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Well-known artists accuse the government of trying to take over the institute charged with promoting Romania's country’s culture abroad.
Romania's new centre-left government has courted a row with the arts world after abruptly adopting changes to the running of the Romanian Cultural Institute.
Modelled on the British Council and France's Institut Francais, the state-funded body has 17 offices abroad including in New York, Berlin and Paris and exists to promote the country's culture at home and abroad.
“This is just a form of political purge, nothing more. There is absolutely no reason to change anything in the way that the Romanian Cultural Institute is working,” says one protester, film director Cristian Mungiu, 44.
Mungiu, whose last film won two prizes at Cannes film festival this year, is a leading member of a new wave of Romanian directors that emerged after the country's Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fell in 1989.
He and many other public figures are accuse the new government of trying to subvert and take control of the Institute,
The row began when the government last Thursday unexpectedly issued an emergency ordinance shifting control of the Institute from the the country's presidency to the Senate.
“Putting the ICR under parliamentary control is the democratic choice and aims to make the institution more transparent,” the government said.
The recent change allows parliament to name a new head and management council for the ICR within two weeks.
Hundreds of people were expected to join Monday's protest in against the government’s decision, urging Prime Minister Victor Ponta to withdraw the law and respect the mandate of the existing ICR leadership, which is set to end in January 2013.
“Culture has a new enemy starting today: Politics,” the organizers of the protest said.
Artists say the change was adopted without any consultation or debate and appears politically motivated.
“What's at stake is not whether the ICR is under the control of the Presidency or the Senate. The problem is that the government is trying to change leaders and put pressure on public institutions ruled by people close to the former government,” journalist Iulian Lecs said.
He notes the fact that ICR’s current president was named by president Traian Basescu, who is the main political rival to Prime Minister Ponta.
In recent days, the heads of some other public bodies, including public television TVR and the Romanian National Archives, were dismissed without explanation.
Since 2005 the Institute has financed the translation of more than 300 works by Romanian authors. This year alone, around 2.6 million people attended ICR cultural events staged in major cities around the world, according to ICR data.
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