Weekly review: searching for the secret agent

Weekly review: searching for the secret agent


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

A statement made on Tuesday by the Romanian President Traian Basescu who called on all candidates in this fall’s presidential elections to fully fill in their resumes and say whether they had been “undercover agents or not” or else he would be forced to reveal the truth has inflamed the domestic political stage and started a genuine hunt for the culprit.

Speaking in a talk show on Tuesday evening, Basescu asked all the candidates to review their CVs and add hidden info such as “whether they were undercover agents or not”. He said that he would be forced to reveal the truth himself if his appeal falls on deaf ears. “Yes, because I have the obligation to do it. When we talk about the position of president of Romania, you cannot miss to inform, no one says the service should do it, because the low doesn’t allow it, but the candidate has the obligation to do it. I will be able to come up with evidence about what this double button means” Basescu added, without specifying whether he is referring to a domestic secret service of a foreign intelligence agency.

His words set the candidates on fire. “From a political standpoint, it is obvious Mr Basescu wasn’t talking about me” PM Victor Ponta, Basescu’s arch-rival and the main contender in this November’s presidential poll, reacted. He said it would be a problem if that someone serves a foreign country’s agency, but if he or she works for the state intelligence “they are doing their job and deserve to be congratulated for that”. “The institutions protect me and you and the Romanian society from dangers against the national security”, he argued.

“Surely not about me”, Klaus Iohannis, the German ethnic mayor of Sibiu, a city in central Romania and Ponta’s main rival in the elections, also said when asked who Basescu spoke about. “No!” he also replied when asked by the media if he was an undercover intelligence officer. But he asked the President to finish the debate, since he also started it, by revealing the name of the candidate under this suspicion. Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, former Romanian PM between 2000 and 2004, also denied it was him Basescu was referring to.

In her turn, Monica Macovei, Euro-lawmaker and former Justice Minister and a key reformer in post-communist Romania, asked the heads of the two intelligence services in Romania – SRI (home intelligence) and SIE (foreign intelligence) – to appear before the specialized committees in the Romanian Parliament in order to settle the “undercover agent” issue. She also denied being an agent, arguing she had been vetted when she became a minister in 2005.

But reacting to her call, Georgian Pop, head of the committee supervising SRI’s activity, said all the checks had already been done there is no situation of incompatibility concerning either of the candidates. He said involving the state national security in the electoral campaign is a big mistake. “If we want to please the Romanian state’s rivals, we can go on”, Pop, a member of Ponta’s party, concluded.

Many journalists wondered what actually lies behind the new debate on the “undercover agent” candidate, with some believing this is a diversion. Many also asked why the President has waited for the electoral campaign to start in order to make these accusations, assuming he had go the information about the alleged agent long before. All in all, Basescu will probably come out and speak and point the finger at the suspected candidate. But such revelations also come to highlight the all or nothing character of the electoral campaign before the presidential elections, probably the polls with the highest stakes in post-communist Romania, given the regional troubled context.