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Parliament coup throws out President on dubious grounds

Public will decide Basescu’s fate, if public gets fair vote
* Parliament coup throws out President on dubious grounds
* Russian-Moldovan 'deal' on Transnistria raises fears of western alienation
* UN: Romanian security forces could face trial for killing Kosovan demonstrators
* Communist Generals sentenced for killing demonstrators
* Trial begins for privatisation spy and treason accusations
* Conservative Party leader in money laundering probe
* Prime Minister escapes standing trial
* Former Minister charged with covering up illegal energy acts
* From migrant state to labour magnet
* Bucharest to host 2008 NATO summit
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     Romania’s Parliament has impeached President Basescu and, on 19 May, Romanians will vote in a referendum on whether to remove their head of state.
     But there are fears that a coalition against Basescu is using undemocratic means to prevent him from winning in a fair race.
     There are also questions as to whether there is any solid ground for the impeachment.
     The Parliament accused Basescu of breaching the Constitution, but the Constitutional Court said he has only been exercising his presidential prerogative.
     The impeached President is perceived as the most popular politician in the country. According to the latest poll by CURS, 65 per cent of  Romanians would vote against Basescu's impeachment, while another 15 per cent are still undecided.
     In this 30-day period until the referendum, the impeached President’s adversaries appear to be frustrating attempts to allow Basescu back into power.
     The Parliament has tried to pass a law stating that an impeached President cannot candidate for future elections.
     But this has failed because such a move would need to change the Constitution and this can only be amended through a referendum.
     Working separately, the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) have intended to organise another referendum so that Romania becomes a parliamentary republic with only a symbolic role for the President.
     At the proposal of the PSD, Parliament has adopted a special amendment to the referendum law, stating that the elections for Basescu's impeachment can be repeated in three months’ time if not enough people show up to vote.
     For this to happen, the Constitutional Court must declare the referendum's invalidity.
     But The Democratic Party (PD) argues this is a clear example of how the majority of the Parliament has breached the Constitution, by acting as though Romania is a parliamentary republic and not semi-presidential.
     The current law stipulates that for a referendum to be valid, the majority of the electorate, around 9.4 million people, has to show up to vote.
     The Parliament and the Government have the means to control all the state's institutions, including the Ministry of the Interior and Administrative Reform, which organises the referendum.
     Due to heavy criticism of almost every election that has ever taken place in Romania, there are fears that this vote will include mass-fraud.
     The Parliament has also placed restrictions on the freedom of the media to give a balanced view of political events. It has adopted a measure to stop the impeached President from having any air-time on public TV and radio stations. Instead, Basescu can only use the air-time allocated to the PD, which first nominated him as presidential candidate.
     However, early elections could be due as the PSD President Mircea Geoana has confirmed that general elections are needed to sort out the current crisis.
     In a Parliamentary vote, 322 voted to impeach Basescu, while 108 opposed the motion.
     This was understood to be backed by members of the PSD, Greater Romania Party (PRM) and Conservative Party (PC), supported by the two governing parties - the PNL and the Democratic Union of Hungarians from Romania (UDMR).
     In support of Basescu were the PD and the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD). Former manager of the State Planning Committee in the former Communist regime and ex-Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu is the interim President.

Russian-Moldovan ‘deal’ on Transnistria raises fears of western alienation

     An unofficial plan to unblock negotiations in the breakaway Moldovan Republic of Transnistria has appeared which could violate the framework of the existing talks on resolving the 16 year-old frozen conflict.
     The supposed deal is between the Kremlin and Chisinau and gives Russia more control over Moldova, by allowing Transnistria to have a say in the Moldovan governmental decisions.
     The plan suggests acknowledging Transnistria's government in Tiraspol, which no authority, not even the Russians, has officially recognised.
     It also recommends dissolving the Parliaments on both sides. By the end of 2007, general elections are suppose to be organised giving Tiraspol 20 per cent of parliamentary seats, the post of deputy minister in every ministry and the first deputy premiership.
     The rumours were sparked when Vladimir Socor, a long-time observer of Moldova's developments and senior analyst of Washington-based think-tank Jamestown Foundation, leaked details.
     The EU's special representative in Moldova, Kalman Mizsei was unable to confirm the agreement in Moscow.
     No one has been able to confirm the details, but a spokesperson for the OSCE mission to Moldova did not rule out its existence. The frantic EU response suggests that diplomats are taking the reports seriously.
     “The deal practically blows up the entire constitutional system of the Republic of Moldova," says Iulian Chifu, director of the Center for Conflict Prevention and Early Warning.
     This reunification plan says also that 1,300 Russian troops will stay in Transnistria until Chisinau and Kremlin decide otherwise.
     The ongoing presence of Russian 14th Army forces has been a stumbling block in peace talks and the West has always been concerned about the Soviet-era arsenal on its territory.
     The plan is also in abuse of the existing 5+2 talks between Moldova, Russia, Transnistria, Ukraine, OSCE, the EU and USA, as it establishes a secondary chamber of negotiation, which keeps out the western powers.
     “If this deal is implemented, Vladimir Voronin or any other Moldovan President will never be credible in the eyes of the international community," Chifu says.
     However one EU diplomat said the introduction of such a plan was “mystification of the truth by various NGOs with special interests”.
     But Chifu argues the information comes from legible sources. It seems Russian-Moldovan discussions began in November last year and started with the renegotiation of Moldova's wine exports, which were under an embargo, and the gas imports from Russia.
     An agreement similar to this unofficial plan, called ‘The Kozak Memorandum’, was put forward by Russia in 2003. But after large protests in Chisinau in the days following its publication, Voronin shelved the plan.
     President of the "Moldova" Foundation Vlad Spanu, who organised a recent debate at Georgetown University, Washington DC, on the conflict doubts that Moldovan institutions can face such a counterproductive plan which “breaches the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests of Moldova”.

