Hungarian Status Bill
The Hungarian Foreign Ministry let it be known that they were prepared to discuss the proposed Hungarian "Status Law" with their Romanian counterparts. This follows the announcement made by Prime Minister Adrian Năstase that this law could not be enforced in Romania without the consent of the government.
The Prime Minister gained support for his stand from the Greater Romania Party (PRM). A spokesperson said, "PRM considers that it is the Premier's duty to make clear that it rejects the Hungarian extremist intention to undermine Romanian government authority and to further create ethnic tension through the application of such a reactionary law." (Nine o'clock, 15 May 2001)
The bill also came in for condemnation from PNL leader Valeriu Stoica, who linked his criticism with an attack on the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). UDMR accused Stoica of political opportunism and nationalistic tendencies in an attempt to change his party's electoral fortunes. Stoica explained, "An ethnic nation is really dangerous for Romania as well for Europe." (Nine o'clock, 17 May 2001)
EvZ reported on Thursday that many Romanian men are looking into their family history to try to prove a Hungarian origin. An ethnic Hungarian certificate would allow them to work in Hungary where there is a labour shortage, whereas in Romania there is high unemployment.
Iliescu raises cooperative farms issue
During a visit to the National Institute of Agricultural Machinery, President Ion Iliescu described the import of large amounts of food into Romania as being scandalous. He argued that the move away from co-operative farming in the country had been bad for the economy, for agriculture and for rural life in general. Iliescu said, "We discredited the idea of cooperation and this is a very stupid thing. Cooperation was not born at the same time as communism... It is deeply rooted in Romania." (Monitorul, 17 May 2001)
The President said that there was no reason why private ownership of land should not be compatible with agricultural cooperatives freely established by the farming community. He explained that even the National Peasant Party of the 1920s propounded that full exploitation could only occur when large areas agricultural land were under common cultivation.
Finance motion marks end of accord
The end of the accord of support for the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) government by the National Liberal Party (PNL) was marked this week by a motion which criticised the government. PNL, supported by the Democratic Party (PD), have tabled a motion which accuses the government of failure to carry out an effective economic policy. At the same time, the PD are to prepare a motion, which will be supported by PNL, that censures the Năstase cabinet for interference in the independence of the judiciary.
In response, PDSR have attacked the PNL for being a partner in a government which, between 1996 and 2000, damaged Romania both economically and internationally. A PDSR spokesperson said that the PNL have "proved a non-loyal partner, (...) and now they prove their own political interest is more important than the national one." (Nine o'clock, 15 May 2001)
Financial data to the end of March 2001 from the National Statistics Board (CNS) shows a considerable rise in the deficit between exports and imports when compared with the same period last year. During the first three months of 2000 the trade deficit stood at USD 297.8 million; the first three months of 2001 reveal a deficit of USD 820 million.
Inflation, however, shows a better position than last yeareven though the figures indicate that the government target of 25 per cent inflation for the year will not be met. The inflation rate for the four months to the end of April shows an average rate of 2.7 per cent as against 3.3 per cent for the same period last year. However, this will lead to an annual rate of inflation in the region of 32 per cent.
Progress towards NATO accession
The Prime Minister led Romania's delegation to a meeting of the NATO council in Brussels, where he presented a progress report on the country's military reform programme. He said, "I think we have succeeded to send to the NATO officials a convincing message and I consider that we are now closer to NATO than six months ago." (Mediafax, 14 may 2001) Năstase, who believes that Romania is now 70 per cent certain to be invited to join the alliance, emphasised Romania's importance in the Balkan region. He subsequently met with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson.
A meeting of the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the European Union with those of the candidate countries also took place in Brussels. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mircea Geoană said that Romania was prepared to contribute to the EU Rapid Reaction Force. He emphasised that a Romanian contingent at brigade strength could be operational by 2003.
And in other news...
- The Romanian Intelligence Service, SRI, has sanctioned six officers as a result of the Radu Timofte affair. A SRI investigation has shown that the six officers were involved in the fabrication of evidence which allegedly linked Timofte to the Soviet KGB. The officers are to be retired or dismissed from service. An article in Monitorul commented, "The fact that the members of a secret service may create such files referring to certain politicians seems to be a very grave phenomenon, which has an extremely negative impact on the Romanian political atmosphere." (Monitorul, 17 May 2001)
- The merger of the PDSR and the Social Democratic Party in Romania (PSDR) to form the Social Democratic Party (PSD) seems to be a step closer. This week it was announced that PSDR leader Alexandru Athanasiu was to be one of the vice-presidents of the new party. A motion for unification is to be considered by a special congress of the two parties.
- A year after the collapse of the National Investment Fund, (Fondul Naţional de Investiţii, commonly referred to as FNI), those who lost their savings are still awaiting some form of restitution. On Monday, about 1000 people from the National Association of FNI Investors took to the streets. Traffic in central Bucharest was brought to a halt as protestors drew attention to the government's failure to meet their claims. PDSR leader of the Senate Nicolae Văcăroiu, who promised to help the investors when his party were in opposition, called on the President, the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Rodica Stănoiu to ensure that the investors demands were met as quickly as possible.
- The National Sanitary Veterinary Agency (ANSV) has reported that rabies is at epidemic proportions in counties within a 100 km radius of Bucharest. 40 cases have so far been confirmed but none of these have been in the city itself. The huge number of stray dogs in Bucharest will result in major problems if the outbreak reaches the city, but, as yet, no emergency procedures have been put into action. In the surrounding counties, stray dogs and wild animals suspected of having the disease are being culled.
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