Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu spent the week on an official visit to the United States. During a meeting with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Romania was praised for the contribution it has made to the stability of the region. Isărescu's government also received commendation from Albright for the steps taken to ensure economic reform.
Isărescu met with the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Horst Koehler, on Wednesday. Koehler indicated that the extension of the stand-by loan would be confirmed at the IMF board meeting at the end of May. He was very positive about the policies and economic progress of the Isărescu government saying, "The situation is stabilised. The country has a clear economic policy direction, and this is macroeconomic stability, reform, structural change, cutting subsidies, making the economy competitive and strengthening the private sector." (Reuters - 24 May 2000)
The Social Democracy Party of Romania (PDSR) have accused the government of being in breach of the Constitution. In a press release party representative Dan Matei Agathon condemned the government's emergency decree to amend the country's electoral laws. The changes in the law give responsibility to the Ministry of the Interior for producing lists of electors and producing and distributing voting card. The PDSR see these changes as being nothing more than a way to control the elections for the benefit of the incumbent government.
National Christian Democratic Peasants Party (PNŢCD) leaders have ruled out any negotiations with the PDSR in the run-up to both local and general elections. In a speech in Timişoara Ion Diaconescu, leader of the PNŢCD said "We cannot cannot sit at the table with the PDSR who ran the country for seven years and now it becomes clear what they were involved in." (EvZ - 22 May 2000)
Diaconescu also announced that the PNŢCD is considering taking action in the Constitutional Court against Ion Iliescu, leader of the PDSR. The party is contemplating an objection to Iliescu as a Presidential candidate, since he is seeking another term of office which, the PNŢCD believe, is in contravention of the Constitution. Justice Minister, Valeriu Stoica of the National Liberal Party added that Iliescu could be considered to be seeking his fourth mandate.
At the end of last week Stoica called for the Iliescu to step down as candidate for the presidency as a result of the links between himself and Adrian Costea. The PDSR has subsequently demanded the resignation of Stoica. A PDSR press release says, "Mr Valeriu Stoica scorns the truth and distorts reality for petty political reasons, which disqualifies him both as politician and as lawyer." 70 year old Iliescu has persuaded his party that they should continue to support his candidature for the presidency despite the damage that he, and his party, may have sustained as a result of the red-line scandal and the Costea case. (See Catherine Lovatt's article in CER 20)
The investigations surrounding the Costea case continue to rumble on with further allegations and discoveries touching many of the key players in Romania's political life. A poll carried out by the Office for Social Research between 17 and 21 May asked over one thousand people for their opinion. 42.5 percent of the sample considered that the most involved politician was Ion Iliescu. Other politicians included as being most involved by those questioned were members of the Iliescu administration before the 1996 elections; Iosif Boda (37.7%), Teodor Melescanu (37.5%), Razvan Temesan (35.3%), Viorel Hrebenciuc (30.6%), Adrian Năstase (29.2%) and Virgil Magureanu (28.1%). President Emil Constantinescu was named by 13.8 percent of the sample. 21 percent of the sample believed that Iliescu knew nothing of Costea's alleged illegal operations whereas 54 percent considered that he knew all about them. 34.5 percent of those interviewed believe that Iliescu is the politician in the case who has most damaged Romania's image in the international community.
The PDSR have received a complaint from the US embassy in Bucharest after they used photographs of the US Ambassador, James Rosapepe, on their election posters. The Ambassador is shown in the company of Ion Iliescu with the message that Rosapepe supports Iliescu's candidature for the presidency. The US embassy clearly stated that the US position is one of non-involvement in Romanian electoral process.
The PDSR faced another criticism on Wednesday when István Szent-Iványi, President of the Hungarian Commission for Foreign Affairs, said that Hungary would change its stance on supporting Romania's accession into the Euro-Atlantic institutions if "post-Communist forces" attained power at the general election. He said, "Hungary as well as the whole world is waiting for the elections in Romania with worry, as the political colour of the rule is a decisive factor for integration." (Monitorul - 26 May 2000)
The Chamber of Deputies debated a motion from the PDSR on Tuesday which criticised the work of the State Ownership Fund (FPS) and called for the resignation of its head, Radu Sirbu. The PDSR criticised the way in which the FPS was carrying out the privatisation process saying that it was "organized economic crime against the country and a national disaster." (Mediafax - 23 May 2000) PDSR were supported in their claims by the Alliance for Romania Party (ApR), the Greater Romania Party (PRM) and the Party for National Unity in Romania (PUNR). Sirbu said, "The signatories of the motion are those who lie, they are involved in smuggling, they robbed the banks, destroyed the national economy and made debts which we are now paying." ( - 23 May 2000) The motion was defeated with some sources believing that the motion was being used, albeit unsuccessfully, to draw attention away from the involvement of the PDSR and ApR in the Costea case.
