Romanian PM rejects plagiarism claim


ROMANIAN PRIME minister Victor Ponta is under pressure to resign for allegedly plagiarising his doctoral thesis, in the latest such scandal to befall a prominent European politician.

The science journal Nature said more than half of Mr Ponta’s 432-page thesis on the International Criminal Court “seems to be identical, or almost so” to papers written in Romanian by two law experts, and featured “direct Romanian translations of parts of an English-language publication” by another academic.

Mr Ponta – who took power last month and is Romania’s third premier this year as it pursues unpopular austerity measures – rejected calls to resign. “Have I done something against Romania’s interests as prime minister? Why should I resign? No way,” he said.

“The only thing you can reproach me for is that I did not include references as footnotes on every page but only in the bibliography . . . But the authors are mentioned in the bibliography, so you cannot say that my intention was to assume on my name things that were done by others.

“If the National Ethics Council finds that I made a mistake and I should have made footnotes, then I will pay by giving up my PhD title,” Mr Ponta added.

The leader of the left-leaning Social Liberal Union accused Romanian president Traian Basescu and his allies of stirring up scandal to unseat him and and damage his party’s chances in parliamentary elections later this year.

“You know very well this is a pretext of a political war between President Basescu and I, a war each of us leads with his own weapons,” said Mr Ponta, who added he found it “a bit comical” that a law thesis was of interest to Nature.

Quirin Schiermeier, the journalist who wrote the article in Nature, said the journal had no interest in politics but published the piece due to questions about “the academic reputation of Romanian-produced science”. Since Mr Ponta’s government took power in May, two education ministers have resigned amid allegations of plagiarism, increasing scrutiny on a Romanian school and university system in which bribery and cheating are rife.

In neighbouring Hungary, president Pal Schmitt was forced to step down earlier this year after he was shown to have copied most of his doctoral thesis, and in 2010 German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned in similar circumstances.