At the time of the last edition of the News Review, the second round ballot for the presidency was about to take place. Ion Iliescu of the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) was elected president with a clear majority over Corneliu Vadim Tudor, representing the Greater Romania Party (PRM).
Adrian Nastase's PDSR minority government has been endorsed by the Romanian parliament. In the vote, the PDSR was supported by the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), together with the parties who represent the minorities. Both the PRM and the Democratic Party (PD) voted against the proposed government.
The PNL's support was tempered by comments suggesting that their purpose was solely to prevent a PDSR working with the extreme nationalist PRM. Valeriu Stoica, first vice-president of the PNL, went on to warn that the fine words of Nastase, proposing that his Government was for all Romanians, hid plans to select party members to senior positions in the economy, administration and media.
The first act of the Nastase Government was to suspend many ordinances and emergency ordinances introduced by the previous administration of Mugur Isãrescu. The laws concerned are wide ranging and include those which affect, for example, education, roads, sale of state property, privatisation and the constitution of the Danube Delta nature reserve.
Ministers announce programmes
The installation of the new ministers of the Nastase Government has given them the opportunity to set out their plans for their term of office.
Minister of National Defense Ioan Mircea Paşcu has set his priority as integration into NATO and has called on the army and politicians to help in attaining this aim.
Minister of Interior Ioan Rus is to take immediate action against crime and corruption.
Minister of Finance Mihai Tănăsescu is determined to get the economy moving and intends to do this through encouraging the creation and development of small and medium-sized businesses. He is clear about how the development of the relationship between the International Monetary Fund and Romania should proceed. Tănăsescu said, "The Romanian programme means a programme in which the International Monetary Fund is not rejected, but is considered as a partner." (BBC Monitoring, 4 January 2001)
Minister of Culture Răzvan Theodorescu intends to establish programmes for emphasising national identity, subsidising books and developing computerised libraries while moving towards "cultural integration" with the EU.
Minister of Education and Research Ecaterina Andronescu said she is determined to have four per cent of the Gross Domestic Product allocated to education and training. As with most ministers, her priorities are linked to European integration.
Labour and Solidarity Minister Marian Sarbu plans a range of changes which include increasing childcare allowances, linking pensions to price increases and the creation of new jobs. He said, "I wish to start a new job creation process by using the unemployment aid fund more efficiently, with focus on active measures such as encouraging businessmen to hire young people and unemployed people." (Rompres, 4 January 2000)
Romania has taken on the Presidency of OSCE for 2001. The new Romanian foreign minister, Mircea Geoană, said, "This is the most important international task that Romania has had for decades and is part of a natural process of evolution in which Central European countries are rediscovering their stature and international profile." (Nine o'clock, 4 January 2001)
This takes place at a time when Romania also holds the Presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, with Adrian Severin holding this office. It is hoped that these high profile international roles will help to improve the image of Romania throughout the world.
The members of the OSCE comprise all the European states, the former Soviet Republics, the US and Canada. The aims of the organisation are, "the consolidation of the common values and assistance for the member-states to achieve democratic societies, to forestall the local conflicts, to restore peace and stability in the conflict areas, to eliminate the deficits of security and to avoid the creation of new political, economic or social divisions." (Monitorul, 4 January 2001)
Romania in Europe
President of the European Commission Romano Prodi has sent a message of welcome to the new Romanian government, although with an underlined warning that the move towards integration into the European Union (EU) will not be easy. Prodi said, "The European Commission wants your Government to assume the commitments and achieve the process of necessary reforms for meeting this goal." (Rompres, 30 December 2000)
Minister for European Integration Hildegard Puwak has announced that her ministry will be organised to improve the negotiation process, to deal effectively with financial assistance programmes and to meet the legislative harmonisation requirements.
The Government, through Chief Negotiator Vasile Puşcaş, will be presenting its amended version of the mid-term strategy for economic development. In addition, Puşcaş will be reviewing all the documentation presented to the EU by the Foreign Ministry in November 2000 to ensure that the chapter negotiations will not fail. A special group is also being created to deal with the problems surrounding visa requirements for Romanian citizens when travelling in the EU.
Romania is in danger of water rationing, according to Petre Marinescu of the national water utility. He said, "The drought currently hitting Romania is even worse than 1946, because it effects the whole country." (Agence France Presse, 4 January 2000)
Marinescu explained that underground water levels had dropped by five meters and called on consumers to use water sparingly. The limited amount of rain which has fallen on Romania since last March has had a significant effect on the amount and quality of this year's harvest, which could lead to food shortages.
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