The Minister of Agriculture, Ioan Mureşan, said last weekend that Romania does not have a crisis over wheat supplies. He confirmed that the amount of wheat producers had in store was 550,000 tonnes. Mureşan criticised the milling industry, saying that they were putting pressure on the government to provide tax free imports of wheat while, at the same time, refusing to buy Romanian wheat from the producers.
Wheat supplies seem set to stay in the headlines for some time. A long spell of dry weather has adversely affected this year's wheat crop. This, together with the lack of funding to provide fertilisers and pesticides, a lack of irrigation and the use of lesser quality seed, has resulted in some analysts suggesting that the 2000 wheat crop will produce a very low yield. Ştefan Nicolae, an Agroexport grain trader, said, "One should expect a low yield this year. There are reports of areas infested by bugs. This will reduce the content of gluten and make the wheat unfit for milling." (Reuters - 23 May 2000) The government estimate that this year's crop will yield about five million tonnes but the farmers are now saying it will be nearer to 3.5 million tonnes.
Mureşan now faces a motion in the Senate which calls for his dismissal. The motion which has been laid out by the PDSR refers to the "serious state of the Romanian agriculture" and cites that "a large part of the disasters in agriculture are caused by the improper policy, the egos and incompetence in the field proven both by Mureşan and his team." (Mediafax - 25 May 2000)
Romania has asked Interpol to help locate General Victor Stanculescu who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment last year for his part in the events at Timişoara during the 1989 revolution. It is believed that Stanculescu could be in London. In April, the Bucharest Military Court asked the Justice Ministry to start the extradition process so as to ensure his return to Romania.
General Mihai Chitac, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment at the same time on similar charges has also been named in an indictment set out by the General Prosecutors Office concerning the miners' riots that occurred between 13 and 15 June 1990. Chitac is one of a number of officers who have been charged with instigation to aggravated murder in that they are alleged to have ordered troops to open fire on the protesting miners. The charges have not been applied to anyone more senior than Chitac, however, the documentation of the case refers to a meeting of senior members of the government, including Ion Iliescu, Petre Roman, Virgil Magureanu, and Victor Stanculescu, that took place on 11 June. It also refers to Interior Ministry training for representatives of the police, intelligence service, Bucharest civil administration, Defence Ministry, General Prosecutors Office and Health Authority which took place on 12 June 1990.
Ilie Ilascu, who is being detained by the government of the Republic of Moldova has called on President Emil Constantinescu to refuse to ratify the Basic Treaty between the two countries. Ilascu said, "I hope that Emil Constantinescu's lucidity will not allow that these stupid documents be signed, as they will estrange a part of the Romanian people even more. As for the Moldovan politicians, I shall abstain from making any comments, as the people in power are pro-Russian, pro-Communist, and mostly promoting the concept of "Greater Moldavia." (Mediafax - 19 May 2000)
The foreign policy commissions of the Parliaments of both Romania and the Republic of Moldova called for the immediate release of Ilascu after a joint meeting on Sunday. The commissions also called on Patriarchs Alexey II of the Russian Orthodox Church and His Beatitude Teoctist of the Romanian Orthodox Church to use their best endeavours to ensure the release of Ilascu from prison. A joint declaration read, "This way Ilie Ilascu, a deputy in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, will be able to come back to his family and join his colleagues in Parliament." (Nine o'clock - 23 May 2000) Ilascu has been imprisoned in Tiraspol (The capital of breakaway maverick Republic of Transdniester.) since 1992 under sentence of death on political grounds.
Criticism of the Basic Treaty has also come from a group of senators who have demanded that the treaty be amended before final ratification. PNŢCD senator Ioan Moisin called for the treaty to state that Bessarabia should have its future determined by a referendum that would be held jointly in both countries. He also set out the belief that the treaty should be seen as " provisional and a stage [toward]... Moldova's natural unification with the mother country." (RFE - 23 May 2000)
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The Minister of Water, Forestry and the Environment, Romică Tomescu, presented a report on environmental conditions during 1999. The report indicated that many of the pollution incidents that had occurred during the year were caused as a result of negligence, inadequate technology or lack of discipline at the workplace. The Minister indicated that resources that had been allocated to the prevention of pollution had not been used effectively saying, "This is the case of SC Romplumb SA Baia Mare, which sprayed 36 tons of powdered lead because of its malfunctioning, antiquated filters and installations." (Nine o'clock - 23 May 2000)
A BBC Radio broadcast highlighted Romania's pollution problems this week in a programme which focussed on the chemical plant at Turnu Măgurele. Pollution from the plant frequently effects the population of the Bulgarian town of Nikopol, which is situated on the opposite bank of the River Danube. The programme reported that townspeople of Nikopol carry gas masks and children frequently have to remain indoors. On Monday, Environment Minister Tomescu announced that the chemical works would be closed down while repair work was carried out.
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