October
2007
POLITICS NEWS
 
Vol. 3 No.8  
 
   
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Justice reform takes back-seat
to political infighting

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     Open war has broken out between Minister of Justice, Tudor Chiuariu, and the head of the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA), Daniel Morar.
     While Chiauriu attempts to sack DNA prosecutors, Morar fought back by asking President Basescu to approve criminal investigations into the Minister of Justice himself.
     DNA is entitled to investigate large corruption cases involving politicians where damages are higher than one million Euro. Names under investigation include former PM Nastase and former ministers Miron Mitrea, Dan Ioan Popescu, Dan Voiculescu and Codrut Seres.
     Soon after he took office, Chiuariu tried to dismiss key anti-corruption prosecutor Doru Tulus. Tulus’s work was then placed under analysis by the Supreme Council of Magistracy (CSM), the only institution entitled to dismiss prosecutors. The Minister of Justice, also a member of CSM, made public classified information from the evaluation report about some ongoing DNA investigations and accused the anti-corruption prosecutors of acting like a Political Police.
     Morar did not dignify Chiuariu with a response. He argued that CSM’s investigation into Tulus is not objective and is using false information.
     Morar was appointed by former Minister of Justice, Monica Macovei, who was highly praised by the EC for her activity in reforming the justice system and fighting corruption.
     Prime Minister Tariceanu sacked Macovei this April. Chiuariu has allegedly tried to dismiss both Morar and general prosecutor Laura Kovesi. But it is understood that such a plan was not to the liking of the European Commissioner of Justice, Franco Frattini, who has called for consistency and efficacy in justice reform.
     Chiuariu has also attacked Macovei, claiming the former Minister of Justice gave NGO Freedom House the right to undertake an independent evaluation of the anti-corruption policies in Romania, in a fixed public auction. Chiuariu said that due to this evaluation, Macovei was able to appoint Morar to the key post. Chiuariu even implied one of the Freedom House experts, Tom Gallagher, a professor at the Bradford University, took illicit money from state institutions and Romanian NGOs.
     Gallagher denied any involvement or taking any cash from any such institutions. “Mr Chiuariu is trying to discredit civic organizations which played a vital and honourable role in ensuring that reforms occurred in the Romanian justice system that enabled the country to join the EU in 2007,” the British Academic said. “Through hurling these ridiculous and completely groundless accusations around, Chiuariu has offered the strongest proof yet that he is one of the principal gravediggers of the PNL”
     Another blow to appointments from the Macovei leadership was given to prosecutor Doru Dobocan, head of the Department for Preventing Criminality. Chiuariu dismissed Dobocan for an undisclosed reason.
     But the DNA has fought back. Morar has asked President Traian Basescu to approve a criminal investigations into Chiauriu.


Former ministers and party presidents dominate Euro lists

     All parties have finalised their lists with candidates for the European Parliamentary (EP) elections due on 25 November, where parties with over a five per cent threshold of the total number of votes can send representatives to Brussels and Strasbourg.
     Former Minister of Finance between 1997 and 1998, Daniel Daianu, and Renate Weber, ex-head of George Soros-backed NGO Open Society Romania and former presidential counsellor to the governing National Liberal Party (PNL) top the party’s list for the elections.
     The Social Democratic Party (PSD) received a blow from his initial candidates, Victor Ponta and Vasile Puscas, who withdrew from the EP battle. The two politicians are part of the few Social Democrats who enjoy the electorate’s trust and their decisions are considered a big loss. Ponta is currently vice president of the PSD, while Puscas is the former Romanian chief negotiator with the EU. Party secretary general, Titus Corlatean, and active MEPs already in Brussels, such as Adrian Severin, Gabriela Cretu, Corina Cretu, Rovana Plumb and Adriana Ticau are on the PSD list.
     The Democrats, currently ahead in the polls, have chosen former Defence Minister Sorin Frunzaverde as top of the list. MEPs Roberta Anastase and Maria Petre are some other candidates that the Democratic Party is employing.
     Smaller parties have decided to run in these elections with their presidents as candidates: the Liberal Democratic Party with Theodor Stolojan, the New Generation Party with George Becali and the Greater Romania Party with Corneliu Vadim Tudor.


Hunting season targets top politicians

     Last month, the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) issued a mountain of letters asking for President Basescu’s approval to start criminal investigations against many senior politicians in Romania.
     Former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is under scrutiny in a case alleging an illicit manner in which he became the owner of a villa in Bucharest on Strada Zambaccian, Dorobanti. Nastase is already on trial for two cases of allegedly taking and giving bribes respectively.
     Former Minister of Transport in the Nastase Government, Miron Mitrea, is under investigation for allegedly taking a bribe. According to DNA, Vertcon, a company owned by businesswoman Irina Jianu, renovated the villa of Mitrea’s mother in north Bucharest. In return, Jianu received a high position in the Ministry of Transport.
     Liberal Minister of Justice, Tudor Chiuariu is accused, along with former IT&C Minister Zsolt Nagy, of abuse in service against the public interest, with the purpose of gaining financial benefits. Victor Babiuc, ex-Minister of Defence, is under DNA scrutiny for alleged bribe-taking. Babiuc’s case concerns several army generals, civilians and George Becali, president of the New Generation Party (PNG). In 1999, Babiuc allegedly agreed to make an exchange of land with Becali, the owner of Steaua Bucuresti football club. Becali allegedly received 21 hectares of prime land in north Bucharest in return for the Ministry of Defence’s 21 hectares in Stefanestii de Jos, Ilfov county.
     Finally, the DNA asked the President to approve criminal investigations against current Minister of Labour, Paul Pacuraru, also accused of taking bribes.


