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Romanian parliament passes law that may dilute graft fight

Romanian parliament passes law that may dilute graft fight

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian lawmakers on Monday approved changes that critics say will weaken the European Union member's efforts to root out high-level corruption.

Parliament voted 167-70 Monday to change a law that obliges public officials to declare their assets and regulates conflicts of interest. Lawmakers banned from holding office due to rules violations could now see the ban lifted.

Lawmakers also approved a law obliging judges and prosecutors to pay financial damages for judicial errors made "in bad faith or grave negligence," which critics say could make them wary of prosecuting or issuing rulings.

Judges who are subject to a criminal investigation will no longer be automatically suspended, while they will also be banned from making "defamatory" comments about state institutions, a move they say will strip them of having a legitimate voice.

Opposition lawmakers whistled as the laws were approved, while members of the left-wing governing coalition cheered.

Parliament's upper house, the Senate, still needs to approve the legislation which will then be sent to President Klaus Iohannis to sign into law. A critic of the changes, the president could send the legislation back to Parliament.

Thousands of Romanians have protested against the proposals saying they will make it harder to punish high-level corruption.

Some 4,000 judges and the European Commission have also opposed the proposals.

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