The Presidential Administration—politics of the past?
An Emergency Ordinance has been put forward which modifies the role of the administrative staff employed at the Presidency. "The Law Regarding the Services Subordinated to the President of Romania" demands that only staff who are trusted by the President and who sign a statement of loyalty will be appointed.
The Ordinance also demands that current staff employed at the Cotroceni (the Presidential Palace) will have to pass an examination to confirm their employment. If the President loses trust in an employee the person will be either transferred to another department or dismissed.
It has been suggested that employees are being put under extreme pressure by the new administration in order to free posts for political reasons. Sorin Cucerai, the leader of the presidential branch of the Romanian Syndicate of Civil Servants (SFP), said, "We are labelled as 'Peasant Party members' [National Christian Democratic Peasant Party, PNŢCD] or 'Constantinescu's people' [Emil Constantinescu was the former President], actually we are not talked to. The motives are based on a certain mentality about the politicization of certain institutions." (Monitorul, 12 January 2001)
Corina Cretu, the presidential counsellor, said that the Emergency Ordinance created a new institution, the Presidential Administration. She added that the employees of the new Presidential Administration would not be bound by the requirements of the Law of Civil Servants—this law established the notion of apolitical civil servants who would serve any administration without favour.
Cretu suggested that it was not realistic for employees of the previous president to remain in their posts. She said, "It's absolutely immoral to want to stay there, when you wrote against President Ion Iliescu." (Monitorul, 12 January 2001)
Government and Parliament... taking control?
Although Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is pledged to reduce bureaucracy by 30 per cent he has created the biggest government team since 1990. The new government increases the number of Ministers from 18 to 26 with many of them having up to five Secretaries of State—Ministers in the previous administration had only three. The Ministry of Justice has already announced that they will increase their personnel by 30 per cent.
The Chamber of Deputies has been debating a proposal to establish a committee whose function will be to prepare the "order of the day"—the agenda of the Chamber. The proposal is supported by government party PDSR but is opposed by the National Liberal Party (PNL), the Democratic Party (PD) and the Greater Romania Party (PRM). Their view is that such a committee would be unconstitutional as it is up to the deputies as a whole to determine the business of the Chamber.
Leaders of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) and the PNL have approached the PDSR with demands that their representatives be allowed to maintain their government posts. Lists of PNL and UDMR representatives who are local administrators and managers in the Ministries of Health, Labour, Finance, Agriculture and Education have been presented to the PDSR government.
The PNL and UDMR have signed accords with the PDSR that state they will not propose motions of censure against the government during 2001 providing the government party does not depart from its proposed principles.
A debate instigated by the PDSR led to a vote to prevent journalists from having access to the debates and papers of the standing committees of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Parliament's image was said to have been damaged by press reports of debates taking place in standing committees prior to the elections.
Effects of depleted uranium
Romanian troops who served with the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, particularly those who were exposed to depleted uranium munitions, have been ordered to take free medical tests in military hospitals. The Ministry of Defence is concerned about the suspicions surrounding the so-called Balkan Syndrome that are currently facing investigations in NATO countries.
The Ministry reported that none of the 1500 soldiers involved were exhibiting symptoms expected following exposure to radiation.
One case that has been mentioned in the Romanian media is that of Petre Anin, a member of the Romanian contingent to Bosnia. Two years after his return from 11 months of service in Bosnia he was diagnosed with cancer. Military Hospital spokesperson Dr Mihai Ciochinaru said, "I don't think there is a link between his participation to the mission in Bosnia and the disease—that is between the exposure to depleted uranium and his getting sick." (EvZ, 10 January 2000)
The Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Dwellings (MLPTL) has decided that the Central Winter Headquarters will operate between 10 January and 31 March. The Central Headquarters coordinates information and the actions of Romanian transport industries if the communication infrastructure breaks down as a result of severe winter weather.
The National Meteorological Institute has forecast that from 13 January, Romania will face severe cold with temperatures falling to minus 20 degrees Celsius. Although this is not abnormal for January temperatures in the country what is abnormal is a forecast lack of snowfall. Vradimir Ivanovici of the National Meteorological Institute said the lack of snow "could create a series of problems in this period of drought." (Monitorul, 12 January 2000)
....but the drought continues
The Romanian government has taken action to limit water use by rationing consumption and has stopped the hydro-electric power providers from using hydraulic turbines. President Ion Iliescu, Minister of the Environment and Water Aurel Constantin Ilie and Minister of Industry and Resources (MIR) Dan Ioan Popescu are to develop a national strategy which will help deal with the effects of drought.
The strategy will include exploitation of resources, investment programmes and future planning. Rain is not expected in any quantity before March but restoration of the depleted levels of water will take many months of rain. The strategy will look at ways of making use of underground water supplies for both domestic and industrial uses.
The drought, which is possibly the worst for 50 years, is having a disastrous effect on Romanian agriculture, with some areas not having seen rain since March 2000. Last year's harvest was very much reduced with some analysts predicting severe food shortages before the winter is out. Initial reports from the markets show that already the shortages are beginning to result in increased food prices.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is working on plans to irrigate one million hectares of land but are faced with problems with the water pipe network. It is in need of extensive repair following theft of sections of the pipeline and deliberate vandalism.
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