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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Elena Udrea


Elena Gabriela Udrea (born December 26, 1973) is a Romanian lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L), she has been a member of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies for Bucharest since 2008. In the Emil Boc cabinet, she has served as Tourism Minister, also since 2008.

The businessman Dorin Cocoş has been her husband since the couple married on Udrea's 30th birthday in 2003, at the Romanian Consulate in New York City.

She was born in Buzău and completed secondary studies at the city's Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu National College. She then attended the faculty of Law and Public Administration at Bucharest's Dimitrie Cantemir Christian University, graduating in 1996. Since 2005 Udrea has pursued studies at the Carol I National Defence University, receiving a master's degree in Military Science in 2007 and continuing to work on a doctorate in the same field. Udrea worked as a lawyer in Bucharest from 1997 to February 2005, resuming the practice of law that December. At Dimitrie Cantemir, she began teaching political systems in autumn 2007, and she has authored or co-authored five works on geopolitics and globalisation. Some of her activities as a lawyer have drawn criticism from the non-governmental Political Investigation Group: for instance, it has questioned the fact that while an opposition city councillor in 2004, she represented the government-run Department for State Heritage Administration (RA-APPS), at one point receiving public contracts worth 710 million lei during a single week.
Udrea began her political activity in 2002 as a legal adviser to the Social Democratic Party (PSD). She joined the National Liberal Party (PNL) that year, becoming a Bucharest city councillor in June 2004, during the period of the Justice and Truth Alliance. She held that office until the following February, and during that time was president of the council's committee on law and discipline. In October 2005 she resigned from the PNL, joining the Democratic Party (PD; precursor to today's PD-L) in February 2006. That December, she was elected the party's executive secretary, becoming a vice-president of the PD-L a year later. In these capacities, she promoted the party and spoke approvingly of the president, for instance ahead of the 2008 local election.

From February to November 2005, while away from her law practice, Udrea was a state counsellor and head of the Presidential Chancellery under President Traian Băsescu. Among her roles were summarizing secret documents addressed to the Presidency, approving lists of invitees to Cotroceni Palace and representing the Presidency at various events. During this period, she launched a series of attacks on Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, who had fallen out of favour with Băsescu; these centred on Tăriceanu's opposition to having early elections. She also drew notice for speaking during a televised interview about a "President of Norway" (which is a monarchy) and of that country as a member of the European Union (which it is not). Udrea resigned her post after eight months, citing the "profoundly unjust" attacks on her and others involved in Băsescu's anti-corruption drive, and her desire not to become a liability for her boss. These controversies centred around the RA-APPS affair and alleged links she and her husband had to the parking firm Dalli, headed by what Băsescu had termed the "personal mafia" of his 2004 election rival Adrian Năstase. Moreover, she was characterised as "the blonde from Golden Blitz"—a Cotroceni restaurant once frequented by Băsescu and the owners of which had business ties to Udrea's husband—having been photographed there with President-elect Băsescu in 2004. (Despite rumours to the contrary, she stated in an interview that her relationship with the President was "strictly professional".)Following her resignation, Udrea continued to act as a presidential surrogate, soon afterwards accusing the prime minister of placing a call to a prosecutor on behalf of his friend and business partner Dinu Patriciu on the day of Patriciu's arrest. She returned to this theme in 2007, when she alleged that Tăriceanu had written the president a note soliciting the latter's intervention in the case.

At the 2008 legislative election, Udrea won 43.4% of the vote in her district, enough to gain a seat in Parliament once redistribution took place. Three days after the legislative session opened, she was sworn in to the new office of Tourism Minister. All government employees on two floors of the Victoria Palace were evicted in order to make room for the new ministry. As minister, her goals include raising tourism's share of Romania's GDP from 3.5% in 2008 to 10% by 2012, and a renewed focus on the country's spa towns.


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