Greater Romania Party walk out
Members of the Greater Romania party (PRM) walked out of the Chamber of Deputies in protest against a clause in the Local Public Administration Act. The clause which caused all the trouble demands that local authorities provide services to the community in the language of a minority composing more than 20 per cent of the population.
The clause also demands that business at local council meetings should be transacted in the minority language on request and that the agenda and decisions of such meetings should be made public in the minority language as well as in Romanian.
Deputies from the Democratic Party (PD), the National Liberal Party (PNL), the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) all supported the clause and went on to finalise the 121 clauses of the bill in the absence of the PRM.
PRM deputy Anghel Stanciu said that the party would take the matter to the Constitutional Court because, in effect, the bill placed Hungarian as the country's "second official language." (RFE, 18 January 2000)
Deputy Ervin Székely of the UDMR said, "By taking an attitude against the extremist manifestations of the PRM, the PDSR confirmed its option for Romania's accession to Europe. As long as PDSR carries on with this path, it may count on the support of the UDMR." (Nine o'clock, 18 January 2000)
President Ion Iliescu met with World Bank Regional Director Andrew Vorkink to discuss the Government's reform programme and financial support for Romania. Vorkink suggested that USD 1.5 billion could be available to Romania over the next four years but emphasised that grants would depend on the credibility of the Government and the financial probity of their programme.
It now appears that Prime Minister Adrian Năstase will not replace the governor of the National Bank of Romania (BNR), Mugur Isărescu. Năstase believes that the former Prime Minister has a crucial role to play in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Năstase stated: "There is somebody at the BNR who has experience as a negotiator and I would find it stupid not to put this experience to use." (EvZ, 18 January 2000)
A delegation led by Giovanni Ravasio, General Director of the General Department for Economic and Financial Affair of the European Commission, met with the President, Prime Minister and the Romanian Minister for European Integration, Hildegard Puwak.
Key areas of discussion were the medium term national economic strategy, the speeding up of economic reforms and the harmonisation of laws. Ravasio expressed his approval of the Năstase government's economic framework but emphasised that restructuring of the financial sector, privatisation and economic stability had to be the administration's priorities.
Now that the elections are out of the way and the new government is moving forward with its manifesto commitments, those parties who failed to do as well as they expected are examining the success of their leadership. PNL is to have a new leader. Two candidates have already been nominated—Crin Atonescu and Valeriu Stoica—although further nominations are expected. Favourite Stoica has recently come under fire for being too dictatorial.
Theodor Stolojan, who stood as the PNL candidate for the presidency has announced that he will run in the election for president of the PNL National Council. Stolojan believes that the two key party posts "must not be created for the people in the party, but for what the party wants to achieve." (Nine o'clock, 18 January 2000)
PD leader Petre Roman has asked for his position to be discussed and considered. Of the party leadership only Traian Băsescu has put himself forward as a potential leader. Băsescu said: "If an Extraordinary Convention is organised, I don't exclude the possibility to run for the presidency of the party." (Monitorul, 17 January 2000)
Roman believes that the Extraordinary Convention of the party in June will re-elect him as leader. Roman has served as leader for eight years and has frequently been accused of being authoritarian and not being prepared to accept any challenge to his position.
The National Christian Democratic Peasant Party (PNŢCD) will have a new leader in the next few weeks. PNŢCD was the senior partner in the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR)—the alliance that formed the last government. In November's general election the party did not gain sufficient votes to have any representatives in either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate. The frontrunners in the contest are former cabinet ministers Constantin Dudu Ionescu and Ioan Avram Mureşan.
Parliament approves legislation
The Senate has approved a bill, introduced by the previous administration, which gives protection to refugees. The bill is expected to bring Romania into line with the requirements of the European Union. A National Refugee Office (ONR) is established which will process and monitor those seeking asylum in Romania.
Refugee status will be granted to those proving that they would be oppressed in their homeland on the basis of race, religion, nationality or politics. While seeking refugee status individuals will be provided with legal assistance and interpreters as well as being entitled to free meals and housing.
The Chamber of Deputies voted to pass the bill which promises restoration or reparations to those who had their property seized by the Communist government which came to power after the Second World War. The Nationalised Estate Act, which has been meandering through parliament for some years, gives restoration rights to former owners but also protects present tenants from immediate eviction. Where restitution is not possible former owners will be entitled to compensation.
Prime Minister Năstase commented: "The law is not perfect but it represents the only possible formula for compromise between the former proprietors' interests and those who rent nationalised buildings." (Agence France Presse, 16 January 2000)
Cyanide pollution of River Siret
Reports are beginning to appear about further cyanide pollution of one of Romania's rivers. The Ministry for Water and the Environment have confirmed that the cyanide concentration in the River Siret in northeast Romania have been found to be 130 times above the legal limit.
Many dead fish have been found in the Siret which points towards another environmental catastrophe. Investigations are taking place into factories in the region which may have discharged contaminated effluent into one of the Siret's tributaries.
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