July 12 (Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel escalated a dispute with Romania, summoning its ambassador to voice “great concern” over efforts by the government in Bucharest to oust the president.
Germany condemned efforts by Prime Minister Victor Ponta to curtail the power of Romania’s Constitutional Court and warned that a referendum on whether to remove suspended President Traian Basescu must adhere to the law. Romanian Ambassador Lazar Comanescu spoke with a chancellery official rather than Merkel.
“He was informed of the German government’s great concern over political developments in Romania,” the chancellery said in an e-mailed statement. The Ponta government’s blocking of the court’s jurisdiction “endangers in a serious manner the principle of balance-of-power,” the chancellery said.
Merkel’s intervention in a power struggle in another European Union nation reflects unease over efforts by Romania’s governing Social Democrats and Liberals to shore up power in response to austerity measures. Ponta has eased the impeachment process, lowered the bar for winning a referendum and limited the court’s power through emergency decrees.
A summons directly to the chancellery in Berlin is unusual, since ambassadors are normally called to the Foreign Ministry to be upbraided. Merkel raised the stakes earlier this week by backing Basescu against impeachment proceedings.
Ponta fired back before a visit to Brussels aimed at reassuring EU leaders that his government’s efforts are within the law and the conflict amounted to a domestic political spat. He accused Merkel of backing Basescu because she found an ally in her attempts to impose austerity on other member states.
“I don’t think Mrs. Merkel will be the one voting in Romania in the referendum,” Ponta told reporters in Bucharest July 9. The Romanian premier met today with European Commission President Jose Barroso and EU President Herman van Rompuy, who also expressed their concern over his government’s measures.
Barroso said the Romanian government should appoint an ombudsman backed by all parties and establish independent procedures to appoint a prosecutor and anti-corruption czar.
Ponta assured EU leaders this week that the referendum on whether to remove Basescu, scheduled for July 29, will respect a court ruling requiring the participation of a majority of eligible voters. The turmoil has pushed the leu to a record low.
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