Romania’s parliament on Wednesday voted to disband a unit of prosecutors that investigates magistrates, a step towards restarting judicial reforms slowed by successive Social Democrat governments.
Along with ex-communist peers, Poland and Hungary, Romania has been harshly criticised by the European Union for increasing the burden of proof in graft cases, reorganising panels of judges and setting up the unit to investigate judges and prosecutors over alleged abuses.
The European Commission and foreign diplomats have said that the unit could be used to intimidate magistrates.
Under a succession of Socialist governments over the past decade, Romania has rolled back anti-corruption reforms and weakened the independence of the courts.
Judicial reforms have been monitored by Brussels since Romania joined the EU in 2007.
The bill cleared the house of deputies in a 171 to 136 vote and is expected to be rubber stamped by the upper house, the senate, where the centrist coalition government of Prime Minister Florin Citu also holds a majority.
The unit was described by the Council of Europe’s anti-graft agency GRECO as an anomaly in the democratic institutional setting, triggering conflicts of jurisdiction and potential misuse in one of the EU’s most corrupt member states.
Prosecutors have investigated scores of lawmakers, ministers, magistrates and businessmen in recent years, exposing conflicts of interest, abuse of power, fraud and the award of state contracts in exchange for bribes, earning EU praise.
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