Central Europe Review The International OSI Policy Fellowships (IPF) program
Vol 2, No 27
10 July 2000
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News from Romania News from Romania
All the important news
since 1 July 2000

Catherine and
David Lovatt

Balkan heat wave

The high temperatures affecting the Balkan region have had considerable effect on Romania. Temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius have hit the country, leading to a crisis for some and shorter working days for others. By the middle of the week, hospitals and the ambulance service were attending to many people throughout the country who were suffering from the effects of the high temperatures, which are forecast to get even higher.

The National Institute of Meteorology's warning of the danger of fires breaking out naturally when temperatures exceeded 37 degrees Celsius was reinforced when fire-fighters in the south of the country responded to 60 calls in one day. Fire personnel, local authorities and the public themselves have all been alerted to be on their guard against potential disasters from fire.

The transport industry has been hit by the excessive temperatures with navigation on the River Danube being limited as a result of low water levels. The National Railway Company (CFRSA) has announced a general reduction in speeds on all rail routes and the suspension of freight traffic between 13.00 and 17.00 hours. This follows investigations into rail temperatures which revealed a staggering 61 degrees Celsius during this period of the day—a temperature which would cause distortion of the rails and could lead to accidents.

Government officials in Bucharest seem to be taking a lead in implementing a government ordinance which allows for a reduction in the working day hours during times of excessive heat. Staff in the Senate's legal commission and at the Bucharest Prefecture were allowed to leave work at mid-day. Prefect Ion Iordan said, " I have taken this measure because of the meteorologists' forecast, who announced temperatures of over 40 Celsius degrees for several days." (Monitorul - 6 June 2000)

Constantin Ştefan of the Land Quality Improvement Agency (SNIF) emphasised that the high temperatures were yet another disaster to hit Romania's farmland which has been suffering from drought condition for many weeks. Ştefan reported that 3.4 million hectares of farmland had been affected by drought. Only five percent of this area has been irrigated due to an estimated 50 percent destruction by theft and deliberate damage to Romania's irrigation system.


Conflict in Bucharest

Following his attacks on the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and its prime vice-President Adrian Năstase, the Mayor of Bucharest, Traian Băsescu (Democratic Party), has now turned on a former colleague in the coalition government.

Băsescu attacked Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica for his role as prime mover of the law which returned buildings to their former owners and consequently led to the eviction of many families from their homes in Bucharest.

Băsescu's fury followed a meeting with citizens of Bucharest to hear about their individual problems. Over 75 percent of the 160 people he spoke to raised the issues of being evicted from homes returned by the state to former owners. He criticised both Stoica's reforms, as ignoring the rights of thousands of people in Bucharest, and the government for allowing them to proceed.

He continued, "This reform has created a segment of citizens thrown in the streets. What the laws promoted by the ruling power is nothing but a snub to people. It pains me to admit that I was part of a government that shows contempt for people and I regret I was a colleague of Mr Stoica. Justice, before being blind, must be kind, as it should address people and not objects." (Nine o'clock - 6 June 2000)

In response, Stoica, who is a National Liberal Part (PNL) member of the ruling coalition, commented that former Minister of Transport Băsescu was "One of the fiercest supporters of properties (legislation), now he has had a change of mind." (Mediafax - 5 June 2000) He went on to question Băsescu's credibility as Mayor, suggesting that Bucharest's problems could not be solved by criticising others while taking no action.

The self-imposed isolation that Băsescu seems to be creating for himself turned into the reality of political isolation for both himself and the Democratic Party (PD). The events unfolded during voting to establish the 13 city council commissions and create the deputy mayors at a meeting of the General Council of the Bucharest Municipality (CGMB).

Councillors from the PDSR were joined by those representing the National Christian Democratic Peasants Party (PNŢCD), the Greater Romania Party (PRM), the Union of Rightist Forces (UFD), the Alliance for Romania Party (ApR) and the PNL to ensure that the PD candidate for deputy mayor was eliminated and that the PD had no representatives on any of the commissions. Băsescu said, "I have the duty to lead something legal and what is happening here is illegal. What has happened here is an antidemocratic action." (Nine o'clock - 5 June 2000)

While the Bucharest Prefect, Ioan Iordan, set out to check the actual legality of the situation, Catalin Chiriţă of the Romanian Democratic Convention (CDR), who was elected as one of the deputy mayors, said, "Whoever does not make alliances?" (Nine o'clock - 5 June 2000)


The presidential and parliamentary elections

President Emil Constantinescu has announced that he will stand for a second term of office in November's presidential elections. Constantinescu said, "I will go on and if I am re-elected president, the prime minister will be Mugur Isârescu, whom I consider the best minister that Romania has had since December '89 and who will prove to be one of the best prime ministers that Romania has ever had." (Monitorul - 4 June 2000)

Constantinescu used the opportunity to attempt to re-open the scandal of Operation Jimbolia—the breaking of the UN oil embargo on Yugoslavia during the Presidency of Ion Iliescu in 1994 and 1995, when Teodor Melescanu was Foreign Minister.

Constantinescu said, "Under the direction of the SRI (Romanian Intelligence Service) at that time, under the direction of the Border Police and with the approval of the head of Jimbolia railway station, following orders from top echelons, huge amounts of oil were transferred, during the night." (BBC Monitoring - 3 July 2000) Constantinescu added that both Iliescu and Melescanu must have known what was happening—either that or they had been excluded from the decision making process by their subordinates.

Iliescu responded with the affirmation that international observers had praised Romania for its actions in maintaining the embargo. Melescanu said, "President Emil Constantinescu abuses his office in order to wage an election campaign. Constantinescu is turning the presidential seat into a soap box from which he can heap abuse on his political opponents." (Nine o'clock - 3 July 2000)


More election alliances?

Constantinescu is the latest politician to announce his candidature. Others seeking the presidency include Ion Iliescu (PDSR), Teodor Melescanu (ApR) and Petre Roman (PD). The final list will inevitably include others as groupings, such as the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), decide whether to run their own candidate or support another. As the presidential and parliamentary elections approach there is much talk of establishing new alliances and the break-up of existing groupings.

The turmoil and tensions created in a party like the PNL are easy to see. Throughout the week they have been arguing in public about who to make an electoral alliance with. Last week saw the emergence of a joint presidential/prime ministerial ticket between the PNL and ApR—this week the PNL are considering maintaining their alliance with Constantinescu and the PNŢCD.

Political analyst Cristian Pirvulescu told Agence France Presse, "The fragmentation of political forces
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on the one hand, and the indifference of voters on the other, is forcing candidates to set out their stalls clearly so as to polarize political groups and to win as many votes as possible from their foes." (Agence France Presse - 4 July 2000)

One thing is clear—Ion Iliescu and the PDSR hold substantial leads in both presidential and parliamentary contests. An IMAS opinion poll taken between 15 and 21 June give both Iliescu and his party about 45 percent of the vote. The only hint that there is any real opposition to the PDSR machine comes from the indications that Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu is the most trusted politician in Romania—he was named by 54 percent of the sample.

Isărescu has inevitably received approaches to represent parties and to run for President but he remains determined to be an independent technocrat. A spokesperson for Isărescu said, "Mugur Isărescu thanks all those who offer him high party functions or on the election lists, but he considers that he is an independent technocrat, who wants to continue and finalize the projects that he began as an independent specialist interested in the European integration, the economic stability and Romania's credibility abroad." (Monitorul - 5 July 2000)

Catherine Lovatt and David Lovatt,
8 July 2000

Moving on:


Evenimentul zilei / EvZ online
Agence France-Presse
Associated Press
Nine o'clock



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