July 7, 2012 / 2:54 PM / in 5 years

Germany, U.S.: Romania power struggle hurts democracy

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Germany and the U.S. State Department criticized the Romanian leaders’ power struggle on Saturday, saying recent actions by the ruling leftist alliance, which is trying to impeach the president, were a threat to democratic checks and balances.

Romania’s parliament suspended President Traian Basescu on Friday, ruling that he had overstepped his powers, setting the stage for an impeachment referendum on July 29.

The bitter dispute between the leftist alliance of Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his right-wing rival Basescu has pushed the currency to a record low, increased borrowing costs and raised doubts about Romania’s IMF-led aid deal - and raised concern about respect for the law and constitution.

Ponta, himself under pressure to resign over plagiarism charges, took office in May and has taken a series of steps to increase his party’s power in a country that is the second-poorest EU member and is relying on IMF aid to recover from a deep recession.

His Social-Liberal Alliance (USL) recently backtracked on a plan to replace Constitutional Court judges in response to international criticism, but has issued emergency decrees that take immediate effect before the court can rule on them.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a German Sunday paper he was concerned that political conflicts were being conducted in Romania at the cost of ““fundamental European values” and said the German government would “not “simply ignore” such political developments in Europe.

He also questioned the further integration of Romania into the European Union.

Serious violations of the letter and spirit of the European community of values would raise questions over how adapted Romania was to carrying out the last steps to complete integration within the European Union,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview for its Sunday edition.

Ponta will travel to Brussels next week for talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The U.S. State Department also expressed concern.

“We are concerned about recent developments occurring in Romania, our NATO ally and partner, which threaten democratic checks and balances and weaken independent institutions such as the courts,” it said in a statement after the suspension vote.

“As the government contemplates the serious step of removing Romania’s head of state, we urge that the process be conducted in a fully fair and transparent manner, with scrupulous respect for the rule of law and democratic ideals.”

Reporting by Luiza Ilie In Bucharest and Sarah Marsh in Berlin; editing by Tim Pearce

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