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May 12, 2021
POLITICS

Mihai Razvan Ungureanu’s appointment to SIE causes wave of controversy

The designation of Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as head of Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) by President Klaus Iohannis has inflamed spirits in the ruling coalition and the vote in Parliament is expected to be rather tensed.

The members of the Standing Bureaus of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate on Thursday came to an agreement regarding the calling in meeting of the Joint Standing Bureau on Monday, at 13:00, according to political sources stiripesurse.ro quotes.

After the announcement of Mihai Razvan Ungureanu by the president, PSD said they would oppose and are now trying to delay the vote to the autumn, after the Parliament recess beginning on Wednesday, 1 July. ALDE MPs have also said they would not support the candidate proposed by the President.

There is a chance that PNL may succeed in having the vote at the beginning of next week, with the help of UDMR and UNPR, both having said they would support the appointment, but even so there may not be a quorum as many MPs have left on holiday already.

‘A simple calculation shows that PNL, UDMR and UNPR have a total of 252 MPs. The validation of the candidate would require 277 votes, which means the Liberals are 25 votes short. They could get those from the minorities, independents or OMP and PP-DD’, according to Realitatea.net.

President Klaus Iohannis proposed, on Wednesday, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as the new Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service.

 

CSAT appointment or vote in Parliament?

 

The controversy, however, goes further. Professor Gheorghe Iancu, former Ombudsman and an expert on constitution law, says the moment of the vote could have been avoided if the provisions of the Constitution had been taken into account.

‘The text of Law 1/1998, which is the SIE Law, says the director of SIE is proposed by the president and appointed by CSAT. This is what the law says. The Constitution, on the other hand, says differently, since 1991. At Section 65, it says that the head of SIE is appointed by the joint Chamber of Parliament. The question is which applies?’ Professor Gheorghe Iancu said on Digi24. ‘The law applies’, he added, saying ‘there is a law principle people do not know, namely that the special law supersedes the general law. The special law is the SIE Law and that says he is appointed by CSAT’, Professor Iancu explained.

‘I don’t know who advised the president, but I am going to tell him straight that he doesn’t have good advisers. I know who they are and I can assure you he has not’, he pointed out.

‘He (the president – editor’s note) said like this: I make the proposal and it goes to Parliament. Eventually, the 1998 law was combined with the Constitution. No! A single legal text applies. If you consider the law, the CSAT appoints him’, Gheorghe Iancu stresses.

‘He should have notified CSAT. And, after that, nothing, because the 1/1998 Law says CSAT appoints the director of SIE. The vote in Parliament is not needed for the simple reason – Augustin Zegrean has also said this – it is against the Constitution, but legal. Of course that this is nonsense, from this point of view. The special law in the field must be applied. Because the law was not put in agreement with the Constitution, it’s a repeat of the Sova situation, where the regulation, whilst unconstitutional, still applied. The law applies, even if the law is unconstitutional, but the law applies, because it’s a special law for the field. It is not for Parliament to appoint him! And there will be 1,000 opinions, because this is how it’s been so far. They did it the wrong way’, was the conclusion of Constitutional Law professor Gheorghe Iancu.

 

Minister Gerea opposes

 

Energy Minister Andrei Gerea has commented on the nomination of ex-PM Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as head of SIE by the president and that that both he and the Speaker of the Senate, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, had stated their opinion on Ungureanu before.

‘Both I and Mr. Calin Popescu Tariceanu have said how we felt about Mr. Ungureanu both as a Foreign Minister and as Prime-Minister. This is a political decision, we will see. If there is a vote, I will most probably follow the party line, which is against it’, Energy Minister Andrei Gerea said.

 

Ponta: Iohannis was dishonest, tricked us and did not seek our opinion when appointing Ungureanu at SIE. PSD cannot vote

 

PSD cannot vote for appointing Mihai Razvan Ungureanu at the leadership of SIE under the circumstances that President Klaus Iohannis omitted to seek the opinion of any member of PSD, and dishonestly violated his promise, PSD leader Prime Minister Victor Ponta declared.

“I do understand that Iohannis did not need our votes anyway and that he did not consider that it was important to keep his word. He said that he would seek the advice or at least announce people ahead, yet, this time, he broke his promise. Six months have passed since he was elected and, after six months, he is no longer interested, I think, in keeping his promises to people. (…) He tricked us, he did not seek our opinion”, Ponta declared for Romania TV.

