President Traian Basescu took his stand over Lukoil Petrotel row, slamming the Russian oil company and asking the Government to get ready to take over the refinery in Ploiesti.
Basescu said Lukoil’s pressure on prosecutors and on the Romanian Gov’t is intolerable. “(…) If Lukoil decides tomorrow (on Friday) to not resume production, I’ll ask the Romanian Government to get ready to take over the refinery in Ploiesti, for this is beyond limits of a company willing or not willing. We should have the price of the privatization in mind and pay Lukoil the difference, the re-technologizing process costs. We shall pay after we determine if the tax evasion and money laundering were higher than EUR 230 M,” Basescu told a press conference at Cotroceni Palace.
The head of state also said he heard “another lie” these days, meaning “Lukoil is paying EUR 700 M a year to the state budget”. “Lukoil has been going at a loss for the past five years, which made me think if EUR 230 M isn’t just a part of the sum. If it is at a loss, how could it pay 700 millions to the budget? I tell you, they were referring to the money from the excise duty on fuel (…)”, Basescu also said.
According to the President, the Government should examine this issue very seriously, as “it is no jesting-matter”. “The guts of those who said ‘ we are thinking of leaving if you don’t’ stop this justice and prosecutors’ stuff’… You know, guys, you can go if you don’t abide the state laws, you can leave, but don’t you think you can take the refinery with you”, the head of state harshly concluded.
In retort, PM Victor Ponta pointed out President Basescu made these statements at the heat of the moment, “while he was troubled, in a precarious state of mind”, adding they are not helping Romania at all. He said the Gov’t is reviewing the energy security matter and will take the necessary steps in this regard. However, Ponta added that Hungary is the only EU member states that resorted to nationalization.
Moreover, the prime minister opined things don’t go that way, “a company is not leaving a country because the President is nervous at 3 p.m.”, referring to the hour when Basescu held the press conference.
On the other hand, PSD spokesperson Dan Sova detailed that the Government message is quite clear: “Lukoil must pay the owing taxes to the Romanian state and abide the law”. “At the same time it is the Government’s duty to care about the jobs’ stability in Romania and about the situation of Petrotel refinery workers”, he added. Sova also accused that President Basescu turned this case into an electoral issue in order to promote its own agenda. “Besides, Mr. Basescu’s attempt to heat Lukoil debate aims in fact at hiding his relationship with this Russian company, which was an important sponsor of his 2009 presidential campaign. Russian money has got to Mr. Basescu’s campaign and now the president is trying to cover that”, Sova said.
Rebukes on magistrate, vacant Culture portfolio and negotiations over Brancusi sculpture
Lukoil topic was not the only one that President Basescu was putting forth. The head of state raged against CSM vice-president, Horatius Dumbrava who said Basescu interfered with the justice business by suggesting how prosecutors should conduct their investigation in some cases, regarding certain ex-ministers, such as Microsoft file. As a matter of fact the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) took notice of President’s statements over this matter and also of PM’s statements on Lukoil.
Traian Basescu accused Dumbrava of lying, saying he is fully holding his statement. He said CSM move was ‘an abuse against the president of Romania’, and he would react if it happened again, as he doesn’t want to be on equal terms with PM Ponta regarding the pressures on justice.
Premier Ponta replied Basescu’s statements represent the severest attack on the justice system in the last 25 years.
The head of state also lashed out at the 3-month-old vacancy at Culture Ministry. Basescu said he signed for Kelemen Hunor’s recall from the minister position, explaining he has been waiting for an interim minister or a replacement for three months but “the situation went too far”. UDMR’s resigning Kelemen Hunor said his revocation was normal and not a drama, while PM Ponta informed he would table a nomination for Culture on Friday. UDMR sources told Mediafax that Environment Minister Korodi Attila was to be nominated for the Culture portfolio and for the vice-premier position.
President Basescu also criticized the Government for allocating public money for the electoral campaign. He said the Gov’t had better settled the issue of taking over Brancusi’s sculpture masterpiece,“Cumintenia Pamantului/Wisdom of the Earth”, by direct negotiation and had better given the necessary RON 80 M to negotiate with the sculpture’s owners instead of giving RON 2,4 bl to the town halls for the campaign.
PM Ponta retorted what is the point of still negotiating when the President gives the sum in advance.