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A roundup of the main developments in Romania this past week
Romania’s nominee for EU commissioner, still uncertain
There are “serious doubts” that Romania’s new nomination for European Commissioner has been made by Bucharest “in a legitimate manner,” given that the Government failed to coordinate with President Klaus Iohannis, the European Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva said. She added that this does not mean a rejection from the Commission, but that the issue must be clarified in Romania. Given the forthcoming challenges and opportunities, it is to everybody’s best interest for Europe to move on without delay and, whoever the Romanian candidate may be, they must be acceptable for the President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and get the required support in the European Parliament, Mrs. Andreeva emphasized. The outgoing PM Viorica Dancila had nominated the former minister delegate for European Affairs Victor Negrescu for the post, but President Iohannis said that after being dismissed on October 10 in a no-confidence vote in Parliament, Dancila no longer has the legitimacy to nominate a new candidate. Previously, 2 other nominations made by the Social Democratic Party had fallen through: the former minister Rovana Plumb, rejected by the European Parliament’s committee on legal affairs over integrity questions, and Dan Nica, for whom official procedures did not even get to start.
Orban cabinet seeks Parliament’s approval
Thirteen of the 16 candidates for minister seats in PM designate Ludovic Orban’s new Liberal government were green-lighted in the hearings held by the relevant parliamentary committees. The exceptions were Ion Stefan, the candidate for the Ministry for Public Works, Development and Administration, Violeta Alexandru, for the Labour Ministry, and Florin Citu, for the Public Finances Ministry. At the end of the interviews, the PM designate said the negative opinions had been political in nature, and appreciated the performance of all candidates. He added he would keep the same candidates for Monday’s vote in Parliament. The specialized committees only have consultative power on the matter. In response, the Chamber of Deputies Speaker, Marcel Ciolacu (Social Democrat) said the practice so far has been for the candidates rejected by the committees to be replaced by the PM designate. Orban needs 233 votes to become PM, and to this end he has signed political agreements with Save Romania Union, the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians, the People’s Movement Party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and MPs representing ethnic minorities.
14 presidential candidates
By no means spirited or in any way exciting, the campaign for the presidential election continues, with 14 candidates in the race. All parliamentary parties have representatives in the campaign: the incumbent President Klaus Iohannis backed by the National Liberal Party, the incumbent PM Viorica Dancila backed by the Social Democrats, Dan Barna (USR-PLUS), Theodor Paleologu (People’s Movement Party), Mircea Diaconu backed by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and by Pro Romania, and Kelemen Hunor (Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians). The candidates Catalin Ivan, Ninel Peia, Sebastian-Constantin Popescu, John-Ion Banu, Ramona-Ioana Bruynseels and Viorel Catarama are supported by parties from outside Parliament. Bogdan Stanoevici and Alexandru Cumpanasu are independent candidates. The first round of the presidential election is scheduled for November 10, and the second for November 24. Under a Government resolution, the Romanians living abroad will be able to vote between November 8 and 10 for the first round of the election, and between November 22 and 24 for the second. The countries hosting the largest numbers of polling stations will be Spain (148), Italy (142), Germany (84), Britain (73), France (48), the USA (38) and the Republic of Moldova (36). The voters registered on a dedicated online platform may already vote by mail.
Colectiv fire, commemorated
On Wednesday in Bucharest religious ceremonies and a protest rally marked 4 years since Romania’s largest civilian disaster since the fall of communism. On October 30, 2015, during a concert held in the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, fireworks candles ignited the insulating material covering the walls of the overcrowded hall. Sixty-four people died on the spot because of the smoke or burns, and around 200 others were injured. Two years after the fire, a survivor committed suicide, bringing the toll to 65. The trial against the nightclub owners is still lingering. The then Health Minister Nicolae Banicioiu has failed to appear before the prosecutors, who had subpoenaed him as a witness in a criminal investigation into the response of the authorities after the fire. Meanwhile, a civic group based in Iasi (north-east) filed a criminal complaint against the chiefs of the Department for Emergency Response, headed by state secretary Raed Arafat. They are accused of having concealed evidence, more specifically video recordings, after the media released previously unseen footage of the emergency unit intervention the night of the tragedy. “Now we know how chaotically they acted. We had always suspected the ‘rescuers’ of unprofessionalism and lack of empathy, but the footage confirms our suspicions,” the militants said. In turn, Arafat says he has known nothing about the recording and that he will not resign, but will leave if asked by the Prime Minister.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)
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