Freedom of information
Minister of Public Information Vasile Dâncu has presented a proposed freedom of information bill to the Chamber of Deputies. According to Dâncu, the bill will establish the boundary of the laws regarding the protection of state secrets and personal information. He added that the bill met all the requirements and conventions of the European Union saying that "the law is more liberal and permissive than similar regulations from European countries" (Nine o'clock, 21 March 2001)
The bill defines information that will be available to the public as, "any piece of information produced and administrated by an authority or public institution" (Monitorul, 21 March 2001). The exceptions relate to information that is classified or is personal data. The bill requires authorities and public institutions to present public information to the media. It also sets down details on the accreditation of journalists.
European Commissioner for enlargement Günter Verheugen has said that Romania has a long way to go before it can achieve membership of the European Union. He said, "The political social and cultural inheritance from the former [Communist] regime means Romania has to confront the worst situation out of the entire EU candidate states." (Mediafax, 20 March 2001). He complemented the steps taken by the government to meet the visa criteria but criticised the limited economic action set in place by the Romanian government.
While making a presentation about Romania's progress towards accession to EU foreign ministers the Romanian foreign minister, Mircea Geoană, agreed. He said that Romania had a lot of time to make its mind up if the required preparations for accession were to be met and asserted that funds generated by privatisation would be used for progress in economic development.
A less positive note was sounded by President Ion Iliescu who criticised the EU over its demand that Romania must have a stable minimum wage established before accession can go ahead. Iliescu said that the EU had no right to impose such a condition and set his own priority as providing stable employment before a guaranteed minimum wage.
Ioan Mircea Paşcu, the Minister of National Defence (MApN) told a press conference that his priorities were to create a better organised military structure and to increase the impetus towards NATO accession while maintaining Romania's international commitments. He said that these measures would be supported by a re-organised and more professional Ministry. Paşcu went on to suggest that this year's defence budget could be as much as USD one billion.
NATO accession was the key element of discussions held between Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană and NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson. Geoană said, "it is highly important that Romania have the necessary resources to fulfill its obligations under the Action Program for NATO Accession, in order to prove to the organization that it has made progress when the plan is reassessed." (RFE, 20 March 2001) Secretary of State for Euro-Atlantic Integration at MApN George Maior suggested that Romania was at least a year behind in meeting the requirements of the accession programme.
The theme of silence resonates through two articles published this week in on-line journals. An article in Monitorul by Adrian Cioflanca is critical of the President and his role. The article considers the promises made by Iliescu, before the elections, to make the presidency active and involved in all aspects of political life and contrast it with reality.
"A big silence fell over the presidential palace. The providential President we were promised was replaced with the pensioner President. Ion Iliescu' s face in his few public apparitions shows the quietness of the one who saw his dream come true and wants nothing more from life." (Monitorul, 21 March 2001)
The editorial of EvZ online on 22 March concentrates on the silence of media and opposition politicians. Last week Evenimentul zilei called on other journalists to join their campaign against the apparent attempt by government to stop the activities of the National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS)—the campaign received little support.
The editorial goes on to consider this an insidious undermining of democracy by the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) government. It lists national organisations that are not controlled by the PDSR, suggesting that they too are under threat. "We are not witnessing a mere attack against the CNSAS, an institution headed by a board the PDSR does not control." (EvZ, 22 March 2001)
Towards a police state?
The opposition parties have condemned the government over Emergency Ordinance 29 which Prime Minister Adrian Năstase signed at the end of February. The ordinance effectively converts the police control unit (UM 0962) of the Ministry of the Interior into a secret service.
Democratic Party (PD) member of the Chamber of Deputies Alexandru Sassu said, "This is the dumbest act some could have signed, as it lets police burst into our lives, homes, mail anytime they want to. Basically this ordinance brings back to life the political police, and turns Romania into a police state, controlled by the government and the secret services." (Nine o'clock, 22 March 2001)
The ordinance gives UM 0962 powers which some analyst believe are greater than those held by the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). UM 0962 is to be an intelligence organ under the control of the Prime Minister whereas SRI is controlled by Parliament although power is effectively delegated to the President. The President has asked that this ordinance be re-evaluated, particularly as he believes it should have been examined by the Supreme Defence Council before implementation.
National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Valeriu Stoica says that the bill gives the Ministry of the Interior unjustified powers and is concerned at the establishment of parallel intelligence organisations. The Ministry of the Interior say that they need these powers to protect officers who may be required to work undercover.
Dracula theme park
Plans for the development of the tourism industry have been put forward by Dan Matei-Agathon, the Minister of Tourism. Included are projects to create a new Black Sea resort and a Dracula theme park. It is hoped that an American company will have the theme park ready to open for visitors by the summer of 2002 but as yet its location has not been revealed—to stop land speculation.
Criticism about the debasement of Romania's history has been responded to by Matei-Agathon who said, " These critics do not put me off. This is a fantastic project." (Agence France Presse, March 21 2001) [Bram Stoker's character Count Dracula is believed to be based on a historical figure from Romania's past—Vlad the Impaler.]
Catherine Lovatt and David Lovatt,
23 March 2001
Evenimentul zilei/EvZ online