Chisinau consul bribe affair goes under scrutiny

     Romania's General Prosecutor's Office will decide whether to start criminal investigations into the Romanian consul to the Republic of Moldova, Alexandru Rus, for alleged bribe-taking. Under a bilateral agreement between the two countries, the Moldovan General Prosecutor's Office sent Rus's case to the Romanian Ministry of Justice for further investigation. The Moldovan authorities accuse Rus of taking illegal payments from Moldovan travel agencies in return of issuing visas for Romania. This case became an international scandal in August, when the Moldovan Government went public with the accusations. President Basescu said at that time that this was an "aggression" orchestrated by Chisinau against Romania.


New media Patriarch aims for communication revolution in church

     New head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel, believes the Church should use modern communications methods to speak to their constituencies. "We need a radio and a daily newspaper for the entire Church," Daniel told Trinitas, the radio station of the Metropolitan Church of Moldavia and Bucovina. As a Metropolitan Bishop, Daniel founded Trinitas, Lumina newspaper and obtained broadcast license for Trinitas TV station. Daniel, the Metropolitan Bishop of Moldavia and Bucovina was elected as the sixth Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. He won in the second round against his contender Bartolomeu Anania, the Metropolitan Bishop of Cluj. The third candidate, the Bishop of Covasna and Harghita, whose candidacy had actually been the surprise, was put out of the race in the first round. Daniel is 56 years-old and he is seen as a leader of the reforming wing of the Romanian Orthodox Church. He has distinguished himself through acts of charity.


Parliament: no place for action

     Parliamentary activity between February to June 2007 has seen a sharp drop in debate and law-making, shows a report of the Institute for Public Policies. One criteria used to determine this was the voting presence. Members of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), National Liberal Party (PNL), Conservative Party (PC) and Greater Romania Party (PRM) showed the most absentee members. MPs such as Viorel Hrebenciuc, Ion Iliescu, Adrian Nastase, George Copos, Adrian Paunescu, Mircea Geoana and Cornel Vadim Tudor gave little importance to Parliamentary activity, said the report, an activity for which they are paid for. While PRM members issued the most draft laws, a PSD Deputy, Ovidiu Musetescu, issued none in the five months of the parliamentary session. But even more worrying is the fact that ever since the start of their mandate, at the beginning of 2005, 57 Deputies from all parties did not make any comment or ask any question to Government. In terms of loyalty, the Democrats and the Liberals listen the most to the call of their parties, while the Social Democrats are rather inclined to vote differently from their masters, said the report.

Short News

Minority Government on thin ice

     Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) has filed a censure motion against the Tariceanu Government to be voted by MPs at the beginning of October. Theoretically, PSD, with support from the Democratic Party (PD) and the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) could remove from power the Government of the National Liberal Party and Democratic Union of Hungarians (UDMR). 232 votes out of the total 463 are needed for the motion to be adopted. The Conservative Party and the Greater Romania Party have announced they will support the governing Liberals and UDMR. One deciding factor of the censure motion’s success was for the voting procedure to take place openly in the Parliament, but MPs decided to have a secret vote, which lessens the chances for the motion to succeed. If the motion passes through, the President has the right to appoint a new Prime Minister who will choose a new cabinet. But a new Government will need approval by Parliament, which is unlikely to happen due to the weak alliances between the parties. This would then trigger early general elections.

Becali: throw gays into ghettos

     Leader of the New Generation Party (PNG), George Becali, has said that, should he become the next President, he will build separate neighbourhoods for the gay community. The owner of Steaua Bucuresti football team, Becali also believes gay clubs and sex shops should be closed. Becali has said in the past that he would never shake hands with a gay person. The president of PNG also said that he never wants to hear the Queen song ‘We are the Champions’ at the Steaua stadium, because it was sung by Freddy Mercury, who the presidential candidate described as “a crazy faggot”. Becali’s party has 11 cent in the last opinion poll conducted by BCS. The businessman is top of the list for his party in the upcoming European elections on 25 November. If the polls are realised, Becali will take his seat in Strasbourg at the beginning of next year.

Government without legality

     Parliament’s upper chamber, the Senate, has rejected two Emergency Ordinances issued by Prime Minister Tariceanu to reduce the number of Ministries and other posts after he ousted the Democratic Party from Government this Spring. This means nine of the current 15 ministers and hundreds of other state functionaries are working illegally. Only the governing Liberals and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania voted in favour of the emergency ordinances. The Government can issue another ordinance, but this will need to be passed by the Senate again.

Barroso: focus on energy,
migration and security

     Energy, migration and security are areas where Romania has a crucial role to play in the EU, said EC President Jose Barroso on a recent trip to Bucharest. The senior EU head also said a key challenge facing the EU was the integration of minorities, where he particularly outlined the position of the Roma. He added Romania should concentrate on the implementation of judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime – areas which the Commission continues to monitor with the threat of sanctions.

Liberals purge civil service of Democratic prefects

     Prime Minister Tariceanu’s Liberal Government has sacked Bucharest’s prefect Mioara Mantale and eight other prefects, all but one of whom were members of the Democratic Party (PD). Tariceanu has decided to replace them all with people from the National Liberal Party (PNL). After the PNL threw out the PD from power at the beginning of April, the Government dismissed Democrats from key positions in central institutions. Tariceanu replaced Mioara Mantale with one of her subordinates, 31-year old Catalin Deaconescu, sub-prefect to Bucharest. Tariceanu has placed Mantale in Deaconescu’s previous position, but Mantale said this is an abuse in power which she will fight in court.


 
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