PSD—a new party of Government
Saturday 16 June saw the creation of a new political party in Romania. The Social Democratic Party (PSD) came into being when the government Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the Social Democratic Party in Romania (PSDR) voted to merge during a special Congress in Bucharest.
The formal resolution recognised social-democracy "as the solution to overcome transition and place Romania on the road to development, modernisation and improved living standards." The PSD's role was described as "building new Romania as a free, dignified and prosperous country integrated into Euro-Atlantic structures." (Rompres, 16 June 2001)
In the presence of representatives of social democratic, socialist and democratic parties from across Europe, the Congress elected PDSR leader Adrian Năstase as PSD president. Leader of the PSDR Alexandru Athanasiu was subsequently elected president of the PSD National Council.
The new party has come in for much positive comment from the media, however Monitorul On-line headlines its story "Pathetic and Unanimous PSD Congress" (Monitorul, 19 June 2001).
An editorial in the same journal takes the opportunity to warn that the PSD is now such a wealthy party in terms of both cash and membership that it is likely to retain power for many years. It goes on to consider the lack of political balance in the country, questioning the ability of any other party to be an effective opposition. It concludes, "without a reasonable political equilibrium Romania cannot stabilize in the medium and long term. It cannot become compatible either with NATO or ... with the European Union." (Monitorul, 19 June 2001)
EU: Baroness Nicholson amends Report
Baroness Emma Nicholson, the rapporteur to the European Parliament on Romania, has indicated that she is to amend her draft report on Romania. This report caused much concern when it was leaked to the press three weeks ago as it was interpreted as recommending that Romania should be suspended from the EU accession procedure.
In a press conference at the end of her visit to Bucharest last week, Nicholson commended the progress that the Năstase government has made towards required reforms. She acknowledged the professional response of the government to her criticisms about institutionalised children and gave a positive assessment of the economic progress that was being made. She added that her report would now recommend that the European Parliament should support Romania's entry into the European Union.
Following the close of the summit of EU member and candidate states in Gothenburg, President Ion Iliescu expressed his satisfaction that the decision had been taken to make EU enlargement an irreversible process. Setting out Romania's targets for accession Iliescu said, "The project of European integration is very important for Romania's future and that is why we all have the duty to work for its success." (Rompres, 18 June 2001)
Adevărul reported extra support for Romania saying, "the 15 heads of state and government of the European Union gave an unexpectedly strong impulse to the European enlargement, announcing that special assistance will be given to Romania and Bulgaria." (Adevărul, 18 June 2001)
Prime Minister Năstase gave a positive reaction saying that Romania must speed up its accession programme as a result of the decisions taken in Gothenburg. He said, "We must finalize the negotiations for accession by the end of 2004, so that we could participate in the elections for the European Parliament in 2004." (Nine o'clock, 18 June 2001)
Romania accused of breaking UN embargo
Accusations were carried in Monday's edition of the New York Times that experts had proof that Romania broke United Nations sanctions by selling arms to Iraq after the 1990 conflict. A statement from the Foreign Ministry said that the article referred to the years 1994 and 1995, adding that the matter had been cleared up during discussions with the UN Special Committee (UNSCOM).
The statement affirmed Romania's intention to maintain its obligations as set out in the UN Security Council resolutions. The National Agency to Oversee Strategic Exports produced data showing that no licence to sell arms to Iraq had been issued after 1990.
President Iliescu has ordered that a full investigation be carried out into the allegations. However, both president and government are convinced that the allegations are part of a conspiracy against Romania's quest for NATO membership. Minister of Industry and Resources Dan Ioan Popescu said he thought it was no coincidence that these comments "pop up precisely when Romania is on an ascending trend toward Euro-Atlantic integration." (RFE, 20 June 2001)
The Iraqi ambassador to Bucharest, Saad H Majid, told Mediafax that the allegations were lies created by the US and UK to help maintain the embargo on his country.
Hungarian Status Law condemned
The Hungarian Status Law was passed by the Budapest Parliament on Tuesday. The law gives social, cultural and educational rights to ethnic Hungarians who live beyond Hungary's borders. The Romanian press covered reaction to the law with critical statements from the Presidency, Government and senior politicians. Editorials were antagonistic to the law—a headline in Curentul on Wednesday reading "The Budapest Parliament passed the Status Law without taking into account the objections raised by the Romanian Government."
Support for the law and lack of concern over its implementation was only being expressed by the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). UDMR leader Béla Markó said that the stand adopted by the Romanian political parties and government would "create an artificial conflict that does not serve Romanian interests and the future of our relations with Hungary." (RFE, 21 June 2001)
Prime Minister Năstase was quick to condemn the legislation stating that Hungarian laws would not be enforceable on Romanian territory. He added that all Romanians, including the ethnic minority groups, were protected by the Constitution and International Law.
Năstase continued his assault by writing to European Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen, President of the European Commission Romano Prodi and European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Chris Patten. He clearly laid out Romania's position saying that "The Law emphasizes ethnicity, a topic that can create tension in the Balkans. South-Eastern Europe has suffered because of ethnicity in the last ten years. Our position is extremely clear: in a world heading towards integration, the Hungarian Government stresses separation and values that have nothing in common with the European values." (Rompres, 21 June 2001)
President Ion Iliescu took up the point that the law was not compatible with European values and added that it could be a catalyst for ethnic unrest in countries with a large Hungarian minority. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mircea Geoană added his criticism by focussing on the European dimension with particular reference to the decisions taken at the Nice and Gothenburg summits. An editorial in Adevărul on Thursday identified the law as failing to conform to Article 13 of the Treaty of Nice. It continued, "Article 13 asserts full equality of rights to all the EU citizens, and bans any kind of discrimination ... although unofficially voiced, the EU's dissatisfaction over the Status Law is real."
Catherine Lovatt and David Lovatt,
22 June 2001
Evenimentul zilei/EvZ online