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Romania heads to first round of presidential elections in key moment for democracy and state of law Romanian democracy and state of law are facing a new challenge 25 years after the fall of communism as the country heads to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday. Social Democratic prime minister Victor Ponta, the ethnic German mayor of the city of Sibiu Klaus Iohannis spearheading the opposition and 12 other candidates are vying for the seat which incumbent President Traian Basescu has held for ten struggling years. The first round of elections today ends a campaign like no other in Romania's recent past, with no real political debate but marred by a sweeping wave of corruption-related arrests, suspicions of intelligence services interfering with the political process, and a heavy use of biased media to smear rivals and shove sensitive issues under the carpet.
Romania President Basescu claims PM, presidential candidate Ponta served as foreign intelligence office in 1997-2001. Ponta doesn't confirm or dismiss, but speaks of "lies". Possible effects of scandal Romania President Traian Basescu claimed on Monday evening that PM Victor Ponta, who is a leading candidate for the November 2 presidential elections, served as an officer for the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service in 1997-2001. PM Ponta on Tuesday morning avoided confirming or dismissing the allegation, but spoke of "lies" and "trash" pushed by the President. The accusations possibly has major political and security implications and sparks a huge scandal just weeks before the first round of the presidential poll.
Romanian anti-graft prosecutors call for criminal inquiries against no less than nine former ministers in Microsoft-related case Romania's National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) plans to start criminal inquiries against nine former ministers for alleged acts of corruption in a case related to the acquisition of Microsoft licenses. The head of DNA on Friday demanded the Prosecutor General to notify the President of Romania, the speakers of the Senate and House of Deputies and the European Parliament so that it start criminal inquiries against the nine, who served as ministers in Social Democrat Adrian Nastase's government in the early 2000's and in more recent years, when Emil Boc, a Democratic Liberal, served as PM.
Russia's silent threat. The pillars of Kremlin influence in Romanian domestic life "There is no rational threat to Romania [from Russia], but we have to prepare for the irrational", Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a speech in late August, as Russia's campaign to split Eastern Ukraine was in full swing. Irrational or not, Russia is already playing in Romania several of its aces, some built hastily, some built carefully in time. The purpose of the Kremlin is to influence the domestic and foreign play of a troubled country, as it does along its Western borders: in the three Baltic states, in Poland, not to mention the Republic and Moldova and Ukraine. The stake for Moscow is to keep NATO and EU as far away from its borders as possible in order to keep away the democratic values of the Western bloc and prevent a deterioration of its sphere of influence.
Romania President Traian Basescu calls on EU, NATO allies to provide weapons to Ukrainian army, says financial, military, energy sanctions on Russia are needed President Traian Basescu said at at a meeting with Romanian ambassadors on Friday that a major escalation of Russian acts in favor of separatists in East Ukraine was obvious and that there was a risk that the balance turned in favor of the Russian Federation. He said that at the European Council on Saturday he would call for the strengthening of the sanctions already decided on Russia, in the financial, energy and military sectors.
Romanian excises on fuel, energy or coffee based on a fictitious exchange rate While the Romanian currency, leu (RON), has been stable since the beginning of the year, with an average rate of 4.45 RON/euro, the Romanian Government has invented a RON/euro rate above the real one in order to draw more money from excises. For the whole year of 2014, the currency rate set for the calculation of all excises has been set by an emergency ordinance at 4.738 RON/euro. Thus, prices for all excisable products (fuel, electricity, alcohol, tobacco, coffee, luxury products) are based on a rate which is 6.4% higher than the real one.
Romanian mogul Dan Voiculescu, influential businessman and politician, receives 10 year prison sentence in corruption case The Bucharest Appeals Court gave a 10-year prison sentence in the case of Romanian mogul Dan Voiculescu, one of the country's most powerful people, in a corruption case related to the privatisation of a food research institute. The historic verdict is final and comes after years of judicial procedures, delays, political maneuvering and media attacks on the judiciary. A previous court had given a five year sentence in the same case, but it was appealed.
Pascal Bruckner: Putin doesn't tell us how much he despises us, he sees us as degenerates / Not only France, but the whole Europe seems to want to drop from history Pascal Bruckner's generation is the last generation of French thinkers who get involved in public debates. "Nothing can happen without debate", says Bruckner in a long discussion with Romanian website Contributors.ro about great French intellectuals, about the angst and low spirits of the French for the past several years, about politics and Putin, about the French law against prostitution and about his last book, autobiographic novel "Un bon fils", recently published in Romanian. Bruckner remains a moralist with a high interest in politics - he spares nothing to criticize the current French president - a dauntless supporter of Europe and a thinker always ready to polemicize.
Romania PM Victor Ponta's chief secretary summoned to National Anti-Corruption Department Romania prime minister Victor Ponta's Head of Chancellery Vlad Stoica was summoned to the National Anti-Corruption Department on Wednesday for his witness account in a major corruption case involving the local mogul of the governing Social Democrats (PSD).
Putin's ideologist Aleksandr Dugin has visited Romania Russian President Vladimir Putin's unofficial ideologist Aleksandr Dugin has been in Romania for the past several days, where he met representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church about his Eurasian project "The Third Rome", writer Mircea Popa, secretary general of the Romania-Russia Foundation, has told HotNews.ro.
