President and prime minister clash
There was talk during the week of apparent differences in vision within the governing party, the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Polarisation between the president, former Communist Ion Iliescu, and the prime minister, pro-European Adrian Năstase, is becoming evident. An article in Monitorul sets out the problem: Năstase is a forward-looking prime minister who represents a party which includes many former Communists and supporters of Iliescu (Monitorul, 1 February 2001)
Năstase has not only been elected prime minister but has also become leader of the PDSR. In describing his vision for the future, he has been open in his criticism of some of the older, established party leaders. He has already begun to reorganise the party administration and has appointed a new general secretary, with other changes promised. In Năstase's words: "...it is a team for the future. Its members will be younger than 40 and will start getting ready for 2004... And then we will be able to exchange the generations, which is absolutely necessary." (Monitorul, 31 January 2001
In an interview given this week to the newspaper Curentul, Năstase suggested that President Iliescu should not interfere with the political decision-making of the government. He tempered his comments by adding that this could limit Iliescu's effectiveness if he were required to respond, as president, to a crisis situation.
Government under pressure
The National Liberal Party (PNL) has claimed that its agreement with the minority government of the PDSR is in jeopardy. In return for the PNL's disassociation from any motions of no-confidence, the PDSR had agreed after the November elections to set up a commission to revise the Constitution by 1 February 2001. Although the PNL has presented its ideas for constitutional change and proposed its representatives to the commission, the government has not yet taken any action.
In a meeting with President Iliescu, the leader of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), Corneliu Vadim Tudor, criticised the relationship between the minority PDSR government and the "supportive opposition"—the PNL, the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) and the Democratic Party (PD—while pledging the support of his party to the social democratic principles of the PDSR.
Tudor went on to suggest that Prime Minister Năstase was a weak leader of a self-important government which would not be able to sustain power. However, Tudor congratulated President Iliescu on a speech given in the city of Focşani, in which he spoke up against the pressure that international institutions, such as the EU and the International Monetary Fund, were putting on Romania.
But polls show an upswing
An IMAS poll of public confidence in politicians was published on Wednesday. The results revealed substantial changes in the popularity of key politicians. Confidence in Corneliu Vadim Tudor (PRM) had fallen drastically, from 42 per cent in November to 24 per cent in January, while Adrian Năstase is seen by 62 per cent of the citizens polled as a politician of integrity (up from 35 per cent in November). President Iliescu now has the confidence of 59 per cent of those questioned, up from 53 per cent in the previous poll.
The popularity of PDSR has shown a dramatic rise, and the party is now favoured by 61 per cent of those polled; whereas PRM has slumped to a low of 14 per cent. The government can be reassured by the poll, which shows that 73 per cent of those surveyed believe that the government is doing either as well as or better than the previous administration.
EU turns up the heat
The Romanian government is coming under considerable pressure from the European Union (EU) to solve some of the problems identified during accession negotiations. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Günther Verheugen has called on the government of Adrian Năstase to meet specified targets within this year.
Verheugen has identified solutions to such issues as institutionalised children, the Roma community and visa requirements as being vital to Romania's progress towards EU integration. He has also set stringent economic targets that require the privatisation of the remaining four state banks and large state-owned companies, a reduction in inflation, the creation of legislation to help the development of small and medium-sized companies and a crackdown against the underground economy.
...as does NATO
A recent seminar hosted by the National Military Circle and organized by the George C Marshall Romania Association discussed the potential for Romania's membership in NATO and gave reasons for both hope and despair. Eric de Labarthe, advisor within NATO's Defence Planning and Operation Division, suggested that Romania had to prove that it would be a reliable partner.
Dr Michael Mihalka, professor of East European Studies at the George C Marshall European Centre for Security Studies, linked Romanian membership of NATO to its economic stability. He added that the results of last November's election, in which the liberal centre-right coalition was ruled out in favour of Iliescu's PDSR and Tudor's PRM, still gave cause for concern in some quarters. However, Dr Gary Guertner, dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C Marshall Centre, supported Romanian membership and believed the country would be offered accession in 2002.
Minister of Defence Ioan Mircea Paşcu criticised the previous administration for halting progress towards integration into NATO. He said, "We have inherited from the previous government projects and objectives but not the resources. All we can do is to make all the effort [we can] to be as prepared as possible..." (Nine o'clock, 1 February 2001). The Minister said he hoped to be able to instigate changes which will lead to greater progress towards NATO accession during the coming year.
Not to be outdone—Washington chimes in too
Foreign Minister Mircea Dan Geoană was in Washington for the week for a range of talks with members of the new US administration, including Secretary of State Colin Powell. The message that Geoană was clearly given was that Romania must do more. Republican Senator Gordon Smith, chairman of the European Affairs Subcommittee of the US Senate, said: "I think it [Romania] just needs to get beyond some of the internal problems of transition between Communism and capitalism. It is not an easy one, but, ultimately, capital will be attracted to true market reforms and that means jobs and standard of living will go up." (Nine o'clock, 2 February 2001)
Balkan Stability Pact appointment
Bodo Hombach, the co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for SoutheasternEurope, has offered Răzvan Ungureanu, former secretary of state in the Ministry of External Affairs, the post of special emissary for Southeastern Europe. After much confusion and threats that the post would go to Bulgaria, the appointment was confirmed by the government, although no provision has yet been made to provide funding to enable Ungureanu to create the necessary administrative base for the post. The prime minister believes that this role will improve Romania's standing in the international community.
PNL vice-president dies in road accident
The vice-president of the PNL, Horia Rusu, has died following a road traffic accident in Sibiu County. Rusu, who was standing as a candidate for party president, was well respected across the whole political spectrum. Condolences came from political allies and colleagues as well as Prime Minister Năstase, who said, "The emptiness left by this sudden loss will be very hard to replace in Romanian political life. A person of unquestionable value and high morals, Horia Rusu will always remain in our memory as a strong, irreplaceable personality, an outstanding member of a team which has lost, through his death, a man of a singular moral and intellectual potential." (Nine o'clock, 2 February 2001)
- Archive of Romanian news reviews
- Archive of Catherine Lovatt's articles on Romania and Moldova in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Romania through CER
- Return to CER front page
Evenimentul zilei/EvZ online