Articles at ISN

From the president's brother having ties to long-time criminals, to scores of customs officials living far beyond their means with impunity, corruption is apparent at every level of Romanian society. Recent crackdowns are widely perceived as little more than 'show operations' designed to appease an EU harboring misgivings about having admitted Romania in the first place.
EU uncertainties are running so high that France recently proposed bringing "the fight against corruption and organized crime" onto the roster of criteria used in assessing Romania's readiness to become part of the Schengen Area. France's move would be in addition to the separate Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) that the EU put in place in 2006. The CVM was intended to encourage Romania to combat corruption through the revamping of its judicial system. Though the February 2011 CVM interim report noted positive developments, critics inside and outside of the country are skeptical about the true merits of the monitoring system, and the likelihood that it will bring about actual change. [...]
The Romanian government has survived a no-confidence vote, but questions remain over its ability to pull through the social and political fallout and the lack of a viable economic plan, reports Anca Paduraru in Bucharest for ISN Security Watch. The 15 June vote was prompted by a motion filed by the opposition Social Democrats in a bid to bring down Prime Minister Emil Boc's government on the heels of the administration's unpopular austerity plan. Opponents stated that the tools deployed by the Boc administration to reduce the country's  budget deficit and stay within the targets set in an IMF agreement to qualify for the next installment of a €20 billion loan jeopardize any chances for success and will further polarize society. […]
Twenty years ago, Romanians were the last Europeans to protest against the communist regime, which left around 1,100 dead and 3,300 wounded, as well as a society divided over whether there ever was a genuine regime change. Today, they’re still wondering, Anca Paduraru writes for ISN Security Watch. In mid-December 20 years ago, demonstrations against the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu broke out in Romania’s western city of Timisoara, lasting until 21 December, when a military coup succeeded in overthrowing the dictator, forcing him to flee the following day by helicopter from the Communist Party headquarters. […]
A recent ICJ ruling on a Black Sea continental shelf partition between Ukraine and Romania shows that issues concerning oil and water make a controversial mix, writes Anca Paduraru for ISN Security Watch. The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last month on the partitioning of the Black Sea continental shelf between Ukraine and Romania and their respective exclusive economic zones, ending a 40-year dispute. The case stirred a whirlwind of heated political statements in both countries over who would receive the greatest allocation of natural gas and oil under the body of water that could cover one-third of The Netherlands. But more importantly, the 3 February decision, which is final, put the two contenders' energy policies under public scrutiny once more. It highlighted Ukraine's poor planning and the weak position it holds with respect to Russia, which is still calling the shots in the energy sector for the region. It also sparked allegations of seedy energy deals by Romanian officials. […]
The IAEA chief singles out Romania, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine for nuclear material trafficking incidents, but officials in Romania say the dirty bomb threat is being exaggerated. Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has placed Romania on a list of countries named as likely sources of "dirty bomb" material for terrorists. But Romanian officials tell ISN Security Watch that terrorists are unlikely to get their hands on nuclear material here, and point to other, much deadlier, threats. In an interview with the Arab daily al Hayat on 10 January, ElBaradei stated that "many" of some 100 nuclear material trafficking incidents (no time frame was mentioned) had involved Romania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Those incidents, the IAEA chief said, concerned only the smuggling of materials limited in capacity and power. […]
Plagued by bankruptcy and recent explosive incidents, Bucharest moves to liquidate its only explosives maker in a move that is not in the country's economic or security interests. The Romanian government earlier this month began the process of selling off its main state-run explosives maker. While the Defense Ministry seemed unmoved by the prospect of loosing its primary domestic source of explosives at Nitramonia Fagaras - despite the fact that there are few if any viable domestic options for steady supply - anti-terrorism experts are concerned about the potential security risk. […]
More than eight months after Romania's accession to the EU, public procurement is still a murky issue that needs to be addressed. Romania's Senate Defense Committee last week started a hearing into the air force's public procurement of planes after months of media speculation over a controversial business deal between Romania and an Italian aerospace company. […]
As the public votes against impeaching the Romanian president, returning him to office as he promises to curtail the parliament and win himself executive powers in the name of the people, an intensified battle is sure to ensue and the fight against corruption will be the first casualty. […]
