EU's Poettering wants Romania to boost graft fight

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BUCHAREST, Oct 16 (Reuters) European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering urged Romania today to step up its fight against corruption, saying its reforms should become an example for other European states aspiring to join the bloc.

Brussels, which is monitoring the progress in reforms since Romania joined the European Union in January, has said the fight against fraud by top officials was a point of weakness.

''In the fight against corruption a lot remains to be done,'' Poettering said in a speech to Romania's parliament.

In recent months, Romanian prosecutors have launched several criminal investigations against former and current cabinet members including former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. But no high-profile politician has been jailed so far.

The centrist government says it is working hard to combat graft, but Transparency International ranks Romania as the most graft-prone state in the EU. Abuse spans all levels of society, including justice, education, heathcare and public works.

''Corruption is not tolerated in the EU neither at high level nor at low level,'' Poettering said.

''I want to encourage you to continue the process of reforms, so that the democracy and rule of law ... serve as a model for the states in southeast of Europe who want to join the European Union.'' REUTERS GL PM1620

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