Europe

Romania gov't criticized for weakening graft fight

  • A man flashes a victory sign outside the government headquarters, during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, early Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Thousands of Romanians hit the street late Tuesday to protest a government decision that decriminalizes some official misconduct, dealing a blow to a years long drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    A man flashes a victory sign outside the government headquarters, during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, early Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Thousands of Romanians hit the street late Tuesday to protest a government decision that decriminalizes some official misconduct, dealing a blow to a years long drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • Chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. Thousands of Romanians hit the street late Tuesday to protest a government decision that decriminalizes some official misconduct, dealing a blow to a years long drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country. Romania's government adopted an emergency ordinance late Tuesday to decriminalize official misconduct, dealing a blow to a yearslong drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    Chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. Thousands of Romanians hit the street late Tuesday to protest a government decision that decriminalizes some official misconduct, dealing a blow to a years long drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country. Romania's government adopted an emergency ordinance late Tuesday to decriminalize official misconduct, dealing a blow to a yearslong drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • People hold posters depicting the leader of the ruling Social Democratic party Liviu Dragnea, the other reading "Romania-Wake Up" during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, early Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Romania's government adopted an emergency ordinance late Tuesday to decriminalize official misconduct, dealing a blow to a yearlong drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country. Justice Minister Florin Iordache said the measure will decriminalize cases of official misconduct in which the financial damage is valued at less than 200,000 lei ($47,800). Tens of thousands of Romanians protested against the ordinance in recent weeks, saying it would weaken anti-graft efforts. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    People hold posters depicting the leader of the ruling Social Democratic party Liviu Dragnea, the other reading "Romania-Wake Up" during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, early Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Romania's government adopted an emergency ordinance late Tuesday to decriminalize official misconduct, dealing a blow to a yearlong drive to curb corruption in the eastern European country. Justice Minister Florin Iordache said the measure will decriminalize cases of official misconduct in which the financial damage is valued at less than 200,000 lei ($47,800). Tens of thousands of Romanians protested against the ordinance in recent weeks, saying it would weaken anti-graft efforts. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

Romania's government has decriminalized official misconduct, defying mass protests and warnings from prosecutors and the president that the move will reverse the country's anti-corruption fight.

At 3 a.m. Wednesday, an emergency ordinance decriminalizing abuse in office was published in the official government monitor, and will soon automatically become a law.

The development alarmed critics with its content, the hour and the speed with which the center-left government, less than one month in office, passed a proposal that will benefit government allies and Romanian officials facing corruption charges.

"It shows that the government is willing to use backdoor methods with no scrutiny or checks and balances in order to protect and promote itself," said Dan Brett, an associate professor at the Open University who comments on Romania.