The appointed ministers were heard by the legislative commissions yesterday, in the absence of the Opposition MPs. The Majority will most likely validate today in Parliament the new government, despite USL’s boycott.
Mihai Razvan Ungureanu announced yesterday the full make-up of the Cabinet he was appointed to draw up. “I will request from the future Cabinet members competency, professionalism, responsibility, decency, humbleness and openness to dialogue to manage to put across the Executive’s intentions. I do not start from the premise that I am going to be replaced. I won’t be a prime-minister that comes at the helm of the Cabinet only to step down,” Ungureanu stated after the meeting with the Democratic-Liberal Party (PDL)’s joint parliamentary groups. He added that he would not hesitate to replace any minister that fails to rise up to his or the public’s exigencies. However, the appointed prime-minister spoke appreciatively of the names on the list, arguing that the proposed ministers were mainly young people, who studied abroad. Ungureanu added that he would resign from the helm of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) if he gets the Parliament’s vote of confidence.
All of PDL’s proposals are fresh faces, while the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) retained its ministers (deputy prime-minister Marko Bela, Culture Minister Kelemen Hunor, Health Minister Ladislau Ritli and Environment Min Laszlo Borbely), as did the National Union for Romanian Progress (UNPR) – Gabriel Oprea at the Defence Ministry and Cristian Diaconescu at the Foreign Ministry. Independent ministers Catalin Predoiu (Justice) and Leonard Orban (European Affairs Ministry) also maintained their portfolios. Thus, the senator Gabriel Oprea, proposed by PDL, replaces Traian Igas at the helm of the Interior Ministry. The former stated that, if confirmed in the ministerial seat, would pursue as his main priorities “the organization of fair elections in Romania, the continuation of local government reforms and finalizing the police officer’s statute of limitations”. At the Economy Ministry, Ion Ariton was replaced by the Democrat-Liberal deputy Lucian Bode. Ex-PM Boc’s aide Andreea Paul Vass had initially been nominated for this office, but refused the nomination on Tuesday evening, invoking “personal reasons”.
As a coincidence, yesterday morning the National Integrity Agency (ANI) reported that Andreea Paul Vass’s mother, Marioara Vass, was found to act in violation of the conflict of interests rule after her company was awarded two contracts worth a total RON 21,180 by the Bobota Mayor’s Office (Salaj County), where she acts as local councillor.
State secretary Bogdan Dragoi was nominated to replace Gheorghe Ialomitianu at the helm of the Finance Ministry, while Transport Minister Anca Boagiu would have to relinquish her office to the state secretary in the ministry, Alexandru Nazare, who is also the senior deputy president of PDL’s Youth Organization. The Democrat-Liberal deputy Cristian Petrescu, nominated to replace Elena Udrea as minister of Regional Development and Tourism, stated yesterday in Parliament that his main target as a minister would be to go on with the National Infrastructure Development Programme. A fellow PDL deputy, Razvan Mustea, is the proposed candidate for the Communications Ministry, replacing Valerian Vreme, while the deputy chair of the Chamber’s Labour and Social Protection Committee, Claudia Boghicevici, was nominated to replace Sulfina Barbu as Labour Minister. Catalin Baba, state secretary in the Education Ministry, is the proposed replacement for Daniel Funeriu, whereas the Democrat-Liberal chairman of the Chamber’s Agriculture Committee, Stelian Fuia, is to take over the Agriculture portfolio from Valeriu Tabara.
Hearings quorum stirs controversy
The persons nominated for ministerial offices in the Ungureanu Cabinet were heard yesterday until late in the evening by the parliamentary committees, in the absence of the opposition, which announced in fact it would also boycott today’s joint assembly meeting, during which the nominated Cabinet is to be put to vote and its programme for government should be presented. The PDL deputies’ leader Mircea Toader stated yesterday that the ruling coalition had enough votes to ensure the Cabinet’s passing through the Legislative, adding that all Democrat-Liberal MPs would be on duty in Bucharest. The ruling party made quite an effort to bring over its MPs from across the country, having some of them flown over by special charters. For instance, the company Tarom operated on Tuesday evening a special Bucharest-Constanta-Bucharest flight for passengers stuck in either city and ruling party MPs were confirmed to be among the 23 passengers aboard.
