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Romanian report Romanian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-07-21 10:29:22
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Romania walls in its Roma

The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in the European Union. And most live as second class citizens, in abject poverty. In the Romanian town of Baia Mare, a mayor has come up with a radical solution - he's rehousing families in dilapidated communist-era offices and building a wall that closes them in. This decision is popular with the locals - Catalin Chereches is now one of the most popular politicians in Romania.

And Chereches says the move is a step up for many families. It gets them out of the slums "where naked children play in the dust with stray dogs and cats." As Chereches said, "It's clear; conditions there are not similar to the Hilton or Marriott. But this doesn't mean this is not a step forward towards their civilization and emancipation." 

But Roma advocacy groups see it differently. "This is breaching human rights," Robert Vaszi, director of Roma rights group Asociatia Sanse Egale.

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Romania PM plagiarized thesis: university academics

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta plagiarized much of his doctoral thesis, a panel of Bucharest University academics said on Friday, raising tensions before a referendum on impeaching the country's president, a rival of the premier. The leftist Ponta denied the accusation, which echoed a finding of another academic panel three weeks ago whose legal authority he then voided, and again said he would not resign. He has drawn European Union criticism for undermining the rule of law in a campaign by his Social Liberal Union party to impeach President Traian Basescu through a July 29 referendum and tighten its grip on power in the corruption-ridden state. "Elements of plagiarism were identified in the doctoral thesis of Mr Victor Ponta especially in chapters one and three," said Marian Popescu, president of the ethics commission at Bucharest University, which awarded the doctorate.

"It is our commission's decision that (Ponta's) 2003 doctoral thesis called 'International Criminal Court' at the Bucharest Faculty of Law breaks the ethical, integrity and good conduct principles of the research activity." Another panel, from Romania's council for certification of titles, diplomas and university certificates, concluded in late June that Ponta copied a large part of the thesis. But he rescinded that council's legal authority, said its finding was politically motivated and he would not resign. Ponta says only an education ministry panel, which has cleared him of plagiarism, is entitled to judge the case. "This is a political decision," he said of Friday's ruling. Plagiarism charges have forced several European politicians to quit, including Hungary's president, a German defence minister tipped as a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, and one of Ponta's nominations as education minister.

Science magazine Nature said last month that more than half of Ponta's Romanian-language thesis, submitted for his doctorate at the University of Bucharest, consisted of duplicated text. The prime minister has said his only error was to list sources in his bibliography rather than give credit in footnotes and has asked a separate ethics panel to investigate the accusations. The supervisor of Ponta's doctorate, former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, started serving a two-year jail sentence this week on a corruption charge. Ponta has said the plagiarism accusations are part of the political sparring with Basescu. Asked about whether Ponta's doctorate could be voided, Bucharest University Rector Mircea Dumitru said: "The rector cannot withdraw his diploma. It can do so only after the education ministry gives its approval." Ponta's government joined forces with parliament earlier this month to suspend Basescu, a conservative, and polls show most Romanians will vote to permanently remove him due to his association with austerity measures and a perception of corruption among his political allies. But Ponta's government has come under heavy EU pressure to respect the rule of law with Brussels criticizing the way in which it is handling what amounts to a political power struggle.

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Romania's currency weakens on new twist in political drama

Romania's currency hit another record low against the euro Friday, its latest in a two-week selloff, with the currency once again falling victim to the country's politics. The most recent hit to the Romanian leu was a statement from the University of Bucharest that said Prime Minister Victor Ponta had plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis. This new turn, in an ongoing tussle between the country's two leading political parties ahead of a fall election, casts a shadow over the country's stability for the next few months. The euro rose to 4.604 leu, crossing its previous highest level of RON4.573, on investor selling. "Nobody wants to buy Romania," said Guillaume Tresca, head of emerging-market strategy at Credit Agricole in Paris.

Romania, a member of the European Union, has been in upheaval for much of the past two years as its political stability deteriorates and its economy slides in sync with troubles in the rest of the continent. Earlier this month, impeachment proceedings were initiated against the country's president, Traian Basescu, whose party is in opposition to Mr. Ponta's leftists. A national referendum set for July 29 could confirm the impeachment.  While other European politicians have had to resign following similar allegations, investors don't expect Mr. Ponta to leave office, said Viktor Szabo, a portfolio manager at Aberdeen Asset Management. Some investors have taken confidence in Mr. Ponta's assurance that a 5 billion euro ($6.1 billion) precautionary credit line from the International Monetary Fund and the EU would continue. But there could be some fallout in the relationship with these entities, Mr. Tresca said. Already, the EU is pressing Romania to ensure the independence of its judiciary and powers of its Constitutional Court.

Further complicating the leu's recent decline, with the currency down 3.4% to the euro this month, is a previous rush of investors into leu. Investors in May and June had made positive bets on the leu expecting that the central bank would strive to keep the currency in the 4.40 to 4.45 range per euro. But a lack of action from the central bank despite the selloff in recent weeks has forced investors to close their bets. "The central bank may intervene to smooth the depreciation, but has no made indication that it would cap the depreciation," Mr. Tresca said, adding that the currency could weaken even further ahead of the elections. Despite the weakening of Romania's currency, investors who hold the country's external debt are standing pat, on the belief the country will make payments on its debt and on an expectation the dollar bonds are immune from the weakening currency. Romania's 10-year dollar bond, issued in February with a 6.75% coupon, is trading at a premium of 104.29 cents per $1, according to MarketAxess data.



       
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