Romanian minister defies parliament inquiry

BUCHAREST, Romania

Romania’s tourism minister said Thursday she had taken legal action against members of a parliamentary committee that is investigating whether she misused ministry funds.

Elena Udrea appeared briefly before the committee Thursday to announce she had filed a legal complaint against the lawmakers on the grounds they had abused their position. She refused to answer questions, and said she would only take part in the inquiry against her when the committee members resigned.

Earlier this week audio tapes were released that appeared to show committee members criticizing Udrea and discussed ways to find her guilty of corruption.

Udrea is accused of misspending ministry money, including overspending on advertisements on the EuroNews and CNN television channels. She is also accused of failing to give Parliament files and documents it requested once the inquiry began.

Leonard Orban, who heads the committee, said Udrea had defied the laws and the constitution. He called on her to appear before the committee Sept. 1.

Udrea is close to President Traian Basescu, who has said that he considers her Romania’s best government minister. She is also considered Romania’s most powerful politician after the president, due to her ties to Basescu.

Romania will hold presidential elections this fall, and Basescu is expected to run for re-election. Polls show that support for him has declined in recent weeks, partly due to the public perception of Udrea.

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