Romania kidnapping scandal: Expert draws parallels with deadly Colectiv nightclub blaze

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By Lillo Montalto Monella  & Chris Harris
A statue paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the Colectiv nightclub fire
A statue paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the Colectiv nightclub fire

There are parallels between the scandal engulfing Romania over the handling of a teenager’s kidnapping and a deadly nightclub blaze four years ago, an expert has told Euronews.

George Jiglau, a political scientist, said in both cases there had been “an accumulation of incompetence and clientelism”.

Alexandra Macesanu, 15, went missing on July 24. When she telephoned the European emergency number to say she had been kidnapped it took Romanian authorities 19 hours to locate her.

A 65-year-old mechanic in southern Romania has confessed to her killing and DNA tests have confirmed Macesanu is dead, her family said.

It comes nearly four years after a blaze at Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest killed more than 60 people.

Bucharest officials gave the club an operating licence and safety inspectors allowed it to run despite knowing it did not have a fire safety permit.

Thousands of protesters, some holding placards “Corruption Kills”, hit the streets. The demonstrations brought down the Social Democrat (PSD) government of Victor Ponta. PSD swept back to power a year later.

“There is a feeling that state institutions are captured by politically appointed people that lack competence and the needed empathy to serve the public,” said Jiglau, from the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj.

“At the local level, it has been discovered that several top-ranked policemen were politically appointed.

“There's a feeling that their lack of competence and lack of feeling regarding their mission to serve the public is passed down in the ranks and this has been reflected in how the case was handled.

“Just like at Colectiv, there is an accumulation of incompetence and clientelism with dramatic consequences.

“Just like at Colectiv, all institutions claim they did their job and followed procedures. Which is likely the case, but this also points to loopholes in the legislation and overall very poor policymaking.”

Jiglau said some of the reaction in Romania had been along the lines that the country had learnt nothing from Colectiv.

“What is also common is the way president reacted: he immediately blamed the government for it,” added Jiglau.

“He is in opposition to the government and in the last two years, the current government and the parliament majority is trying to make amendments to the justice system.

“The president says that the party in power is trying to weaken the justice system, so it is all politicised.”

Romania has presidential elections on November 10 and the incumbent Klaus Iohannis is standing again.

“He [Iohannis] will use the case to fight with Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă [who is also running] and it will come up in the electoral campaign,” continued Jiglau.

“The entire narrative will be that institutions are not working properly and the party in power promotes such practices.

“We are going to hear the echoes of this case for many months now”.