European Union builds bridges
Vice-President of the European Parliament Guido Podesta met with President Ion Iliescu in Bucharest this week. Podesta stressed, even promised, that the report submitted by Baroness Emma Nicholson faces amendment before it is presented to the European Parliament for consideration. He praised the huge efforts that the Romanian government was making to gain membership of the European Union and said, "The integration process is not easy at all and it entails certain problems especially in the big countries." (Rompres, 5 June 2001)
Romania's determination to join the EU was also stressed by the Speaker of the Senate Nicolae Văcăroiu. He told a conference of European Senate Speakers that he wanted to make it clear that Romania was making every effort to meet the criteria for joining the Euro-Atlantic institutions. He wanted it better understood that "despite some major economic handicaps, despite significant change prompted by globalisation and despite modest foreign support" (Rompres, 6 June 2001), Romania was resolute. Văcăroiu used the opportunity of the conference to highlight Romania's endeavours in helping to maintain the stability of the Balkan region.
The shadow of Marshal Ion Antonescu
The Ministry of National Defence (MApN) has accepted the request from General Mircea Chelaru that he be transferred to the reserves. The request was made following the controversial appearance of Chelaru at a Mass to honour pro-Nazi World War II leader Marshal Ion Antonescu. Chelaru said, "I think that by leaving the army I will serve its interests better and I will defend my own image." (EvZ, 5 June 2001) Chelaru was involved in a further controversy in 2000, when he resigned as Army Chief of Staff following his attempt to form a military-based political association.
MApN issued a statement saying, "It is regrettable that such individual gestures, related to a personality whose actions were condemned by the international community, shade the collective efforts made by the whole army to materialize the national objective of joining NATO and EU." (Monitorul, 6 June 2001)
The celebratory Mass has been seen by the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities (FCER) as an attempt to rehabilitate the fascist Antonescu, who ordered the deportation of thousands of Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina to extermination camps. President Iliescu responded by stating that he is totally opposed to the rehabilitation of Antonescu.
He said, "Ion Antonescu was sentenced as a war criminal, he was one of Hitler's main allies. If Romania had not turned arms against Nazi Germany on August 23, 1944, when Antonescu—who was determined to continue by Hitler's side—was arrested, Romania's fate would have been utterly different."
Constitutional Court appointment causes controversy
The appointment by President Ion Iliescu of Şerban Viorel Stănoiu as a Constitutional Court judge has resulted in accusations of a return to Communist practice. Iliescu's decision has met with condemnation from members of the Chamber of Deputies representing the Democratic Party (PD) and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) because Stănoiu is the husband of Minister of Justice Mihaela Rodica Stănoiu.
Emil Bloc of the PD asserted, "Through this decision, the principle of the separation of the powers in the state is attenuated and the communist regime practice of the family rule ... is practically revived." (Nine o'clock, 6 June 2001) Iliescu defended his decision, saying that the appointment was not government nepotism and added that Stănoiu is "a great researcher, a great specialist in law, and a highly educated person." (Nine o'clock, 7 June 2001)
The Constitutional Court has nine judges, three appointed by the Senate, three by the Chamber of Deputies and three by the President. Their nine-year appointment can neither be extended nor renewed. The nine judges will meet in secret session after the swearing in ceremony to elect a new President of the Court. Retiring President of the Constitutional Court Lucian Mihai criticised the executive and legislature for failing to maintain a separation between the State and the judiciary. He expressed the opinion that Romania was still governed by a "partial totalitarian regime." (Mediafax, 6 June 2001)
June is the month when the government is to finalise negotiations with both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank with regard to loan agreements. Good news at this time has come from the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, which reports that the Romanian gross domestic product has shown a year on year increase of 4.8 percent. This is bolstered by an increase of 11.2 per cent in industrial output.
There is a reported increase in investment across the sectors but imports still exceed exports. In the first quarter of the year, exports totalled USD 2.87 billion while imports grew to USD 3.7 billion. Of critical importance is the inflation rate, which has been sustained at a monthly average of 2.7 per cent for the first four months of the year—an average 0.4 per cent fall on last year's inflation rate.
The IMF delegation arrived in Bucharest on Tuesday. According to Stephan Cosse, IMF representative in Romania, the purpose of the visit is to "continue with the Romanian authorities the dialogue started on the occasion of the visit in February-March, with a view to signing a possible agreement of stand-by loan." (Monitorul, 6 June 2001) The IMF will be looking for indicators of stability in the economy, control over inflation and financial discipline in state owned industries.
...and a trade union
Minister of Public Works, Transportation and Dwellings Miron Mitrea announced on Monday that railway workers would receive a 20 per cent wage rise from 1 June whether the trade unions agreed or not. He added that there could be an additional wage rise at the end of the year to take account of inflation. However, a reduction of 7000 posts in the industry will be required, with many workers facing redundancy. The trade unions representing railway workers are unhappy with the offer and are considering their options. Railway workers have demanded a 40 per cent wage increase.
The railway trade union position is reflected in other areas of industry and it is feared that industrial unrest could damage Romania's economy and affect the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) government's economic policy. An editorial in Adevărul highlights this problem saying "If the Năstase Government fails to convince the trade unions of the fact that reforms in the country are not carried out for the sake of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, but to ensure sustainable growth of the living standards, then the Romanian economy will have much to suffer." (Rompres, 7 June 2001)
Ilaşcu goes to European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg are considering a case brought against the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova. The case has been instigated by Greater Romania Party (PRM) Senator Ilie Ilaşcu along with the families of three other members of the Ilaşcu group who are still being held in prison in the breakaway area of Transnistria. Adevărul reports, "The applicants accuse the two governments of torture, violation of the rights to life, to a fair trial, to private and family life." (Rompres, 6 June 2001)
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