Romania celebrates 100th birthday amid rule of law concerns

Thousands turned out Saturday to celebrate 100 years since Romania became a modern-day state, amid concerns about rule of law and the state of democracy.

Romanians waving the country's flag attended huge military parades Saturday in Bucharest and Alba Iulia, the Transylvanian city that symbolizes Romania's 1918 reunification. Crowds braved temperatures of -5 C (23 F) to watch tanks and military vehicles driving under the Triumphal Arch built after World War I.

While most considered the event a celebration, some people booed anti-riot police who participated in Saturday's parade, expressing anger over an anti-corruption protest in August that degenerated into violence leaving 450 people injured.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday thanked Romania for contributing to global and Black Sea security as a NATO member and participating in missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A statement said Washington stands with Romania "in its efforts to uphold democratic values and the rule of law...which are ... the foundation of economic growth and prosperity."

The U.S. and the European Union are among those criticizing a judicial overhaul initiated by the ruling Social Democrats that they claim will undermine the fight against government corruption.

Anca Palmer, a retired English teacher, born in 1947, the year the communists came to power, said her parents and grandparents taught her history and patriotism: "to respect, not to lie, not to steal and not to speak ill of someone."

"I learned to love the land because that was what gave us food," she said. "If you love the land, you love your country too."

Some Romanians planned to celebrate the day with the traditional dish of cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice and polenta.

Others, however, will stage an anti-corruption protest in the capital Saturday evening demanding the government scraps the judicial overhaul.

Romania entered the war siding with the Allies in 1916 but capitulated to the Central powers. It re-entered World War I in 1918, and doubled its territory after its conclusion.