Romania: Government retracts controversial decree after days of protests 0

The Romanian government has announced the withdrawal of a controversial decree which decriminalized minor corruption offenses following five days of mass nation-wide protests.

“We’ll hold an extraordinary meeting on Sunday to repeal the decree, withdraw, cancel it … you understand, and find a legal way to make sure it does not take effect,” said Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu during a televised speech on Saturday.

The announcement came after five consecutive days of protests since Tuesday after the cabinet approved the decree that decriminalizes a range of graft and other offenses in which the amounts involved are lower than $48,000.

“I do not want to divide Romania,” said Grindeanu. “Romania in this moment seems broken in two,” he added.

Earlier on Saturday, the Romanian government hinted that legislation will be removed. “We can possibly talk about repealing the decree, if the prime minister agrees,” said the head of the ruling Social Democratic party, Liviu Dragnea.

People wave the Romanian flag as they protest in front of the government headquarters against the government’s contentious corruption decree in Bucharest, Romania on February 4, 2017. 

“This [happens] because we have nothing to hide,” said the head of the country’s ALDE political party, Călin Tăriceanu.

The decree would have benefited dozens of political figures from all parties, and has been described as the biggest rollback on reforms since Romania became part of the EU in 2007.

On Thursday, a Romanian cabinet minister resigned amid mounting protests against a decision by the government to decriminalize certain graft offences.

The European Union on Wednesday also warned Romania over backtracking on reforms with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker issuing a an official statement.