Scandal hits Romania’s newly appointed minister for agriculture

When Romanians talk over a coffee or a fence, they tend to remember and count the years by the political scandals. Other things seem trivial by comparison; they are forgiven and forgotten in time and amongst friends; but scandals are so outrageously blatant that they remain like a stubborn imprint in people’s mind.

Daniel Constantin (c)

2013 thus ended and hinted at what lies ahead with an appropriate ‘bang’ amongst Romania‚Äôs new-again government. Timing is of essence; and so it occurred as the appointed took their oath, paused and presented their declarations of assets. The main actor was none other than Mr Daniel Constantin, Romania‚Äôs new Minister for Agriculture and president of the country‚Äôs Conservative Party. For the financial year of ¬†2011, he ¬†declared a debt of no less than 295.000 euro¬†towards Mr Dan Voiculescu, the party’s honorific president and founder. The latter owns an important media trust and is a controversial businessman and multimillionaire.

On his¬†personal blog, Mr Constantin reflects on this professional relationship with Dan Voiculescu. It started in 2006 when the former was appointed executive director of a consultancy firm specialised in accessing European funds.¬†‚ÄúI did not plan to intensify my political¬†activities¬†or to return to public administration. I considered that the gesture of Mr. Voiculescu was a proof of trust; a recognition of the fact that I accomplished important performances in my current activity.‚ÄĚ

The story has a twist. Dan Voiculescu heavily invests in real estate and agriculture; buying former state-owned domains and agricultural land on which his investment group is also developing industrial farms.

To Romania‚Äôs public it is obvious that Mr Constantin’s debts are likely to be written-off or forgotten by the proportional increase of Mr Voiculescu‚Äės agricultural and real estate portfolio. Of course one could argue that this is a win-win situation for both gentlemen,¬†but definitely not for those who should matter. This incredibly fertile country holds almost 5 million peasants that have been feeding its people consistently beyond what statistics thought possible. This was achieved by small-scale and diverse farming that¬†honours¬†rich soils and a rich biodiversity. While those who factually, statistically, socially, culturally, economically truly matter, Romania‚Äôs Ministry for Agriculture keeps supporting a business oriented, large-scale productivity¬†model to the benefit of clients, cronies and multinational companies. Facing the fact that Romania‚Äôs minister for agriculture owes a lot of money to a notorious Romanian businessman who lives from developing land may well explain the country‚Äôs New Year hang-over.

Professionally speaking, Mr. Constantin has an obligation towards Romania’s farmers. Subsidy distributions are in a continuous freeze. Farmers are waiting to receive their payments, while far too many have entered into a viscous circle of loans to buffer hope. ¬†Whose debt will be settled sooner? The answer to that question is animating the country‚Äôs black humour and coffee tables. For over-the-fence-talks it‚Äôs far too cold.