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EU praises Romanian U-turn on controversial reforms

Romania's Prime Minister Viorica Dancila (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission in Brussels on June 4, 2019
Romania's Prime Minister Viorica Dancila (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission in Brussels on June 4, 2019 AFP
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Brussels (AFP)

The European Commission on Tuesday welcomed Romania's pledge to renounce controversial judicial reforms that had triggered strong criticism and threats of sanctions from Brussels.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila was received in Brussels by the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and his number two, vice president Frans Timmermans.

The two EU officials welcomed the Romanian government's commitment to abandon the contested judicial reforms, the Commission said in a statement released after the talks.

They also praised Dancila's "European approach" and the "excellent work" done by her country during the rotating six-month EU presidency that ends on June 30.

Romania's presidency has been tarnished by the Commission's repeated warnings about its reform of the justice system.

For the EU's executive -- and for the Romanian opposition -- the overhaul threatened the independence of Romanian judges and put the country's long fight against corruption into jeopardy.

The Commission had indicated that it would not hesitate to initiate infringement proceedings against Romania that could lead to financial penalties.

It had also raised the threat of a more serious procedure, known as Article 7, that has already been activated against Poland and Hungary.

Article 7 could theoretically lead to a suspension of a country's voting rights within the EU.

On Twitter, Dancila welcomed a "very constructive dialogue" with Juncker and Timmermans.

Last week she disavowed the reform of the criminal code initiated by political strongman, Liviu Dragnea, who was incarcerated on May 27.

Though not in high office, Dragnea was dictating policy to the Social Democratic government, before being sentenced to three and a half years in prison in a fake public jobs case and immediately incarcerated.

This came a day after Dragnea's Social Democratic Party (PSD) suffered a bitter defeat in the European elections in which corruption played a major role.

Over the past three years, Dragnea and the PSD -- the successor party to the communists -- had courted voters in poorer and more rural areas of the country with generous promises and criticism of the EU.

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