International relations—both West and East
The European Union is to allocate a grant of EUR 25 million to Romania to support child protection plans. The head of the European Commission delegation to Romania, Fokion Fotiadis, said that the EU funds would underwrite a national campaign to prevent child abandonment. Part of the campaign would support families, enabling them to care for their own children. Fotiadis, speaking at a national conference on the protection of children's rights, went on to praise the decision of the Romanian government that proposes the integration of children with disabilities into mainstream schools.
Agreement between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the government over next year's budget has not been reached. Prime Minister Adrian Năstase said that there were still some delicate negotiations to be concluded. Năstase wants to include EU grants and loans in the budget even though these will be blocked if negotiations with the IMF fail.
A meeting between Senate President Nicolae Văcăroiu and chairman of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Yegor Stroyev has strengthened links between Romania and Russia. An agreement to strengthen cultural, economic, political and scientific cooperation was signed by the two countries. Discussions also took place about the contents of the Romanian State Treasury, which has been held in Russia for 80 years, and Romanian property that is now in Russian territory. Prime Minister Năstase said that Romania planned to revitalise economic ties with both Russia and the Peoples Republic of China.
The budget of the Ministry of National Defence is to be increased by thirty per cent to enable the country to prepare for integration into NATO. The government aims to establish a strategy that will gain cross party support. Prime Minister Adrian Năstase said he looked for, "a vision based on the Romanian values and interests, within a very delicate international context, which might help us get the results we want." (Monitorul, 28 February 2001) Năstase has invited President Ion Iliescu to chair the government meeting later this week that will discuss NATO accession. A recent Metro-Media Transilvania poll has revealed that 85 per cent of the population believe that Romania should join NATO.
The elections in the Moldovan Republic have resulted in overwhelming success for the Communist Party. Analysts suggest that this will move the Moldovan Republic—formerly known as Bessarabia, a region of Romania—into an association with Russia and Belarus, thus eliminating any closer relationship with Romania itself. It is believed that the communist majority intend to modify the Constitution to make Russian the country's second language and to allow Russian troops to be based in Moldova. Some Romanians believe that this action will make accession into NATO more likely—perhaps as soon as the Prague NATO summit in 2002.
Politics in action
The Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the National Liberal Party (PNL) have agreed that they will work together to amend the country's Constitution. Issues such as state guarantees on private property, parliamentary privilege, criteria for the establishment of political parties and the prerogatives of parliament will form the agenda.
The Greater Romania Party (PRM) continued its crusade by putting forward a bill against the establishment of a Hungarian-language university. The bill proposed that a private university must have at least one faculty that teaches in the Romanian language before it can be accredited.
This bill is a direct attack on the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), which pledged to create such a university in its election manifesto. Although the bill was supported by the Democratic Party (PD), both the minister of education, Ecaterina Andronescu, and the education commission of the Chamber of Deputies have advised that Parliament reject the bill.
The Senate Human Rights Committee has proposed that article 200 of the penal code, which makes homosexual acts a criminal offence, should be removed. The Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of decriminalising homosexuality during the previous parliament.
The minimum wage in Romania has been set at USD 52 per month as of 1 March 2001. The government are now to consider whether the minimum wage will be exempt from income tax. The state pension is also due to rise by 7.5 per cent to bring it in line with the rate of inflation for the first quarter of the year.
Bardot's gift to Bucharest
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Adrian Năstase adopted a stray puppy. As the dog was being castrated Năstase said, "I cannot just advise people what to do with stray dogs. I should set an example too by taking responsibility." (Reuters, 1 March 2000)
On Thursday, the plans of Bucharest Mayor Traian Băsescu to solve the city's problem of 300,000 stray dogs were to be implemented. Teams of dog wardens were to take to the streets to catch the strays. Those subsequently claimed were to be sterilised and then released to their owners—otherwise the animals would be put down.
However on Thursday animal rights supporter and former filmstar Brigitte Bardot came to Bucharest and met with the Mayor. She offered financial support to deal with the strays. She subsequently reached an agreement with Băsescu whereby she would provide USD 150,000 for the sterilisation of strays. Only old, terminally ill or vicious animals would be put down. The Bardot Foundation and the Austrian Vier Pfoten Foundation would oversee the work while adoption of strays would be encouraged.
Snow disrupts Romania
Heavy snowfalls have disrupted all aspects of life in Romania. Trains, river transport and flights were either cancelled or delayed, there were numerous car accidents and electricity supplies were disrupted across the country. Many roads were blocked by heavy snowfalls and blizzard conditions including the Bucharest-Piteşti motorway. The Senate began its Monday session with only half of its members managing to beat the weather to attend.
Snow clearing in Bucharest has been a success according to Mayor Traian Băsescu. Commenting on the cost of the first 24 hours of snow clearing—some USD 650,000—he said, "I find the work of the sanitation companies adequate. The contractors should be aware of the fact that they will not be paid based on the invoices, but on the work they perform." (Nine o'clock, 27 February 2001)
The snow did not last long. As temperatures rose to ten degrees Celsius and forecasters announced rain warnings of flooding were issued. The expected rain and the thawing snow will do little however to compensate for the long period of drought that hit Romania last year.
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