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Romanian report Romanian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-09-30 09:16:53
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Failed power grab puts Romanian PM in tight spot

After four months in power and a failed attempt to oust the president, Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta is under fire at home and abroad, with his coalition under strain before an election in December when victory is now far from assured. Ponta, a leftist Social Democrat, seemed to have it all when he became the European Union's youngest prime minister in May, his alliance with liberals enjoying a robust parliamentary majority and opinion poll ratings above 60 percent. Now the man who was supposed to represent a change of guard for his party, successors to the Communists of late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, is under strain.

Rather than tackling the many problems of the EU's second poorest country, Ponta's term so far has been dominated by his party's attempt to overthrow President Traian Basescu, which has provoked conflict with the judiciary, concern in Brussels and uncertainty among investors over a deal with the IMF. "The governing parties have come across as trying to secure all the levers of power without regard to democratic checks, and the very negative reaction of western states has shaken confidence," said Sergiu Miscoiu, an analyst at the CESPRI political think-tank. Five years after joining the EU, Romania has made little progress under a series of short-lived governments in reforming its state-dominated economy and fighting widespread corruption. Basic problems which most EU countries overcame decades ago, such as running water supplies for all, remain unsolved.

Instead, many Romanians feel sidelined within the EU. Brussels is monitoring its respect for the rule of law and its drive against corruption, and the country remains excluded from the passport-free Schengen area. "We hope that following the elections in December, the political turmoil will end and the authorities will focus more on improving the country's economic situation," said Grzegorz Konieczny, who runs Fondul Proprietatea, a 3.4 billion euro fund that holds stakes in dozens of Romanian companies.


Romanian police seize thousands of packs of contraband cigarettes from Serbia, Ukraine

Police have detained two men who illegally crossed the border from Serbia into Romania with some 2,000 packets of contraband cigarettes, as authorities crack down on cigarette smuggling from non- European Union countries.

Border police said Thursday officers fired into the air during the capture of the two Romanian men who are being investigated for cigarette smuggling, illegally crossing the border and tax evasion.

Separately, police said authorities discovered 30,000 packets of Ukrainian contraband cigarettes with a market value of €65,000 on Tuesday in two houses in the northwest city of Siget. Unlike Romania, Serbia and Ukraine are not EU members. In July, Romanian authorities discovered 600,000 packets of cigarettes in a parked truck near Romania's border with Serbia. They originated in Montenegro and were en route to Moldova.


Romania police track bear after latest deadly attack

Police and hunters were tracking a brown bear which attacked and killed a man in the south of Romania on Wednesday, just days after a bear infected with rabies was shot dead after it killed a man and injured two others in the same area. Romania boasts roughly half of Europe's brown bears living in its largely unspoilt Carpathian mountains, with estimated 4,000-7,000 animals, according to environmentalists. The bear which killed the 64-year-old man on Wednesday in Dambovita county, northwest of Bucharest, had escaped from a poacher's trap before it attacked. It then disappeared into a forested area nearby.

"The bear was tangled in a trap and hurt. We do not know if the man who was attacked was just passing by or whether he had laid the trap himself," Dragos Rusu, prefect of Dambovita county, told local television station Realitatea TV. The area around the scene of Saturday's bear attack, which killed a 71-year-old man in his orchard, has been placed under quarantine after preliminary autopsy results showed the animal had rabies. Two other people were also injured. Romania's mountains have been home to brown bears for centuries, and their numbers surged in the 1970s and 80s when former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu banned hunting for all but himself and his lavish hunting parties.

Now the law limits bear-hunting to a little under 350 animals a year, which officials said is needed to maintain their population, but poaching may lift the figure higher. Bears are often seen foraging through trash cans in Romanian mountain towns, and there have been cases of bears breaking into apartment buildings, backyards or pubs. Several people, including foreign tourists, have been killed or injured by hungry or scared bears and environmentalists have warned the animals' natural habitat is being destroyed by construction and food resources are becoming scarce.

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