Inside Story

Why is Romania suddenly in turmoil?

Romania has seen the largest protests since 1989 after a government decree decriminalising corruption.

Around the world, tens of millions of people can only dream of an income of $48,000. 

But in Romania today, that is how much money public officials can steal without fear of prosecution.

Strictly speaking, the newly issued government decree does not make theft legal, but it decriminalises government misconduct if less than $48,000 is involved.

The move has resulted in the largest protests the country has seen since the fall of the communist government in 1989. Hundreds of thousands of Romanians say the measure undermines a decade of anti-corruption reforms.

The government says the proposal will lower prison overcrowding.

Demonstrators are calling for the government to resign. But even after days of protests, the ruling party is refusing to withdraw the decree.

Meanwhile, other EU countries say they are watching the events in Bucharest with “great concern”.

The embassies of the US, Canada and several European countries have released a joint statement saying the decree “can only undermine Romania’s standing in the international community and risks damaging partnerships that are based on common values, inherent in the guiding principles of the EU and NATO”.

So, what does this crisis mean for Romania’s future and its broader relationship with fellow EU members?

Presenter: Jane Dutton


Alexandru Coita – Political analyst

Laura Stefan – Anti-corruption campaigner and former director at the Ministry of Justice of Romania

Paul Ivan – Senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre