Biting the bullet
Arresting rising gun crime and securing the borders for a Schengen link-up in 2010 are the aims of Cristian David, the Minister of Interior and Administrative Reform, as he talks to Ana Maria Nitoi
Road traffic in Bucharest can be murder. Long queues, confusing lights and little regard for pedestrians’ rights cause tensions that can spiral into violence. Last August a man crossing the street in Piata Iancului entered into an altercation with a driver who nearly ran him down. During the row, the car-owner brought out a pistol and shot the pedestrian with rubber bullets. In the same month, the driver of a vehicle failing to give priority to another driver was shot with a similar gun.
Such ‘Rubber drive-bys’ have multiplied since 2005, when the law allowed any Romanian resident over 18 years old, who notifies the Police, to purchase compressed air guns and rubber bullets. Now, 35,859 people in Romania are registered owners of such non-lethal fire-arms. But this year alone, the police registered 40 potentially criminal incidents using.
This is a rising concern for the Minister of Interior and Administrative Reform, Cristian David, who has decided to forward a draft law which aims to keep more guns off the streets.
“The increase of security which all citizens need is my most important objective and I intend to do that by assuring public order and security and by preventing and fighting against criminality,” David says.
Considered a priority objective by the National Police, street crime should now see more police on the beat, with 5,000 new vehicles and a 23 per cent increase in patrol teams. To ensure a joint management of public order structures, David has created the Department for Order and Public Security, which aims to reduce violent street attacks and muggings.
Fighting against organised crime is another area where the Ministry of Interior has directed its activity by aiming to improve co-operation between law enforcement Romanian institutions and similar institutions in Europe and also by developing a witness protection programme. Credit card offences are increasing as e-commerce becomes more common in Romania.
“Foreign authorities, especially from the Great Britain, Spain and the Nordic states have pointed out numerous cases in which Romanian citizens have been discovered of committing ATM fraud,” David says.
To meet European standards, the Police, the Border Police and the Gendarmerie are in the process of reform. New cars, technology and surveillance equipment are coming on board for the security services to help them move closer in line with their European Union neighbours. The Minister explains that securing the borders needs constant care and improvement and the Ministry has to fulfil all the requirements of Romania’s accession to the Schengen area, which will most probably take place in 2010.
A close ally of Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a member of the National Liberal Party (PNL) ever since 1990, David is a former minister delegate monitoring the spending of European funds. Since April this year, the 39 year-old has held one of the most important seats in the Romanian Government, previously occupied by Democrat Vasile Blaga.
David’s predecessor received high praise from European officials for his reform of the public administration system. Many on the pan-European political scene indicated that replacing the Democrat was not the wisest choice of action for a reform system that needs continuity and consistent leadership.
A large bulk of the 30 billion Euro allocated to Romania up until 2013 from EU funds is targeted to areas which fall under the jurisdiction of public administration. But one of the problems is the lack of preparedness of public institutions.
“Writing and implementing projects for European funding is a difficult problem because of the limited institutional capacity of most of the public authorities and because of their lack of experience,” says David.