DOCTOR PANDELE. The Mayor of Voluntari plagiarized at least a third of his PhD thesis

Over a third of Voluntari Mayor Florin-Costel Pandele’s (55) PhD thesis in Military Studies is coarsely copied from other sources. Pandele was granted the title of ‘Doctor in Military Studies’ in June 2008 at the ‘Carol I’ National Defense University (UNAp).

His thesis supervisor, Vasile Mihai Ozunu, is the current head of the National Defense College and a former state secretary in the Ministry of Defense under Gabriel Oprea. Ozunu took part in the 2001 commission that awarded Oprea the title of University Professor, as previously reported by PressOne.

This UNAp doctorate was the second granted to Pandele. Only 8 months prior, in November 2007, he was awarded the title of Doctor in “Public Order and National Security” at the ‘Alexandru Ioan Cuza’ Police Academy.

PressOne has analyzed Florin Pandele’s UNAp PhD thesis and we have identified dozens of pages copied from other works, or taken without quotation marks from the official Național Security Strategy document published in April 2006.

teza Pandele

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An initial sign that something may be amiss in Mayor Pandele’s thesis is the title, which doesn’t appear to have much to do with Military Studies: “Romania’s Contemporary European Integration Challenges”.

The thesis has 201 pages out of which 183 contain the work proper, while the rest is an appendix with some very basic content: a chronological order of events describing Romania’s accession to the EU, a list of major European institutions, the text of the EU accession, and a short paragraph about the Treaty of Lisbon.

The appendix also includes an extensive bibliography listing sources in Romanian, English, French, and German for essays and other works, including the National Security Strategy, without mentioning, however, the page numbers cited.

In the body of the dissertation citations are nonexistent. Strangely enough, quotation marks are used at times to refer to EU institutions such as the European Parliament; however none of the citations conform to academic integrity standards.

If the thesis were judged on the source attribution standards befitting a detailed PhD dissertation, then the entire text, all 183 pages, ought to be the author’s intellectual property. However, 49 pages of the paper contain footnotes referencing various works and a random check of these sources has shown the author has extensively copied the referenced works.

Furthermore, the parts of the text that are not ‘covered’ by academic references are taken from other documents, often seemingly at random.

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The PhD thesis is comprised of an introduction, three chapters, and conclusion. The introduction runs from pages 5 to 8 while the pages before the appendix, 177 to 183, consist of concluding statements.

The three chapters are split as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Considerations regarding the establishment and expansion of the European Union
  • Chapter 2: Romania’s European Union integration proceedings
  • Chapter 3: Implications for Romania’s integration to the European Union

As we read over the thesis we discovered that:

  • Pages 7 and 8 (2 pages) from the introduction are copied, without any quotations, but also without referencing the National Security Strategy published in 2006.
  • Pages 21-23 (3 pages) are copied from Roxana Munteanu’s European Law published in 1996. Furthermore, on page 23 of Pandele’s thesis, an entire footnote is taken directly out of page 28 of Roxana Munteanu’s work.
  • In the second chapter – about Romania’s EU integration proceedings – Florentin Pandele copied out of the very same Encyclopedia of the European Union starting at page 104 and up to page 116 (12 pages).
  • In the third chapter, Pandele used the National Security Strategy once again between pages 141 and 174 (33 pages).
  • Finally, the conclusion contains another 3 pages copied out of the Encyclopedia of the European Union.

To sum it up, at least 73 pages – a third – of Florentin Pandele’s PhD thesis is copied from other sources.

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In the introduction, on pages 7 and 8, Florentin Pandele compiles several passages found in both the National Security Strategy and in the third chapter of his thesis.

"Un loc aparte în cadrul acestui capitol îl constituie modul cum se face protecția valorilor, intereselor, necesităților de securitate ale României, formele și modalitățile de promovare a intereselor naționale, influența apartenenței la Uniunea Europeană asupra securității României. 

Cumulativ, gama acestora cuprinde, în esență: integrarea deplină în Uniunea Europeană și asumarea responsabilă a calității de membru al Alianței Nord-Atlantice, menținerea integrității, unității, suveranității, independenței și indivizibilității statului român, dezvoltarea unei economii de piață puternice și performante." 

This previous paragraph doesn’t tie in with this one. The explanation comes from page 6 of the National Security Strategy (second paragraph, outlined in black). 

ssnr pag 6

A better example is found on page 60 of Florentin Pandele’s thesis, where we compared it to page 55 of the Encyclopedia of the European Union

Pagina 60 din teza lui Florentin Pandele a fost copiată de la pagina 55 din Enciclopedia Uniunii Europene

Page 60 of Pandele's thesis was copied from page 55 of the Encyclopedia of the European Union. 

