Europe to suspend accession negotiations?
The leaked contents of a draft report on Romania's accession progress as presented to the European Parliament's Affairs Committee was published in the UK's Financial Times. The report was prepared by rapporteur on Romania Baroness Emma Nicholson and focussed on the continuing problem of abandoned and institutionalised children.
It is believed that the Foreign Affairs Committee are to consider whether Romania should be suspended from the EU accession procedure. The draft Nicholson Report also expressed concern about the economic prospects of the country and the failure of Romania to open negotiations on more chapters of the aquis communautaire than they have done so far.
Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) Member of the Senate and Chairman of Foreign Policy Committee Gheorghi Prisăcaru responded angrily saying, "When reading the draft report I feel this is more than a fiction. It seems they are not talking about Romania." (Mediafax, 31 May 2001) Minister of European Integration Hildegard Puwak said that the Nicholson report was out of date and bore no resemblance to the measures enacted by the Romanian government since it came to power in November 2000.
Prime Minister Adrian Năstase furiously claimed "there are people who could not care less about the fate of Romanian children, yet use the issue to further their own personal interests." (Rompres, 31 May) He denounced the report pointing to a string of inaccuracies particularly with regard to the matter of the institutionalised children. Curierul Naţional reported that Năstase countered Nicholson's claims when presenting the government's National Strategy on Child Protection in Snagov on Tuesday 29 May. He commented that officials of recognised international bodies had all praised Romania's efforts in dealing with this issue. The Prime Minister added that this was a domestic issue which Romania would solve alone.
Chairman of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Elmar Brok said, "in case the facts on the institutionalized children presented in the report prove to be true, there are reasons to ask for the suspension of EU negotiations with Romania." Baroness Nicholson commented, "The problem of the institutionalized children represents a violation of human rights and, consequently, this means that Romania doesn't fulfill the first condition of the negotiation process, the political one." (Nine o'clock, 31 May 2001)
President Ion Iliescu emphasised that negotiations for EU accession were taking place with the European Commission not with the European Parliament. He said, "Parliamentarians are free to say what they want. Our partners in talks are Messrs Verheugen, Prodi and others from the European Commission. And the signals coming from that direction are very good."
Iliescu then gave Nicholson an invitation that would enable her to really understand the problem. He said, "I want to suggest Mrs Nicholson lives for a year with one hundred dollars per month—the average salary in the economy—and takes two children to bring up, and then we shall see. We shall then make philosophy about the institutionalised and the non-institutionalised." (Rompres, 1 June 2001)
Progress towards NATO membership
Hungary has been the host this week for the latest meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The council consists of the foreign ministers from NATO countries together with representatives of those countries seeking membership of the Organisation. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană used the occasion to present to the council a document setting out proposals from the countries of southeast Europe with reference to security and the assessment of security risks. This Romanian initiative was undertaken following the recent "NATO 19+7 Consultative Forum."
Geoană believes that the Prague summit next year will see the expansion of NATO and is confident that Romania will be offered membership. However, an editorial in the daily Adevărul seems to think otherwise. It reads, "NATO seems to utterly overlook Romania's size and strategic location in Southeast Europe. In case NATO opts to receive just Slovenia and Slovakia, as is being widely speculated, the military capabilities of the Alliance will stay the same and the provision of security to the Balkans will be just a joke."(Rompres, 29 May 2001) The editorial continued by warning the government that the economic sacrifices demanded of their citizens to ensure that Romania's military capability matched the NATO requirements could be a total waste of scarce resources.
Petre Roman, foreign minister in the former Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) government and, until last week, leader of the Democratic Party (PD), has been appointed rapporteur for Southeast Europe by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Is UDMR Close to power?
President Ion Iliescu gave an interview with Hungarian television in which he condemned the Hungarian Status Bill that is proceeding through the Hungarian Parliament. Iliescu clearly set out that Romania is a single national state that has one official language, which is Romanian. He called the bill undemocratic and said that it was against the principles and ideals of the European Union. However, the politically astute Iliescu praised the political dependability and support that the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) has given the government Party for Social Democracy in Romania.
The Nine o'clock editorial of 28 May 2001, however, linked the bill to UDMR success in Romania. It suggested that by "proving to be PDSR's most serious partner in the past six months, UDMR has obtained more than it got in four years of ruling." (UDMR was a member of the former CDR government.) The editorial continued, "Let us remember that the UDMR's victories at a domestic level are completely in tune with the action by the Hungarian Government to grant special rights to the Hungarians living outside Hungarian borders." (Nine o'clock, 28 May 2001)
Suggestions were also made that the recently inaugurated Local Public Administration Law has created inter-ethnic tensions in the Covasna and Harghita areas where the Romanian population is the ethnic minority. Analyst Silviu Brucan said in Ziarul Financiar, "The truth is that at the basic level, in towns and country towns, the Romanians coexist with the Hungarians peacefully and interethnic hostility is fomented only by nationalist politicians—both Romanian and Hungarian." (Rompres, 28 May 2001)
Adevărul carried a headline this week that suggested that the PDSR and UDMR were at the point of establishing a more formal political alliance that would include the UDMR in a ruling coalition. The current UDMR leadership under Béla Markó subsequently came under fire from the Reformist Bloc of the party. They believe that the UDMR is now too close to the PDSR and hence no longer serving the needs of the Hungarian community in Romania.
President of the Reformists Tibor T Toró said that is not their intention to leave UDMR but to fight from within for their policies. He said that the present UDMR leadership had failed "to carry out the ideals of the Hungarian community and to preserve their identity." (Nine o'clock, 29 May 2001) The UDMR leadership responded by accusing Hungarian ruling party FIDESZ of encouraging conflict by their support of the Reformist Bloc.
Controversy at book fair
The 2001 Bucharest book fair proved to be controversial. Publications that were exhibited at the fair faced legal objections from Jewish groups for being anti-Semitic and fascist. The challenged books, specifically launched for the Romanian market, included Mein Kampf—the work that set out the political philosophy and vision of Adolf Hitler—and the political essays of poet Mihai Eminescu. A second dispute surrounded the Scientological Church. The book, Dianetics—Modern Science of Mental Health, written by the church's founder, calls on readers to form Dianetics groups and to get in touch with the church.
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Ilie Sârbu told a press conference that experts believe that this year's wheat harvest will amount to around seven million tonnes. Sârbu believes that this increase in the wheat harvest is due to a bonus of ROL 1000000 per hectare that is being given to farmers. After wheat for domestic consumption, seed and reserves have been taken into account there should be one million tonnes left for export. Discussions are taking place to establish an initial wheat price that, it is believed, will be set at about ROL 3400 per kilo.
This should prove to be good news for the Prime Minister who at the opening of the TIBCO International Consumer Goods Trade Fair in Bucharest said, "Romania is importing 70% of foodstuffs and farm products, which is not a normal thing for a country with farm potential like ours." (Nine o'clock, 31 May 2001)
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