Romanian PM appoints young ministers in new government

Story highlights

  • The appointed prime minister will announce his program Thursday in parliament
  • The former prime minister resigned after protests over his austerity program
  • Other European countries have also seen government changes due to the debt crisis
Romania's prime minister-designate announced the lineup of his government Wednesday following two days of talks with the ruling coalition.
"I expect competence, professionalism, responsibility, decency, modesty and openness for dialogue. I call the opposition coalition to support this new government because we are together responsible for this country," said Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.
The prime minister-designate replaced all the Democrat-Liberal Party ministers with other members of the same party, but the other two ruling parties retained control of the same ministries they'd had under the previous administration.
Ungureanu explained that he had appointed young, foreign-educated people to run the ministries because he is confident their experience will help them face any challenge. However, most of the ministers are not familiar to the public.
One of the youngest is 38-year-old Democrat-Liberal Lucian Bode, a former power company engineer who was named to be Minister of the Economy. This post was expected to be run by Democrat-Liberal Andreea Paul Vass, but she declined it following accusations of incompatibility made by party colleague Sulfina Barbu.
Ungureanu is expected to announce the government program Thursday in parliament, which must approve his plans so he can officially form a new government. Ruling and opposition lawmakers are expected to express their confidence vote in parliament that day.
If the new government is not approved in the following 60 days, parliament will be dissolved and early elections would be held. Currently, Romania is expected to have a local election in the spring and parliamentary elections in the fall.
Former Prime Minister Emil Boc, who resigned Monday but remains the president of the ruling Democrat-Liberal Party, said Wednesday his party will support the new government.
Opposition politicians, who have boycotted parliamentary sessions since February 1, have called for new elections for a totally fresh start in Romania. They don't support the incremental step of a new prime minister appointed by President Traian Basescu, and with it a new government.
Liberal leader Crin Antonescu signaled that he and other opposition leaders do not plan to back Ungureanu or any new government that might form under him.
"We believe this is an improvised solution by Basescu to keep the current coalition in power, although most Romanians don't agree with this," said Antonescu.
The opposition met Monday evening with the president to discuss the political situation. Some echoed a sentiment voiced by protesters in recent weeks demanding that, in addition to Boc and his government, Basescu himself resign.
"President Basescu's resignation is the only way we could end this political crisis, but he told us that he won't step down," Antonescu said.
On Monday, Basescu appointed Ungureanu as his pick to be the nation's next permanent prime minister. The 43-year-old Ungureanu was Romania's foreign minister from 2004 to 2007, and since then he has been the head of the eastern European nation's foreign intelligence service.
The announcement was made after Boc resigned on Monday, in the wake of weeks of public protests against austerity measures and pressures from his own party.
The resignation makes Romania the sixth European country to see a prime minister fall amid the debt crisis sweeping European Union member states.
Announcing his resignation on television, Boc said he is not the kind of person to hang on to power, and that it is time to make space for another government. He admitted making mistakes, but said he is sure Romania has a bright future.
The outgoing prime minister said he prepared his resignation some time ago, but he waited for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to Bucharest to finish its visit before announcing it publicly.
"We made this decision in order to alleviate the social and political situation in the country, (and) to not lose what Romanians have won with so much suffering -- the country's economic stability," said Boc, who had been prime minister since 2008.
Protests continued to take place in Romania despite the recent announcements, as hundreds of people called for Basescu to step down and early elections to he held. People also demonstrated against corruption and small state salaries.
Some Romanians blame the government for imposing harsh austerity measures after the country received 20 billion euros from the IMF and the European Union.
Protests turned violent January 15, when some of the thousands of people gathered in central Bucharest clashed with police. Stores were vandalized and dozens were wounded.
The austerity measures, tensions between protesters and authorities, and political turnover are not unique to Romania.
In Europe, there have been months of unrest in Greece, while Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal have also seen changes of government as their leaders try to cut spending in order to stabilize the common, multi-national currency, the euro.