The Queen is dead, long live the King
The month of August saw the passing of Queen Anne of Romania, wife of former King Michael I, at age 92. Princess Anne Antoinette Francoise Charlotte Bourbon-Parma was born in Paris in 1923, the only daughter of Prince Rene Bourbon-Parma and Princess Margaret of Denmark. Anne first met King Michael in 1947 at the wedding of Queen Elisabeth II of Great Britain to Prince Phillip. King Michael proposed a week later – this year would have seen their 63 year marriage anniversary.
Their road to marriage was a difficult one, given their different religious backgrounds (Catholic and Orthodox) and the troubled political times they were living in. Queen Anne was faced with an intransigent Vatican that insisted any children were to be brought up in the Catholic faith, whilst the Romanian constitution decreed all royal children needed to be raised in the Orthodox Church. Despite all efforts, the Pope would not give the couple his blessing. The situation was also difficult for King Michael, who needed Parliament’s consent before marrying, and thus returned to Romania in December 1947 to attain it. The then-Communist leader Petru Groza sought an audience with Michael under the pretense of discussing a ‘private family matter’ and forced the King to abdicate the throne on the 30th of December 1947 and to flee into exile. The couple was eventually married in June 1948 in Greece, with Anne’s family represented only by her protestant uncle Prince Erik of Denmark, as her Catholic family were prohibited from attending the ceremony for fear of being shunned by the Vatican.
During their more than four decades in exile, most of that time in Switzerland, the royal couple was forced to earn their living: The King worked as a test pilot, stockbroker and even started his own electronics company. Shortly after the Romanian revolution and the overthrowing of Communism in 1989, Michael tried to return to Romania only to be turned back on several occasions by then-President Ion Iliescu and his regime, who saw the King as a threat to the future envisaged by the politicians. It was only in 1997 after the change in the Romanian political scene that the King’s Romanian citizenship was recognized and he was allowed to return to his home country.
Although in past years the popularity of the royal family has grown, it is highly unlikely that they will take up a different role in Romania. The symbol and importance of the noble family in the country’s history has been re-acknowledged through a recent law that approved the reintroduction of the Crown as a symbol on the Romanian coat of arms.
The funeral of Queen Anne took place on the 13 of August at Curtea de Arges, the resting place of Romania’s former Kings and Queens: King Carol I, King Ferdinand and Queen Mary. The day has been declared as National Mourning Day by the Romanian Government.
The Doctor that keeps on giving: the domino effect of a stolen Doctoral thesis
Recent months have seen the final verdict following a decade long process concerning former social democratic Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s plagiarised doctoral thesis
. Following many delays and protests, the Minister of Education has signed the document that strips Ponta of his Doctor status. Ponta, however, can still contest the decision in Court.
The events do not draw to a close there – it would seem that Ponta was included in the Bar as a result of his doctoral thesis, without actually taking the Bar exam. This has brought Monica Macovei, Romanian Member of European Parliament, lawyer, former prosecutor and former Minister of Justice, to put forward another official request (the first in 2015) to the Romanian Bar asking for the immediate disbarment of Victor Ponta. Macovei’s request includes the demand for restitution of the monthly 15% salary bonus Ponta received thanks to his doctoral thesis throughout his career. Macovei went further and suggested that all money made by Ponta as a lawyer was not in fact legal, and hinted to the fact that he should now be required to return all the money. The Bar is set to discuss this matter on the 23 of August, assuming no changes in the removal of his doctoral title is taken by the Court if Ponta decides to challenge the decision.
Aside from the trail of stolen doctoral theses which by no means ends with Victor Ponta (who plagiarised parts in 115 of the total 297 pages of his thesis), the issue at hand is likely to produce effects on a greater scale than merely the individuals who committed these offences. One may wonder what message these endless plagiarism scandals of high officials send abroad and what effect they have on how Romanian students or graduates are seen outside their own country.
A corruption first for everything – today’s episode: the Romanian National Bank
Another day, another corruption scandal: This time it was Romanian National Bank (BNR) deputy governor Bogdan Olteanu’s turn to pay the piper. Olteanu was picked up by the National Anticorruption Directorate’s (DNA) prosecutors under the charge of receiving a one million euro bribe from a businessman in exchange for the appointment of someone (later revealed to be Liviu Mihaiu) as governor of the Danube Delta during his time as president of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house in Romania's bicameral parliament. Although a first for the central bank, this arrest is only the latest in a seemingly endless corruption saga for Romania.
This particular corruption plot thickens as the current President of the Senate, the upper house, and former Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) has been speculated to have also played a part in the events. According to prosecutors, Olteanu – currently under a 30-day house arrest placement – received the bribe following a transfer from a Cypriot to the Bulgarian bank account of one US based company, later to be withdrawn in three consecutive days and delivered to the office of the National Liberal Party (PNL) – of whom Olteanu was a member of.
Tariceanu did not delay in responding to the speculation surrounding his name in this corruption case: In his well-established dismissive manner, he stated that with the Parliamentary elections approaching it was to be expected that such accusations would be floating around. It remains to be seen how deep the tunnel goes, but evidence so far suggests that Romanians may soon be in the market for a new Senate President.