He mentioned that he has discussed with some of the Social-Democrats and neither of them will vote for Ungureanu, but the final decision will be reached in the Permanent National Bureau of PSD, led by Rovana Plumb.

As for the decision by UNPR leader Gabriel Oprea to support Ungureanu’s appointment to SIE, Ponta explained that the agreement of PSD and UNPR strictly referred to governing, not to the leadership of intelligence services, and, therefore, each party acts independently on this matter, similarly to the Defence Strategy.

 

Plumb: Talks with my colleagues indicate decision to vote against Ungureanu being appointed SIE director

 

The political decision of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) on the appointment of Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu to head the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) will be made public on Monday after a meeting of the PSD leadership, but the positions so far voiced indicate a vote against the appointment, says chairwoman of the PSD National Council Rovana Plumb.

“Talks with my colleagues and their positions so far indicate a decision to vote against Ungureanu being appointed SIE director,” Plumb said Thursday at the Finance Ministry after meeting a delegation of the European Commission.

About the nomination, she said President Klaus Iohannis’s decision fails to observe the balance between the Power and the opposition regarding the appointments of the directors of Romania’s main intelligence services, SIE and SRI.

Plumb also argued that in the case of Ungureanu’s nomination Iohannis did not consult with anyone.

“The third thing I want to say is that Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu is a symbol of the Democratic Liberal Party [PDL[ and you know well that in 2012, those of us who were then in Romania’s Parliament voted for the passage of the motion of censure against the government that was headed back then by Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu,” said Plumb, the replacement of Victor Ponta as PSD national leader for the time Ponta is recovering abroad from a recent knee surgery.

 

Acting PM Oprea: “I did not know beforehand about Ungureanu’s nomination at SIE. I dryly announced I will support the President”

 

UNPR President and interim Premier Gabriel Oprea stated that he did not know beforehand about Mihai Razvan Ungureanu’s nomination at the helm of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), but that when he found out he “dryly” announced that he backs the President on this nomination, pointing out that he also informed PSD President Victor Ponta.

“I would like to talk only from a strategic standpoint. I wouldn’t like engage in politicking. Strategically, I wouldn’t want to discuss the person either. I worked with Mr. Mihai Ungureanu. He was Prime Minister, I was Defence Minister. I would like to talk purely strategically, in this security context, I wouldn’t want to talk technically. After all, he announced this, strategically I didn’t even know, I found out afterward that it concerns Mr. Ungureanu. I announced dryly that, as a basic principle, on national security issues – the appointment of Mr. Hellvig at the helm of SRI, the appointment of the head of SIE – I support the Head of State. I wouldn’t want to talk politically, whether he should or shouldn’t have, I am talking strategically,” Oprea said on Antena 3.

He added that he also informed Ponta and that the PSD President trusts him.

“I said what I am doing and I informed Victor Ponta too. You have to ask him what he thinks, he trusts me, we shook hands, I am a man of my word. (…) We have a great responsibility in ensuring security for citizens, we have to start off from here, to think strategically, beyond political games,” Oprea pointed out.

Asked what his choice would be if he had to choose between Ponta and Iohannis, Oprea said: “I will choose Romania. UNPR’s project has brought economic stability in the last 5 years,” nevertheless giving assurances that he backs Ponta in government.

 

Orban: No internal discussion in Ungureanu’s case; picking SIE director is presidential prerogative

 

Leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL) MPs in the Chamber of Deputies Ludovic Orban on Thursday said there was no internal discussion inside the PNL about the appointment of Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu the head the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), adding that picking the SIE director is a presidential prerogative and the PNL will support the pick.

“There was no discussion. Picking the SIE director is a presidential prerogative. There is no need for a vote in the party’s Political Bureau because that is not a political office. Had it been about a minister or representative in a public organisation the vote would have been needed, but such debate is not required for selecting the SIE director. The nomination is a presidential prerogative, and the PNL groups will support the pick,’ Orban said at the Parliament Palace.

He added that if more procedure tricks exist related to the Ungureanu case, PNL will demand an extraordinary session for a vote on Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu becoming the SIE director.

 

 

 

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