Klaus Werner Iohannis, President of Romania (since Dec 21, 2014)
Klaus Werner Iohannis (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈkla.us joˈhanis], German: [ˈklaʊ̯s joˈhanɪs]; also spelled Johannis; born 13 June 1959) is the current President of Romania. He became leader of the National Liberal Party in 2014, after having served as leader of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania from 2002 to 2013. Iohannis was a physics teacher and a school inspector before entering full-time politics.
Iohannis was first elected mayor of the city of Sibiu in 2000, representing the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania. Although the German population of the once predominantly German-speaking city of Sibiu has declined to a tiny minority, Iohannis won a surprise victory and was re-elected by landslides in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Iohannis is credited with turning his city into one of Romania’s most popular tourist destinations, and the city was declared the European Capital of Culture in 2007. In February 2013, Iohannis became a member of the National Liberal Party, accepting an invitation from Liberal leader Crin Antonescu, and was immediately elected the party’s First Vice President, becoming the party’s President the following year.
In October 2009, four of the five political groups in the Parliament, excluding the Democrat Liberal Party of then-President Traian Băsescu, proposed him as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister of Romania; however, Băsescu refused to nominate him despite the Parliament’s adoption of a declaration supporting his candidacy. He was again the candidate for Prime Minister of the National Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in the elections in the same year.
Iohannis is the first Romanian president to come from an ethnic minority. He is a Transylvanian Saxon, part of Romania’s German minority which settled in Transylvania in the 12th century.
Traian Băsescu, Former President of Romania
Traian Băsescu (born November 4 1951) is a Romanian politician. He is the current President of Romania, inaugurated on December 20 2004. He won the office in the 2004 presidential election.
Prior to becoming President, he was the Mayor of Bucharest from June 2000 until December 2004.Family background
Băsescu was born in Basarabi, a village (later a small town) near Constanţa, the largest port on the Black Sea. His father’s family originated from Băseşti, a village in Maramureş.
Băsescu’s father was an army officer named Dumitru (d. 2002); his mother is Elena (b. 1928). He has a brother, Mircea (b. 1953). He and his wife Maria have two daughters, Ioana and Elena.
Commercial ship captain
Băsescu graduated from the Naval Institute of Constanţa in 1976 and became a Merchant Marine Officer at Navrom, the Romanian state-owned shipping company. Between 1981 and 1987 he worked as Captain on Romanian commercial ships, and in 1984 he was promoted as Captain for oil tanker Biruinţa, the largest ship of the Romanian fleet. In 1989, he moved to Belgium to head the Navrom Agency in Antwerp.
Băsescu was a member of the pre-1989 Communist Party (PCR). After the downfall of Communism, he claimed that he joined the PCR in order to promote his navy career, and entered politics as a member of the large National Salvation Front (FSN) party. In 1992, after the FSN split in two factions—the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PDSR, later PSD), led by Ion Iliescu, and the Democratic Party (PD), led by Petre Roman, Băsescu joined the PD faction, and in 1992, he was elected to the lower house of the Romanian Parliament — the Chamber of Deputies and was again elected during the 1996-to-2000 term.
Concurrent with his service in Parliament, Băsescu served several times as Minister of Transportation — from 1991 to 1992 in Petre Roman’s Cabinet and in Theodor Stolojan’s technocratic Cabinet, and then again from November 1996 to June 2000 in the governments of Victor Ciorbea, Radu Vasile, and Mugur Isărescu.
In December 1997, he gave an interview to the newspaper Evenimentul Zilei, to Claudiu Saftoiu, the current SIE director, in which he accused Victor Ciorbea (prime minister at that time) of not implementing enough reforms, although Ciorbea was accused by the opposition of being excessively reformist. It would be the first episode in an open dispute within the ruling coalition, a dispute that eventually led to Democratic Party ministers, including Băsescu, resigning from the cabinet, which, in turn, led to Ciorbea’s resignation. Subsequently, Băsescu resumed his previous ministerial position in the new cabinet presided by Radu Vasile.
In 2001, he was elected president of the PD, defeating Petre Roman, who had led the party for nine years. In 2003, Băsescu negotiated an electoral alliance for the PD with the National Liberal Party (PNL) in order to create a cohesive mainstream center-right political opposition against the then-ruling PSD. The new pact, named the Justice and Truth alliance (Alianţa DA), ran common candidates in local and national elections and agreed to vote as a bloc in the Parliament. As president of PD, he became co-president of the DA alliance with then PNL president Theodor Stolojan. Stolojan was later replaced as PNL president and DA co-president by Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu.
Mayor of Bucharest
In 2000, Băsescu was elected Mayor of Bucharest, winning the run-off against PDSR candidate Sorin Oprescu by a very slim margin (50.69% to 49.31%), despite trailing 24% behind him in the first round. As Mayor, he was credited for the reduction (albeit trying to use very drastic measures such as large scale euthanasia) in numbers of stray dogs (euphemistically known as câini comunitari, “community” dogs) roaming freely among the streets of the city from approximately 200,000–300,000 in 2000 to 25,000 in 2004, and thus in the number of dog bite injuries from 1500/month to under 200/month; (source : The Administration for Animal Control (ASA) of the Mayor’s Office of Bucharest, 2003).
