Candidates for the office of mayor, county councillor or member of the Bucharest Municipality General Council are required to declare whether they have any links to the Securitate, the secret police of the Communist era. The Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) has made this ruling which requires the declaration to be included with a candidate's nomination papers. Candidates making untrue statements will be liable to fines or imprisonment. The delay in passing the relevant legislation by Parliament means, however, that statements cannot be officially checked through the Securitate Archives Study National College (CNSAS) until after the elections.
An opinion poll conducted between 21-26 April shows that the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) continue to hold a lead in both Parliamentary and Bucharest City elections. The poll, which was carried out by IMAS, gives the PDSR candidate a 4.4 percent lead over the National Liberal Party candidate in the contest for city mayor, while PDSR has a 19.1 percent lead over the present ruling coalition - the Romanian Democratic Convention (CDR) - in the Parliamentary race. The poll revealed that up to 25 percent of the sample had already decided not to vote in the elections.
Observers representing the League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADO) have reported that election law is being violated. Violations include incomplete electoral lists, failure to act against inappropriate electoral posters and voters' cards have not been printed. LADO president Nicolae Stefanescu-Draganesti added to these concerns at a press conference saying, "LADO submitted several requests to the Government, all of them rejected. The requests were about allowing the students to vote in the localities where they are studying, in special precincts set up within the faculties, about not setting up special voting precincts for the military personnel, and about changing the voting schedule to 7.00-19.00, with a possible extension to 21.00." (Mediafax - 3 May 2000)
3 May 2000 was World Press Freedom Day. The occasion was used to highlight the fact that the Romanian Penal Code Articles 205 and 206, which dispense imprisonment for libel and slander, are being increasingly used against journalists. At present, these articles are being used against a significant number of journalists (Nine o'clock suggest 300). Romania appears to be at odds with the European Convention of Human Rights in its treatment of journalists and in its understanding of a free press. The day before, members of the Romanian Press Club met with representatives of most political parties to debate the freedom of the press. President Emil Constantinescu celebrated the Press Freedom Day for the first time when he invited accredited journalists to a picnic at the Presidential residence, Scrovistea.
The Environment Protection Agency in Oradea have confirmed a pollution incident caused by toxic poultry waste. The waste from a poultry farm has polluted streams causing the death of many fish. Environmental Agency teams have managed to prevent the pollutants from escaping into the Crisul Negru and downstream to Hungary.
On Tuesday, Hungary began to re-introduce fish stocks into the River Tisza, which was polluted at the beginning of this year by cyanide spillages from the Aurul Gold Smelter. About 100,000 fish were introduced into the river when experts were sure that the water was sufficiently clean to support life.
Hungarians who were affected by the pollution of the Tisza are to seek damages in the region of USD 3.5 million at the Pan European Union of Jurists (PEUJ). The damages are being sought from Aurul SA, the mining company, and from the Romanian Government. Hungarian daily newspaper Világgazdaság has reported that PEUJ believes that the damages should be awarded against Aurul SA as being the organisation responsible for the pollution incident. Világgazdaság also suggests that the level of damages claimed will increase considerable after the summer tourist season. A 50 percent reduction in tourist income has been forecast because of the pollution incidents earlier this year.
