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Spy chief unveils new Romanian government

Romanian intelligence head announces new government following protests, key portfolios unchanged

AFP , Wednesday 8 Feb 2012
Romania
Romania's nominated Prime Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, (Photo: Reuters).
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Romania's incoming prime minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu rang the changes at the economy and finance ministries Wednesday when he unveiled his new government.

Ungureanu, 43, told reporters he would call a confidence vote on the new cabinet and its economic programme on Thursday.

Ungureanu, head of Romania's foreign intelligence service, was tapped by President Traian Basescu to form a government after Prime Minister Emil Boc resigned Monday amid anger that brought thousands of protesters onto the streets over cutbacks at the end of January.

He named 31-year-old US university graduate Bogdan Dragoi as finance minister and handed Lucien Bode, an engineer, the economy portfolio.

The core of the outgoing government remains largely unchanged, with several key ministers including Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu and Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu keeping their jobs.

"The new government brings together young people and exceptional professionals," Ungureanu told reporters.

Romania's governing coalition make-up of Liberal Democrats (PDL), the Hungarian Minority (UDMR) and the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR) will remain unchanged.

The Tufts University-educated Dragoi, who has been secretary-of-state in the finance ministry since 2009, was behind several successful euro and dollar bond placements over the past two years.

Bode, who replaces Ion Ariton as economy minister, has virtually no experience in macroeconomy.

Ungureanu is bringing nine newcomers into the government, with an average age of 38, prompting national media to describe the cabinet as the "junior league."

"The new Prime minister is sending the substitutes on the pitch," said the daily Ziarul Financiar.

But financial analyst Aurelian Dochia hailed a "a generation change that could mark a major moment" in Romanian politics.

Dochia stressed that the new government should remain committed to implementing a 2011 agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union.

"Without it Romania would have no credibility on financial markets and would have a hard time borrowing the 16 billion euros it needs in 2012 to finance its public deficit," he told AFP.

Under the arrangement, Romanian authorities pledged to keep a tight lid on public spending.

But political analyst Sorin Ionita was less enthusiastic. "The incoming ministers are just clones of the outgoing ones, members of the PDL's third echelon," he told AFP.

Ionita dismissed the choice of Bode as the economy minister as "a small-time, politically connected trade-unionist with no experience in running institutions or companies."

He added that President Basescu and the PDL expect the new cabinet will improve their score in opinion polls, "by keeping the bigwigs at a distance and piggybacking on Ungureanu's good image."

Ungureanu has pledged to continue reforms begun under the outgoing government, which were closely negotiated with the IMF and the EU.

The previous government was forced to call on the IMF and the EU for a 20-billion-euro ($26-billion) lifeline in 2009. In exchange for the loan, Boc took drastic measures to curb spending, cutting public sector wages by 25 percent and freezing pensions in 2010.

Tens of thousands of jobs were axed in the public sector.

Ungureanu was foreign minister from 2004-07 but resigned after a clash with then-prime minister Calin Tariceanu, before being named chief of the SIE external intelligence service.

He said he would resign from the SIE immediately after his government gets parliamentary approval.

The opposition has criticised Ungureanu's appointment, saying it was unprecedented that a spy chief be named Prime minister, and called on the president to bring forward elections scheduled for November.

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