The election season is well and truly under way. As the EvZ editorial said on Tuesday, "It's for the first time after 1989 that electoral posters outnumber stray dogs. You can see more pictures of candidates for Bucharest mayor than cats, litter bins or ornamental plants."
The latest Insomar opinion poll for the Bucharest mayoral election shows that Sorin Oprescu of the Social Democracy Party of Romania (PDSR) maintains a lead with 26 percent of the sample over Calin Catalin Chirita of the Romanian Democratic Convention (CDR) who received 16 percent. Chirita has, in this poll, moved ahead of the National Liberal Party (PNL) candidate, George Padure, for the first time.
National Christian Democratic Peasant Party (PNŢCD) vice president Ioan Muresan firmly stated that it was his belief that the PDSR would never be returned to power. He went on to say, "In the forthcoming period, people will find out more and more things PDSR did. We'll remind them of how the country was ruled till 1996, because it seems this thing has been forgotten. We'll remind them of all the taxes, of all the programmes they developed and which failed to focus on the human factor, on farmers, and of the fact that the real structural reforms were postponed which ensued huge losses." (EvZ - 15 May 2000)
The investigations into the dealings of Adrian Costea have continued to dominate the news throughout the week. PDSR is being drawn further into the case with allegations aimed at their leader, former President Ion Iliescu and members of his party. The spider's web of intrigue has spread to involve Teodor Melescanu who was Iliescu's Foreign Minister and who now leads the Alliance for Romania Party (ApR) and also current President, Emil Constantinescu. These front runners in the November Presidential election campaign could well be damaged by the publicity surrounding the case. Foreign Minister Petre Roman, leader of the Democratic Party (PD), lies in fourth place in the Presidential race and has, as yet, not been linked to Costea. Commenting on the investigations Transport Minister and Deputy Leader of the PD Traian Băsescu said "What I can say with certainty is that this scandal is only just beginning, and that more heads will roll." (Agence France Presse - 18 May 2000) (See Catherine Lovatt's article in this week's CER)
The Chamber of Deputies Defence Commission have uncovered what they consider to have been illegal procedures and a breach of the Constitution in the negotiations to establish a hot-line between Bucharest and Moscow during the Iliescu presidency. The Commission have established that the setting up the hot-line was approved only by Iliescu, his advisor Vasile Ionel and the Director of the Special Telecommunications Service Stefan Coman. The Defence Commission believes that the negotiations should have been cleared through the Supreme Defence Council with Parliament being kept fully informed of the negotiations. PNŢCD deputy Mihai Gheorgiu said that an extraordinary effort had been made by Iliescu's administration to successfully complete the negotiations with Moscow while, at the same time, they professed to be in favour of links with NATO. Monitorul reported on 19 May that deputy George Serban has called for the Prosecutor's Office to investigate whether Iliescu, as President, acted contrary to the terms of the Constitution.
Termoelectrica, the Romanian thermal energy provider, stopped its services at the beginning of the week to local authorities that owed the company money. Up to six million people are effected with most of Bucharest's residents now being without hot water as are the inhabitants of other Romanian cities. Termoelectrica is owed a total of USD 175 million. On Tuesday, hot water supplies were restored to Bucharest when an agreement was signed which deferred the city's debt until October.
The outcome of the strike at the Cernovoda nuclear power plant has resulted in an unexpected turn of events for the staff of the plant. Dan Cutoiu, the head of the National Commission to Oversee Nuclear Activities (CNCAN), has said the fact that the plant operated successfully throughout the strike has shown that it is overstaffed. 700 members of staff were required to produce 700 megawatts of electricity - the plant normally employs over 2500 people. Cutoiu also let it be known that legislative changes were being considered which would make strike action in the nuclear power sector illegal.
Customs officers at Giurgiu stopped two lorries carrying radioactive material from entering Romania on Monday afternoon. The material, known as Ferrux was being imported by Greek Company Mechano-Chemica with the Sidex steel mill at Galati being identified as its destination. Measurements taken by officials showed that the level of radioactivity was up to ten times higher than that allowed by Romanian law. Customs officials at Giurgiu are determined that the vehicles will not proceed unless they can be proved to be absolutely safe. CNCAN head Dan Cutoiu said that experts had been sent to Giurgiu. He added that if the shipment was a naturally radioactive substance it may be allowed to go on to its destination, however if it was composed of radioactive waste it would be returned to its point of origin. He said, "Import of radioactive waste is banned under the law." (EvZ 16 May 2000)
Investigations showed that 21 similar shipments of Ferrux had been delivered to Sidex earlier in the year and so more tests were carried out at the Sidex plant. Nini Sapunaru of the Customs General Department reported, "The tests performed by experts in the warehouses of the Sidex Combine of Galati reveal the fact that radioactivity is within normal limits, which means that the Ferrux shipments that came into Romania early this year did not contain any radioactive material." (Nine o'clock 17 May 2000) Cutoiu commented that CNCAN tests showed that the two lorries held at the border did not carry radioactive waste and hence there could be no objection to the material coming into Romania.
