March
2008

POLITICS

Nastase strikes back
for election season

Ex-Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is returning to the political frontline of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), after his party voted him president of the PSD’s national council, a key decision-making position.
During the vote, President of the European Socialist Party Poul Nyrup Rasmussen sent a message to the PSD meeting telling the party to reform itself and “say goodbye to corruption”.
The Social Democratic Party forced Nastase to resign in 2006 from the leading positions he held in the party and Parliament. He was executive president of PSD and president of the Chamber of Deputies. At that time the prosecutors accused Nastase of taking and giving bribes worth millions of Euro in three different cases.
PSD’s decline in the opinion polls since 2004 has prompted the party to bring back the former Prime Minister to a position of power.
Former Minister of Transport Miron Mitrea, a close associate to Nastase, has also returned to the political frontline to lead the party’s electoral campaign. Mitrea is also under investigation for alleged bribe-taking from businesswoman Irina Jianu. In return, she is alleged to have received a high position in the Ministry of Transport.


Business lawyer picks up Justice Ministry

Business lawyer Catalin Predoiu has been appointed Minister of Justice in a surprising move which sees the Government looking outside its close-nit political sphere for a candidate with the appearance of independence.
Prime Minister Tariceanu had moved Defence Minister Teodor Melescanu to this role, but President Basescu did not approve the decision, stating he would not allow Melescanu to go before Bucharest’s NATO Summit this April.
39 year-old Predoiu founded a law firm in 1995, which subsequently became Zamfirescu, Racoti and Predoiu (ZRP) and speaks English and French. ZRP has worked for major oil companies and banks in Romania, specialising in arbitration & dispute resolution, banking & finance, capital markets and mergers and acquisitions.


European report slams changes
to criminal codes

New laws limiting the powers of prosecutors have been slammed by the European Commission (EC) in its interim monitoring report on the Romanian justice system.
The proposed changes to the criminal procedures code would have a “substantial negative effect” on the efficiency of criminal investigations in Romania, said the report. The modifications would mean investigations would be limited to six months in length, after which time any charges would not be admissable.
The amendments also state that prosecutors cannot undertake any bugging or house searching without informing the individual under investigation.
Another amendment to the package of laws would consider a fraud below nine million Euro as a ‘minor offence’ with a maximum penalty of five years in jail. “[These changes would] affect joint investigations with member states, the fight against terrorism and the prosecution of cross-border crime,” the report added.
The current changes are under parliamentary debate at present.


Post-accession EU funds
spent in 2007: zero

Romania has not spent one Euro in the first year of its EU accession from the 1.3 billion Euro in European cash allocated for 2007, according to data from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Around 28 billion Euro is available for Romania in structural and cohesion funds for a period of seven years between 2007 and 2013. This money is not reimbursable. The funds allocated for this seven year period can be spend up until 2015. A further 20 billion Euro from other types of European finance are also available for this country.


Wanted: Mayor for Bucharest

No clear candidates are emerging to be Mayor of Bucharest in the local elections due this May in what is likely to be a three-way battle between the largest political parties. Incumbent Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) mayor Adriean Videanu has not confirmed he will stand for a second mandate, while PDL ex-Minister of the Interior Vasile Blaga is a possible contender. More likely is current PDL deputy mayor Razvan Murgeanu.
From the National Liberal Party (PNL) Ludovic Orban seems the most eager of all candidates to run for City Hall, although his public appeal may be tarnished by a recent traffic accident in which his car hit a 14-year old girl.
For the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Sector 5 mayor Marian Vanghelie, member of Parliament Victor Ponta and party vice-president Cristian Diaconescu are potential candidates.
In a recent poll asking who should run for mayor, one fifth of the people of Bucharest favoured Sector 3 mayor and PDL member Liviu Negoita, followed by PSD’s ex-President of the party’s Bucharest branch Sorin Oprescu with 16 per cent. Negoita has stated that he wants to remain mayor of his own sector.