Iran denies claim its military attacked a Romanian oil rig in Iranian waters in what appears to be an out-of-control commercial dispute. Tehran has emphatically denied allegations by a Romanian oil company operating a drilling rig in Iranian waters that its military attacked the rig on Tuesday. It is now one side's word against the other's, with no independent means of verifying the claim by the Romanian oil company, Grup Servicii Petroliere (GSP). […]
The mysterious disappearance of a key terror suspect from the slippery clutches of Romania's intelligence services sparks calls for the president's impeachment. The directors of three Romanian intelligence services and the country's prosecutor general have stepped down in the aftermath of the mysterious disappearance of a key terror suspect that has prompted opposition parties to prepare an impeachment process against the president. Omar Hayssam, a Syrian-born Romanian citizen, is accused of masterminding the kidnapping in Iraq last year of three Romanian journalists. […]
Romania’s Supreme Council for Defense has ruled that Bucharest will not withdraw its troops from Iraq in November and December, as some Romanian officials had said earlier on Friday. In a live televised address that was still in progress at the time of writing, Romanian President Traian Basescu said Romania would not pull its 890 troops out of Iraq. […]
Romanian police and intelligence services say they have thwarted a terrorist attack in the city of Timisoara in western Romania. ISN Security Watch's correspondent in Romania, Anca Paduraru, says police on Monday apprehended Romanian citizen Florin Lesch as he was reportedly on his way to blow up a car in a crowded area in Timisoara. According to Romanian television reports, the car was loaded with four gas tanks set to explode by a homemade remote device. Reports said Lesch had been under surveillance for over a year. Two hours after his arrest, according to Romanian television, Lesch allegedly confessed, saying: "I wished to revenge my Islamic brethren." […]
The Romanian Senate has ratified a framework agreement giving the US military access to bases on Romanian territory. The agreement, ratified on Tuesday, will come into force once Romanian President Traian Basescu signs it. According to ISN Security Watch staff in Romania, the senators appended a list of non-binding comments to the agreement in response to public criticism regarding Romania's alleged failure to protect national interests when it agreed to the deal in December last year. […]
Visiting Romania, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has described Romanians and Americans as “brothers” during a signing ceremony in Bucharest of a agreement between Romania and the US on the “shared use” of two military bases and training camps there. But this new brotherhood sealed late on Tuesday in the capital, Bucharest, will mean more pressure on Romanian President Traian Basescu over how to answer allegations that his country has been hosting secret CIA-operated torture facilities. […]
Romanian President Traian Basescu has rebuffed Washington over a US State Department warning last week for Romania to treat with caution a criminal investigation into the top executives of a major oil company, some of which are US citizens. In an interview with the Romania daily Adevarul on Monday, President Basescu indicated that a full investigation would be conducted, despite US concerns. […]
Moldova’s ruling Communist Party won an easy victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, winning a majority of seats, but suffering significant losses compared to its previous standing. However, with roughly 98 per cent of the votes counted and the Communists at a commanding 46.9 per cent, the party had not managed to take the three-fifths majority of seats necessary to secure one of its major objectives: the election of its presidential candidate in April. […]
Romanian prosecutors were expected today to join forces with the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service arriving in Romania to look into the case of a US Marine who allegedly killed a Romanian rock-star in a car accident on Saturday. The death of 50-year-old Teo Peter - a prominent musician and producer - over the weekend caused a public uproar after the US Marine, identified as 31-year-old US embassy employee Robert Christopher, refused to have his blood tested for alcohol and was spirited out of Romania shortly after the accident occurred. […]
Freedom of expression in Romania, while constitutionally guaranteed, is being threatened by political and economic pressures, according to the 2004 European Commission Country Report released earlier this month, and international journalists' organizations seemed to have come to similar conclusions. While this may very well be the case, the report failed to highlight another problem plaguing the Romanian media: the poor professionalism, vested economic interests, and corruption among high-profile journalists themselves. […]
At least on paper, Romania has made much effort to clamp down on the lucrative business of human trafficking, but the wily recruiters of sex slaves have proven too much of a challenge for the country's law enforcement agencies. Despite recent efforts to curb human trafficking in Romania, the trade is still thriving in this country ranked as third in Europe in terms of the origin of female victims of sex trafficking to the West, followed by Moldova and Ukraine. [...]