The Week in Bucharest Life

Or, The Mystery of the Disappearing Prime Minister.

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta went rogue this week (well, more rogue than usual), attending the opening ceremony of something called the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. (No, we’ve never heard of them either. They’re big in Azerbaijan apparently).

Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, did not attend, instead choosing to observe the unofficial boycott of the event by European Union leaders in protest at Azerbaijan’s appalling human rights record. Ponta on the other hand, not really giving two hoots about human rights or any such nonsense, couldn’t resist the chance to mix with such enlightened company as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarussian President Aleskandr Lukashenko and Recep Erdogan of Turkey: tyrants one and all.

The plot then thickened on Sunday when from Baku Ponta flew not back to Romania but to Turkey, aboard Erdogan’s presidential plane no less.

Ostensibly, Ponta is in Turkey for an operation on his knee, injured last month while playing basketball. That he was due at the DNA on Monday for questioning regarding the ongoing investigation into alleged acts of corruption is of course purely coincidental. Iohannis called Ponta’s presence at the games a ‘foreign policy gaffe’ and confirmed that he had not been informed of the PM’s intention to go to Baku, nor that he would be having an operation in Turkey and therefore temporarily unable to serve as prime minister.

Gabriel Oprea, leader of the UNPR and well-known for his love of dressing up as a soldier, is Romania’s prime minister until Ponta returns to work. He can only serve as interim for 45 days however: after that Iohannis must appoint a new prime minister. Interestingly, one of Oprea’s first declarations after taking the reigns on Monday was to state that if the PSD continued with its bid to change the penal code (making it more difficult to arrest, investigate and bring corrupt politicians to book) he would have to put the national interest first and leave the ruling coalition. This has ruffled a few PSD feathers. While the government might well survive a confidence vote without the UNPR, it would be touch and go, not least as more than a few PSD members would probably take the opportunity to jump ship.

As such, Ponta’s absence – and almost total lack of communication – becomes stranger still.

We should state at this point that while it may be morally reprehensible for a Romanian politician to choose to be treated abroad, Ponta is not the first. Both Calin Popescu Tariceanu – while serving as prime minister – and Traian Basescu – while in the president’s office – underwent surgery in Vienna.

Yet Ponta’s case is still very fishy. We do not doubt the fact that he has a knee injury, but the timing of the operation, its location and the length of absence reek to high heaven of funny goings on. We have no idea what the thinking behind it all is: it may simply be that Ponta wanted to lie low for a while in the hope that the controversy surrounding him (and the pressure to resign) would dissipate. It hasn’t. Indeed, he has simply brought more light on himself. Romania awaits his return, as does the DNA.

Perhaps they will be waiting for him? That’s what happened to the Mayor of Bucharest’s Sector 1, Andrei Chiliman of the PNL, on Thursday, as he returned from a visit of his own (to Brussels) to find the DNA waiting for him at Otopeni Airport. Chiliman has been named as a suspect in a corruption case centered on the renovation of blocks in his sector (Chiliman is accused of taking some enormous bribes). Victor Ponta’s brother-in-law (See how it works yet?) is a suspect in the same case. What will be interesting is what the PNL do: if they practice what they preach he will be suspended from the party until he is either found guilty (and kicked out for good) or acquitted (and the suspension lifted).

In other crime-fighting news, the leader of the Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 2007-2014 was on Thursday convicted of peddling influence and sentenced to five years in prison.

Meantime, any dreams we may have of the Ploiesti-Brasov section of the A3 motorway being built anytime soon are further from a reality than ever. It was announced on Thursday that the government had annulled its construction and maintenance agreement with the Vinci/Aktor/Strabag consortium (worth a whopping ā‚¬8.5 billion over 26 years), signed earlier this year. For the motorway, it’s back to square one, although a government spokesman did say that it remains ‘a priority.’

Not that we expect him to keep his word (he never does) but back in 2013 Ponta said that if the motorway was not completed by 2016 he would not candidate for a seat in parliament in that year’s elections. At the same time Ponta’s alleged partner in crime Dan Sova – the then Transport Minister – said that he would ‘sleep in a tent on the construction site to make sure they job got done.’

Well, maybe he would have done. The problem of course is that there is no construction site.

(In fairness, the cancellation of the contract – done in response to general public outrage at the ridiculous cost – is no bad thing. The amount was outrageous, and clearly would have been an excuse to dish out barrel loads of cash to corrupt officials. It is a sign that fear of the DNA now stalks much of the land).

Deserving bunch that they are, Romania’s parliamentarians voted this week to award themselves ginormous pensions. When asked why MPs should have huge pensions and the rest of the country shouldn’t, the delightful Marius Manolache (PSD; Ponta was godfather at his wedding – Who’d have thunk it?) said that parliamentarians should not be treated like ‘the ordinary people’ and that they deserved more money as a mark of respect for the fact that they had entered parliament. ‘There can’t be equality between MPs and everybody else, the likes of workers, engineers and doctors.’ We kind of knew that all ready.

