Thursday, September 28, 2006

Romania's European Commissioner to be voted on January 4, 2007

The European Parliament will vote on the Romanian and Bulgarian nominations for the future representatives of the two countries in the European Commission in a plenary session on January 4 next year, the EP announced today.

Romania is expected to announce its nommination in the coming months. Among the names circulated so far one must note Justice minister Monica Macovei, EU Integration Minister Anca Boagiu and former top accession negotiator for Romania Leonard Orban., Sep 28, 2006

Sommet de Francophonie opens officially in Bucharest

A summit of the French-speaking world opened at the Parliament Palace in Bucharest on Thursday morning after days of preparations and side events that turned the Romanian capital upside down.

Romanian President Traian Basescu and PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu opened the two-day Sommet de la Francophonie, the first such event to be held in a Eastern European country, with speeches of welcome for dozens of heads of state and government.

Their speech was followed shortly by French President Jacques Chirac’s, who thanked Romanian authorities for hosting this summit. France and Romania were at loggerheads last year after President Basescu announced he favored a special partnership with Britain and the US and made several less diplomatic statements towards France and Germany, prompting snubs from Paris and Berlin.

In his opening address, Basescu said it was “an honour for Romania to be the first country in Europe, except France, to host the prestigious conference” of leaders from French-speaking countries from around the world.

And PM Tariceanu said Romania “wants to be a voice for the Francophones in the EU while also voicing Europe in the Francophone world”.

63 official delegations attend the summit, focused this year on the role of computers in education, and its side events that included talks at capital mayor- and Foreign minister-levels earlier this week.

The summit was somewhat perturbed by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin’s refusal of an invitation to attend the summit and by Lebanon’s boycott of the event as its President was not invited to attend.

Top participants include French President Jacques Chirac, the President of the Swiss Confederation Moritz Leuenberger, Canadian PM Stephen Harper and Prince Albert de Monaco., Sep 28, 2006

New traffic restrictions applied in Bucharest due to summit

New road traffic restrictions have been applied in Bucharest to tackle security and infrastructure challenges related to a summit of leaders from French-speaking countries the Romanian capital is hosting these days.

Traffic will be halted on several supplementary key routes of the city in the afternoon and will be maintained on the official route linking Bucharest’s international airport with the headquarters of the main state institutions downtown.

This risks complicating traffic even more despite efforts by the Romanian authorities to compell Bucharest citizens in staying at home. Efforts included days off for people working in public institutions.

Traffic will be halted starting 2.30 p.m. on Regina Elisabeta Boulevard, Kogalniceanu Boulevard, Eroilor Sanitari Boulevard, Cotroceni Road, Dr. Marinescu Boulevard and Geniului Boulevard.

Bucharest Police have been recommending people to use common transportation means and leave personal cars at home to avoid traffic jams., Sep 28, 2006

New Logan Break launched in Paris

Renault’s Romanian car-maker Dacia launched its new break model Logan MCV (Multi Convivial Vehicle) at the Paris International Motor Show on Thursday. The new model will be put on sale in Romania starting October this year and on the main European markets for this brand starting early next year, a company press release says.

Logan break provides a transport capacity of up to seven seats and will be sold at prices ranging from 8,200 euro to 11,600 euro DDP.

Logan MCV is the second model in the Logan program that includes six vehicles as part of its Contract Renault 2009 plan. The new model will be followed by an utility one in 2007., Sep 28, 2006

Fitch re-affirms rating for UniCredit Romania and HVB Tiriac

The Fitch agency re-affirmed on Thursday its “A minus” long-term currency debt ratings for the UniCredit Romania and HVB Tiriac banks and kept a stable perspective, an agency press release says.

The rating for short-term credits at UnCredit remained unchanged at F2 as did the individual rating and the support tag of D and 1 respectively.

As for HVB Tiriac, Fitch re-affirmed its F2 rating for short term credits, a D individual rating and the support tag of 1.

It also positively reviewed the individual rating of UniCredito and Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank’s (HVB) from B/C to B and C/D to C respectively., Sep 28, 2006

Stolen Dacian bracelet found in Paris

A Dacian-Roman bracelet stolen from the archeological site in Sarmisegetuza, Central Romania, was identified at a sales exhibit organized in Paris. A Romanian Interior Ministry press release says the 24K golden bracelet, weighing about one kilogram, was put on sale for 90,000 euro.

The auction was part of the Grand Palais Exhibition in Paris and the piece of jewelry was exhibited at the stand of New York-based firm Adriana Gallerz.

A Romanian Interior Ministry representative present at the Exhibition informed the French Police about the situation and the bracelet was confiscated and transfered to Romania. The case is currently under investigation.

