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May 19, 2022

President-PM dispute over the privatisation of CFR Marfa escalates

President: Ponta seems not to ignore a “dirty deal”. Premier: Basescu is bluffing.
The dispute between Government and Presidency over the privatisation of CRF Marfa escalated at the end of last week. In an interview published yesterday by ‘Romania libera,’ President Traian Basescu says that Premier Victor Ponta demands the Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) to infringe the law by giving the final approval to the privatisation of CFR Marfa, and urges him once again to take responsibility, instead of being just “a TV star.”
“One cannot demand CSAT to do something illegal. Victor Ponta seems to be a premier without respect for the law. He simply wants something illegal. It is illegal for CSAT to validate privatisation contracts or approve the winners of tenders. There is no precedent with this regard. (…) One can expect illegal things from Victor Ponta anytime, or situations when he does not have the courage to take the responsibility of his function. Anywhere in this world, including in Romania, a prime minister cannot limit himself to the role of TV star. Sometimes he must also make important decisions. If I were him, or if CSAT had legal attributions with this respect, I would have accelerated the processes and said <> or <> to this privatisation long ago. Postponing the decision is detrimental to the companies, its employees and the credibility of the Romanian state,” mentioned the president.
Moreover, he appreciated that behind the privatisation of CFR Marfa stand several interests, “a dirty deal” which PM Victor Ponta seems he does not ignore. “I do not know what gift he wanted to make to Relu Fenechiu, but if I were him I would have been more cautious, until I saw that the investor declared winner really has the money for the purchase and for investments. But here can be a dirty deal which PM Ponta seems not to ignore and into which he wants to lure the CSAT at any cost. More or less the technique of Adrian Nastase, who was able to hide his big villainies behind laws like that about the privatisation of Petrom with underground and offshore resources, or that related to Bechtel,” Basescu added.
Asked if he assumes a possible blockage of the privatisation process, the president answered: “Legally speaking, I cannot block a privatisation. What should I do? Infringe the law in order to please the premier? Sign the winner wanted by the Fenechiu-Ponta tandem? They might have 70 per cent in Parliament, but even with 120 per cent – like in the referendum – they could not obtain an illegal signature from me.”
On the other hand, PM Ponta said Sunday on Romania TV that president Basescu was permanently involved in the privatisation of CFR Marfa, also through the CSAT decision about the state selling a majority stake, instead of a minority one, as it had been decided initially, and his warning about the privatisation is a bluff. Ponta added that he was informed by specialised structures about the winner of the tender for the privatisation of CFR Marfa and there is no hint to something illegal, so the president either speaks without knowing the situation, or is compelled by his status of president to clearly say what the issue is, if he knows more. In the end, Ponta reiterated that the privatisation of CFR Marfa will not be concluded without the approval of CSAT.
Friday, the Government and the Presidency traded retorts via press releases on this matter. While Cotroceni said that CSAT has never approved a privatisation contract after the end of the tender and asked the premier to do everything so the privatisation of CFR Marfa does not turn into an Oltchim-like failure, the government informed – through its spokesman Andrei Zaharescu – that CSAT approved three times until now the privatisation of CFR Marfa: in 2011, 2012 and this year. Zaharescu also mentioned that the government still expects the president of Romania to call the CSAT, warning that without a position of the Council it will block the privatisation and restructuring of the respective company.

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