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Fears are growing about the EU's presidency host

[BUCHAREST] The European Union presidency is bringing some unwanted attention for its current host.

Romania only assumed the helm of the bloc's council on Jan 1 - kicking off a six-month stint that includes the date the UK officially quits the EU. But even the growing alarm over Brexit is proving insufficient to silence controversy about Romania itself.

The Black Sea nation's foreign minister was given a rough ride this week on the BBC's Newsnight program. Starting out with questions on Prime Minister Theresa May's struggling exit agreement, the interview quickly switched to Romania's plans to pardon hundreds of officials convicted for corruption - including the country's de facto leader.

The minister muttered something about overcrowded prisons and looked somewhat surprised when his response was labeled "absurd" by the host.

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It's not just television news that's worried. On the eve of the presidency, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said some of the government's plans - widely viewed as a rollback of progress to tackle corruption - are a risk for Europe.

"Romania's six months in charge of the bloc's agenda will likely be overshadowed by the growing rule-of-law concerns in the country and mounting budget woes," Otilia Dhand, a Brussels-based analyst for political-risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence, said in a note.

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