Moves to reshuffle the government lead the front pages today. Echoes of the British frigates scandal also reverberate on Tuesday, while the status of institutionalized children and the havoc created by road police among traffic-savvy stars complete the covers of Romanian newspapers.
The Democratic Party (PD), a senior member of the governing coalition in Bucharest, announced yesterday it would withdraw deputy PM Gheorghe Pogea with no replacement in sight and change Transport minister Gheorghe Dobre with a man who belonged to the much-maligned government of the late nineties, Radu Berceanu.
The Liberals and the Democrats have been confronting on a large variety of issues and the latest PD move is seen as yet another attempt by the latter – with the support of President Traian Basescu – to force a change to the current political situation in Bucharest.
For Evenimentul Zilei, the announcement yesterday signals the start of a PD move to leave the government, which may force early elections.
According to the newspaper, Liberal prime minister Tariceanu has a difficult choice to make: he either accepts the PD decisions despite any form of opposition within his own party or of other partners in the governing coalition, or keeps opposing a government reshuffle – which would increase dissent within the coalition.
For Cotidianul, what PD wants is “restructuring through destructuring”, as the Democrats are pushing for changes that have already been rejected by coalition partners last week – especially the dissolution of the seats of deputy prime ministers and ministers-delegate. And it agrees that the PD move may be a first step towards early elections.
Adevarul, meanwhile, says the move is a heavy blow for Liberal Tariceanu and his party, but it is also surprising for many Democrats as President Basescu, who led the PD before ascending to presidency, is a well-known opponent of Senator Radu Berceanu.
A man who was a minister in the troubled governments of 1996-2000, when the country reached the brink of economic collapse.
The senior members of the current coalition, who were also part of those governments, have said they would not push forward people who held official seats in the late nineties.
Gandul, meanwhile, returns to the scandal sparked by a report in British newspaper The Guarian on the shady sale of two second-hand British frigates to Romania several years ago.
According to the newspaper, one of the two people arrested last week for allegedly dealing with secret “commissions” in relation to the sale, Barry George, was welcomed in Romania at the time of the deal.
He was taken on a sightseeing trip by the then-Defense minister Ioan Mircea Pascu and presidential aide Ioan Talpes. “While lobbyists usually court state representatives, this time the roles were inversed”, the newspaper says.
It also quotes ex-minister Pascu who said he organized the visit as a deputy for the region of Satu Mare, where the trip occurred, and that it involved some 20 British citizens “in a public, nothing-to-hide manner”.
Cotidianul says the deal involving the two frigates brought more advantages to the British part as nothing can force them to comply with the provisions of the accord before 2008, while Romania had to pay for everything within 22 months. All due to a lack of a legislation on offset deals in the country.
Elsewhere in the newspapers, Evenimentul Zilei reports that visas for Eastern Europeans heat up the EU-US/Canada relations as the European Commission is considering possible retaliation measures against Canada if the country fails to drop the visas for new EU member states.
The move, quoted by Financial Times, is aimed not only at Canada, but also at the United States and will be the subject of a report due to be published early next week.
Financial Times is also quoted by Gandul, which reports that a whole advertorial page was published in the British newspaper yesterday depicting the grim situation of abandoned children in Romania, blamed on the insensitiveness of Romanian authorities who prove stubborn in rejecting international adoptions.
According to Gandul, the advertorial is just another form of emotional pressure in favor of children exports from Romania and would not be reflective of the reality in the country.
Cotidianul reports that the Bucharest police has put an end to practices that let public faces leave the scene of accidents or traffic checks unsanctioned.
Many “celebrities” have been fined and had their driver licenses suspended for driving under the influence – the last of which is Cornel Dinu of the Dinamo football club, caught “in the act” earlier this week.
Dinu is the latest of a series of “stars” that includes businessman Slviu Prigoana, international football player Cristi Chivu and well-known journalists Andrei Gheorghe, Liviu Mihaiu and Mircea Toma, as well as the daughter of President Traian Basescu himself. All but the latter were given criminal and civil sanctions for driving after drinking.