Romanian Parliament sparks harsh international reactions with vote to provide immunity against corruption charges Romanian MPs voted on Tuesday a series of changes to the Penal Code that would boost their immunity in case of corruption charges. The vote, which prompted media to call it "The Black Tuesday" of Romanian democracy, sparked a series of harsh reactions from Western embassies and international institutions on Wednesday. "This move by the Parliament is a step away from transparency and rule-of-law and is a discouraging sign for investors", said the US Embassy to Bucharest in one of its harshest positions on Romanian events for years.
UPDATE Romanian deputies from Judicial Commission secretly vote amnesty law setting ground for amnesty to prison sentences of up to 6 years and full pardon for prison sentences of up to 7 years, Bill eventually withdrawn A draft legislation on amnesty proposed by two Romanian deputies received amendments in a secret session by members of the Judicial Commission of the House of Deputies on Monday night. While the Commission was discussing a bill on lobby activities, some of the Commission members met separately to amend the amnesty bill. According to sources, the bill was changed as follows: amnesty for certain offenses sanctioned with prison sentences of up to 6 years and full pardon for prison sentences of up to seven years in certain cases. The change, supported by the Social Democrats according to sources, would benefit prominent politicians who have been accused or even sentenced for corruption crimes, including former PM Adrian Nastase.UPDATE The bill was eventually withdrawn from the Tuesday plenary session agenda following protests from all parliamentary parties excluding PSD and the Conservative Party.
Major investigation in 50 million euro tax evasion case involving Romanian senator, Finance Ministry employees and a prosecutor ​Romanian investigators launched over 160 searches at the headquarters of various companies and at homes in Bucharest and the counties of Prahova, Giurgiu, Arad, Calarasi and Ialomita on Monday. The investigation eyes the activity of over 100 Romanian and foreign companies suspect of dodging taxes worth about 50 million euro. Informed sources told the investigation eyes employees of the National Tax Administration Agency and of the Public Finance Ministry as well as a High Court prosecutor and a senator.
Hundreds of people protest in Romanian village where Chevron is due to place shale gas exploration drills Several hundreds of people were protesting in the village of Silistea-Pungesti in Eastern Romania on Wednesday against plans by US company Chevron to start operating the first shale gas exploration drill in the county of Vaslui, news agency Agerpres reports.
Sources: Romania PM Victor Ponta to leave for US on Sunday Romania's prime minister Victor Ponta is due to leave for an official visit to the US on Sunday, but it all depends on how the government shutdown in the States comes to an end - if no solution is found by Friday, the visit might be postponed, diplomatic sources have told They said PM Ponta's agenda includes talks with Vice-President Joe Biden and another top official and a series of meetings with representatives of US companies. Meanwhile, Romanian minister-delegate for Energy Constantin Nita attends an energy and investments conference in Washington DC.
US Embassy to Bucharest insists on vital importance of Romania's key anti-corruption body ​The US Embassy to Bucharest issued a statement on Friday related to a major scandal engulfing Romanian politics, sparked by a prosecutor general's decision to dismiss a key anti-graft prosecutor from office, a move seen by many observers as a political interference with the judiciary. The Embassy warns of the vital importance of the National Anti-Corruption Department in efforts to ensure the independence of the justice system and to fight corruption.
U.S. Embassy reacts to Romania justice scandal: The appointments in the National Anti-Corruption Directorate must be the result of correct procedures and consultation The Embassy of the United States to Bucharest made a statement on Friday related to the scandal now affecting the Romanian justice system.
Dutch Ambassador to Bucharest says "we should all refrain from comments" in case of Romania justice scandal ​Dutch Ambassador to Romania Matthijs van Bonzel made a statement on Thursday related to a scandal now affecting the Romanian justice system. Speaking of a decision by Romania's prosecutor general to dismiss a prosecutor who led investigations into a high profile politician - a move described by President Traian Basescu and others as an interference with the justice system, Ambassador van Bonzel said "we should all refrain from comments, a fortiori from interference in the policy of the Public Prosecution".
Romanian President Traian Basescu turns against cohabitation pact with prime minister Victor Ponta, accuses him of "brutal intervention" on Justice Romania's President Traian Basescu announced on Thursday he would no longer support prime minister Victor Ponta because of the head of government's "brutal intervention" into Justice affairs. Basescu said in an interview with B1 TV news channel on Thursday morning that today he would review the cohabitation pact he had with the prime minister following the victory in the 2012 general elections of the coalition led by Victor Ponta.
Influential Romanian businessman-politician Dan Voiculescu receives a first prison sentence in major corruption case. Appeal announced ​The founding leader of the Conservative Party, a small but influential part of the governing coalition in Romania, received on Thursday a 5-year sentence in a major corruption case involving the privatisation of an agricultural institute. Dan Voiculescu and several other people received sentences of 5-6 years in the case, which can be appealed. The sentence comes over 1,700 days since Dan Voiculescu - a veteran politician, businessman connected to the former Communist trade structures and secret police and with his family the owner of a major media group - was officially indicted in the case.