Minister of Industry and Trade, Radu Berceanu, has turned down demands from workers at the Cernovoda nuclear power plant for higher wages and increased holidays. As a result, the CNE trade union, which represents workers at the Cernovoda Unit Number 1, decided to take strike action with effect from 3 May 2000. Workers representative Ioan Monceanu, "The management and the ministry team refused to approve any pay rise by invoking the austere state budget. We will have another round of talks on Friday." (Reuters - 3 May 2000) Subsequent legal action in the Bucharest Law Court of District 1 determined that the strike was legal and it went ahead on Wednesday. Berceanu demanded that the Justice Minister examine the facts of the case, as he believed that the grounds for the Court's findings were untenable. He said, "this decision can have serious consequences on keeping the Unit No. 1 at Cernavoda running, while observing the requirements of nuclear security and the international conventions in the field, signed by the Romanian Government." (Mediafax - 4 May 2000)
Advisor to the Government Adrian Vasilescu told Mediafax on Thursday that the first stage of the extended International Monetary Fund (IMF) stand-by loan to Romania is likely to be paid in May with three further tranches being available in August 2000, September 2000 and February 2001. Earlier Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu announced that a draft agreement had been completed with the IMF. Isărescu explained that additional requirements of the IMF concerned wage policy and structural reform. The Prime Minister said, "The Government shall insist that the wage allowances be granted in such a manner as to allow the money to suffice until the end of the year. No ministry is compelled to raise wages." (Mediafax - 4 May 2000) Isărescu is determined to cut the salaries of managers of state owned companies to bring them into line with government under-secretaries of state.
The IMF have, however, imposed a new range of performance criteria which will determine whether or not the phases of the stand-by loan will be released. Key elements are quarterly reductions in the debt arrears of the national utility companies and the privatisation of the Banca Agricola. Quarterly target figures have also been set for the reduction in the number of state employees, the wage fund and the banking assets to be recovered by the AVAB agency. Representative of the IMF Emmanuel Zervoudakis said, "Strict implementation of policies in the area of wages and arrears will be very important for the achievement of the inflation target." (Reuters - 4 May 2000)
President Constantinescu formally approved the 2000 budget law on Thursday. The budget aims to see inflation fall to 27 percent, economic growth and a deficit level of no more that three percent of gross domestic product. The setting of such a harsh budget, even in an election year, was a foregone conclusion. Pressure on the government from the EU, IMF and World Bank for such a budget was linked to the availability of loans and access to world capital markets. Constantinescu said, "The budget has an essential role in bringing Romania's economy in line with European Union standards. It envisages economic growth, lower inflation and improved living standards." (Reuters - 4 May 2000)
The Prime Minister of Finland, Paavo Lipponen was in Bucharest this week for wide ranging discussions with Prime Minister Isărescu, President Emil Constantinescu and Foreign Minister Petre Roman. The discussions covered issues such as European integration, economic and trade links between the two countries and environmental issues. Lipponen offered his country's advice and support for Romania's National Reforestation Programme and with the problem of border control and security. He said, "Even if Finland is in the north and Romania in the south part of the continent, we must work out our common ideas for the benefit of all Europe. We are looking forward to Romania becoming a full member of the EU." (Nine o'clock - 5 May 2000)
Romania has been accused by the United States Department of Trade of subjecting imports of clothing, poultry and alcoholic drinks to high levels of import duty. Talks are to take place between the US and the Romanian Trade and Industry Ministry to consider these accusations. Romania has been warned that the matter could be referred to the World Trade Organisation.
Another investigation taking place in Romania is being carried out by Henri Pons from the Palais de Justice in Paris. The French judge arrived in Bucharest on Wednesday to investigate a case of fraud. The investigation, according to French newspaper Le Parisien, involves a businessman, Romanian politicians and money laundering. On Friday, chief prosecutor Mircea Criste said that the French had asked for help from Romania in their investigations of Romanian born businessman Adrian Costea in connection with laundering USD 100 million between 1992 and 1996. French magistrate Pons has asked to interview several PDSR politicians who were part of the previous administration including prime vice president Adrian Nastase of PDSR and Teodor Melescanu who is now leader of the Alliance for Romania Party (ApR).
On Friday, a PDSR press release claimed that the accusations had originated in Bucharest and were part of the campaign to undermine the credibility of the party in the run up to the local and general elections. PDSR has that it is confident that the French judicial procedure will quickly prove that the party leaders had no involvement in the Costea case.
The National Statistics Board have presented figures which show that Romania's population is in decline. Although the numbers of adults and over 60 year olds has increased, the decline in the birth rate and continued migration has caused a decrease of about 33,000 in the total population.
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