"We are following the latest developments in Romania with great concern," say EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and Vice-President Timmermans in a joint statement issued on Wednesday. The statement comes after the Romanian government secretly approved late on Tuesday a series of legal changes that seriously undermine the ongoing fight against corruption in the country.

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The EC statement comes as Romania braces for massive protests after the Government approved measures such as pardoning people charged with certain crimes or who meet certain conditions or removing abuse in office from criminal law, if damages amount to less than RON 200,000.

These moves are seen as a helping hand to corrupt politicians who risk criminal sentences or who are interested in using state funds abusively. Among the former: the president of the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, who has already received a suspended sentence for electoral fraud and risks another in a separate case.

The joint statement of the EC heads:

Joint Statement of President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans on the fight against corruption in Romania

Brussels, 1 February 2017

"The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone. We are following the latest developments in Romania with great concern.

The irreversibility of the progress achieved in the fight against corruption is essential for the Commission to assess whether at some point monitoring under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) could be phased out.

Our CVM Report, published last week, acknowledged the track record achieved so far by prosecutors and judges in Romania in addressing high-level corruption. At the same time, it made clear that any steps which undermine this progress, or have the effect of weakening or shrinking the scope of corruption as an offence, would have an impact on any future assessments.

The Commission warns against backtracking and will look thoroughly at the emergency ordinance on the Criminal Code and the Law on Pardons in this light."