This campaign was controversial, as many animal lovers opposed dog euthanasia. Băsescu answered “We will not take any dog’s life!” There have also been numerous cases of people asking the authorities to take the stray dogs away, and, the next day, their neighbors, who were feeding the dogs, showed up at the shelter to take them back. Băsescu was also accused of just moving the dogs from the center to the periphery. In 2006 the stray dog number exceeded 200,000and on January 29, 2006, a Japanese was killed by a stray dog.
But, in 2004, Băsescu presented the situation as a success. He also regarded as successes the improvements to the water and lighting systems (which were in a very bad state); and the modernisation of public transportation in the city. His tenure was marked by constant conflicts with PSD-controlled institutions. Citing the need for descentralisation, the national government led by Adrian Nastase passed several ordinances transferring powers from Mayor to city sectors and to the city council. Băsescu accused council members of corruption and obstruction; he also successfully challenged several council resolutions in Administrative Courts. As a consequence, on 10 January 2002 the Government decided to dissolve the council, but it annulled that decision later on. These conflicts led to the blocking or delay of several infrastructure loans, financed by BEI, for municipal heating and road networks. In 2004, Băsescu was elected for a second term in office, winning 54.9% of the votes in the first round; the runner-up, Mircea Geoană of the PSD, at that time the Foreign Minister of Romania, received 29.7%. However, Băsescu resigned as Mayor later that year, after winning the presidential election.
President of Romania
Following Theodor Stolojan’s surprise withdrawal from the 2004 presidential elections, Băsescu entered the presidential race on behalf of the Justice and Truth Alliance (Alianţa DA). His main opponent was then Prime Minister and PSD president Adrian Năstase. Like Băsescu, Năstase was a former Communist Party member. Although Năstase was ahead in the first round by 7%, Băsescu achieved a surprise comeback and won the December 12 run-off election by a 2.46% margin, receiving 51.23% of the vote.
Running on a strong reform and anti-corruption platform, Băsescu’s victory was characterized in the media as Romania’s “Orange Revolution.” This referenced the victory of perceived reformists, just as occurred in neighboring Ukraine during the same period. It was also a reference to the orange color used by the winning Justice and Truth Alliance. In line with an agreement between the PD and PNL, he appointed Popescu-Tăriceanu as Prime Minister. In order to form a majority, PNL and PD formed a coalition with the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania and the Humanist Party, which later changed its name to the Conservative Party (PC). In late 2006, the PC withdrew from the cabinet, a move at least partially related to conflicts between Băsescu and PC leader Dan Voiculescu. The withdrawal of the PC left the coalition without a majority in the Parliament.
Conflict with the Prime Minister
Băsescu has remained very popular, due to his open style and hands-on approach. In his electoral campaign, Băsescu promised to be a “player-president” (in Romanian, preşedinte jucător), in contrast to a more withdrawn president who would be just a mediator among political forces. After he became president, as legally required, he resigned from the Democratic Party. However, he remained very involved in day-to-day politics, often being accused by other political leaders of overstepping constitutional boundaries on the role of the President. During the course of his presidency, his relations with Popescu-Tăriceanu also soured, particularly following the Prime Minister’s retreat in July 2005 after announcing he would resign and prompt early parliamentary elections. The ensuing poor relations between the President and the Prime Minister have become one of the primary themes of Băsescu’s presidency and of Romanian politics. Under the Romanian Constitution, the president appoints the prime minister, but does not have the authority to dismiss him.
Băsescu repeatedly stated that Romania’s accession to the European Union remained a top priority, and he was president when the country acceded on January 1, 2007. In addition, he has focused on a strong strategic partnership with the United States, a relationship which during the 2004 presidential campaign he characterized as the “Bucharest-London-Washington axis”. In real terms, this meant a continued Romanian commitment to maintain Romanian troops in Afghanistan and Iraq; and an agreement signed in December 2005 between Romania and the U.S. to allow U.S. troops to use Romanian military facilities. In June 2006, Băsescu came into open conflict with Popescu-Tăriceanu after the Prime Minister announced that he and the PNL sought to withdraw Romania’s troops from Iraq. However, the troops stayed in Iraq, after Băsescu called a meeting of the Supreme Defense Council, which voted that the troops should stay.
He made strong ties with the President of the United States who called him a friend of his “The President and I are friends. Romania and the United States are friends, and we’re allies”.
Băsescu has been vocal in calling for a regional approach to security in the Black Sea basin, which he noted remained susceptible to transborder security threats such as drugs- and human trafficking. Băsescu and the government of Prime Minister Popescu-Tăriceanu also focused on Romania’s planned accession to the EU, which remained a central component in Romania’s foreign policy. He has also been concerned to improve Romania’s relations with Moldova. Furthermore, he has expressed several times his belief in the future unification of the two countries, either politically or in the framework of the European Union.