Romania Parliament adopts statement calling for resignation of President Basescu Romania's Parliament adopted on Wednesday a non-binding political statement calling for the resignation of President Traian Basescu, in the wake of a public scandal in which Basescu's brother is accused of involvement in acts of corruption.
Romania is for the first time amongst Knight News Challenge winners with a consortium of EurActiv.ro & RISE Project - OCCRP The Romania-based project "Who are the gatekeepers of the Internet, cable and satellite infrastructures in Eastern Europe? Mapping and investigating media distribution providers" was among the nine projects selected for funding by the Knight News Challenge. The Knight Foundation organized on June 23 the MIT-Knight Civic Media conference "The Open Internet and Everything After", in order to present this year's granted projects of Knight News Challenge. 704 applications have been submitted, with nine projects selected for funding.
Romania President's brother placed in 30 day preventive arrest under traffic of influence charges ​The Bucharest Tribunal decided on Friday evening that Mircea Basescu, Romania President Traian Basescu's brother, be placed in 30-day preventive arrest under traffic of influence charges. He is accused of receiving 250,000 euro from the son of anotorious underworld boss Sandu Anghel, locally known under the nickname of Bercea Mondial, in order to prevent a prison sentence for Bercea Mondial.
Romanian TV station broadcast video showing compromising images of President Traian Basescu's brother dealing with underworld boss' son Romanian TV news channel Antena 3 gave a heavy blow to President Traian Basescu on Wednesday night as it presented a short film in which the President's brother, Mircea Basescu, appears to admit receiving money from a member of an convicted underworld boss's family in order to intervene at judiciary level for a milder sentence of the latter. On Thursday, Mircea Basescu claimed he has not ask for nor received any money in this case, while PM Victor Ponta, the president's archrival, called for the resignation of the president.UPDATE President Traian Basescu made a statement on Thursday that between the need to strengthen the Romanian judiciary and the natural reflex of defending his brother, he chooses strengthening the judiciary. UPDATE 2 Mircea Basescu said on Thursday that he was summoned at the National Anti-corruption Department as a suspect and that he, like his brother the president, regretted his "entourage".
Romania's governing Social Democratic Party clear winner in European elections Social Democrats (PSD), the governing party in Romania, and their smaller political allies emerged as the clear winner of the European elections on Sunday, according to multiple exit polls announced by TV news stations. PSD claimed 41 to 43% of the votes, according to exit polls, followed by National Liberals (PNL) with 13.3-15% and the Democratic Liberals (PDL) with 10-12%.
Romanians expected to vote for 32 seats in the EP on Sunday after campaign seen as training ground for local presidential elections later this year Some 18 million Romanians are invited to vote for their 32 representatives in the European Parliament on Sunday. Running in the elections are 500 candidates, 13 parties, two alliances and 8 independents. A dull electoral campaign was dominated by confrontations between the governing Social Democrats, their former partners the National Liberals and an array of right-wing parties and was seen more as a testing ground for presidential elections due to take place in Romania later this year.
VIDEO INTERVIEW NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I expect NATO summit in September to take long term measures to enhance collective defense / I would be surprised if Russian intelligence isn't active in Romania as well NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with HotNEws.ro on Thursday that Russia's "illegal" military actions in Ukraine have changed the security situation in Europe "dramatically". He said during a visit to Bucharest that he expected a NATO summit in September to discuss long term measures to enhance the collective defense of member countries. Rasmussen also spoke of how the Russian misinformation campaigns try to influence decision making in NATO member states and and of an increased intelligence activity by Russia.
EU, NATO member Romania faces troubles in Eastern neighbors as corruption inquiries fuel the fire on domestic front Romania struggles these days to figure out what is of utmost importance to the nation: the troubles in neighboring Ukraine and in the Republic of Moldova and its separatist, pro-Russia Transdniester region? Or the corruption scandals currently affecting the governing party and, as a reaction, attempts to redirect attention to PM Victor Ponta's archenemy, President Traian Basescu? As domestic and international expectations of NATO-, EU-member Romania intensify, Social Democrat Ponta becomes the first head of a Romanian government who while in office is mentioned in a corruption case - even though he is not personally part of the graft accusations.
EXCLUSIVE. IKEA deals in communist-era Romania were interfered with by dictator Ceausescu's secret service Securitate - unclassified files Swedish company IKEA used to run business with communist Romania in the eighties, involving confidential overbilling operations which were joined by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's secret service, the dreaded Securitate, according to documents consulted by HotNews.ro. Files available at the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives show that at one point in the eighties the head of Romania's espionage, General Aristotel Stamatoiu, ordered a transfer of money to an IKEA account at East Germany's Bank of Foreign Commerce. The operation codenamed Scandinavica was coordinated by a foreign Securitate officer who now heads Bucharest football club Dinamo.
Romania Senate speaker Crin Antonescu resigns National ​Liberal Party (PNL) leader Crin Antonescu announced his resignation as Senate speaker on Tuesday, at the peak of a political conflict with the Social Democrats (PSD), with whom the Liberals shared the government until last week. The announcement comes days after PNL announced it was withdrawing from the governing alliance with the PSD and the day when a new government - the third - led by Social Democratic leader Victor Ponta was expecting a vote of validation in Parliament.

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