BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany sharply criticized on Monday the Romanian government's suspension of President Traian Basescu and urged it to show respect for the rule of law and the independence of state institutions.
On Friday, Prime Minister Victor Ponta's leftist government suspended Basescu saying he had overstepped his powers. Ponta is now trying to amend the rules of an impeachment referendum set for July 29 to make it easier to remove Basescu.
"The German government observes with deep concern the actions of the Romanian government under Prime Minister Ponta. The process to remove President Basescu is unacceptable," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference.
Using unusually strong language against another European Union member state, Seibert said the suspension of Basescu and the calling of a referendum took place in a way that "flouts the basic principles of the rule of law".
The government's actions undermine the independence and capacity of Romania's constitutional court, Seibert added.
"We expect the Romanian government to restore confidence in the country and in its constitutional process," he said.
Ponta's government wants to change how many votes are needed to impeach the president, from a majority of the whole electorate to a majority of those who actually vote - a move which could determine the result.
The government has also passed an emergency decree backing its referendum rule law, making it harder for the constitutional court to block the drive to impeach Basescu and prompting concerns in the EU that Ponta is dispensing with the judiciary.
Romania's government denies its actions are threatening the rule of law and says the political row will not hurt the justice system.
Seibert said Berlin was in contact with its EU partners over the situation in Romania, which joined the EU in 2007 and is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the 27-nation bloc.
Germany is the EU's largest economy and championed the bloc's enlargement into the former communist bloc.