Opposition MEP fears ‘civil war’ in Romania

Victor Ponta, accused of spurring defections among the opposition.

A prominent Romanian opposition MEP warned yesterday (12 August) of a looming ‘civil war’ in Romania as the conflict between the leftist ruling coalition and the centre-right president reached new heights, prompting fresh reactions from the European Union EURACTIV Romania contributed to this article.

Monica Macovei, a high-profile MEP of the Democratic Liberal party (PDL) of President Traian B?sescu, said she was “expecting a civil war” in her country, the Romanian press reported.

Macovei said she had access to transcripts of cabinet meetings in which the ruling Social Liberal Union (USL), led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, was not impressed by the criticism of Western countries.

“As I saw in the transcripts, they [USL] define themselves as an organised criminal group. An organised criminal group leads Romania. They have provoked the situation in which we find ourselves and we see that they don’t give up. I expect a civil war,” Macovei said.

Asked to comment on accusations of badmouthing her country and setting the tone for criticism from EU leaders and institutions, Macovei said: “Yes, I am very influential; everything I say and write is repeated by Angela Merkel and Barroso”.

Her comments came following the release of a tough-worded letter from European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who expressed “deep concern” over the recent developments relating to validation of the referendum to oust B?sescu.

On 29 July, B?sescu survived an impeachment referendum after the voter turnout fell short of the 50% required and derailed an effort by USL to remove the beleaguered president from office.

USL is now pressuring the Constitutional Court to approve the validity of the plebiscite, in which voters overwhelmingly backed the impeachment of the president. A senior official who oversaw the referendum resigned last week, amid USL accusations of lack of accuracy in revising the voters’ lists. The ruling coalition claims a more accurate accounting would show that more than half of registered voters turned out for the referendum.

The Constitutional Court is due to rule on the validity of the referendum by 31 August.

Barroso’s letter expresses concerns about allegations of pressure and intimidation of Constitutional Court judges.

Court representatives have warned of “shocking" political pressure ahead of its ruling on the validity of a referendum, and have appealed for political support from the Council of Europe and EU institutions.

Geopolitical dimension?

But the Romanian situation appears to gather interest also across the Atlantic, as US State Secretary Hillary Clinton sent Philip Gordon, assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, to Romania over the weekend.

Gordon was to “discuss the concerns the United States has regarding recent government actions that threaten democratic checks and balances and weaken independent institutions," the State Department said in a statement.

The US has military bases in Romania, a country which recently committed to host parts of the anti-missile shield promoted by the administration in Washington and resented by Moscow.

On Saturday, Ponta spoke in front of supporters, saying that “the end of B?sescu and those around him” was getting closer. He also blasted news media criticism of the USL coalition.

B?sescu in turn accused the government of failing to absorb EU funding, badly needed for the country’s ailing economy. New estimates forecast that economic growth for 2012 will be 1.2%, down from 1.5%.

The European Commission expressed concern about the ongoing political infighting in Romania in its most recent progress report on judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Romania. 

The 18 July report questions the country’s ability to comply with the EU’s fundamental principles and the sustainability and irreversibility of reform.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that recent events in Romania had “shaken EU’s trust”.

Barroso had met with Prime Minister Victor Ponta the previous week and presented him with a 11-point to-do list aimed at restoring the status quo following what critics said was an attempted coup d’état and an assault on democratic values.

Ponta reportedly committed to following Brussels’ advice.

  • 31 Aug : Constitutional Court to rule on validity of referendum

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