Romanian PM apologizes for pic exposing him smoking in the office and not wearing facemask

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PM Ludovic Orban has apologized for the photo depicting him in an office at the Government surrounded by several ministers while smoking, wearing no facemask and breaking the social distancing rules.

The photo has been revealed by the former Social Democrat minister of Finance Eugen Teodorovici on his Facebook page and is featuring PM Ludovic Orban, deputy PM Raluca Turcan, minister of Economy Virgil Popescu, minister of Transports Lucian Bode, and Foreign Minister, Bogdan Aurescu, in an informal encounter in an office apparently in the Government building.

PM Orban can be seen smoking, wearing no facemask, FM Aurescu, who is wearing protection gloves is having a cigar in his hand, while the minister of Economy is having a drink. Minister Bode is at a desk where there are a bottle of champagne, several glasses, some of them apparently with beer, but also some plates with appetizers. Deputy PM Raluca Turcan is the only one in the room who is wearing a facemaks, but under her chin.

The photo, which would have been taken on May 25 when PM Ludovic Orban celebrated his birthday, went viral on social media, luring a lot of criticism. Smoking in public enclosed spaces is forbidden in Romania. The premier and the ministers have also broken the social distancing and the mandatory wearing mask rules and in force during the state of alert.

In retort, PM Orban has apologized for him breaking the rules, saying he went to the Fiscal Agency by himself to pay the fines. Orban said that smoking in the office had been a mistake that he assumed and for which he is sorry, first of all because he would be a bad example for the young generations. He promised he would try quitting smoking.

Asked about what he understood that people had reproached to him seeing the photo, Orban said: “The fact that I broke the rules, the fact that I was not wearing a facemask although I promoted wearing the mask, the fact that I was smoking in an enclosed space”.

“I apologized, we are human, we make mistakes, it’s important to admit your mistake and to try to repair it”, PM Orban told Digi 24 last evening.

“I made a mistake, I paid for it, I am willing to pay for any mistake”, the premier added, explaining that he has an exhausting job, some 15-16 hours per day and “for a heavy smoker like him it’s hard not to have a special room for smoking at hand“, so “it’s hard to control yourself all the time”.

Orban also said he is reflecting on a solution to quit smoking, as he has been smoking for 40 years. “My family would enjoy that the most“, he said, recounting he had several attempts to quit smoking and he has even managed to stay away of cigarettes for a whole year, but after the solar eclipse in 1999 he started smoking again.

“All who are breaking the law should be fined”, the PM stated, opining that the fine should be the higher as the person who breaks the rules has a higher position.

The Romanian PM said he had paid the fine through, the electronic service of the National Agency for Fiscal Administration, saying he was surprised by how quick and simple you can pay a fine online.

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