President Traian Basescu’s decision to appoint him has sparked a wave of criticism from PNL, the party Melescanu was a member of until Monday.
Parliament validated Teodor Melescanu yesterday as head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), with 238 votes in favor and one vote against. Opposition MPs were not present at the vote. According to Article 38 of the joint meetings’ statute, appointments in office are made with the votes cast by a majority of MPs present, the 238 MPs that voted in favor representing a majority out of a total of 463 MPs. After the vote, Teodor Melescanu took the oath of office in front of the MPs but did not address the joint meeting as head of SIE.Prior to the vote, Melescanu had been heard within the Lower Chamber’s and Senate’s defence commissions and within the Parliament’s special commission for the supervision of SIE’s activity. The members of the commissions unanimously recommended the plenum to appoint Teodor Melescanu as head of the Foreign Intelligence Service. “It was a recommendation. We had the majority, we had the quorum, but according to the statute each commission has to have a quorum and in this case the commission for the supervision of SIE’s activity did not have one,” Teodor Melescanu stated at the end of the hearings. He stated that one of the Service’s priorities during his term will be to identify and draw financial funds for Romania. “Economic crisis issues are among Romania’s vulnerabilities. I believe that verifying business and credit worthiness, drawing, identifying possible sources should be a priority for the Service, without taking over the prerogatives of relevant state bodies in this domain,” he said. However, Melescanu pointed out that his top priority has to do with improving dialogue with Parliament and enhancing political control over the Service, another priority consisting of developing its cooperation with similar services from EU and NATO states.“Continuing the process of modernization that Mr. Ungureanu started is very important for me, being our main trump card. I don’t believe we will be able to compete with other countries from the point of view of the technical means at our disposal, but I believe that from the point of view of the quality of the people we employ we can not only compete with but we can even surpass other countries,” Melescanu stated. During the hearings the candidate stated that he was not an employee of security services or an informant and was not part of any intelligence structure. Moreover, he pointed out he has an ORNISS permit that allows access to classified information and he was not convicted for any crimes that would make him incompatible with this office. Angry LiberalsMelescanu’s decision to accept being appointed head of SIE caused dissatisfaction within PNL, the party whose member Melescanu was until Monday. Melescanu announced that he had suspended his party membership, but PNL President Crin Antonescu asked for Melescanu’s exclusion from the party. “This appointment is an affair strictly between Mr. Traian Basescu and Mr. Melescanu and does not have anything to do, directly or indirectly, with PNL. Mr. Melescanu did not inform, let alone ask for permission from, the Permanent Bureau, the party president nor any other colleague from the party’s leadership, nor the leader of PNL MPs within the Senate,” Antonescu stated, announcing that he has asked for Melescanu to be excluded from the party. Antonescu pointed out that the appointment represents an unpleasant moment for PNL, however it is good for people to blow their cover. “For PNL’s health it’s a good thing for people to blow their cover, for each of them to go to Basescu to be given menial jobs. The unpleasant thing for PNL is that it backed this man and it respected his professional qualities that can’t be denied. The fact that Mr. Melescanu and others like him have no shame is something that concerns them,” the Liberal President added. In his turn, PSD President Victor Ponta pointed out that he supports Antonescu’s position, although he declined to comment the appointment of Melescanu. He only pointed out that USL will continue its protest in Parliament, so it will not take part in the hearings or the final vote on Melescanu’s appointment. In reply, Melescanu pointed out that he takes responsibility for the decision to accept the proposal, admitting that he did not consult PNL members, the decision being personal. “I consider that this practice of appointing persons from the opposition at the helm of Romanian intelligence services is a good democratic practice. I considered it would be a shame to see this practice interrupted by the Parliamentary crisis, so I took responsibility for the decision. It’s my decision,” Melescanu stated. In what concerns Antonescu’s announcement that he will be excluded, Melescanu stated that it is difficult, if not impossible, to exclude someone that had suspended his party membership. Asked whether President Traian Basescu called him to make the proposal, Teodor Melescanu answered: “That’s generally how it goes, someone calls you.”