No strike action for a year
The Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) government announced this week that they had signed an accord with both employers' organisations and trade unions. In return for a series of social and economic measures, the trade unions have agreed not to take any industrial action for a year. Prime Minister Adrian Năstase and Minister of Labour Marian Sârbu outlined the key government measures. The government intends to peg inflation to 27 per cent and to create a growth of over four per cent in Gross Domestic Product.
Other proposals include a three-phase increase in the level of wages, linked to an index of price rises, and more active measures to fight unemployment. Pensions will rise three times during the year, and be index linked, and action will be taken to increase exports and to encourage the development of small and medium sized companies.
In welcoming the accord President Ion Iliescu said, "We have to achieve national solidarity to promote our objectives for the sustainable development of the economy." (Reuters, 20 February 2001)
1989 action leads to jail sentence
A case that has been running since 1994 reached its conclusion on Monday when the Supreme Court of Justice imposed jail sentences on the three accused. Major-General Dumitru Drăghin, retired General Grigorie Ghiţă and Captain Ionel Zorilă were found guilty of the charge of negligent manslaughter. They were deemed responsible for the killing of 50 young soldiers and injuring a further 13 at Bucharest Otopeni airport during the 1989 revolution. Apart from imprisonment, the three, together with the Ministry of Defence, were ordered to pay USD 1.4 million to the relatives of the dead.
A previous court ruling of March 2000, which resulted in the acquittal of Ghiţă and Zorilă, was appealed against by the Prosecutor's Office who demanded that all three officers should be held responsible. At the time, Drăghin was in charge of the Otopeni defences with Zorilă responsible for the area in front of the building and Ghiţă commanding a Securitate detachment.
The US ambassador to Romania, James Rosapepe, cancelled his visit to Cluj-Napoca at the weekend to register a strong protest against the activities of Mayor Gheorghe Funar and of the extreme right-wing Greater Romania Party (PRM). Rosapepe was to present Cluj-Napoca with a "Five Star City" award to recognise how the city had managed to cut red tape and make things easier for small businesses.
To coincide with the ambassador's visit, Funar organised a rally against government proposals that would ensure the use of a minority language in communities where the population of that minority exceeds 20 per cent.
PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor and other PRM Members of Parliament supported this rally. About four thousand people gathered to hear the speeches that were delivered from a dais surrounded by men wearing black balaclavas and armbands representing the Romanian flag.
The crowd shouted anti-Hungarian comments in support of the PRM and its leaders as Mayor Funar pledged that the Hungarian language would never be used in his city administration. Leader of the extreme right-wing PRM Tudor called the adoption of Hungarian as a second language as a blow to Romania's national interests and said that the country was now threatened by a "Fascist Hungary" who wanted to regain its former territory.
The PRM took the issue of minority languages further during this week when they proposed a motion of no confidence in the government. The debate took place in the Senate where Prime Minister rejected the PRM motion. He set out how the Local Administration Bill complied with the Romanian Constitution and conformed to the requirements of European legislation.
Năstase said, "multiculturalism and cultural pluralism are not caprices nor attempts to dynamite the national state." (Reuters, 21 February 2001). PRM Senators walked out of the chamber before a vote could be taken and so their motion fell.
The US Ambassador received an award himself on Tuesday, when President Iliescu presented him with the order of the Grand Cross of Steaua României. Iliescu, in making the award, thanked the retiring ambassador for his continued support for developing US-Romanian relations and investments. Rosapepe responded by saying that Romania was a country that had much potential and would soon become an example for other nations to follow.
Yet another scandal about collaboration with the Securitate—the secret police of the Communist regime—filled the news this week. Allegation have been made that former government minister Andrei Pleşu, a member of the board of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS), collaborated with the Securitate.
The allegations and further criticisms of the CNSAS came from Gabriel Andreescu, a member of the Social Dialogue Group. He is prepared to sue the CNSAS over what he deems to be their failure to give him access to his personal file and to make public the collaboration that may have occurred between the senior clergy of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Securitate.
Andreescu, who admitted at a press conference that he has no direct evidence against Pleşu, went on to name other politicians and establishment figures that he believes should not have been found to be "clean" after the examination of the Securitate archives. He exemplified his point by referring to the current President and asking how Iliescu, as a senior official in the Communist Party, could have avoided collaboration with the Securitate—the CNSAS had found him to be clean.