Whistles as Romanian senate passes judicial reforms

Bucharest (AFP) –


Despite opposition whistles, Romania's upper house approved Thursday judicial reforms that have sparked street protests and concerns abroad about the EU country's commitment to tackling corruption.

Critics say that the changes will reduce the independence of magistrates and curb the powers of the DNA, the respected anti-corruption investigative body.

Brussels worries that EU's second-poorest country is backtracking on tackling graft, and Washington has also expressed concerns.

Thousands of Romanians including magistrates and law students have protested in recent weeks in Bucharest and other cities.

Centre-right President Klaus Iohannis now has to sign the legislation into law.

Iohannis, often a thorn in the left-wing government's side, has called the reforms "a backward step in the functioning of the justice system and the fight against corruption".

Iohannis warned that Romania risked following the path of Poland, which on Wednesday saw the European Commission launch disciplinary proceedings over its judicial reforms

In February the Romanian government backed down on altering anti-corruption laws after the biggest protests since the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.