Note: This open letter has been co-authored by myself and Dr. Danut Manastireanu, and has been published with my permission on his personal blog.
Feel free to disseminate the letter as widely as you can. Should you wish to make any changes or additions, please check them either with myself or Dr. Manastireanu.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
In the past days the current government led by Mr. Victor Ponta has taken measures that signal a dangerous direction for Romania and its shaky democracy. The situation in our country is truly worrying and we beseech you to reflect the latest troubling developments on the Romanian political scene, including the serious plagiarism charges launched by Nature magazine at Prime Minister Victor Ponta.
Representatives from Nature magazine have presented detailed evidence that a substantial part of Mr. Ponta’s 2003 PhD thesis on the International Criminal Court has been clearly copied from at least three sources. The evidence for Mr. Ponta’s alleged plagiarism is freely available all across the internet. Numerous public figures, including journalists have had the opportunity to analyze the evidence. Knowing the international academic standards, the seriousness of plagiarism, and its negative impact on the prestige of the Romanian academic community, I am outraged by the desperate attempts of the current government, through the maneuvers of the acting Minister of Education, Mr. Liviu Pop, to prevent an independent, rigorous examination of the evidence in the case of Mr. Ponta’s alleged plagiarism.
To begin with, the constituency of Romania’s National Ethics Committee (CNE) had been abruptly changed only a few hours before the plagiarism case of Mr. Ioan Mang’s, then Minister of Education, was going to be analyzed. Now, ten days after Nature magazine published the plagiarism charges brought against the Prime Minister Victor Ponta, the Committee has not examined any of the documents in question.
The Council of the Law Department in the University Bucharest, when asked to analyze the charges, declared that it lacks the competence to examine the plagiarism of Mr. Ponta, resulting in the resignation of Mr. Flavius Baias, the dean of the Department of Law. An independent examination is underway at university level in the University of Bucharest.
A third attempt at elucidating the presumed plagiarism of Romania’s Prime Minister came from the General Council of the National Committee for the Accreditation of Academic Titles, Degrees and Diplomas (CNATDCU). According to current laws, the General Council of CNATDCU is the institution legally accredited to deal with plagiarism charges with regard to doctoral thesis, including Mr. Ponta’s case. The meeting of the Council was announced last week and its members met on Thursday 28 June at 9.00 am to discuss the case. Wednesday 28th of June, the acting Minister of Education, Mr. Liviu Pop, declared that the General Council of the CNATDCU committee is to be dissolved, with twenty new members to be added. The internal regulations of the Committee have also been changed, the Committee effectively losing its legal rights to establish whether a doctoral thesis has been plagiarized or not. The Minister’s order was swiftly published in the Official Monitor at approximately 11.00am while the Committee was still deliberating on Mr. Ponta’s case. Although technically the Committee has lost its legal authority through the brutal intervention of Mr. Liviu Pop, the verdict of the Committee is clear: Mr. Victor Ponta, the Prime Minister of Romania, is guilty of blatant plagiarism, with over 70 pages copied word for word. After in Bruxelles he told Spanish journal El Pais that he would resign if the National Ethics Committee found him guilty of plagiarism, on returning in Romania Ponta dismissed the verdict of the CNATDCU as being politically motivated and quipped that resignation is out of the question. It is worth reiterating that the National Ethics Committee is a separate body from the CNATDCU (National Committee for the Accreditation of Academic Titles, Degrees and Diplomas), and is now fully subordinated to the Ministry of Education. All its members have been replaced hours before the case of Mr. Ioan Mang, former Minister of Education, was going to be discussed, and to this day the Committee has not dealt with Mr. Ponta’s case.
The facts outlined above are only a few examples of the present worrying political developments in Romania. Such actions, which, as a Romanian journalist suggested, are reminiscent of the nascent Nazi regime in Germany, should be a concern not only for the citizens of Romania, but for the entire European Union, whose member Romania is. Our country is only slowly healing from the deep wounds left by almost a half a century of living under a ruthless authoritarian regime. A restoration of authoritarianism in this part of Europe, already present in nearby Hungary, is a serious threat for all of Europe, not only for the countries in question. We need to act, before it is too late. Therefore, in the interest of the Romanian and European society we kindly ask you to look into this complex matter, ascertain the facts, and make your findings public.
PhD candidate, Queen’s University of Belfast, UK.