Digging for gold in Rosia Montana, Romania: Announced "closure" of mining project corners government with continuing protests and threats of legal action ​A Canadian company's plans to dig for gold in Rosia Montana, Romania, which has sparked disputes for a decade and a half, threatens to come to an abrupt end as a series of unprecedented protests have forced the Bucharest government to step back and announce the "closure" of the project. Still, the announced decision has yet to be made official by a vote in Parliament, which may come in the upcoming days or weeks. The protests, attended by many young people and in contrast with what Romanians are used to in terms of anti-government demonstrations over the past two decades, forced authorities to step back with their approval of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) project on Monday. The Victor Ponta-led executive is now caught between the promise to drop support for gold mining in Rosia Montana, threats of legal action by the company that runs the project and protests by mining supporters.
Romanian minister Relu Fenechiu receives 5 year sentence in corruption case. PM Ponta says he would take over ministerial job until new minister is named Romania's Transport minister Relu Fenechiu, a member of the National Liberal Party, received a 5-year sentence in a corruption case on Friday. The sentence can be appealed. Fenechiu's brother, Lucian Fenechiu, also received a 5-year sentence in the same case. Relu Fenechiu has ben indicted under charges of abuse in office against public interest and complicity to abuse in office in a case dating in the early 2000's and related to public procurements in the region of Moldova, which benefited Fenechiu's companies.UPDATE PM Victor Ponta announced following the court verdict on Friday that minister Fenechiu informed him about his wish to withdraw as a member of the government. Ponta said he would take over as interim minister until a new one is named.
Jonathan Stillo, the TB expert quoted in The Sun: I feel terrible, the whole thing was completely taken out of context/ It's not OK that they turned a public health problem into this anti-Romanian message On Wednesday, The Sun published an investigation saying that Romanians coming to the UK starting 2014, when the "doors will open" will infect the British with a deadly TB superbug. Jonathan Stillo, the TB expert quoted by the tabloid, explained in an interview for that everything he said was taken out of context and that it is very "frustrating" and "not OK" that they turned a public health problem into an anti-Romanians thing, given that Romanians aren't the ones infecting everybody with TB. An American citizen, Stillo is a doctoral candidate in medical Anthropology at City University of New York Graduate Center (not a British researcher) and has been researching TB in Romania for the past 7 years. He says Romania is his second home.  
Bucharest Tribunal decides sentenced ex-PM Adrian Nastase may leave on parole The Bucharest Tribunal decided on Monday that former Romanian PM Adrian Nastase, who had been sentenced to two years in a corruption case, may leave on parole. The decision was taken by two judge votes against one. The former prime minister will be freed from Jilava penitentiary.
Romania's veterinary and food control authority in alert as horse meat labelled as beef was found at local vendor ​Romania's national veterinary and foot control authority ANSVSA initiated a quick response alert on Wednesday after it found horse meat labelled as beef at a company in Ilfov county near Bucharest, a press release says. ANSVSA says the meat was aimed at local market distribution and no connection could be made with the EU-level horse meat situation. The head of ANSVSA also announced he informed the police about what he called a form of intimidation, by which the horse meat was linked to an abattoir owned by his father.
Romanian businessman, politician receives 3 year sentence with conditional suspension of execution Romanian businessman and politician Gigi Becali received on Monday a 3-year sentence with conditional suspension of execution in a case in which he was charged with forcefully retaining several people involved in a car theft. Becali, best known as the man who controls Bucharest football club Steaua and as a former member of the European Parliament turned member of the Romanian Parliament - is not in Romania for the moment. He announced last weekend that he was in Dubai and would not return before the court sentence.Shortly after the reading of the sentence, Becali told Romanian news TV channel RTV by phone that he was resigning from the National Liberal Party and that "I have nothing to do in that country [Romania] anymore".
OPINION Hezbollah, a security threat to Europe The conclusions of the official investigation of the Bulgarian Government into the 18 July 2012 Burgas bus bombing are clear: the terrorist organization Hezbollah was directly responsible. (...) Terrorism has no boundaries and the time has come for the European Union to recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and place it on its official list of terrorist entities.
Top Romanian politician involved in corruption case Dan Voiculescu resigns from Senate again​ Dan Voiculescu, the founding leader of Romania's Conservative Party, a small but highly influential party of the governing coalition, announced his resignation from the Senate on Monday. The announcement comes several days before a new term in a corruption case involving Dan Voiculescu was due at the High Court of Justice. His resignation means the case is returned from the High Court, which deals with cases involving dignitaries, to a lower court - the Bucharest Tribunal. It is the second time in less than a year when Voiculescu resigns as Senator and thus avoid High Court hearings.
Romanian PM Ponta says government looks for solution to increase taxes on high incomes among public sector employees Romanian PM Victor Ponta said in an interview with the Romanian-language version of on Friday that his government was looking for the "right judicial and constitutional solution" to allow for higher income taxes for budget sector employees with incomes of more than 4,500 lei (1,000 euro). He said he believed that an income of 1,000 euro would provide for a "decent living in the public sector".
Romanian PM Ponta says integrity body will receive extra responsibilities to combat EU funds-related conflicts of interests Romania's National Integrity Agency (ANI), a key body in preventing and fighting conflicts of interests, will receive more responsibilities in combating conflicts of interests related to EU funds, an initiative which would be discussed in government session next week, PM Victor Ponta said in an interview with the Romanian-language version of on Friday.


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