Investigations into secret police past of politicians shut down

An independent body making public the Communist Secret Police past of senior political figures has been shut down by the highest Romanian court, the Constitutional Court.
Public figures collaborating with the feared secret police, the Securitate, during Ceausescu’s reign of terror will walk free from scrutiny due to a decision criticised by both Prime Minister Tariceanu and President Basescu.
The National Council for Studying the Securitate’s Archives (CNSAS) was designed to investigate and judge on whether senior politicians had been informers or agents working for the secret service under Ceausescu’s dictatorship.
Ex-president of the Conservative Party (PC) Dan Voiculescu received such a verdict in 2006 and subsequently took the legitimacy of CNSAS to court. This February, the Constitutional Court decided in Voiculescu’s favour, stating that only a court of justice could give a verdict.
The decision undermined the legal efficacy of CNSAS.
Two days later the Government issued an emergency law allowing CNSAS to continue its activity, but robbed the institution of its powers to investigate. CNSAS will now only verify the Communist past of politicians. The institution is banned from checking the past of candidates before elections and will no longer be able to question those accused of collaborating with the Secret Police.
The Council will continue to host the Securitate’s archives which contain the files of everyone who had been dealing with the former secret police, except those which have been destroyed.
“The servants of dictator Ceausescu have killed CNSAS,” said Mircea Dinescu, a former dissident and CNSAS member.
The 2,000 verdicts of political police issued by CNSAS are null and void. Former Social Democratic (PSD) Minister of Justice Rodica Stanoiu, former Liberal Minister of Culture Mona Musca and a founder of the National Liberal Party Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici had been found ‘guilty’ by CNSAS.


Short News

European Commission wants truth on CIA terror suspects

European Commission (EC) has asked Romania to hand over all its details of internal investigations into the country’s alleged involvement in the CIA’s transport of suspected terrorists. A Romanian parliamentary commission published a report in March last year that state no one in Romania was guilty of wrongdoing. But three months later Dick Marty, a Swiss prosecutor working for the Council of Europe, accused both Romania and Poland of running secret prisons in the two countries and asked Bucharest for further clarification. The EC now wants the truth on whether Romania has made any further investigation. Last month the International Herald Tribune quoted a Romanian official from Mihail Kogalniceanu air base stating he witnessed three CIA flights in 2004 and two in 2005, carrying people looking like “bundled-up terror suspects”.

Rail boss flees from prosecution

National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) has issued an international warrant for the arrest of Mihai Necolaiciuc, general manager of the National Company of Romanian Railways (CNCFR), for abuse in service and losing 18 million Euro from the state company’s budget. But Necolaiciuc has fled the country and is understood to be in Australia. Six other managers in CNCFR were indicted in the same case. According to prosecutors, between 2001 and 2002, Necolaiciuc made deals with companies run by his associates for non-existent or useless products and services.

Electoral system likely to change

Starting in the next local elections due this May, Romanian citizens will probably vote under new rules mixing the existing proportional system with a new uninominal vote, otherwise known as the first-past-the-post system. This latter mode sees voters elect an individual or party member in a distinctive constituency. The new system will apply to the president of the county council, who until now was voted by members of the county council. The mixed system will also apply to the election of Romania’s MPs later this year.

Post office head indicted in
property scandal

Romania’s National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) has indicted Dan Mihai Toader, general manager at state postal service Posta Romana, of abuse in service. This is the same case in which ex-Minister of IT&C Zsolt Nagy, and ex-Minister of Justice Tudor Chiuariu are also under investigation. Prosecutors allege Toader sold public property of Posta Romana on Calea Victoriei to private developer Comnord, with the complicity of the two ministers who approved the transaction.

Politicians and ex-spies cannot buy homes on the cheap

Posh state-owned houses rented to well-connected politicians cannot be purchased by the tenants without an open auction, rules the Constitutional Court. Ex-heads of Romania’s former secret police Securitate, present ministers and other dignitaries can now rent high-value houses for low prices from state property administrators RA-APPS. MPs have tried to pass a bill allowing the tenants of these public buildings, many of whom are MPs, to buy the houses on the cheap. But the Constitutional Court decided that all public properties, including those under RA-APPS, can only be sold by public auction. Social Democrat President Mircea Geoana and ex-boss of Romania’s Communist Foreign Intelligence Nicolae Plesita are among the RA-APPS tenants.


Source : http://www.thediplomat.ro/news_review_0308.php