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April - 2005

News Review


Customs board sacked on bribe charges

Arad Customs Police board has been fired by the Ministry of Administration and Interior following allegations of bribery for accepting fraudulent documents at the borders. This follows Spain’s failure to allow six buses transporting Romanians to enter the country with false work documents. Many bus drivers ask for money at the Hungarian border to ‘ease’ the route way through the customs. One student travelling to France told The Diplomat: “The co-driver asked everyone in the bus for money [around five to ten Euro] going in and out of Romania. They argued this was supposed to ‘grease’ the customs officers and get through the customs faster. I refused to give a bribe and the members of the bus turned on me, claiming I had taken advantage of their ‘doing business’.”

NATO expansionist tipped for US Ambassador

As we went to press, rumours surfaced in the Washington Post that high profile Republican fundraiser and organiser Julie Finley was tipped for the new role of US Ambassador to Romania. A founding member of the US Committee on NATO, Finley is an advocate of NATO expansion and also worked as national co-chairperson of Finance for [Bob] Dole for President in 1995/96, for TV networks NBC and ABC, and the Washington Post itself. The US Embassy in Bucharest would not comment directly on the rumour, saying the US Government had yet to make a decision.

Greater Romania Party reform meets suspicion

Corneliu Vadim Tudor’s resignation as president of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) was greeted with caution by analysts. The controversial far right party, which has now appointed Vadim an honorary member, is attempting to recast itself as a pro-European Popular Party. “Nothing changed, actually, with and inside PRM,” Cristian Parvulescu, President of Pro Democratia told The Diplomat, alleging that Vadim continues to de facto rule the party. “We should let some time pass before we can know for sure if the change is real,” added political analyst Stelian Tanase. “At the moment, PRM tries to gain EU acceptance, but they have no place for such a party. I don't believe that the European People's Party (PPE) will accept this new popular form of PRM, not after 15 years of antisemitic declarations.”

Geoana does not rule out running for top PSD job

Former minister of foreign affairs Mircea Geoana is a potential competitor of Ion Iliescu for the presidency of PSD, a post to be vacated by Adrian Nastase. According to Gardianul, Geoana admitted that he is still thinking of this possibility, but rejected speculation that he could be involved in a deal to remove Iliescu from the PSD. “Any smart person realises that we need Iliescu in the PSD, but we also need real competition. I will see for which position I'll opt for,” he was quoted as saying.

Ceausescu daughter demands parents exhumation

Nicolae Ceausescu's daughter Zoe has called on authorities to prove her parents are buried in the Bucharest Ghencea cemetery by exhuming their bodies. Zoe Ceausescu, who wants the bodies to be identified, has also asked for a Christian burial and private graves. Ceausescu's family has long doubted the couple are buried in the above-mentioned graveyard. In 2001 Romanian communists demanded that Ceausescu's remains be exhumed because they suspected he may have been tortured. Authorities at the time denied the request.

USA grants 70 million to military

United States will offer 70 million USD in assistance to the Romanian military, President Basescu said after his two-day official visit to the US last month. 40 million USD will be granted this year and the rest in 2006. Discussions also centred on the status of the Black Sea region and talks on setting up military bases in Romania, rumoured to be in the Constanta region.

Calls for new corruption monitor

Transparency International has called for an independent organisation to better monitor internal corruption, separate from the state's Anti-Corruption Office (PNA). However US NGO Freedom House has called for a restraint of the activities of the PNA and a new institution to monitor corruption called the 'Integrity Agency' under Government auspices. The most serious problems of Romania, according to the Transparency Agency's latest report, are a failure by politicians to claim all their financial interests, an absence of political vision in public policy and an unequal distribution of immunity among lawyers. Romania occupies 87th place in the global corruption perception index, along with Iran and the Dominican Republic. This is better than Russia, but worse than Bosnia, Jamaica and Syria.

Swedish manager admits to half-million Euro bribe

A manager of Swedish company ABB admitted to bribing Romanian officials, after his arrest for taking over 500,000 Euro from his firm's accounts. ABB was involved in recuperating Romania's 50 year-old historical debt to Sweden, and the bribe was meant to help persuade Romanian officials to pay at least part of the 3.5 billion Euro initially requested debt. Finally the two governments came to an agreement, and Romania terminated its debts towards Sweden in 2002, after paying only 120 million Euro, according to the BBC.

LA consul does not want to leave

Romania's consul in Los Angeles Claudiu Lucaci has sent an open letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking Ungureanu not to be recalled. In the letter he claims that his activity in the USA was well appreciated by figures in political, economical and social spheres. Officials have said they have evaluated Lucaci's professional work and experience and claim his return is based on establishing better trained diplomatic corps. This follows the news that three recalled diplomats are taking the Government to court.

First city to get wise on rubbish

Moldovan town Piatra Neamt will be the first city in Romania to benefit from a new system of managing and recycling of rubbish, starting this December. This new project aims to eliminate the negative impact of the current system which collects and stores rubbish. The project is worth over 18 million Euro, with financing from the EU’s ISPA project, the Danish and Romanian Governments and the local budget .