Two journalists covering the CEE region for The Economist and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung respectively have told HotNews.ro that it would be normal that Mircea Geoana, the Romanian Social Democratic Party leader running for presidency in elections this weekend, provide explanations on his private visits to Moscow earlier this year. HotNews.ro asked the two journalists whether Mircea Geoana, as Senate speaker and deputy head of Romania's Supreme Defense Council when he visited Moscow privately on April 27 this year, should provide public, detailed explanations on this visit considering that it was a private one.
Here are the answers of Karl Peter Schwartz and Edward Lucas:
- Karl Peter Schwartz, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung political correspondent: "I do not know similar cases from Germany. If a leading politician goes to Russia he talks openly about it because their is no reason to keep it secret and it is obvious to everybody that leading politicians have to have contacts to Russia as to other countries. It is a puzzle for me why an experienced Romanian politician, former diplomat and former Foreign Minister visits Moscow without giving any informations and explanations. He must have known that secrets provoke suspicions. Was it worth while to risk? And for what purpose?"
- Edward Lucas, The Economist, ECC correspondent for The Economist: "It would certainly be interesting to have a frank explanation from Mr Geoana of this event. Though it is entirely normal and proper for leading politicians to make foreign trips and on occasion hold private meetings, they should take particular care to be open about their dealings with regimes such as that in Russia, which has a record of trying to manipulate other countries' domestic politics."
Observers who received accreditation at the Permanent Electoral Authority for the presidential elections due to take place in Romania on November 22, 2009 - while most of them are media organisations or NGOs - include Churov Vladimir, head of the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation and Zhukov Nikolay, as a representative of the Central Electoral Commission and Loshakov Anatoly, Russian Embassy attache.
A spokesperson for the Romanian Permanent Electoral Authority has told HotNews.ro that the first two had been accredited for other elections as well. According to HotNews.ro information, the representatives of the Russian Federation allegedly accredited at a call of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) via Cozmin Gusa, an aide for PSD presidential candidate Mircea Geoana. Gusa denied this, however, saying he did not know Churov and that the only moves he made regarding the monitoring process of the Romanian elections were in the US, a "country with democratic tradition and strong NGOs".
Geoana paid a second private visit to Moscow
Mircea Geoana said on Tuesday that during his visit to Moscow in April this year he had contacts at the level of the Presidential Administration and of the prime minister's administration. He said that after he left the Supreme Defense Council of Romania he made another private visit to Moscow. Geoana did not say, however, who he met with there and what issues were discussed and only said he pursued a "normalized" dialogue with the Russian Federation given the "frozen relations" with Romania, for which he blamed incumbent president Traian Basescu.
Geoana's reply came after Basescu accused him on Tuesday that he visited Moscow to receive Russian support in presidential elections and warned that "Russia was not making gifts". Mircea Geoana said on Realitatea TV news channel that he held enough expertise in the diplomatic area and that the two visits were not without result: "I received an official invitation several days ago to visit Moscow".
The PSD leader criticised Basescu's approach to foreign policy, accusing him of exploiting "the Stalin syndrome" and the "anti-Russian" feelings in Romania.
Romanian historian Armand Gosu, specialised in ex-Soviet issues, also says supplementary measures were needed on Mircea Geoana's visits to Moscow:
- Armand Gosu: The top second man in a state would not pay private visits to Kremlin. He may pay a private visit to Sochi or to a Crimean resort, but not to Kremlin. This is why the public opinion and Mr Geoana's [Liberal] rival in presidential elections, Crin Antonescu, are right to demand that the Senate speaker provide explanations on the purpose of his visit, about what was discussed there. And another thing: the claim that he went there on a private visit to improve relations with Russia has no support. Had he cared about the precarious state of relations with Russia or other countries in the ex-Soviet area, Mr Geoana could have act as a member of the foreign policy commission of the Romanian Parliament in standing against the accreditation of "ambassadors" - undercover officers of secret services, who take most jobs in this region and who, given the precarious expertise on the respective region, put the Romanian diplomacy in a most-often ridiculous position. But Mr Geoana did not say anything, on the contrary, he contributed to the creation of this situation in his quality of Foreign minister until 2004 and of member of the foreign policy commission after 2004.
HotNews.ro was the first to report earlier this month that Mircea Geoana paid a private visit to Russia in April this year, when he served as Senate speaker and deputy head of the Supreme Defense Council of Romania. Political sources told HotNews.ro that the meeting was allegedly arranged by Boris Golovin, a businessman with interest in Romania's energy sector, about whom the media had reported to be a former GRU officer.