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Romanian report Romanian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-03-31 09:34:09
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Former Romanian prime minister sentenced to probation for blackmail

Former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was placed on three years of probation Friday in a corruption case that had been under investigation for more than six years. Romania's Supreme Court found Nastase guilty of committing blackmail while he was prime minister, from 2000 to 2004. He also had been accused of bribery, but the court found him innocent on that charge. Nastase had denied all the charges in the case and said the trial was a political one, ordered by Romania's current president, Traian Basescu, who defeated Nastase when the two ran for president in 2004. Nastase's lawyer, Ion Cazacu, said he might appeal the decision. Nastase's wife also was placed on three years of probation for using false documents. She was found innocent on other charges, including bribery.

The trial of Nastase and his wife started in 2010 after Romania's Anti-corruption Agency accused them of bribery and blackmail. Another main figure in the case was Irina Jianu, former head of a state construction agency, who was found innocent on charges of money laundry and bribery. However, the court found her guilty of using false documents, and she was sentenced to three years in prison. During the trial, the Anti-corruption Agency stated that Nastase received directly or through his wife €630,000 ($840,000) from Jianu while he was a prime minister. In return, the agency said, Nastase named Jianu as head of the construction agency. According to the prosecutors, the money was used by Nastase to buy objects and goods from China and to cover the cost of some work done at two of his houses, in Bucharest and Cornu. The Supreme Court found Nastase and his wife innocent regarding these accusations. The anti-corruption agency also said Nastase sent almost €90,000 ($120,000) to Ioan Paun, who was then a Romanian consul-general in China. The agency said the money was meant to be used in China for the purchase of various goods and objects for the Nastase family.

This was the second conviction for Nastase this year. In January, he was sentenced to two years of prison in what was known as the Quality Trophy corruption case. He has appealed that decision. In that case, the Romanian Supreme Court found Nastase guilty of illegally raising €1.6 million ($2.1 million) during his 2004 campaign for president as the candidate of the Social Democrat Party. Nastase was also involved in another case, known as the Aunt Tamara case, in which he was accused of paying a $400,000 bribe to the former head of the country's anti-money-laundering agency to delete some documents related to his wife's bank account. Nastase was found innocent in that case. Nastase was the first former prime minister and the highest official to get a jail sentence in Romania since the fall of communism.


38 Romanian mayors quit ruling party

More than three dozen mayors from one Romanian county have quit the ruling party with local elections just months away. The defections Friday underscore the unpopularity of the Democratic Liberal Party, which has had to impose tough austerity measures on the population due to the economic downturn.

The 38 mayors quit after Sorin Frunzaverde, a senior Democratic Liberal member also from Caras Severin County, quit the party after accusing its leaders of undemocratic practices. Frunzaverde said Wednesday he would join the opposition Liberal Party. He claimed Romania had become “a police state” where people are afraid to even speak freely on the phone. Romania holds local elections in June and general elections in the fall.


High school for Roma sparks confusion in Romania

Roma NGOs in Romania are vehemently criticising a proposal to create a high school for community youth in Bucharest after the project was marred from the very start by a series of confusing statements. It began on March 13th, when Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu announced the founding of the first Romani teaching high school in the country, based on a project submitted by the minorities group in parliament several years ago. The school, to be housed in a deserted military barracks supplied by the ministry of defence, is aimed at curbing the very high dropout rate among Roma children.

But one of the initiators, Varujan Pambuccian, leader of the minorities group in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament, stressed that the classes will be conducted in Romanian, and the Roma children will only have access to Romani language and civilisation courses at the high school. Pambuccian put the confusion down to a language lapse on the part of Ungureanu. Roma leaders are up in arms over the confusion. "This shows they do not know what they want," Magdalena Matache, executive director of the Romani Criss, a leading NGO representing the Roma community said. "They just threw out an idea, without any prior public debate and without any concrete document to support this project. It is a chaotic and improvised initiative. The Roma people cannot any longer be used as political manoeuvre instruments," she added.

"In this current shape, the initiative is also a form of segregation and discrimination: by ethnically separating the Roma students from the others by forcing them to attend the Romani language and civilisation classes. The law only allows for either integral Romani teaching schools or bilingual ones," she continued. Matache said a Romani teaching system cannot be created overnight. "There are no school manuals in the Romani language or high school specialised teachers to teach Romani. These resources take at least a decade to put together to start a serious Romani teaching system." The initiative was a just a diversion, she said. The project was made public to distract public attention from a fierce debate in the ruling tripartite coalition about the creation of a Magyar teaching medical school in Targu Mures, which brought the coalition to the brink of collapse.

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