Romania urged to heed rule of law before assuming EU presidency

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has expressed concern about changes to Romania's penal code recently pushed through by the ruling Social Democratic Party which its critics say are unconstitutional.

Romania urged to heed rule of law before assuming EU presidency

The European Union on Tuesday warned Romania to respect EU democratic values before it assumes the bloc's rotating presidency in January, or risk undermining its bid to join Europe's passport-free zone.

During a debate in the European Parliament with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned Romania not to undermine its bid to join Europe's passport-free Schengen zone.

"I hope Romania joins the Schengen zone, but it must not mortgage that by turning away from the (European) principles on rule of law," Juncker said during debate in the European Parliament. 

"I hope in Romania there is a consensus for the fight against corruption, otherwise the European Commission will have trouble with its recommendations and getting them adopted unanimously," he added.

To become a member of the Schengen zone, Romania needs a recommendation from the Commission and unanimous support from the other 27 EU member countries. 

Romania's and neighbouring Bulgaria's bid to join the Schengen zone have been blocked since 2007.

During its tenure of the six-month presidency from January 1, Juncker suggested, Romania's recommendations on other subjects may also face trouble. 

Several members of the European Parliament took Iohannis to task over what they see is the damage to the rule of law in Romania caused by the judicial reforms.