
MEPs will today consider potential responses if Bucharest persists with the legislation, which sparked mass protests last month. But the EU’s options are limited; the likeliest course of action to be holding Romania’s hopes of joining the Schengen area hostage unless the government changes course.
A major thorn in those plans will be Romania’s main power broker, leader of the ruling Social Democrats Liviu Dragnea. Dragnea is currently under investigation for abuse of office and, therefore, set to benefit most from the changes. As such, the EU could find itself fighting a losing battle, as it has in Hungary and Poland.
Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.