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Minister of Foreign Affairs resigns over hunger-strike death

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Adrian Cioroianu has resigned over the death of a Romanian immigrant undergoing a hunger strike in a Polish prison.
Daniel Crulic was arrested by Polish police in Krakow last September, accused of stealing a wallet. The 33-year old Romanian immigrant denied the charges and started a hunger strike while in prison. Crulic asked for help from the Romanian Embassy in Warsaw. The diplomats asked the Polish authorities to show fairness in applying the law, but did not monitor Crulic’s degeneration.
After three months of self-imposed starvation, Crulic was taken from the prison to a hospital where he died 24 hours later.
“Even though, technically speaking, I am not to blame, a man has lost his life and it does not matter if he was guilty or not,” said Cioroianu. “A man’s life is more important than a minister’s mandate.”
Following his resignation Cioroianu accused the Romanian consul in Warsaw, Ioan Preda, of unprofessional conduct.
Cioroianu is the second consecutive minister of Foreign Affairs who has resigned after a scandal involving a poorly-judged procedural reaction to a dramatic situation involving Romanians abroad. In February 2007, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Mihai Razvan Ungureanu resigned because he failed to inform the Prime Minister that two Romanian workers had been detained by the US troops in Iraq, accused of terrorist activities.
Cioroianu’s gesture comes after a series of gaffes. Last November the Minister stated, regarding a scandal created in Italy by Romanian citizens of Roma ethnicity, that “the Romanian convicts should be deported to a desert”. This angered Roma groups who argued that the last time this took place was in the 1940s, when Nazi-sympathising Romania deported its Roma citizens to labour camps in Transnistria.
During his visit to Spain at the end of last year, Cioroianu also greeted Spanish King Juan Carlos with a raised thumb.
When Prime Minister Tariceanu appointed Cioroianu last year, President Basescu initially rejected him, arguing that the historian had no diplomatic experience. Ex-EU Ambassador Lazar Comanescu takes over the Ministry.

Social Democrats team up with Conservatives again

Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Conservative Party (PC) will collaborate ahead of the parliamentary elections at the end of this year.
The understanding between the Social Democrats and the Conservatives does not apply for the local elections next month.
Although the two parties stood together in the 2004 elections, following the vote, the Conservatives (then known as the Humanist Party) turned their back on the PSD and joined the coalition headed by the National Liberals and Democrats. The new arrangement between the PC and the PSD states that the two parties can form the new Government only with each other.
The Conservative Party polls at only two per cent, but has one advantage. The daughter of its party founder, Dan Voiculescu, owns Romania’s second most popular TV station, Antena 1. This decision will likely result in the PSD securing large media coverage before future elections.

Romania set for missile defence shield

All of Romania’s territory will become part of a new NATO missile shield on southern European territory.
Alliance members Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Turkey will be covered by the new shield which complements the US proposal for north Europe.
The US plan includes ten ground-based interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic to defend European countries under threat from a long-range attack from the Middle East.
The US missile shield will cover only 70 per cent of Romania’s territory, an axis north of Drobeta Turnu Severin in south-west Romania to Galati in the East, ironically missing out the operational US military bases near Constanta.
The details concerning the location of the defence equipment and the financing will be taken at the 2009 NATO summit in Strasbourg.

Big names face-off for Mayor of Bucharest

The largest prize of early June’s local elections, mayor of Bucharest, is up for grabs in a position that traditionally is held by those in opposition to the Social Democratic Party (PSD).
The newly created Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) has chosen Vasile Blaga as its candidate. Between January 2005 and April 2007, Blaga was Minister of Interior and Administration, where he received praise for his reform efforts from the EU.
The National Liberal Party’s candidate is current Minister of Transport Ludovic Orban, who was vice-mayor of the Capital and acting mayor at the beginning of 2005.
Meanwhile the PSD leadership has picked Cristian Diaconescu to be candidate for City Hall. Diaconescu, vice president and party spokesperson, has no experience in administration, but he has the image of a diplomat with a clean past.
The most popular Social Democrat in a recent poll of citizens of Bucharest, Sorin Oprescu, was poised to run as an independent, as The Diplomat went to press.
The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) will not out up a member to bid for City Hall.
Meanwhile vice president of the Conservative Party (PC) Codrin Stefanescu is also running as a candidate.
The Greater Romania Party (PRM) is fielding the only major female candidate, party executive vice president Verginia Vedinas.
If the first election for the mayor does not give the leading candidate over 50 per cent of the vote, a second election will be held between the two leading candidates.
Current Mayor of Bucharest Adriean Videanu has chosen not to run for a second mandate.

Short stories

Nastase wants to run for President again

Ex-Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has expressed his wish to run for president next year, as the Social Democrat (PSD) candidate against Traian Basescu. President of the PSD Mircea Geoana said that Nastase is one of the people suited to candidate at the elections. Accused by anti-corruption prosecutors in three different cases, Nastase was asked in 2006 by the PSD to resign from leading positions he held in the party and the Parliament. Two years later, Nastase became president of the National Council of PSD, the party’s most important decision-making forum. Nastase lost the presidential elections in 2004 to Basescu by a small margin.

Wealth monitoring agency could be dissolved

Designed as a department to monitor the wealth declarations of public figures, the National Agency for Integrity (ANI) cannot operate, due to a decision by the Constitutional Court. Around 80 MPs in the Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L) filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court to verify whether or not the law is compatible with the Constitution. This means ANI may soon be dissolved unless the Parliament comes up with another law to regulate the situation. The Agency was created as a recommendation from the European Commission to fight against the high level of corruption in Romanian public life. If ANI is not operational, this breaches a condition of Romania’s EU Accession Treaty.

One death from car accidents every three hours

Last year Romania clocked up eight deaths a day from car accidents in its worst 12 months ever in the number of road deaths. Also 2007 saw the largest number of work-related deaths, 370. According to a report drawn up by the National Institute for Forensics, most of the 3,000 car accidents took place. Areas witnessing the highest rate of mortality were the counties of Ilfov, Arad, Botosani and Timis.

Parliament to decide whether to investigate own members

Romania’s National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) has asked the Parliament to approve the investigations in the cases of four present and former ministers who are members of the Parliament. According to a recent decision of the Constitutional Court, DNA needs the approval of both the President and the Parliament in such cases. The future of the ex-Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, former PSD Minister of Transport Miron Mitrea, Liberal Minister of Labour Paul Pacuraru and former Conservative Minister of Economy Codrut Seres are in the hands of MPs.

South Bucharest muted for third airport

Minister of Transport Ludovic Orban has said the Capital’s local authorities will decide the location of a new airport in south Bucharest. The proposed areas include Popesti Leordeni, 1 Decembrie and Adunatii Copaceni. The Minister said the construction of the airport should be finished in two years after works start. Traffic in Baneasa Airport Aurel Vlaicu will be restricted due to the real estate boom in north Bucharest and environment regulations. This means there is a massive need for a new international airport. Baneasa Airport will remain open for small planes, helicopters, private and business jets.

Migration affects almost one tenth of kids

Around 350,000 Romanian children have at least one parent working abroad and 126,000 kids are left home by both of their parents, according to a new study by Gallup Romania. Eight out of every 100 children are affected by migration of the workforce to other countries. This situation affects Moldavia the most, where 100,000 children have parents working in Spain and Italy. Transylvania is the least affected area. Although the law states that parents working abroad must declare their departure to local city halls, only seven per cent inform the authorities.

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