The Democrat-Liberals say that the absence Opposition members will pose no problem to the hearings in specialised committees. According to PDL Senator Petru Filip, the hearings of ministers in committees “is not something absolutely necessary in terms of quorum,” and “the plenum has the last say.” Many of the ministers that underwent hearings were already cleared by committees, until the closing of this newspaper issue.
A different opinion was expressed by the representatives of the Opposition. According to the leader of PSD deputies, Mircea Dusa, the committee chairpersons that will draft reports about candidates after hearings without quorum are committing acts of misuse of authority, punished by the Criminal Code.
Speaking about the boycott of the Opposition, former premier Emil Boc said that “taking your toys, like in kindergarten, and going home to cry in the window is no solution for economic stability.” “The place of disputes and debates is here, in the Parliament,” Boc stated, after a meeting of PDL groups in the Parliament, also attended by Prime Minister-designate Mihai Razvan Ungureanu. In his turn, Ungureanu said that he hopes the next government will enjoy the honest support of the other parties in the Parliament, adding that he would enjoy seeing that the presence of opposition forces in the Parliament will at least give the impression of collaboration on matters of national interest. “I hope that I will also have the support of the other political forces. I am for a dialogue with the representatives of opposition parties, because together we are responsible for this country,” Ungureanu said. “The forces of the Opposition will decide together, or separately, what they will do,” he added. USL sources, quoted by Mediafax revealed that Ungureanu called PSD leader Victor Ponta on the phone, on Tuesday, to arrange a meeting. Yesterday, Ponta announced that USL will not participate in the vote for investing the new Cabinet, because the dialogue between power and opposition only consisted of “15 formal minutes” at the Cotroceni Palace. He also confirmed the phone conversation with Ungureanu, “because we have a very civilised relation.” PNL President Crin Antonescu was more vehement in a press conference, when he accused President Traian Basescu of nominating as prime minister the chief of an intelligence service, which has not resigned yet. “Given this situation, we can only speak of a PDL-SIE government. The secret services want to have a majority in Parliament,” he said, assuring that there is no split within USL.
UDMR sets conditions
While PDL clearly grants its support to the new Cabinet, with the new ministers being recommended by the old PDL ministers or other party leaders, and the same goes with UNPR, things are different in the case of UDMR. The Union set conditions for supporting the new Executive and wants to sign a protocol of the ruling coalition for 2012, which will include references to the Mures Faculty of Medicine and the Transilvania motorway. UDMR also wants an increase of salaries and pensions, if the country will have economic growth. On the other hand, there are leaders of UDMR – such as Senator Gyorgy Frunda – that do not see the nomination of the SIE chief as a good signal. He reiterated that he asked the Union to withdraw from the ruling coalition, and his opinion was shared by other members of UDMR. As for the group of national minorities other than Hungarians, it still made no decision about voting the new Cabinet, and will decide on this matter today, just before the vote. “One can expect anything,” said Varujan Pambuccian, the leader of the group.
Promises of the ruling programme
Part of UDMR’s demands are reflected by the ruling programme that was made public yesterday. Thus, the new government pledged to create a training institution aimed at the continuous “improvement” of the act of teaching in the Hungarian language, to set up structures for teaching in minority languages within multicultural and multilingual universities, and to make available differentiated financing for master’s courses. Another provision is to support the “urgent” amending of the draft law on the status of minorities. A priority of the programme unveiled by the Ungureanu Cabinet is increasing salaries and pensions in the public sector, if economic conditions allow it, by lowering the CAS, political sources explained. Another priority is reducing the number of taxes from 236 now to maximum 100, and curbing the budget deficit to 3 pc of the GDP at most, this year. Furthermore, the future government plans to draft and approve the law of fiscal amnesty for civil servants. Another priority is analysing the modalities of instating a wealth tax – a proposal submitted by UNPR. The government will instate a pilot-project for the functioning of hospitals as foundations or associations and will enact a differentiated salary system for medical personnel, but said nothing about adopting the new health law this year.