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Romanian Political Crisis Escalates, Spreads Across Europe



BUCHAREST - An escalating political crisis in Romania pitting the prime minister against the president is spreading abroad, with protests in foreign capitals and concern from European officials about the state of democracy in one of the EU's newest members.

Center-left Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his Social Liberal Union (USL) have moved to oust center-right President Traian Basescu, which some critics have said amounts to a political coup. A group of Romanian intellectuals and members of the civil society addressed a letter on Monday to the governments of all the European member states, complaining about Ponta's recent actions, reported Bucharest daily Adevarul.

In addition to the dubious Parliamentary maneuver on Friday, and alleged manipulation of the media in the coverage of the crisis, the letter criticizes the Prime Minister for not resigning after he was accused recently of copying his PhD thesis.

As Mediafax press agency reports, Romanian PM Ponta will have a meeting with the President of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso, after several representatives of the Commission expressed their concern about the status of democracy in Romania. Markus Ferber, head of the German delegation in the European Parliament, said that he will initiate procedures for unprecedented sanctions against Romania because of threats to rule of law from the Parliamentary actions, reports the Bucharest Herald

Romania, a country of 22 million inhabitants, has a significant diaspora that exceeds 10% of the total population, including many in the United States, though increasingly concentrated in Europe after its 2007 entry into the EU. 

The vote of Romanians living abroad appears to be issue, after President Basescu managed to obtain a second term in 2009 thanks in part to Romanian ex-patriates. 

Meanwhile, protests have been held on the streets of cities in France, Spain, Germany and Belgium. Ponta accused Romanians living in Germany and Belgium of organizing protests against his party and being manipulated by the President’s supporters, reported Romania Libera

According to the Romanian Constitution, until the referendum, the temporary chief executive is Crin Antonescu, president of the Senate, a member of Ponta's coalition. The website reports that Antonescu suggested Romanians living abroad should pay a tax if they want to have the right to vote.   

A protest by Romanians in Paris took place at Place du Trocadéro on Sunday:

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