May
2007
POLITICAL PROFILE
 
Vol. 3 No.4  
 
   

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Meet the man with
the toughest job in Romania

Balancing European demands, the independence of justice and the call of his party will be a tough act to perform. Ana Maria Nitoi talks to the man with the job no one envies: new Minister of Justice Tudor Chiuariu
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     Radical change in Romania’s political scene, such as the appointment of a minority Government and President Traian Basescu’s impeachment, is a massive concern for European officials.
     This could obstruct Romania from keeping its promises to reforms in key areas, such as justice, which will be monitored by the European Commission (EC) until 2010.
     The EC could enact its safeguard clause, which means suspending Romania’s certain rights concerning Justice in its relationship with the other member states unless the Government establishes a National Integrity Agency (ANI) that monitors politicians’ wealth, continues the fight against corruption and reform of the judiciary system and improves the actions of judiciary institutions.
     European concern over the implementation of these reforms has skyrocked since Prime Minister Tariceanu kicked out two highly-praised ministers - Monica Macovei from Justice and Vasile Blaga from Interior Affairs.
     Thrown into the deep end of these troubled political waters is lawyer and lecturer Tudor Chiuariu, the new Minister of Justice.
     To put in frankly - Chiuariu has a bastard of a job.
     He must replace Macovei, who was well-known for her good relationship with the European Commissioner for Justice Franco Frattini and has, since her sacking, taken up with supporting President Basescu’s war against Parliament.
     He must convince Europe he is reforming justice, without politicising the justice system, ensure its independence and, at the same time, be a good liberal team player for his Prime Minister.
     He is also one of the youngest members of the Government, aged only 30, and will attract opprobrium for his perceived lack of experience.
     But he defends his record.
     “I was a lawyer for many years and a teacher,” he tells The Diplomat. “Furthermore, I was directly involved in Romania’s negotiations with the European Commission on Justice and Home Affairs.”
     But Chiuariu believes his most significant experience was head of the Department for Fight Against Fraud (DLAF), an institution specialised in verifing how European funds are spent.
     The young Liberal was one of the most controversial of the ministers for alleged ‘unorthodox’ links to the leader of PNL Iasi branch Relu Fenechiu, known as a local baron. Chiuariu dissmisses any accusations of impropriety in this relationship as ‘ridiculous’.
     “Nobody can prove anything illegal or immoral and these are only reactions of those who fear my strictness, professionalism and enthusiasm in heading the Ministry of Justice,” says Chiuariu.
     To satisfy the European Commission, the Minister must create a strong relationship with Parliament to convince its members to pass all the laws necessary to reform the Justice system, such as the law establishing ANI.
     This was at the heart of the infighting between the former Minister of Justice and the Parliament, which ended in Macovei’s dismissal. It is in the interests of corrupt MPs to bury this law, which will set up an institution to watch their wealth.
     But Parliament has watered down the law, so that the current proposal cannot verify the politicians’ wealth, only their wealth declarations. This is similar to an accountant formulating his assessment of a company’s assets by what the general manager wants to tell his accountant, without being able to view the bank statements, building deeds and tax returns.
     Furthermore, ANI inspectors will not be able to check their conflicts of interests. For example, MPs are free to buy shares in companies which abide by rulings that the politicians vote for in the Parliament. But Chiuariu has sent MPs a few amendments which attempt to put teeth back into the law, such as allowing The court to confiscate MPs’ illicit wealth. The Minister also promised to collaborate with the Parliament to pass this law in the next few weeks.
     But the EC is worried that Parliament may play politics with justice again. Dangerous moves could include the minority Government’s decision to remove the Romania’s General Prosecutor Laura Kovesi and the DNA head Daniel Morar.
     The concern was recently expressed by Frattini and underlined by the EC President Jose Manuel Barosso. In return, Chiuariu says he assured Frattini: “I will not make changes for the sake of change.”


 
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