They were Romania’s elite. But now twelve former senior officials with corruption convictions including a former prime minister and a European Parliament lawmaker have lost prestigious national honors.
President Klaus Iohannis signed a decree on Wednesday stripping the former dignitaries of the „Star of Romania” awards following public outrage after former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who served two prison sentences for corruption, was invited to National Day reception.
Nastase and Adrian Severin, a former foreign minister and later a European Parliament lawmaker are the most prominent figures to lose their honors.
Severin was sentenced to four years in prison in 2016 for bribe taking and influence peddling. Nastase was handed a two-year prison sentence in 2012 for misuse of a publicly funded conference to raise cash for his unsuccessful campaign in 2004. He was the first former Romanian prime minister to go to jail. He received a second sentence of four years for bribery in 2014.
Former Transport Minister Miron Mitrea and Dan Voiculescu, a media mogul who was also deputy prime minister will also lose their honors because they received prison sentences for corruption-related offenses.
Nastase who was prime minister from 2000 to 2004 hit back, calling the gesture “small-minded.”
“I thought after all the conflict of recent years, there would be an attempt at reconciliation, but I was wrong and his small-minded gesture forebodes nothing good,” he said.
Nastase received the award in 2002 for his efforts to help Romania join NATO and the European Union modernizing the economy and economic growth.
The issue of awards given to senior officials who later fell into disgrace came under the spotlight after Nastase’s appearance at a National Day reception last month at the Cotroceni Palace.
“I can tell you I have decided to remove all the decorations of those with criminal convictions,” Iohannis said Tuesday following the furor.
The move brought praise and criticism.
Nastase, 69, received the invitation to the reception because he had been decorated with the Order of the Star of Romania, with the rank of Grand Cross.
Under Romanian law, people who have been decorated by the president are automatically invited to the National Day reception.
Romanian law also allows for decorations to be removed if someone is subsequently sentenced to prison, as in Nastase’s and other cases.
Nastase was prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and lost the presidential race that year to Traian Basescu, who served two terms in office.
Commentator Bogdan Chirieac said, however that Nastase didn’t need an award. “He will be decorated in the history books.”