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Romanian report
by Euro Reporter
2015-03-16 10:56:02
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Romania embarrassed about giving Germany a map of France with a German flag on it

The Romanian Foreign Ministry has fired its spokeswoman after Germany's foreign minister was handed a gift with a map of France instead of Germany.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier received the gift— the German flag contained in a map of France— from Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu after a news conference on Monday to mark 135 years of diplomatic relations.

Aurescu personally apologized for the mix-up, as did the printing company. On Wednesday, the foreign ministry said it had fired spokeswoman Brandusa Predescu saying "the incident...projected a totally unfavourable image" of the agency. Romania said Steinmeier had responded diplomatically, saying he hadn't even noticed the gaffe.


Romanian finance minister charged with influence peddling

romania_400_02Authorities in Romania have charged Finance Minister Darius Valcov with influence peddling and detained an influential mayor and three others in a separate corruption case. Valcov was questioned and charged Friday in a case that stems from his time as mayor of the southern city of Slatina. Prosecutors said Valcov is suspected of favouring a local businessman for contracts with the city hall in 2009 in exchange for receiving a 20 percent cut. They said he received 2 million euros ($2.11 million) between 2010 and 2013. Separately, Marian Vanghelie — known for his influence in the ruling Social Democracy Party until recently — was detained early Friday. A court will decide later whether to formally arrest him on suspicion of taking bribes, money laundering and abuse of his position. Three others suspected of being part of the scheme were also detained.

In Vanghelie's case, prosecutors are investigating whether he also took a 20 percent cut of all contracts he signed as mayor from 2007. They say contracts from 2007 to 2015 were worth 2 billion lei (450 million euros or $475 million). Vanghelie was considered a deal-maker in the ruling party until he was expelled after openly criticizing Prime Minister Victor Ponta. A populist and entertaining figure, Vanghelie, 47, painted drab high-rise communist-era apartment buildings bright colours after he was first elected mayor of District 5 in 2000 and easily secured re-election in 2004.

He was known for verbal gaffes and grammatical errors which did not deter him from speaking bluntly in public, and he shrewdly tapped into the notoriety he gained. Despite his lack of formal education— he gained the equivalent of a high school diploma when he was 33 — he was known as a savvy political operator. Vanghelie was criticized for a lack of transparency in his town hall budget, but appeared to avoid investigation which critics said was due to his connections. His girlfriend, legislator Oana Niculescu-Mizil, was also questioned. She and Vanghelie have denied wrongdoing. As she exited the prosecutors' office on Thursday, Niculescu-Mizil said she would resign from Parliament and surprised reporters by announcing she was pregnant.


Romanian ambassador ‘bitter’ over C4’s migrant series

Channel 4’s documentary "The Romanians are coming" has sparked a diplomatic row, with the Romanian embassy expressing its “bitterness and disappointment” over the programme. Ion Jinga, the Romanian ambassador in London, has written to the producers of the three-part series accusing them of reinforcing negative stereotypes. Meanwhile three members of the Romanian parliament have written to the British ambassador in Bucharest to claim that the channel was inciting hatred and discrimination. The MPs’ letter, seen by the Observer, adds: “We kindly ask you to consider what your reaction would be if TVR, the Romanian public television channel, would launch a campaign of denigration pointed towards the British citizens in our country, generalising cases of alcoholism and paedophilia displayed by some British citizens (cases we are sure you are aware of), and turning them into the general image of all British citizens in Romania. The documentary broadcast by Channel 4 does the exact same thing.”

Channel 4 says the series – which ended on Tuesday – explored the lives of Romanians trying to make a new life in Britain, and sought the truth behind the headlines about immigration. The first programme featured Alex, who lived in a car park next to Victoria station in London, and a Romany man who struggled to settle in Liverpool. The second and third episodes also examined the poverty of Romania, where the richest 10% would be among the poorest 10% in the UK. The narrator says: “When you live in a place as poor as this, then where can you find hope?” One immigrant coming to the UK says to camera: “I am sure the English will throw us a rope.” A review in this newspaper described the programme as “an intelligent programme likely to dispel prejudices”, and it has been widely applauded for its humanity. However the response from some Romanians in the UK has been far less complimentary, with a silent protest recently held by students outside C4’s offices.

The ambassador complained that the programme has “ignored the fact that, in their overwhelming majority, Romanians living in Britain are well integrated into the local society”. He further claims that there are more than 4,000 Romanian doctors and nurses in Britain. Immigration is likely to be one of the major issues during the general election campaign. Last week an analysis from Oxford University reported that the migrant population of England had risen by 565,000 since 2011, with two-thirds coming from the EU. The figures suggest the foreign-born population of every local authority in the country may have risen. The Migration Observatory unit said it came up with the projections because similar official data will not be available before the general election. On 1 January 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians gained the same rights to work in the UK as other EU citizens. A spokesman for C4 said: “This sensitively handled series confronts, head on, many of the stereotypes and widely held prejudices about Romanians coming to the UK by providing an honest account of the experience of different individuals attempting to make a life in Britain. “The series makes it clear, throughout, that the majority of Romanians in the UK are professionals with guaranteed jobs who pay their taxes and contribute to the British economy.”


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