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After taking power in Romania, two months after the elections, the Government issued a very controversial ordinance bill that weakens anti corruption. This led to massive protests and issuing of another ordinance bill that cancelled the first one.

If it had not been cancelled, several notorious corrupts would have benefit from this ordinance as indicated in this article (Romanian text). They include both heads of Parliament Chambers and normal members of the Parliament.

President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, summoned the Prime Minister to provide explanation about all these, before the Parliament had to examine the bills (they must be approved or rejected within a time frame):

President Tusk underlined the need to advance in the fight against corruption, safeguard the significant progress achieved and ensure its irreversibility, in line with the high expectations of Romanian society and the EU's values.

Eventually, both bills were rejected by the Parliament. Some analysts argued that protests alone, although massive for several days, could not be the only cause and EU officials must have had some influence.

Question: How can European Union officials influence such political decisions? What are the political mechanisms to persuade local politicians to change their minds?

I know about financial sanctions, but they come after a relatively long bureaucratic process (infringement proceedings).

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Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union deals with how the EU can sanction member-states which violate the general ethical principles of the EU.

When 80% of the European Council (member-states) and 50% of the European Parliament agree that a country is violating the EU core principles, the EU Council is able to suspend any of the rights (but none of the obligations) a state has as a member of the European Union.

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    Yes, this is true. However, this mechanism is a quite slow and it is highly implausible that these politicians are sensible to EU fines against the country. They risk going to jail and many believe they will go beyond any reasonable act to escape. As a side note in order to understand their character: the bill was released in great secrecy almost at midnight and officially published at 1 A.M. Some protesters furiously came in front of the Government which was almost unguarded, as police had not been informed about the possible outcome. – Alexei Mar 16 '17 at 20:18
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    It's a bit more difficult: Article 7 is a step-by-step process. Step 2 requires an unanimity of all other states. That's why there's currently no chance of sanctions against Poland or Hungary, as they will both veto measures against the other state - it works only if there at most one state to be sanctioned. – Martin Schröder Mar 17 '17 at 15:01
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This article (Romanian) discusses about some ways of European politicians to influence political decisions in a member country. Amnesty law was nearly adopted before Jean Claude Juncker's visit to Bucharest.

After the visit, the main promoters (the Presidents of the Parliament's Chambers) seemed to change their minds about the law. The reason for this is unclear, but it is highly unlikely that this is just a coincidence.

Possible reasons for this change of mind and examples of ways of influencing local politics are expressed within the aforementioned article:

  • excluding Socialist Party from European Socialist Party:

The European Socialists' Party, which includes Timmermans, may decide to exclude Democrat-Socialist Party (PSD - main party in power) from the European political family, a political sanction that would practically isolate Dragnea's party into the EU.

  • economic pressure:

In economic terms, the European Commission has several levers, primarily financial. Any suspension, cutting of funds or tightening up the verification of how EU money is spent would blow up all the super-optimistic calculations of the PSD Government.

(this related to the forecast of economic growth)

Negotiations will soon begin for the next EU fiscal period. With its amazingly weak performance in attracting EU funds, along with backdrop of Britain's outflow (a net donor) from the EU, Romania could be put in a precarious negotiating position, if Brussels does not help it through various exceptional measures to improve absorption rate.

European leaders have also explicitly mentioned their ability to influence member countries decisions (e.g. source about European migration agenda):

We propose to use a mix of positive and negative incentives to reward those third countries willing to cooperate effectively with us, and to ensure that there are consequences for those who do not. This includes using our development and trade policies to create leverage.

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