Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Romanian political crisis worsens


Since joining the EU Romania has lurched deeper into a political crisis. The country narrowly missed a year's postponement of its EU membership after Brussels threatened the measure if Bucharest did nothing to stamp out endemic corruption.

In fact two years previously the head of state Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu presented an emergency joint plan to fight corruption. Both men belong to the same political party, the centre-right Justice and Truth Alliance, and both men had similar ambitions; ensure Romania's integration in the European Union. With Brussels one their side, the criminals would have nowhere to hide. That was the theory.

The architect of the drastic anti-corruption package was former barrister and human rights activist Monica Macovei. She became Justice minister in 2004, and persuaded parliament to approve the creation of the National Integrity Agency. Its mission was to check all ministers and members of parliament's assets, and where they came from.

This law allowed charges to be laid against
several businessmen and parliamentarians. But since then it has been attacked by the opposition and several members of the ruling party.

They accuse Macovei of using the anti-corruption campaign for political ends. The Senate has just passed a censure motion against her, but Macovei has refused to resign.

Another key government figure has been caught up in quarrels between the President and Prime Minister. The former foreign minister, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, was another architect of Romania's EU candidature, but he had to resign at the Prime minister's request after Tariceanu only learnt from the media that two Romanians had been arrested in Iraq by the Americans.

This open warfare at the summit of Romanian politics runs the risk of pumping oxygen into the extremists' camp. They could translate this into gains when the European elections are held on 13 May.

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