This goes for every subchapter that describes EU institutions. Pandele takes the description of the EU, the European Commission, the EU Council, and so on, but also copies text that refers to Romania’s EU integration process – there’s an entire chapter in the Encyclopedia devoted to the topic.

Doctor Pandele also takes entire portions out of Roxana Munteanu’s European Law. Comparing one of these segments, side by side, demonstrates how the passage differs only in the spelling mistake in Pandele’s thesis.

On page 56 of his thesis, in the subchapter referencing the institutional context of the EU (“Cadrul institutional al Uniunii Europene”) Pandele writes, without citing any sources: 

"Uniunea Europeană beneficiază în prezent de unul dintre cele mai complexe sisteme instituționale din lume, rivalizând în acest domeniu poate doar cu sistemul creat de Organizația Națiunilor Unite. Instituțiile sale au rolul de a integra interesele politice ale statelor membre, prin administrarea diverselor politici și strategii comune inițiate de acestea."

Here is the corresponding section in the Encyclopedia of the European Union:

enciclopedia mostra 1

There are similar examples in the second chapter on Romania’s EU integration.

For instance, the subchapter on page 110 – “Romania’s Integration into the European Union: Costs and benefits” – is taken from the Encyclopedia of the European Union, specifically, the chapter entitled “Romania and the European Union” and the subchapter named “Costs and benefits of integration” (page 224).

The text is copied in the same order as in the Encyclopedia, for 12 pages.

Finally, in the third chapter of the thesis, the paragraphs copied from the National Security Strategy are just as constant.

Stânga - teza lui Florentin Pandele, dreapta - Strategia de Securitate Națională

Left - Pandele's PhD thesis.  Right - The National Security Strategy.

The paragraphs out of the National Security Strategy stretch on for numerous pages, but they are not always in the same order as in the original. On page 143, there are paragraphs from page 11 of the Strategy; on page 162 Pandele has copied fragments found on page 18 of the document; page 163 is taken from page 17 of the Strategy, and so on.

On page 166, Pandele writes:

"Dobândirea calității de membru al Alianței a adus României certitudini în domeniul securității sale, garanții reale de apărare, accesul la procesul de decizie asupra securității euro-atlantice, dar și obligații corespunzătoare.

În contextul acelorași evoluții, România trebuie să-și intensifice eforturile privind racordarea la structurile de securitate ale Uniunii Europene, în condițiile în care organizația și-a dezvoltat, în mod semnificativ, o politică externă și de apărare comună, care - dincolo de dificultățile inerente unui proces atât de complex - avansează în direcția dezvoltării și consolidării cooperării transatlantice."

Page 16 of the National Security Strategy looks like this:

pag 16 strategie

Here is a mirror image of page 173 of the thesis and page 21 out of the Strategy:

Stânga - teza lui Pandele, dreapta - Strategia de Securitate Națională

Left - Pandele's Phd thesis.  Right - The National Security Strategy.

There are also examples where the author copies a paragraph out of the Strategy and completes it in his own words, without crediting the original source.

As the image shows, there is no indication that the sources might be cited; there are no quotations marks, nor even footnotes to indicate that the mayor of Voluntari had read the segments elsewhere.

The final paragraph is worthy of mention.

The key takeaway in the thesis – displaying rare insight – is the following:

“There is no doubt that the most important mode of promoting national interests is through Romania’s integration in the European Union.
On the other hand, we have to remain conscious that, in addition to the opportunities provided, the European Union also provides a number of challenges to which our country will have to react accordingly.”

Florentin Pandele has refused to answer any of PressOne’s requests for comment prior to the publication of this piece.

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Two universities, two Master’s degrees, two PhDs, four terms of office

Florentin Pandele (55) is the mayor of Voluntari, a city in Ilfov County, Romania and, until very recently, a member of the PSD political party. He is serving his fourth term as mayor (2000-2016) and was removed from the party by his own wife, PSD Senator Gabriela Firea, in order to run as an ‘independent’ candidate during June’s municipal elections.

According to his CV, posted on his own site, Pandele graduated the ‘Mircea cel Batran’ Marine Institute where he was granted a marine captain’s license in 1984. In 2004 he graduated from the faculty of law at Bioterra University.

It’s worth noting that the very same year, 2004, Pandele received his Master’s degree at the same university in a completely different field of study; Inspection, expertise, and food safety in sustainable agro-tourism.

florentin pandele - primaria voluntari LM__0019

In 2005, Florentin Pandele graduated the National Defense College and in 2006 he was the recipient of another Master’s degree, this time from the National Defense University (UNAp), specializing in National Security and Defense.

In 2007 he receives the title of Doctor in Public Order and National Security from the ‘Alexandru Ioan Cuza’ Police Academy.

In 2008, he was granted the title of Doctor in Military Science at the National Defense University.

With that, his academic achievements have run their course, for now.