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News 12 Sep 17

Romania Appoints Third Defence Minister This Year

Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party appointed a philosophy graduate as the country's third defence minister in eight months, insisting he was competent to helm a large-scale modernisation of military equipment.

Ana Maria Touma
The Romanian military during a NATO exercise. Photo: Sgt. Ian Shell/US Army

Romania’s two-month-old Social Democrat-led government had its first reshuffle on Tuesday, with the ruling party appointing new defence and economy ministers.

Mihai Fifor, 43, is set to take over the defence portfolio after the resignation of his predecessor, Adrian Tutuianu, who quit two weeks ago over the lack of funds to pay military salaries on time in September.

Fifor, who is currently the economy minister, will be replaced by Social Democrat MP Gheorghe Simon.

Fifor has been subjected to a lot of criticism over his lack of academic qualifications to manage complicated ministerial portfolios like the economy or defence ministries.

The minister has a degree in philosophy, a master’s degree in Romanian literature and a doctorate in social anthropology.

He also has a master’s degree in public affairs and completed post-graduate courses in internal affairs as well as security and good governance, according to his resume on the Economy Ministry website.

In 2015, president Klaus Iohannis rejected Fifor’s nomination as transport minister, saying that he lacked the qualifications and experience to manage such a complex portfolio.

However on Tuesday the Iohannis presidency validated Fifor’s nomination as defence minister.

Fifor told journalists on Tuesday that he believes he is qualified enough to run the defence ministry because he was a member of the defence committee in parliament and he also worked with the defence industry during his tenure as economy minister.

Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea valso oiced his backing for Fifor.

"He's a responsible man," Dragnea said on Tuesday.

Fifor’s appointment comes as Romania is in the process of acquiring weapons and military equipment to modernise the army, after upping its defence spending in 2017 to two per cent of the GDP to follow NATO guidelines amid US pressure.

In November, Romania is set to make the first payment for a $4 billion deal to buy seven Patriot defence systems from the US.

On August 26, the Defence Ministry also launched a public debate over buying four warships over the next seven years from a naval constructor willing to base its activity in Romania. The money allocated would amount to $1.6 billion.

Romania will also get three more F-16 fighter jets delivered to Bucharest from the US at the end of the month.

In July 2017, former defence minister Tutuianu signed a deal for HIMARS mobile rocket launchers and for another 36 fighter jets F16, which Romania will receive by 2022. Tutuianu said at the time that none of them would be delivered or paid for in 2017.

He also said at the time that Romania was seeking to buy new personnel carriers and trucks for the army as soon as possible. 

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