Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Posts Tagged ‘Romania

NYT: The Curse of Corruption in Europe’s East

leave a comment »

BUCHAREST — This summer, after the police arrived at the handsome villa of the former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase to arrest him on corruption charges, he apparently pulled out a revolver and tried to kill himself. Millions of Romanians watched on television as Mr. Nastase, 62, was carried off on a stretcher, a Burberry scarf wrapped around his neck. He survived, and one week later was behind bars. But this is Romania, where everything, it seems, is a matter of dispute.

Anti-corruption advocates hailed Mr. Nastase’s downfall as a seminal moment in the evolution of a young democracy. Others have called his conviction for siphoning $2 million in state funds for his presidential campaign a show trial. Mr. Nastase’s opponents now allege that he faked a suicide attempt in an effort to avoid prison. His son Andrei Nastase, who was at the house at the time, said the accusation was absurd.

Whatever the truth, Adrian Nastase now occupies a cell measuring 4 square meters, or 43 square feet. On his jailhouse blog, he recently recounted how prisoners ate cabbage and potatoes, braved rats and had hot water for two hours twice a week.

Today, analysts here and abroad say the Nastase case has come to reveal as much about Romania’s political polarization and dysfunction as its halting steps toward greater democracy. It comes amid heightened fears in the European Union that its newest and weakest members are not up to the task of rooting out corruption that is a legacy of decades of Communist rule and, indeed, of weak governance before that.

Across Eastern and Central Europe and the Balkans, countries are experiencing a surge of instability that, analysts say, stems almost in equal parts from endemic corruption and the sometimes ham-fisted efforts to combat it in the context of bitter political rivalries.

The European Union, with 27 member nations, is so concerned about creeping lawlessness among its new members that Romania and its neighbor Bulgaria, which both entered in 2007, have not joined the bloc’s passport/visa-free travel area. On Thursday, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, said concerns about corruption and fraud in Romania had prompted it to block E.U. development aid, potentially worth billions of euros.

In Croatia, which is set to join the European Union next year, former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has been charged with embezzlement.

Romania, in particular, has struggled to overcome the aftermath of the ruthless, corrupt dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. Over the past six years, 4,700 people have gone to trial on corruption charges, including 15 ministers and secretaries of state, 23 members of Parliament and more than 500 police officers.

To many, Mr. Nastase, a former member of the Communist elite who was prime minister from 2000 to 2004, is emblematic of a generation of still active politicians who assumed that power and influence could shelter them from the law. Once asked to account for his apparent wealth, he defiantly roared, “Count my eggs!” a Romanian slang word for genitals.

Monica Macovei, a former justice minister who is close to Mr. Nastase’s archrival President Traian Basescu, said that “There are too many people from the Communist era like Nastase who are still in power, and this has polluted the political class.” Read more in The New York Times.

Advertisements

NYT: Symbol of Romanian Leadership? Hands on a Throat

leave a comment »

BUCHAREST, Romania — Perhaps the best that can be said of relations between the president and prime minister of Romania is that they are unambiguous: they can’t stand each other.

That is less than surprising, given that one of the first major actions taken by Prime Minister Victor Ponta after he came to power in May was to push for a vote on whether to impeach the president, Traian Basescu. The attempt to oust Mr. Basescu failed in July, but the poisonous effects are still being felt.

The acrimony has dashed the high hopes that accompanied the electoral victory of the 40-year-old Mr. Ponta, who promised to usher in generational change in a country that has struggled to overcome one of the harshest Communist legacies among the former Soviet bloc states.

The two men are now locked in an uncomfortable cohabitation until elections in December, leaving this poor Balkan nation adrift. And even that vote, analysts say, may prove inconclusive.

In an interview at the gargantuan and opulent 1,100-room Palace of Parliament, built by the former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as a monument to his authority and grandeur, Mr. Ponta acknowledged mistakes but fell short of expressing outright regret. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

October 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

Borderlands Europe (1)

with 8 comments

Geopolitical Journey, Part 2: Borderlands is republished with permission of  STRATFOR.

By George Friedman

A borderland is a region where history is constant: Everything is in flux. The countries we are visiting on this trip (Turkey, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland) occupy the borderland between Islam, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Roman Catholic Hapsburg Austria struggled with the Islamic Ottoman Empire for centuries, with the Ottomans extending northwest until a climactic battle in Vienna in 1683. Beginning in the 18th century, Orthodox Russia expanded from the east, through Belarus and Ukraine. For more than two centuries, the belt of countries stretching from the Baltic to the Black seas was the borderland over which three empires fought. Read the rest of this entry »

The WP: Romania’s political crisis puts spotlight on ragged democracy in Eastern Europe

with one comment

By Associated Press, Published: July 26

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s President Traian Basescu says he’s on “Mission Impossible” to save democracy in this former Communist country. His opponents hope he’s on an impossible quest to save his job.

As Romania holds a referendum Sunday on impeaching Basescu, the ugly political battle has raised questions about the rule of law in the fledgling EU member. It comes against the background of similar concerns about shaky democracy across Eastern Europe, in countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia that are striving to join the European mainstream.

Basescu’s rivals are seeking to impeach him for the second time in five years.

They claim the 60-year-old populist former ship captain violated the constitution by meddling in government business, coddling cronies and using the powerful secret services against enemies. Basescu says the impeachment process is a political vendetta carried out by opponents plotting to seize control of EU funds and the country’s justice system. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

July 27, 2012 at 6:52 am

Burberry Scarves, Impeachment, Plagiarism — It’s Romania

with 2 comments

By Marc Champion Jul 19, 2012 10:49 PM GMT

Romania is never boring.

A few days before I drove into the country on a journey from Turkey to the U.K, a former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, shot himself rather than be taken to jail for corruption. He missed. Wounded in the neck, he was carried away with a Burberry scarf wrapped around the injury.

Bucharest, meanwhile, was abuzz with the revelation that current Prime Minister Victor Ponta plagiarized 85 pages of his doctoral dissertation on the International Criminal Court. That’s a sin that also triggered the resignation of Hungary’s president in April and a German defense minister last year. After an educational board confirmed Ponta’s copy-and-paste job, he began dismantling the board to make its rulings toothless. Then he revoked the constitutional court’s powers over parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

Ceausescu super-star

with 2 comments

The Telegraph: Romania is sliding unremarked into despotism

By Daniel Hannan July 18th, 2012

It started with the cuts. In January, Romania became the fourth EU country (after Greece, Italy and the Netherlands) to see its government fall over Brussels-imposed austerity measures.

Romania has a largely parliamentary system. The president, however, does have important non-ceremonial powers, especially when it comes to the formation of new administrations. President Traian Băsescu, who had been loosely affiliated to the defeated Centre-Right government, accordingly asked Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu, an independent, to form a ministry that could deliver budgetary restraint. Leftist parties immediately began to suborn individual MPs until, three months later, the government fell on a confidence motion. A heterogeneous administration was then put together under the socialist Victor Ponta, united mainly by its hostility to the former regime. Read the rest of this entry »

The Washington Post: About a Political Disaster – 3 in 1

with one comment

Romania’s repressive moves

By Editorial Board, Saturday, July 14, 2:24 AM

COVERAGE OF THE crisis in Europe has tended to focus on economic questions, such as whether Greece or other governments will default on their debts or whether the euro currency will survive. The growing political damage to institutions, and to democracy itself, is sometimes overlooked. But in several countries there has been an alarming erosion of political comity and constitutional checks and balances, driven by populists who exploit the public’s dissatisfaction with economic hardship. Read the rest of this entry »