Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Romania in protest to a government decree decriminalizing some offenses, including official misconduct.
Around 250,000 people gathered outside the cabinet building in the capital city Bucharest on Wednesday, while around 100,000 more took part in similar protests across the country.
The demonstrators chanted slogan such as, “Repeal it, then leave,” and, “Thieves, thieves.”
The protest was generally peaceful until midnight local time when a group of football fans arrived and started to hurl stones and fireworks at the police.
The demonstrations began on Tuesday after the cabinet approved the decree that decriminalizes a range of graft and other offenses in which the amounts involved are lower than €45,000.
The decree, set to be enforced within the next 10 days, will benefit dozens of political figures from all parties, and has been described as the biggest rollback on reforms since Romania became part of the EU in 2007.
Meanwhile, the country’s top judicial watchdog, the Superior Magistrates’ Council, has issued a constitutional court challenge to the decree, which was introduced by the Social Democrat government of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu.
The European Union has also warned Romania over backtracking on reforms with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker issuing a an official statement.
“The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone. We are following the latest developments in Romania with great concern,” read the statement.
The statement acknowledged the progress of prosecutors and judges in the country, but warned over “steps which undermine this process” or “have the effect of weakening or shrinking the scope of corruption as an offense.”