Romania official at odds with EU, won’t attend key EU event

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The chairman of Romania’s ruling party, who has clashed with the European Union over the government’s approach to fighting high-level corruption, is expected to miss events Thursday marking Romania’s six-month presidency of the bloc.

Liviu Dragnea, Romania’s most powerful politician, won’t be attending as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk arrive in Bucharest later for a concert and talks with leaders.

Dragnea’s party has embarked on a contentious judicial overhaul which the EU has repeatedly criticized, saying it could protect corrupt officials.

Dragnea, who is also speaker of the lower chamber of deputies, has delegated his duties to a deputy.

The 56-year-old is barred from being prime minister because of a conviction for vote-rigging, but effectively runs the government.

This month, Dragnea sued the European Commission at the European Court of Justice over allegations he defrauded the EU. The European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, said 21 million euros ($24.15 million) was fraudulently paid to officials for road construction in Romania.

The alleged misuse of funds from 2001-2012 were when he headed a county council in southern Romania.

Romania’s anti-corruption prosecutors are investigating whether he set up an organized crime group with other officials and forged documents to illicitly obtain EU funds.

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