Mayors object to political control
Mayors and administrators from major Romanian cities and town met in Braşov over the weekend to discuss the Local Public Administration bill. They criticised the bill as being against both the Romanian Constitution and the European Charter of Human Rights. Their fears are that the bill will bring local administrations under the political control of the government party—the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR).
Ion Ghise, the mayor of Braşov, suggested that this would mean that officers of local councils will be under continual party political scrutiny. Political assessment of their actions would be used to decide whether officers would remain in their posts.
This approach seems to be bear a significant resemblance to what was reported to be happening to civil servants employed as part of the presidential staff at the Controceni palace. (See previous news review for more on the replacement of presidential staff)
Gheorghe Funar, the nationalist mayor of Cluj, used the meeting to protest against the requirement that local administrations use the minority language where a minority exceeds 20 per cent of the population in a local government region. He believes that this element on the bill is also unconstitutional.
In another move that appears to strengthen political control the PDSR, Member of the Chamber of Deputies Ristea Priboi has been put forward as potential head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE). Priboi has previously been an advisor to the Prime Minister, Adrian Năstase. At the same time PDSR Senator Radu Timofte has been appointed to head the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI)
Bucharest—Gone to the Dogs?
Democratic Party (PD) Mayor of Bucharest Trăian Băsescu is to take action against the packs of stray dogs which are infesting the city. It is believed that up to 300,000 dogs are roaming the streets of the capital city, where last year 20,000 people suffered bites from stray animals.
From 1 March, any sick or vicious dog will be put down while other will be sterilised. The local council and the police will be responsible for enforcing the programme. Stray dogs will be held in kennels for ten days to enable owners to claim them before action is taken.
Prime Minister Adrian Năstase has called on the Mayor to deal with this problem which has featured in newspaper articles throughout Europe and is damaging Romania's image abroad. But animal rights activist and former French film star Brigitte Bardot has condemned the plan to put down the dogs. She said, "In my eyes, Bucharest is a symbol of courage and generosity. I don't want it to become a symbol of death and shame." (Agence France Presse, 7 February 2001)
Violence and abuse
Concern has been expressed throughout Romanian society about the growth in domestic violence. A survey carried out by the Romanian Group for Human Rights shows that a third of women between the aged of 15 and 44 years old have been struck by their partner on at least one occasion. More that half of the women questioned said that pressing charges against a violent partner would be humiliating and degrading for them. Others suggested that their partners hit them out of love. But they were afraid to tell the truth about their beatings and were also afraid to leave home.
At the conference Family Violence—Causes, Consequences, Remedies, organised by the Romanian Patriarchy, the justice minister, Mihaela Rodica Stănoiu, said that the amended law protecting people from domestic violence allows greater levels of punishment and gives the authorities the right to intervene and take action. However, she identified one problem—that the people do not know about the law. As a result she said, "we'll establish a program of measures to inform the population about the content of this law, so that the victims become aware of the fact that they have the means to defend themselves." (Monitorul, 5 February 2001)
At the same conference Patriarch Teoctist, head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, announced the positive support of the church by initiating a project to establish refuges for the victims of domestic violence.
Romanian prosecutors are reporting that there is an increase in the number of foreign nationals being arrested in Romania on charges of paedophilia. Recent cases involve an Italian visitor to Romania who is being held under arrest in Oradea, a German citizen who was accused of the sexual abuse of children in Timişoara and British paedophiles who were arrested earlier this year.
A "Save the Children Fund" conference in Bucharest brought together representatives of the child protection agencies to discuss the Government's child protection policies. The group expects to be in a position to propose amendments to current legislation, including more stringent sentencing, prior to the National Conference on the Protection of Children's Rights which is to take place at the end of this month.
Power and corruption
Ovidiu Grecea, head of the Control and Anti-Corruption Department of the Government (DCAG) is going to examine contracts and procedures when certain state companies, such as Rom Telecom, were privatised. Grecea seems to have been given a free hand to investigate possible corrupt practices in transactions in which the state had, or has, a financial interest. Part of his brief is to investigate the activities of the State Property Fund (FPS). Grecea said, "We want to dismantle the mafia rings around the state institutions." (EvZ, 6 February 2001)
Monitorul Online carried the story about a high-speed car crash in which the passenger was severely injured. The driver is alleged to have left the scene. The driver is believed to be the son of a senior official in a government ministry. The story—which went on to discuss evidence that the driver was involved in other crimes but has always managed to avoid prosecution—implied that, in Romania, money and position can be used to protect an individual from the force of the law. The passenger's family is hoping to take legal action against the driver but believe they have little chance of success.
Foreign Minister visits Russia
On Wednesday Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Dan Geoană made an official visit to Moscow as Chairman of Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The visit is the first by any Romanian foreign minister for nine years. Although it is an important visit in terms of OSCE business it is also seen as the beginning of a new opportunity for cooperation between the two countries.
Geoană met with his Russian counterpart to discuss a bilateral treaty for economic and political cooperation. Geoană said, "We should try to get out of this state of inhibition, almost paralysis, coming from the very difficult inheritance of our common past with Russia ... if they believe the political treaty is of paramount importance for the rest of the relationship, Romania is ready to move aggressively to find compromise solutions." (Reuters, 8 February 2000)
The Romanian government are determined to move towards closer to Moscow while continuing to seek membership of the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
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