Update2: SIE head resigns. Health problems allegedly reported

Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu on Monday resigned as head of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SIE), the Presidency spokesperson Madalina Dobrovolschi announced.

“I confirm the resignation ( of Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu-editor note), it was received at the President’s cabinet,” she informed, adding that President Iohannis has already accepted the resignation, while the interim at SIE helm is taken over by Silviu Predoiu.

In retort, the Social Democrat chair Liviu Dragnea posted on Facebook that public opinion should know the real reasons that prompted to this resignation.

“It’s a resignation and I won’t comment it! I hope this move is not part of an underground political war. It’s very important that the intelligence services should not be involved in the political fight,” Dragnea said, adding that the public opinion is entitled to know the real reasons that led to this resignation and that if there are other reasons than the personal ones then the parliamentary committee on SIE control should be informed.

Apparently the resignation is due to Ungureanu’s health problems. “Initially, I thought it’s about a certain conflict state between the SIE director and the Cotroceni Palace (the Presidency-editor note). Subsequently, Mr. Răzvan Ungureanu called me and told me that the resignation occurred due to his health condition. He told me he has to stay in bed and that it’s a serious problem and that it’s the only reason for filing his resignation,” said the head of the parliamentary committee on SIE control, Mihaita Calimente.

Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu has been invested as SIE director on July 7, 2015.

President Klaus Iohannis nominated Ungureanu for the position of Director of Foreign Intelligence Service on June 24, last year and a week later the plenum of the two chambers of Parliament voted in favour of the appointment.

Yet, President Iohannis’ nomination for SIE prompted the first criticism, unveiling the former ruling coalition’s deep discontent.

Former PM Victor Ponta retorted from Turkey where he was admitted in hospital in 2015, saying the Social Democrat Party cannot vote for Ungureanu’s becoming the new SIE head, as president Iohannis did not consult anyone in the ruling party on this matter. Ponta accused the President of dishonestly going back on his promise in this regard.

Previously in the day, the ex-leader of the PSD senators, Ilie Sarbu said the nomination is illegal from the procedural point of view, arguing the premier “doesn’t know anything about that and has not been consulted.”

“Legally speaking, the proposal can enter the Parliament’s debate only through the Supreme Council of National Defence (…) Moreover the tradition has been broken, that one of the intelligence directors should be from the opposition and the other from the ruling coalition. We haven’t struggled very hard to nominate the SIE director (…) The proposal for SIE leadership is part of Iohannis’ and National Liberal Party’s strategy to assume the entire rule,” Sarbu stated.

In retort, PNL co-president Vasile Blaga urged PSD to not forget that the directors of intelligence services have always come from the opposition side, expressing conviction the Parliament will Ok Ungureanu’s nomination.

In her turn, the other PNL co-president, Alina Gorghiu said that Ungureanu’s appointment as foreign intelligence head is a major step in shitfing the parliamentary majority, while PSD is reticent to convoke the plenum for this. She warned that unless the Parliament plenum is convened, the Liberals would call for an extraordinary session.

The position of SIE director is vacant since September 22, 2014, when Teodor Melescanu resigned from office to join the presidential race.

Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu was foreign minister of Romanian from December 2004 to March 2007. He was appointed as director of Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) later in 2007.

Following the resignation of the government led by Emil Boc Ungureanu was appointed Prime Minister serving through April 2012 when his cabinet was dismissed after a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

Asked if he left things unfinished at SIE when he had his first term called off, Ungureanu said last year there were many projects that he had accomplished.

“We think, Mr. President primarily, that a strong Foreign Intelligence Service is needed, that must be truly involved in ensuring national security in a regional context which is so cloudy, so confused,” he added.

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