June saw the row between PM and President grow. The Constitutional Court was dragged into the disagreement and later ignored, setting a pattern for the summer. The plagiarism scandal, which had already cost some politicians their jobs, reached the Prime Minister. Elsewhere, a former PM on his way to jail for corruption attempted suicide.
After taking office, PM Victor Ponta had said that there would no witch hunt of officials appointed by the previous administration. However, a spate of sackings appeared to contradict the PM’s statement.
Norman Manea became the first Romanian to receive honorary membership of the Royal Society of Literature in London. Past members of the 200 year old institution include Past fellows include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, WB Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy and George Bernard Shaw. At present many well known authors are members, including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Alice Munro, John Banville, Umberto Eco, Kazuo Ishiguro and JK Rowling. New members can choose to sign the roll with either Lord Byron’s pen or Charles Dickens’ quill.
Romania set a few odd ball world records over 2012, but one of the most spectacular must have been the record for Chinese lanterns launched simultaneously. People in Iasi entered the Guinness Book of Records by setting off nearly 13,000 lanterns over the city, taking the record away from India.
Around the world, sales of newspapers are declining as more and more people read news online. Romanian print media appears to be suffering particularly large falls in readership and each new set of circulation figures shows significant drops. Among the publications, 20, 30 or even 40 percent quarter on quarter reductions in circulation were seen.
It was a funny old year for the Romanian economy, estimates for annual GDP growth dropped over the course of the year but published economic indicators were mixed. Romania did briefly enter recession, after two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction.
People in the Romanian tourism industry probably wish more people shared Prince Charles’ enthusiasm for the country. The heir to the British throne is a regular visitor to Transylvania and he owns a number of properties in the region. As well as enjoying the Transylvanian countryside, Prince Charles met PM Victor Ponta and President Traian Basescu on his June 2012 trip.
Clambering onto the bonnet of a car traveling at speed down a highway and attempting to break into a truck makes a great Mission Impossible style stunt, but few people would attempt it. Not in Romania. A gang of thieves were found doing exactly this in a series of daredevil high speed heists. Video below.
The Democratic Liberal Party’s (PDL) woes continued in the local elections. The party suffered heavy losses and a number of its members resigned. Former PM Mihai Ungureanu also formed a break away party, as politicians fled the sinking PDL ship.
Romania’s largest energy producer Hidroelectrica filed for insolvency in June. The Competition Council was already investigating allegedly prejudicial contracts held with Hidroelectrica that were reportedly ruining the state owned hydroelectric energy producer. Insolvency was predicted to be a way of escaping the damaging contracts and later in the year this was proved true as the courts allowed Hidroelectrica to cancel many contracts and write off debts.
In June, allegations that PM Victor Ponta had plagiarized his doctoral thesis surfaced. The story broke in scientific journal Nature, which quoted anonymous sources. The PM laid the blame with political opponent President Traian Basescu and the media generally shared the view that Mr Basescu was behind the story. It wasn’t the first plagiarism scandal to hit high level politicians in 2012 and copy-paste-gate claimed a number of scalps.
There was a final twist in the Adrain Nastase story in June when the former PM attempted suicide as police took him into custody. After exhausting all possible means of appeal, the former Prime Minister reportedly attempted to shoot himself when the police came to take him to jail. Nastase was hospitalized, but the details were not altogether clear and the media seemed uncertain whether it was an attempt to end his life or an effort to avoid jail. Whatever his motives, the former PM ended up behind bars after a stint in hospital.
The EU summit at the end of June was another point for PM Ponta and President Basescu to argue over as relations between them continued to deteriorate. The matter was taken to the Constitutional Court, which ruled that the President should represent Romania at EU summits but that the President could nominate a substitute. PM Ponta ignored the ruling and went to Brussels, saying that the Constitutional Court was biased in the President’s favor.