US Ambassador in Romania ties weakening judiciary with growing Russian influence

The US Ambassador in Romania, Hans Klemm, expressed his “profound concern” over the current parliamentary debates, which could “undermine everything that Romania has done in the last 15-20 years” to counter corruption.

Delia Budurca
Delia Budurca NewsMavens, Romania
US Ambassador in Romania ties weakening judiciary with growing Russian influence - NewsMavens
Hans G Klemm. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The US Ambassador in Romania, Hans Klemm, expressed his “profound concern” over the current parliamentary debates, which could “undermine everything that Romania has done in the last 15-20 years” to counter corruption.

He warned that Russia could take advantage of the weakening of Romanian judiciary. On Thursday, at a meeting with journalists in central Romania, Klemm declared:

“We believe that weakening legislation which allows you to have an independent judiciary and to take a strong stand against corruption undermines national resilience and could expose Romania to threats from abroad, including from Russia. Corruption is a tool that hostile parties could use to break the foundation of a resilient state.”

He assured that US holds in high regard the progress that Romania has made since 1989, especially over the last 15 years. The country strengthened democratic governance, created an independent judiciary and established institutions responsible for countering high-level corruption.

“Not only the US admire this, but also the other EU Member States”, the US Ambassador emphasized. “Countries like Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria and others come to Bucharest to learn about the measures taken by Romania in the fight against corruption and the consolidation of the rule of law.”

Just a day before, at Cluj-Napoca (north-western Romania), Ambassador Klemm discussed the threats of the 21st Century in a discussion with students at the “Babes-Bolyai” 

“Building resilience therefore includes maintaining and strengthening a judicial system capable of fighting corruption. The US government has noted our concern about legislative proposals here in Romania, which were originally put forward by the Minister of Justice and are currently being debated in the Romanian Parliament.

Romania's own judicial institutions, professional associations, civil society, and ordinary citizens, as well as the EU authorities and the governments of several member states have also expressed their concerns about these draft laws”, stated the US Ambassador.

“In Europe today we face threats from multiple directions. We have Russia to the east, which is destabilizing European security and is attempting to alter borders by force in Ukraine. Russia is also becoming quite innovative when it comes to deploying new types of warfare, including information, cyber, and hybrid modalities.

We have threats from the south, especially in the form of extremist Islamic terrorism, exacerbated by the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq. (…) These threats include lone-wolf terrorism, organized crime, and cyber-attacks.”

He spoke about cyberattacks and cyber warfare, propaganda and disinformation campaigns, which were already present during the Cold War. Such tactics, Klemm believes, have seen a revival over the past few years.

“It is clear this is one of Russia's preferred methods for sowing discord and disunity among NATO Allies. Taking advantage of our open societies and democratic systems, Russia seeks to influence public opinion, and often elections, by propagating fake news via state-owned or state-supported media outlets, such as Russia TV and Sputnik, and via social media”, said the US Ambassador.

“In some places, like Romania, where the population is wary of Russian motives, Kremlin tactics are more subtle. Instead of trying to persuade the targeted public to support Russian policies, they try to break the population's trust in institutions like the EU, NATO, or our Strategic Partnership”, he added.

From February 2017, constant protests have been organized against a new package of justice laws pushed forward by the PSD Government. Many consider it to be an attempt to subordinate judiciary to politics. These laws are still under debate in the parliament. Last weekend, over 10,000 Romanians protested in different cities.

On December 5, Michael I the last king of Romania, died at age 96. His death triggered many debates about the past and the historical lessons we must never forget. One of them is certainly to cherish democracy and the institutions fundamental to it.

Details from the story:

  • Romania became a NATO member in 2004 and an EU member in 2007.
  • The reputation of Russia in Romania is affected by 40 years of communism installed after the WWII, which led to Ceausescu’s regime, overthrown by the Revolution in 1989.
  • In recent years, NATO Alliance established new institutions, such as Force Integration Units, in each of the eastern flank states. These are, among many, the Multinational Corps Headquarters in Poland, the Multinational Division Headquarters-South East in Romania, a new NATO battalion in Poland and a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which is a spearhead force of around 5,000 troops that can be deployed anywhere within the alliance at short notice. In Romania, at Deveselu, the US Government has installed an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system as well as supporting infrastructure against ballistic missiles threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.
  • The last king of Romania, Michael I, will be buried on the December 16, in Curtea de Argeș.

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