In a first class piece of (clearly unintentional) trolling, Cristina van Bonzel Gomez – the wife of the Dutch Ambassador to Romania Matthijs van Bonzel – had orthopedic surgery on Tuesday in a Romanian state hospital. The ambassador publicly thanked the doctors and staff at the hospital in Bucharest (the same hospital our kids were born to be precise) on Facebook.

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19 thoughts on “The Week in Bucharest Life

    1. It’s not a military hospital, it is the university hospital at Eroilor, usually just called Municipal. You are confusing it with the military hospital (which should not exist, by the way) on Strada Witing.

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  1. Ponta is doing the ‘LA LA LA LA can’t hear you’ thing. He’s also showing how little he thinks of Romania and the people he’s supposed to represent.
    Here’s betting he comes back on day 44 with his smug, punchable grin acting like a saint.

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  2. Looking at the contrast between the leaders who attended the games and the leaders that stayed away, I think Romanians should take this very seriously.

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  3. Why not pass over more power to the EU fat cats?

    Allow the country to be controlled by Brussels, that should go down well with some of you.

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      1. Looks like the boards resident child Anon/Woger and now CommonSense-Less has allowed himself to be angered by me once again!

        When are you going to apologise to Geronimo for imitating him?

        I suppose the only credit you can get is for contributing to ruining this forum, I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before Craig puts a IP ban on you.

        Or maybe you’ll start acting as intelligent as you claim, and grow up and stop allowing fools like me to anger you – as surely super intellects like you wouldn’t be so weak minded to allow yourself to be so angered by people like me?

        Seems like your life isn’t as fulfilled as you keep claiming LOL šŸ™‚

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      2. Stop crying Roger. Wipe those tears away. We both know it was you impersonating Geronimo, and me, and others after your “I WILL NEVER POST AGAIN” meltdown.

        You may now post the same crap several times in a row while having yet another meltdown.

        Now a shame about that Farage fellow taking taxpayer money to rarely show up and represent the country’s interests in the EU Parliament.

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      3. You can dress it up as crying but I’m simply pointing out your weird stalking of me is ruining the forum.

        You’ve gone from Anon username to trying to impersonate and mock others, Geronimo included – you’re latest childish incarnation is this CommonSense-Less after your previous childish Woger … Now unless you can add to the debate and rather than your weird obsessive angry rants at me (a complete stranger) I’d suggest you take your problem elsewhere or certainly seen medical help for your mental health issues.

        Surely as you claimed how great your life is, you’ve got better things to do than ruin a pretty decent forum, where I imagine Craig puts hard work into … So I’ll ask nicely on behalf of probably many, please take your anger and childish rants elsewhere.

        Thank you.

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      4. Can you two go back to your original names please because I can’t keep up with whose who anymore? Your’s sincerely, Mr Rearguard.

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      5. I’ve been posting as this for a while now … It’s Anon/anon/Woger/Geronimo* (copied one) and CommonSense-Less etc etc who is an angry and obsessive stalker who appears to be unable to act and post in a mature manner, without getting angry and frustrated.

        Not sure why he’s changed from Woger to this, it can only be because he’s upset again, or he’d just simply post as Anon!

        No doubt he’ll blow again once he reads the truth, but it’s really his problem and not mine.

        Although sadly once again he’s hell bent on ruining the forum.

        I was quite happily minding my own business and he has to copy and imitate others once again – all after Craig asked for it to be packed in.

        So if people are looking for blame, take it out on the strange bloke with mental and anger issues who’s clearly not listened to a word Craig has said !

        Hopefully this will be the end of it and he’ll be a mature adult and go and have fun in his two luxury cars instead – or maybe he’ll just spend his life on here getting angry with strangers, who knows?

        šŸ™‚

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      6. Well as they pretty much control Greece, let’s see how well they do in sorting out the economic crisis.

        Personally I’d like to see Romanian people have a true democracy and be governed solely by Romania, and the Romanian people have a democratic right to decide on their laws, directives etc – obviously I’d prefer a democratic type of leader and this would exclude Ponta right from the off !

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  4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33266792

    Interesting set of official statistics regarding population increase into the UK – and this isn’t taking into account the illegal entrants.

    I’m not so sure the ones who want borderless countries and a free for all on the social security benefits of the UK have thought things through!

    Where do we stop? 100 million, 200 million?

    It certainly opens up a debate and one which has two sides, but surely most sane people can see a need for some form of reform to the control of movement of people – or do most on here subscribe to Craig’s view that we should allow people to go where they like and head straight for where it’s more prosperous ?

    That’s not such a bad idea in the sense of people bettering themselves BUT that would only work if all countries were equal, and quite simply they are not. So it’s kind of obvious (generally) people will head for where they will get a better life, but who funds this?

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