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Bucharest
March 7, 2021
POLITICS

Balancesheet at six months of governance: The way that Ciolos has played his technocrat mandate

Since he was appointed, politically independent, but depending on the support of a parliamentarian majority, Dacian Ciolos avoided making the parties, as well as the public opinion, become hostile to him. In the six months of mandate, PM has been responsive to requests to come before Parliament but also willing to concessions, starting with the government program, as a published Mediafax analysis was revealing.

Six months earlier, in the context of Victor Ponta’s resignation from the leadership of the Government following the protests started after the Colectiv tragedy, President Klaus Iohannis was nominating the former European Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in order to form a new Government, represented exclusively by technocrats.

On November 15, 2015, Dacian Ciolos was presenting the list of the nominated ministers, counting 22 persons.

Right before the parliamentarian phase, Dacian Ciolos was forced to withdraw two of the initially nominated persons – Andrei Baciu from the Health Ministry and Cristina Guseth from the Ministry of Justice. The first one was withdrawn following some photos were posted on Facebook, showing him in underwear, as a model, while Cristina Guseth’s performance during the hearings has not responded to the expectations.

“In order not to make the trust in the Minister of Justice to be vulnerable in any way, in a very important year for maintaining the credibility in the activity of Justice, I’ve decided to withdraw the nomination of Mrs. Cristina Guseth for this portfolio. I will submit a new nomination to the Parliament in the morning” Dacian Ciolos announced one hour after midnight.

On November 17, 2015, Dacian Ciolos Government was voted by PSD, PNL, UNPR, UDMR and the national minorities, while ALDE and PMP didn’t support the technocrat cabinet.

 

 “Parties have to assume, not to blame the Government”

 

Before being PM, Ciolos led the Ministry of Agriculture in the Government of Calin Popescu Tariceanu.

Since he was appointed, politically independent, but depending on the support of a parliamentarian majority, Dacian Ciolos avoided making the parties, as well as the public opinion, become hostile to him. In the six months of mandate, PM has been responsive to requests to come before Parliament but also willing to concessions, starting with the government program.

A relevant moment refers to the election of the mayors, given that one of the main tasks of his Cabinet is the management of local and legislative elections this year. Initially, in the government program submitted to the Parliament together with the list of ministers, Ciolos said that one of his priorities is the election of mayors in two rounds. After the negotiations with parliamentary groups before the vote of investiture, the provisions relating to the changes of the electoral law for the purposes of election of mayors in two rounds were removed from the final version of the government program.

Later, Ciolos has also declined the PNL requests on issuing a GEO or on assuming the liability for the election of mayors in two rounds, since PSD has threatened to boycott  the pool.

“The parties that wish to amend the law must assume and lead this debate, and not blame the Government. (…) I understand the expectations of citizens who want to return to two rounds. On the other hand, in my position of a Prime Minister and an official, I believe that the Government should keep away from political disputes before the electoral campaign” said Ciolos in February.

The Liberals, who in 2015 voted for the current version of the law, subsequently attacked the Government’s decision on the date of local elections, hoping that the case will go to the Constitutional Court for cutting issue.

Another relevant moment was related to Ciolos’s presence in the Senate. While the serious situation at TVR didn’t concern the senators, ANAF action to implement a court decision in order to enforce the Intact Media Corporation made the President of the Senate, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, to convene a special session in which he asked the PM to give explanations related to ANAF’s “abuse” which would be a danger for the freedom of expression. Dacian Cioloş answered the request on the grounds that he respects the institution of Parliament.

Beyond his relationship with parliamentary parties whose support he depends, Ciolos’s mandate ended a long period of a conflict between the President and the PM. Moreover, PM Dacian Ciolos has weekly meetings with President Klaus Iohannis.

 

Four ministers withdrawn in one month

 

In six months, four ministers have leaved their governmental position.

First resigning minister was the Labor Minister, Ana Costea, who disagreed PM after she said that she will resign if her opinion will not be considered on project of ordinance related to the budgetary salaries. Costea was forced to leave the Government on April 14, being replaced by one of the Dacian Ciolos’s counselors, Dragos Paslaru.

Next ministry without a leader was the Ministry of European Funds. Shortly after Ana Costea has resigned, on April 25, Aura Raducu has also resigned at the PM’s request, since he wasn’t satisfied of her activity. Cristian Ghinea, another counselor of Dacian Ciolos, was appointed to be minister.

