Thursday, December 24, 2009

Controversial Romania pick alarms EU

BRUSSELS, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The nomination of a glamorous and controversial minister to lead Romania's regional development efforts has alarmed European officials, observers say.

Elena Udrea, 36, currently minister of tourism under the caretaker government of Prime Minister Emil Boc, will add the regional development position to her portfolio upon Boc's reappointment as premier. She will be responsible for spending $5.3 billion in European Union aid, the EUobserver reported Wednesday.

A protege of recently re-elected President Traian Basescu, Udrea has posed for glossy magazines in her underwear, and has been accused of cronyism and was investigated by criminal prosecutors in connection with public money used to fund media campaigns -- accusations that never resulted in charges.

Her appointment reportedly has alarmed European analysts.

"To entrust Ms. Udrea with the bulk of EU funds is simply scandalous ...," Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, an analyst with the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, told the EUobserver, said. "The Romanian media repeatedly reported the very favorable public contracts her husband's company received in the last years and her privileged access to the president have made her a hugely controversial character."

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