Minister of Culture resigns over HIV controversial statements





President Basescu slammed Daniel Barbu, saying he “is a person with a spiritual handicap”. PM Ponta will send the resignation to Parliament together with the proposal for a new minister. Gigel Stirbu is likely to replace him.
Romanian Culture Minister Daniel Barbu has tendered his resignation on Thursday, his personal advisor Emil Pantelimon told Agerpres. He explained Barbu ‘tendered his resignation early in the day’. “Minister Barbu did not resign yesterday (Wednesday – editor’s note) so as not to affect the validity of the acts approved in the Government’s meeting held this week, which he signed”, the culture minister’s personal advisor stressed. Barbu, during a visit to southern Craiova on Sunday, had drawn a comparison between funding the National Programme for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control and funding the cultural festivals. “In my opinion, we are not in South Africa. There are not here millions of country fellowmen hit by this hideous scourge of our era. I personally fail to understand. I was utterly shaken when I realized how many Shakespeare Festivals or how substantial we could make the Shakespeare Festival event in Craiova if we did not have that programme or if there were only half that programme”, the minister had remarked.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta confirmed Barbu’s resignation from the position of minister of culture, but he told Mediafax he would send the resignation to Parliament together with the nomination for this position, after holding talks on this matter with PNL’s leadership and President Traian Basescu.
Although the Culture Ministry issued a press release on Tuesday stating that Barbu “expresses his deep regrets”, “the unfortunate comparison” between the budget to prevent HIV and the budget of the programmes of the ministry he leads and apologizes to “all those who felt offended by these inappropriate statements,”, the criticism directed at Daniel Barbu have continued at the highest level. On Wednesday, during the talk-show aired on B1TV channel, President Basescu said that PM Victor Ponta had to dismiss Barbu immediately, even from Johannesburg – where Ponta attended Nelson Mandela’s funeral. “Such a person, either he is a politician, or an ordinary citizen, has a spiritual handicap, so one cannot expect from such a person to accept full responsibility for his gesture by resigning. But the prime minister had to dismiss him immediately,” the head of state said. Basescu pointed out that the majority of the people with HIV in Romania are those infants who were vaccinated at birth during Ceausescu’s regime. “The person who makes such statements has a mean soul. The Prime Minister should have announced his dismissal from Johannesburg. These people show no responsibility. Barbu has to leave immediately,” Basescu stated.
When asked on Wednesday at RRA if he considers that Minister of Culture Daniel Barbu will resign, PNL leader Crin Antonescu said: “I think so”. Yesterday morning in the press conference, Antonescu had no further details about Barbu’s resignation, saying only that he discussed with Daniel Barbu and that “the resignation is an unilateral gesture”.
Chairman of the Culture Commission with the Deputies’ Chamber Gigel-Sorinel Stirbu, (priest by profession) stands fair chance to take over the culture minister position, according to PNL sources quoted by Mediafax. HotNews.ro reported that other shortlisted names are those of Deputy Vlad Nistor (historian) and Senator Ben-Oni Ardelean.

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