Romanian PM denounces protests, defends police

More than 450 people, including 30 police officers, were hurt last week during anti-government protests in Bucharest

Romania's Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has written a letter to the EU describing last week's protests in Bucharest as an attempt to overthrow the government and defending the handling of the demonstrations by the police, Romanian media reported on Friday.

"I consider that these attempts to overthrow a legitimate government with violence could represent a dangerous precedent for democratic states", Dancila was reported as saying in the letter, written in Romanian and addressed to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and to vice-president Frans Timmermans.

A spokesman for the EU Commission confirmed receipt of the letter and said a response would be issued "in due course".

Last Friday, more than 80,000 people demonstrated in Bucharest, accusing the leftwing government of corruption and urging it to resign.

Police used water cannon, tear gas, pepper spray and batons to disperse the crowd. More than 450 people, including 30 police, were hurt and around 30 arrested, leading to widespread criticism.

But Dancila insisted in her letter that the police reaction was "in accordance wih the law" and she accused the centre-right opposition of backing the protests.

"Romania is a stable country and the government is preparing to take over the rotating presidency of the EU" in January, the premier said, as a number of voices, including some members of the EU parliament, have suggested that the country's current executive may not be up to the task.

On Tuesday, the EU Commission had said it was monitoring developments closely in Romania, and noted that the protesters had been critical of the "reversal of progress in the fields of judicial reform and in the fight against corruption".

"Peaceful protests ended in violence. Violence can never be a solution in politics", the Commission said.

In a controversial move last month, Romania sacked top anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi -- considered a symbol of the country's fight against corruption.

With Kovesi at the helm, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (DNA) had led a crackdown on corruption among local and national elected officials, earning the enmity of many in Romania's political class and prompting critics to accuse it of abuse of power.

Before Kovesi's sacking, thousands of protesters took to the streets in support of her. There have also been long-running waves of protests against judicial reforms -- at their peak drawing an estimated half a million people nationwide in February 2017.