In domestic politics, Băsescu concentrated on the fight against high-level corruption. In spring 2005, he successfully resolved a hostage crisis in Iraq involving three Romanian journalists and their guide, who were held by terrorists. In 2005, he also focused on pressing the government to provide relief to thousands of Romanians left homeless by widespread flooding throughout the spring and summer.
On 18 December 2006, President Traian Băsescu delivered a speech to the Parliament in which he condemned the Romania’s pre-1989 communist regimes. Members of the opposition Social Democratic Party and Greater Romania Party, as well as within the PNL, tried to disturb the speech. Particularly vocal was PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, a poet who used to write political propaganda for the Ceauşescu couple.
Over the years, Băsescu was repeatedly accused of involvement in the Communist regime’s infamous Securitate. These allegations usually concentrate on his career, most notably on his nomination as chief of the Antwerp Navrom agency (foreign relations, including economic ones, were dependent on politics). These allegations were reiterated publicly by former President Emil Constantinescu in late 2005 and summer of 2006, but no concrete evidence ever surfaced. After 1989, Băsescu repeatedly cast himself as an anti-communist, despite any affiliations in his past. In the live TV debate with Adrian Năstase before the 2004 run-off presidential election, Băsescu caught his opponent off-guard with a rhetorical remark:
The Fleet File Investigation (“Dosarul Flota”)
During his tenure as Minister of Transportation, Băsescu oversaw privatization of Romania’s merchant fleet. While some argued that the aging ships at the time were of minimal value, many Romanians believed the compensation received for the ships was extremely, if not artificially, low. The “scandal” of the fleet sale became what is widely known in Romania as The Fleet File (Dosarul Flota) Affair. Prosecutors brought charges against Băsescu, but his involvement in malfeasance was not proven. In 1996, Băsescu was the first Romanian parliamentarian to renounce his parliamentary immunity, in order to allow judicial procedures related to the Fleet File Affair to continue against him (Romanian MP’s were, by default, granted immunity from prosecution). Although the case against him was closed at the time for lack of evidence, it was reopened in early 2004, in what many consider was political maneuver against him sponsored by the then PSD government. The case was brought before the High Court of Cassation and Justice, however the judges decided to send it back to the Prosecutor’s Office citing procedural errors. The Constitution states that the President has immunity, however, due to conflicting interpretations of phrasing of the Constitution, the High Court of Cassation and Justice may at some point have to decide whether Băsescu’s immunity as President covers only actions during his term as president or extends to prior activities. However there is no evidence about Băsescu’s implication in the Fleet file. Each time Băsescu was called to be questioned by the prosecutors about his file or in the Court of Law, he brought substantial evidence that he was not involved. Moreover, he pointed out that a member of the Social-Democrat Party, Şerban Mihăilescu (also known as “Mickey Bribe” for his implication in many bribe cases), was highly involved in the Fleet file. The whole file is subject to political warfare between the Social-Democrat Party (mainly formed by ex-communist members and members of the Communist political police – Securitate) and the Justice and Truth Alliance, an alliance between two parties, the National Liberal Party and the Democratic Party. The subject of the Fleet file was brought into attention shortly before the 2004’s president election campaign, mainly to discredit Băsescu’s image. In a Social-Democrat Party’s meeting, by the time the former PSD government was still in power, the minister of Justice at that time, Rodica Stănoiu (herself having roblems with justice) asked the former Prime minister Adrian Năstase :
This indicates that this file was used as a weapon against Băsescu’s continuing increasing popularity and that justice was influenced by the political powers.
Băsescu bought a 369 m² apartment in down-town Bucharest for the equivalent of US$19,301, while its current market value is around 300,000 euros. Băsescu the mayor approved the sale of the apartment to Băsescu the citizen claiming that in 1999 he was evacuated from a nationalized house administered by the Executive Administrative Division in Charge with Protocol, which he was occupying as minister in the then center-right Government, and had no home. The Protocol Division moved Băsescu from Aviatorilor Boulevard into another home on Prezan Street that it also administered. But Băsescu already had a house: a villa in Bǎneasa on the northern outskirts of Bucharest. The Law 112/1995 specifically prevented the sale from occurring, with the provisions of Art. 9, which states that tenants may buy the houses they live in provided they did not own a house or sold one after 1 January 1990. When the scandal broke at the beginning of the year, Băsescu initially stated that he would give up that apartment, since as a former president he would have the right anyway to a home paid from public funds. He changed his mind later. The prosecutors investigating the matter concluded that, according to the provisions of Law 10/2001, Băsescu did not breach the law when he bought the apartment.
Traian Băsescu was in the center of a controversy having been photographed by paparazzi while driving under the influence of alcohol. Nicolae Văcăroiu (Social Democratic Party), a political opponent and president of the Senate, stated at Realitatea TV that Băsescu is a “problem drinker” who defrauded the entire Romanian fleet.