The bracelet is the only one to be recovered from a total of 15 such objects stolen by Romanian criminals at the Sarmisegetuza site., Sep 28, 2006

Civil society takes stand on "Securitate practices"

New organizations representing the Romanian civil society took stand on recent political moves over the leadership of the country’s intelligence services with an appeal to President Traian Basescu and other officials to reconsider the nomination of a controversial figure at the helm of the Romanian Intelligence Service-SRI.

The Coalition for a Clean Government-CGC umbrella-group said the nomination of George Maior at the helm of SRI “will not restore public trust in the intelligence services and suggested that the move may prolong SRI activities reminiscent of the practices of the Securitate, the dreaded political police of the ex-communist regime.

Maior is a representative of the opposition Social-Democratic Party-PSD, which governed the country in 2000-2004 and to which Romanian-Syrian businessman Omar Hayssam, a fugitive placed under terrorism charges, belonged to.

And the CGC asked the current authorities in Bucharest to check what happened with the content of the archives of the Securitate in the past 16 years.

For the first time after the December 1989 revolution, these files, which include data on current politicians thought to have been involved in political police activities during the communist regime, were dugged into consistently over the past several months., Sep 28, 2006

Top local mogul ousted from office

Marian Oprisan, seen by many as a symbol of the mogul-based political “Mafia” allegedly formed by the former government of Social-Democratic Party-PSD leader Adrian Nastase, has been ousted as head of the Vrancea District Council after a majority of council members voted to dismiss him from office.

The decision was argued with the negative impact of Oprisan’s indictment over embezzlement charges on the image of the council.

Oprisan, who says he is not guilty and resisted dismissal before being forced out of office, is to be replace by a representative of the governing Liberal party, Eduard Lambrino, at the head of the main administrative body in the Eastern Romania district of Vrancea.

The event comes after several days of boycott by the council representatives of the two main governing parties, the Liberals and Democrats, who’ve been calling for Oprisan’s replacement. The group managed to force their views despite the resistance by PSD council members.

Oprisan was indicted earlier this year for embezzlement in a series of judicial moves against local moguls who reputedly controlledl ocal business politically and administratively in many Romanian counties in the period of 2000-2004., Sep 28, 2006

What the newspapers say: September 28, 2006

Romanian newspapers on Thursday focus on the details of the Sommet de Francophonie currently hosted by Bucharest, after a flurry of criticism the day over the presence of several dictators and strongmen among the top invitees.

The EC report on Tuesday recommending Romania and Bulgaria accession in January 27 is followed by a series of reports on integration and EU issues, including the nominations for a future Romanian European Commissioner. All spiced with the usual reports on abuses and stories of Romanian glory abroad.

While most people complain about the huge spending involved in the organization of the summit of the French-speaking world in Bucharest, the purpose of which remain largely unclear for many, Evenimentul Zilei finds one reason for joy.

“Vive la Francophonie!”, it exclaims, reporting that the summit turned Bucharest into an “unexpectedly clean and spacious city”.

Enough so that the Mayor of Paris is quoted as saying that Bucharest is not the “Little Paris” as it used to be known in its glory days between the two world worlds, but a “big and beautiful city”. Quite an appreciation, considering the exasperation of most Bucharest dwellers with its traffic chaos and rows after rows of grey blocks of flats.

Jurnalul National takes a different approach and notes that while traffic in much of the city centre was cooled down during the first day of the summit yesterday, jams still reigned along the official route linking the airport and the downtown.

While many people were stuck in traffic along the way yesterday, French President Jacques Chirac traveled from the Henri Coanda International Airport to the presidential palace unhindered - and accompanied by a convoy of dozens of vehicles.

And Chirac spoke to his Romanian counterpart on issues such as the organization of the summit, the spirit of the Francophonie and the EU accession for one hour, the paper reports.

A seed of discontent is also planted in the pages of Adevarul, which writes that the orange street markings along the official road passage from the airport to the city centre, the so-called “French carrots”, were carefully provided by a company close to the Democratic Party, the governing group that propelled President Basescu to power.

The firm is owned by the son of a state secretary in the Transport Ministry, which used to be run by Basescu last decade, and is known for its many contracts with the Bucharest City Hall, an old Democratic stronghold.

For its part, Cotidianul reports that a car transporting the Foreign minister of Laos, a participant to the summit, was involved in a serious car crash yesterday. The minister was unharmed, but the car was smashed by a train shortly after another car hit and propelled it onto a railroad.

Also in Cotidianul the impact of the summit on Bucharest is revealed with a series of photographs mocking, among others, the way La Francophonie allows Romania to regain “part of its African dimension, lost in the nineties”.

