The authorities in the regions affected by the cyanide pollution of the river Siret in northeast Romania have warned the local population not to eat fish from the river. This follows the hospitalisation of 65 children and 20 adults who ate contaminated fish. In this poor area of the country many people are ignoring this advice so officials are offering rewards for any fish handed in to the authorities. Inspectors from the Sanitary-Veterinary Agency (DSV) have confiscated in excess of 100 kg of contaminated fish intended for sale and consumption.
The latest pollution scare started last week when cyanide-contaminated waste was poured into the Somozul Mare, which runs into the Siret. Cyanide levels in the Siret are now 130 times above the legal limit.
Suceava County Prefect Ioan Cusnir has investigated the matter and believes that the pollution was not caused by accident. Two companies who took over the assets of the detergent manufacturer Metadet were identified by Cusnir as being responsible. He said: "They worked at one of the (detergent) tanks despite express orders banning them from doing so." (EvZ, 23 January 2000) Prime Minister Adrian Năstase has called for those responsible for the pollution to be brought to account.
World Bank Director Andrew Vorkink has announced funding for two projects aimed at reducing pollution in the Danube Delta. Non-repayable credits will be available to deal with pollution in the Delta and to restore the balance of nature. A further project has been proposed which will enable Romania to deal with the agricultural pollution of the Danube.
Vorkink said: "The Danube Delta is a resource for the whole of Europe, has a high tourism potential, and, what is very important, retains a large part of the pollutants that come down the Danube from Europe." (Rompres, 25 January 2000)
Prime Minister Năstase has announced that, in the interests of public health, he is to ban the import of all items of second-hand clothing. His decision follows the number of skin infections being reported on people who have bought second-hand garments.
The National Authority for Consumer's Protection (ANPC) has begun to investigate whether stores which sell second hand clothing meet the minimum standards for such trading. In Bucharest four stores have been fined and closed as a result of having neither microbiological test certificates nor properly labelled garments.
In the previous administration, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce brought in regulations which demanded import licenses, issued by the ministry, for all second-hand goods brought into Romania. These regulations were introduced to protect home production and not to deal with health consequences of imported second-hand goods.
Documents relating to the illegal import of meat from countries having a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) problem have disappeared from the Ministry of Agriculture. Investigations have shown that certain meat imports were recorded on customs documents and yet there were no records in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Minister of Agriculture Ilie Sîrbu, said, "It is clear that some people in the ministry broke the law. I thought I would get the documents and see who are the persons involved, but I could not imagine that the files would vanish." (EvZ, 25 January 2000) Sîrbu has refereed the matter to the prosecutor's office. The import of almost 350 tonnes of meat or meat products is being investigated. Reports in the press have indicated that canned meat sent to Romania as consignments of humanitarian aid may be included in the investigations.
Prime Minister Năstase has been holding discussions in Brussels and Strasbourg with the European Commission about integration into the European Union. One of the key issues of the meetings concerns the new governments' plans for the Romanian economy and how this will equate with the requirements of the European Union. Năstase said: "Our interest right now is to convey to the European Union, clear unequivocal messages deprived of any demagogical ideology. We do not want conjectural but a long lasting economic growth." (Nine o'clock, 25 January 2000)
As well as providing opportunities to meet with the chairman of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and EU officials Năstase held talks with Lord George Robertson, the NATO secretary general. Accession into NATO and the European Union remain the keystones of Romania's foreign policy for the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) government.
President Ion Iliescu praised the results of Năstase's discussions. Presidential spokesperson Corina Cretu said: "If Romania wants a better image in the world, it has to prove that it is a responsible partner and can keep its word." (Mediafax, 25 January 2001) Further good news for Romania's new leadership came with the announcement that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was prepared to support their restructuring programme.
The National Christian Democratic Peasant Party (PNŢCD) has elected a new leader following its collapse in the parliamentary elections. Former Minister of Education Andrei Marga, who entered the contest at the last minute, defeated the two front running candidates Constantin Dudu Ionescu and Ioan Mureşan.
The Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) have welcomed Marga's election. A National Liberal Party (PNL) spokesperson said, "By having a new leader and initiating a profound internal reforming process, PNŢCD might join PNL, whose efforts are meant to re-construct and consolidate the high reputation of Center-Right forces." (Monitorul, 23 January 2001)
Democratic Party (PD) leader Petre Roman has been outlining his vision for a new political alliance, "Alternative 2004." He hopes to create a real opposition to the present government in time for the next elections so that this alliance is seen as a credible alternative to the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Roman intends to begin negotiations with Alliance for Romania Party (ApR) and the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) in the next few days. Roman also hopes that the PNŢCD will be amenable to this grouping.
A PD spokesman suggested that the alliance should be made with those parties which are not represented in parliament. He went on to comment that because of their accord with the PDSR government, neither PNL or the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) are true opposition parties—the opposition can only be formed around the PD.
Ceauşescus to have Christian burial?
Ion Cristian Niculae, chairman of the Romanian Workers' Party (PMR), has said that he wants to exhume the bodies of former atheist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena. The reasons he gives are to examine the bodies to see if their was evidence to show that they were tortured and executed before their trial took place, to ensure that the couple were buried together and to give them a Christian burial. Niculae has the consent of Nicolae Ceauşescu's sister and is now seeking the assent of his daughter.
Subsequently, a date was set for the exhumation to proceed. Gelu Voican Voiculescu who took part in the Ceauşescu's trial said: "This exhumation is a good opportunity to put an end to this game. Some dead people will be found there on 26 January. From their conservation condition, people will see that they had been shot to death and that their bones are not broken which means that they had not been tortured." (Nine o'clock, 23 January 2001)
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