On April 27, in the context of the scandal at the National Opera, the Minister of Culture, Vlad Alerxandrescu, was announcing his resignation on his Facebook page. The resignation was delayed following discussions with PM. A letter that Alexandrescu addressed to the Group for Social Dialogue has led to tensions between the two officials. The letter was seriously accusing some of his colleagues in the Government; Alexandrescu was stating that he repeatedly pronounced to be against withdrawal of the doctor degrees for several acts of plagiarism, which thing led to admonitions from the involved ministers. He was saying that he discomforted more groups of interests by his actions, giving two examples: Rosia Montana and Cathedral Plaza. Alexandrescu was mentioning some intimidating actions, saying that he was asked to give explanations to the Parliament and that he was called several times by politicians. The serious allegations have forced Dacian Ciolos to announce the revocation of the minister, saying that he was never told about the “pressures” against the minister. Cristina Suteu, former Secretary of State in this ministry, was appointed in Vlad Alexandrescu’s place.

The last resignation of this “reshuffle” is coming in the context of the most serious crisis of the health system in the last years, started after the revelations on the disinfectants used by7 the Romanian hospitals, including ones that have treated injured people from the Colectiv Club. On May 9, Patriciu Achimas-Cadariu resigns after a talk with PM Dacian Ciolos, which took place at Victoria Palace. According to governmental sources, Achimas-Cadariu has decided to leave the Health Ministry because he disagreed to the Government’s management of the hospital disinfectants crisis. Achimas-Cadariu’s mandate was marked by other scandals, too, including the one of the babies in Arges who were diagnosed with the hemolytic uremic syndrome. Dacian Ciolos took over the interim position of the Health Ministry.

 

Controversies – from accusations of plagiarism, to blunders with “million Euros trucks”

 

Minister of Interior, Petre Toba, which was the head of the Romanian Police in the last three years before being appointed in the Ciolos Government, is on the list of the suspected officials for plagiarism on his doctoral thesis, since there are suspicions that more than 250 of the 390 pages of his thesis were copied from various works. The plagiarism suspicion has appeared following some revelations in the press, since November 25, 2015, shortly after the Government was appointed.

Despite the promises of clarifying these suspicions by checking allegations before making a decision, no measure has been ordered in his case. The so-called reason – the legislation should be clarified first regarding doctoral schools and plagiarism.

“I strongly reject all these accusations. I have followed the law and all existing rules when I wrote my doctoral thesis. I have complied with all the recommendations of my doctoral tutor (…) Many lies and, I could say, many slander were told”, said the Minister of Interior, Petre Toba.

“I can’t say I am comfortable. I have spoken with the Minister, Mr. Toba. On the other hand, I don’t think it is me who have to take decisions, unilaterally, as long as the accusations are not proven”, stated Ciolos in a show, asked if he “stays at the same table” with a minister accused of plagiarism.

In his turn, Deputy PM Vasile Dancu mentioned that this matter is not important, because his colleague is a “very competent” man.

“He’s a very competent man in everything he does, a minister whom I respect. I am not working with Mr. Toba in doctoral projects; I am working on pragmatic projects in which he is a very good Minister of Interior. When ministers are appointed, they are not asked about the doctorate, many of my colleagues are not doctors. This is a discussion that is not related to the efficiency in the administration of Mr. Toba, which is a very good minister” said Deputy Prime Minister.

Subsequently, Minister of Education, Adrian Curaj, proposed a new law package on the plagiarism, creating some disputes.

Another minister who sparked controversies was the Minister of Agriculture. Achim Irimescu stated in an interview with ZF, that he does not receive “tip”, and that is why he creates discomfort; also that in the last five years, an amount of EUR 35 billion has been taken to Switzerland by the truck. Later, he reconsidered his statements, saying that it was a “metaphor”.

 

The technocrat’s plans

 

Although he is very careful about the way he communicates and his public image (the first PM to answer questions on his Facebook page, at midnight), Dacian Ciolos stated since the first days of mandate that is not interested in a political career, Mediafax reminds in the analysis published on Tuesday.

“Right now, I don’t feel comfortable to assume a political role in a political party. If this mandate will be a success, it will be a success of a team. I do not intend to candidate within the elections in 2016 and that’s not why I have accepted to be PM; if I’d try to use the capital of sympathy in the elections, I would deceive people in their expectations – and I feel that the only chance of this Government is to be honest” said Prime Minister in December 2015.

In early April, the PNL leader Alina Gorghiu said that she invited PM Dacian Ciolos to come to PNL, adding that probably it’s too early for him to give an answer now, because the head of Government “does not have time to consider a possible political candidacy together with PNL”, but she is convinced he will do it in the autumn.

“The option belongs to him. I guess it’s too early for him to give us an answer, but I am totally convinced that ideas are better analyzed in the autumn. Right now he doesn’t have time to think to a possible political candidacy together with PNL, but in the end, when he’ll finish his PM mandate, I am sure he will be able to make a serious, pragmatic analysis, to see all the options he has”.

PNL Co-President asserted that the Prime Minister has taken a difficult task, which is to govern with a technocrat government, with a fragile parliamentary support, yet that he manages to do it well, most of the times.

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