Parliamentary delegation to Iraq?
Three Members of Parliament from the Greater Romania Party (PRM) and two from the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) travelled to Iraq this week. Unfortunately, the visit was not sanctioned by Parliament—any official visit has to be authorised by the Permanent Bureau of the Chamber of Deputies. A PRM spokesperson said that three members of the party had gone to Baghdad with the agreement of the PRM leadership and that Parliament had been informed. PDSR were less clear.
While party Vice-President Viorel Hrebenciuc said that no PDSR member was in the delegation, another spokesperson said that if members had gone to Baghdad without permission they would face the consequences on their return. The Iraqi news agency reported, "The airplane, transporting a parliamentarian delegation coming to express their solidarity with the Iraqi people, landed on the international airport Saddam."(Monitorul, 12 February 2001)
As the week progressed the emphasis of the story changed. Prime Minister and PDSR leader Adrian Năstase said that the members of his party were visiting Iraq as part of a UN approved mission under the "food-for-oil" programme. Năstase said that the parliamentary delegation included businessmen who were preparing for re-establishing relations with Iraq should UN sanctions be lifted. He said that the PRM members were private individuals and not part of the delegation.
Delegation from the Peoples' Republic of China
Prime Minister Năstase, after meeting with representatives of the foreign relations department of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that the government was ready to restart commercial and economic cooperation with the Peoples Republic of China.
Ghiorghi Prisăcaru, the president of the Senate Foreign Policy Committee said, "Romania must recover the series of delivery markets which have been neglected by the former coalition, such as Russia or China. We must adopt a pragmatic attitude of development of economic relations, although the latter should not mean neglect of our main objective, Euro-Atlantic integration." (Nine o'clock, 13 February 2001)
Defections from PRM
Luca Ştefănoiu, a Member of the Chamber of Deputies, has resigned from the PRM. He has informed party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor that his resignation is a result of the party's move to the far right of the political spectrum. He announced that he would join the National Renaissance Socialist Party (PSRN). This is a new party founded this week by Ioan Radu, also a former member of PRM. It is believed that more PRM deputies are planning to join this party.
PRM leader Tudor has accused President Ion Iliescu and the PDSR of supporting the creation of PSRN in an effort to gain a socialist majority in parliament. If this comes about, the accord with the National Liberal Party (PNL), Democratic Party (PD) and the UDMR would no longer necessary. Tudor said, "Shame on you, Mr Iliescu! You stole the presidency of the country from me, now you want to steal my party!" (Mediafax, 13 February 2001) In response Radu said that his new party was close in its beliefs to PDSR but asserted that, "We are far from accepting the idea this group will be a satellite of another party" (Mediafax, 14 February 2001)
Another party in turmoil
Tudor is not the only party leader who is facing difficulties. Petre Roman, leader of the PD and Foreign Minister in the last government, has faced much criticism from his party and appears to be on the point of being removed from office. Traian Băsescu, the mayor of Bucharest, has already announced that he will be seeking election for the post of PD president. Băsescu said, "I am not running against Petre Roman, I am running for the PD." (Nine o'clock, 12 February 2001)
Other senior members of the party have called for a change at the top and with a leader who will restore national credibility to the party. At the weekend, the National Council voted for the presidential election to take place in May, voting against the proposal of Roman who wanted a delay until September. Suggestions as to the cause of PD's poor showing in last years' elections have ranged from Roman's attacks on Iliescu during the campaign to his role as a leading member of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) government which lost all credibility with the electorate.
Concern over government appointments...
The newly elected head of the parliamentary committee which oversees the operation of the foreign intelligence service (SIE), Ristea Priboi, is to be investigated by the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS). CNSAS has demanded Priboi's file from the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) following allegations that he concealed his membership of the Secret Services and denied collaborating with the Securitate.
PDSR General Secretary Cozmin Guşă rejected the allegations saying that Priboi had informed both the Central Executive Bureau of PDSR and the SIE Committee of his work with the Secret Services before his appointment. Guşă said, "These elements were known and presented to the SIE Committee before voting." (Mediafax, 13 February 2001) Priboi denied that he had lied to CNSAS. He said, "They asked us to declare whether we were collaborators. I did not collaborate. I was an officer." (Evenimentul zilei, 12 February 2001)
This is not the only senior position in the intelligence services that former Securitate officers are being elected to. EvZ Online carried a story which points to the expected appointment by the Supreme Defence Council of Tudor Tănase as head of the Special Telecommunication Service (STS). Tănase served in the Securitate until the overthrow of the communist regime in Romania. Up to this appointment he has been a Brigadier-General in the STS reserve.
Nine o'clock suggests, however, that a possible candidate for this post is Francisc Tobă. Allegations that Tobă, a PDSR member, had been involved in the inhumane suppression of the 1989 revolution in Sibiu are being heard at the Bucharest Military Court of Appeal. PDSR General Secretary Cozmin Guşă denied that Tobă was being considered for this post.
Mircea Dinescu, a member of the CNSAS board, criticised the law under which the board has to operate. He said, "the law protects Securitate officers. We try the victim and pardon the executioner. Some Securitate men fully cooperated to draft this law, either in the Constantinescu, or in the Iliescu camp." (EvZ, 13 February 2001)
The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) is believed to be proposing amendments to the law following rulings against one of their parliamentary candidates prior to the general election of November 2000. The new head of the SRI, Radu Timofte, has also called for the law to be amended. Although he gave no details of proposed amendments he said, "I think that, at present, the CNSAS employees find it difficult to apply this law." (Monitorul, 10 February 2001)
...and legal decisions
President Iliescu has suggested this week that it would not be impossible for Miron Cozma, leader of the Jiu Valley miners, to received a pardon. Cozma is at present serving an 18-year jail sentence for heading the miners' violent attacks on Bucharest in 1991. Justice Minister Mihaela Rodica Stănoiu has expressed doubts as to the safety of the conviction. An appeal against the sentence could be made shortly by Cozma's legal team.
Criminal proceedings against vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies Viorel Hrebenciuc have been stopped. The PDSR Member of Parliament had been charged with taking bribes and abuse of authority in the case of the "Eternal and Fascinating Romania" album. The charges against Hrebenciuc came about as a result of investigations into Adrian Costea, a French-Romanian businessman. He was alleged by investigating French magistrates to have been involved in a money laundering operation which supposedly benefited certain PDSR members. Documents held by the French magistrates showed Hrebenciuc's name on a list of those who received gifts from Costea.
The EvZ Online editorial on 15 February took a critical stance against the PDSR government. "There are too many indications that many compromised people under suspicion of having done wrong or under investigation are being reappointed to important offices overnight."
Focussing on the concern of many Romanians it asked, "Is it out of the question that Miron Cozma will be released from jail and decorated? Is it out of the question that PDSR treasurer Gheorghe Paşcu will become sort of a honorary chevalier of God knows what order? Is it out of the question that Radu Timofte has turned smart overnight and Ristea Priboi has turned into a dissident?" (EvZ Online, 15 February 2001)
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