The Romanian Journalists Society (SZR) has called on the Military Prosecutors Office, the General Prosecutors Office, the Justice Ministry and the Interior Ministry to take action against those responsible for the assault of two journalists. Valentin Dragan and Gheorghe Ciuciu were trying to photograph the events at a party hosted by the head of Constanţa County Police Inspectorate (IPJ), General Ion Cirlig. The journalists were set upon by four police officers with the result that Ciuciu's camera was seized. Dragan, however, suffered injuries, including a broken leg, and will have to remain in hospital for some time.
Monitorul reported on 16 May that Major Marian Saragea grabbed the camera because the journalist had not asked permission to take photographs and at the same time three other officers had rushed to help. Saragea denied beating up the journalists but said that one of his colleagues may have touched him. A press conference held by the Constanţa IPJ suggested that Dragan, "had probably stumbled on the even ground." (Monitorul - 16 May 2000) The Ministry of the Interior announced on Monday that Saragea, Major Marian Rapotan, Colonel Vasile Luca and Lieutenant-Colonel Constantin Bizadea had been suspended from duty during investigations by the Military prosecutors. A presidential spokesperson expressed President Emil Constantinescu's concern over the assault and emphasised that Interior Ministry employees were expected to uphold the Constitution and the law both when on and off duty.
The leaders of the ruling coalition representing PNŢCD, PNL, PD and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) met on Monday to discuss the progress of legislation through Parliament. They decided that if the Parliamentary process did not deliver the bills on nationalised houses and public administration in a reasonable time scale then the government would take responsibility for them. An estimate of reasonable time was suggested to be around six weeks by UDMR leader Béla Markó, who went on to criticise Parliamentarians who absented themselves from their duties because of the election campaign. He was supported by Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, the leader of the PNL and the President of the Senate, who commented on the lack of responsibility of members of both Houses of Parliament. He said, "The election campaign is to be carried out on Fridays, on Saturdays and on Sundays." (Mediafax - 16 May 2000) The leaders raised the possibility of a regime of censure and punishment to deal with this problem.
The Chamber of Deputies approved the proposed governing regulations of the National College for the Study of Securitate Archives on Tuesday. The college will have a crucial role in enabling access to personal files that were held by the Securitate and the verification of statements made by those seeking public office with regard to their links to the secret police.
Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu has emphasised Romania's commitment to the NATO admission process. Isărescu, meeting with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson in Brussels on Monday said, "I reiterated Romania's commitment to implementing the NATO admission programme." (EvZ - 16 May 2000) In response Lord Robertson referred to Romania's commitment to the security of their region of Europe and the importance of the military reforms that are required as part of the NATO admission programme. He went on to say, "Romania is making progress in the process of admission to NATO in the prospect of the summit in 2002, when it will be decided if more states will be invited to join the Alliance." (Monitorul - 17 May 2000)
Romania's Foreign Minister, Petre Roman, signed the Vilnius Declaration on Friday at a conference of aspiring members of NATO. The declaration provides the framework for developing closer links between eight potential NATO members. Deputy Foreign Minister of Lithuanian Vygaudas Usackas said, "The top priority of the conference is to get NATO enlargement back on track so the process can proceed as planned and complete the unification of Europe." (Reuters - 19 May 2000)
While in Brussels, Isărescu also met with representatives of the World Bank, European Commission, UNICEF and other international organisations to discuss Romania's institutionalised children. He explained the national strategy on child protection, the changes in the funding of institutions and other steps that the government is intent on taking to improve the quality of life of these children. The Prime Minister also focused on the implementation of policies which would help to prevent children being abandoned by providing aid to the poorest families. The Prime Minister was assured of the appreciation of the international community as a result of the work that was taking place in Romania and received promises of additional financial support to help this disadvantaged group of children during 2001.
The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Günter Verheugen, also met Isărescu for formal talks on Monday evening. The key issues of their discussion were Romania's economy and the draft Action Plan for the implementation of the medium term economic strategy. Verheugen commented about the good relations that have developed during negotiations between Romania and the EU. He went on to make very positive comments about the Action Plan and how the government had pressed forward without undue regard to the forthcoming elections. However, Verheugen said "I want to see results. I think that Romania has no time to lose and the policy of reform must be continued." (Nine O'clock - 18 May 2000)
On Tuesday a meeting in Snagov of the representatives of all 17 officially recognised churches in Romania produced a concord which supported the government's European Union integration plans. They accepted the aims of the medium term economic development strategy which was presented to the European Commission as part of Romania's accession programme. The declaration said, "While keeping their own spiritual identity, shaped during history, alongside the other European countries, Romania can contribute to increasing the value of the European spiritual and cultural heritage." (Nine O'clock - 18 May 2000) Representatives of Hungarian Churches in Transylvania pressed the government to include the return of church property seized by the Communists in their strategy. The strategy sets out a four-year agenda for movement towards EU accession and is expected to be binding on any future governments.
President Václav Havel of the Czech Republic arrived in Romania for an eight hour working visit on Friday. President Havel held talks with Romanian President Constantinescu and Prime Minister Isărescu with key topics being economic and commercial cooperation between the two states particularly in the Central European Free Trade Area. Havel went on to express his country's support for Romania's accession to both the European Union and NATO. He said, "The main message of this visit is that the Czech Republic fully supports Romania's efforts for democratization and reform which started when Emil Constantinescu was elected President. Romania is one of the main elements of stability in this area and that the Czech Republic supports Bucharest in its efforts to integrate itself into NATO and the European Union." (Nine O'clock - 19 May 2000)
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