UN: Romanian security forces could face trial for killing Kosovan demonstrators

     There could be grounds to prosecute Romanian security forces working for the UN in Kosovo for killing two Albanian demonstrators in Pristina in February 2007, states a UN preliminary report.
     The document, based on an Albanian Police investigation, indicates that two Albanians were killed and another injured by rubber bullets shot by Romanian officers. "Although it could be argued that these deaths were accidental, which would not detract from the reasonable suspicion that such shooting was criminal," UN special prosecutor Robert Dean told a news conference.
     The victims were not a threat to anyone at the time they were shot, the report said. However, investigators have no proof or witnesses to clarify what happened, the Romanian authorities replied. The investigation had not identified which officer fired the fatal shots, so criminal proceedings cannot yet begin. Since the deaths, Romania withdrew its forces from Kosovo. This was despite an appeal from the UN authorities in the breakaway Serbian province for 11 of the officers to stay for the investigation.
     The deaths of the two men, the most violent event in the province since 2004, shocked Kosovo and fuelled fears of widespread unrest if the UN Security Council does not confirm its intentions for Kosovan independence or autonomy from Serbia.
      The Commander of the UN police forces in Kosovo, Richard Monk, said that the rubber bullets used in the deaths reached an expiry date in 1994 and, over time, had hardened to create a greater likelihood of fatality.

Short News

Communist Generals sentenced for killing demonstrators

The Supreme Court has convicted generals Victor Athanasie Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac to 15 years in prison for killing demonstrators in the 1989 Revolution in Timisoara. Stanculescu and Chitac were given the same sentence in 1999, but then General Prosecutor Joita Tanase deemed the convictions illegal. The two generals were also accused of trying to cover up their crimes by ordering soldiers to transport the corpses of revolutionaries to Bucharest for cremation. Stanculescu and Chitac then intended to tell the relatives of the dead that their husbands, sons and daughters had left the country. Around 1,200 civilians and 700 soldiers, security forces and policemen died in the 1989 Revolution across Romania.

Trial begins for privatisation spy and treason accusations

Bulgarian consultant Stamen Stanchev and two Romanian officials are being tried for espionage and high treason respectively at the Bucharest Court of Appeal, concerning energy and telecom privatisations. The deputy head of the Office for State's Assets and Privatisations in Industry (OPSPI), Dorinel Mucea and Radu Doncea, a counsellor for the Minister of IT&C Zsolt Nagy, are accused of leaking classified information on the privatisation of Romanian energy and communications state companies. The US citizen, Vadim Benyatov, managing director of the investment banking department of Credit Suisse First Boston Europe in London, connected to the accused members of the group, was due to go to the court as we went to press. The former Minister of Economy and Trade, Codrut Seres, and Nagy are also being investigated for disclosing secret information in connection with this affair.

Conservative Party leader in money laundering probe

The Anti-Corruption Department (DNA) is investigating the leader of the Conservative Party (PC), Dan Voiculescu, for alleged money laundering. Also under investigation are owner of Rapid football club and former PC deputy prime minister George Copos and Voiculescu's daughter Camelia, owner of Jurnalul National and TV station Antena 1. Gheorghe Copos is alleged to have sold retail units to state lottery company Loteria Romana and then transferred the gains through the personal accounts of Camelia and Dan Voiculescu, to avoid paying over one million Euro taxes to the state.

Prime Minister escapes standing trial

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu will escape court for asking President Traian Basescu to interfere in investigations into a share scandal involving oil giant Rompetrol. The Prime Minister wrote a note to the President asking him, if he had the chance, to speak to the Prosecutor’s Office about the case. Prosecutors could not conclude that the head of the Government had solicited favourable treatment for investigations into his friend and president of Rompetrol, Dinu Patriciu.

Former Minister charged with covering up illegal energy acts

Former Minister of Economy and Trade, Codrut Seres, is under investigation by the General Prosecutor's Office following the disappearance of money during the modernisation of a hydropower plant. Codrut Seres's Ministry uncovered illegalities in the modernisation process of the Portile de Fier [Iron Gate] hydro power station in Mehedinti county, but did not take to task those accused of criminal activity. Also under investigation are eight people in state energy firm Hidroelectrica's management and from the National Regulatory Authority for Energy (ANRE). Traian Oprea, Hidroelectrica’s general manager was sent to court for abuse in service against the public interests in August 2006 and is also being tried for causing damages to Hidroelectrica worth 1.8 million Euro. In March 2007 Seres denied the accusations and said they were "absurd".

From migrant state to labour magnet

By 2015 up to 300,000 foreigners will enter the Romanian labour market, estimates the Ministry of the Interior and the Administrative Reform. Migration is rising due to the country's Accession to the EU and a labour deficit of up to 200,000 workers, particularly in construction. There has been a soar in requests for visas to Romania in 2006. The Republic of Moldova, Turkey and China remain the first three suppliers of migrants and there has been another rise (17 per cent) in foreign citizens marrying Romanians in 2006, for many a quick-fix for an EU passport.

Bucharest to host 2008 NATO summit
Secretary general of NATO Jaap de Hoop Schefer has said that Bucharest will host the 2008 NATO summit. Romania, a former member of the Warsaw Pact, will be the third country in eastern Europe to organise such an event, after Riga and Prague, in which 26 presidents and prime ministers are expected to participate, probably on 2 to 4 April, 2008. Romania's involvement in the alliance's military operations was the key element that convinced NATO decision makers that Bucharest deserves this chance, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adrian Cioroianu added. Romania's accession to NATO took place in 2004 and it competed with Portugal to hold the summit. President Bush of the USA may also be in attendance.

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