The same newspaper focuses a bit more on European issues and reports that the first European electronic dictionary is “learning” Romanian from a teacher originating in the South Romania region of Oltenia - known for its funny accent - who is now a professor at Sorbonne.

But the main EU-related issue is the run-off between several Romanian politicians, including Justice minister Monica Macovei, for a seat as future European Commissioner. According to Adevarul, the European Parliament may hear the EU Commissioners proposed by Romania and Bulgaria as soon as November this year.

Gandul tackles Europe in a different manner: the opportunities to work in England.

It writes that the agriculture universities in Romania have become offices recruiting workers for England and that more than 40% of the students at the Management Faculty at the agriculture university USAMV in Bucharest are already “studying” in Britain.

Elsewhere in the newspapers, Evenimentul Zilei reports that a Romanian magistrate managed to judge its own cause, but could not dodge an investigation into his activities by the Supreme Council of Magistrates.

Judge Adrian Bordea was among a group of magistrates who decided on Monday to free two intelligence officers placed under corruption charges in a case in which Bordea is also indicted.

And the same Evenimentul Zilei portrays the success of a a chemist from the Romanian city of Pascani, who managed to win the European Young Investigator Award - a youth equivalent for the Nobel Prize - for his activity in supramolecular chemistry.

Chemist Mihai Barboiu has since opted to leave for France and is quoted as saying that he did so for professional reasons as many of the laboratories in Romania are “better designed than the Western ones, but often their coffee machine is all that works”., Sep 28, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

European Parliament to vote Romania report as late as December

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has postponed a vote on the European Commission reports on Romania and Bulgaria, which were presented on Tuesday, until November 21-23. The news comes as a Committee vote was expected in November.

That means the two reports will be voted by the Parliament as late as December. According to Romania’s EU Integration Ministry representative Adrian Ciocanea, the procedure is normal because the accession treaty is yet to be ratified by several EU member states.

All member states must ratify the treaty for the accession of Romania and Bulgaria before the end of the year.

“The Reports on Romania and Bulgaria were discussed yesterday, but because the ratification process is not yet completed and in order to follow procedures the vote is postponed to December, when the ratification process is to be validated”, Ciocanea told

He said that another report is to be presented by EP rapporteur for Romania Pierre Moscovici on October 11 as well., Sep 27, 2006

Magistrates approve new Prosecutor-General

The Supreme Council of Magistrates-CSM unanimously approved the naming of Laura Corduta Kovesi as the new Prosecutor-General of Romania, at the proposal of Justice minister Monica Macovei. Kovesi is to replace Ilie Botos who resigned earlier this year and was later named a military prosecutor.

The CSM vote is a consultative one as the only authority allowed to name the prosecutor general is President Traian Basescu.

Kovesi, 33, said during CSM hearings that her aim is to bring more efficiency in the Ministry works and in local Justice units and to have prosecutors focus on specific fields of activity. She also called for improved salaries for prosecutors.

Minister Macovei pushed Kovesi for the job on Monday. Since January 2006, Kovesi has been heading a local branch of the DIICOT, a justice branch focused on combating organized crime and terrorism.

Former Prosecutor General Ilie Botos resigned July 21 following a huge scandal sparked by the disappearance of Romanian-Syrian businessman Omar Hayssam, placed under terrorism charges connected to the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Iraq last year., Sep 27, 2006

Romania and La Francophonie: hamburger vs. croissant

A summit of the French-speaking world that Bucharest is hosting this week has sparked debates on the measure Romania should consider itself as part of La Francophonie, taking into consideration that fewer and fewer people in the country pay any attention to the French language and culture, while giving in to the temptation of the Anglo-Saxon “cultural imperialism”.

Despite Romania’s belonging to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the French culture seems less and less capable to affirm itself in the Romanian society, either because of linquistic barriers - which are obvious despite many shool programs focused on French - or because of the Anglo-American communication aggressiveness.

Statistics show that some 25% of the population of Romania, which turns into the focus point of La Francophonie this week, are French speaking. But the statistics are made based on the number of students that learn French in Romanian schools: the real situation is rather different.

“French is useless anyway”
A group of pupils are leaving school somewhere in Bucharest. They all study French two hours a week, but admit they’re more than lacking the language skills. An attempt to have them speak French fails miserably.

“French is useless anyway”, says Andrei S, a seventh grade pupil. “The teacher doesn’t do her best either. She gives us marks based on our paper works alone”.

But things get different when it comes to English: they all have the basic language notions and say the Internet and video games are responsible for that.

Things are similar when it comes to Bucharest highschools. Asked about the three things he thinks about when hearing about France, Marian C., who’s been studying French for seven years but failed to assimilate it, lists Olympique Lyon, Peugeot and Zidane.

The French niche: Piff and Rahan cartoons
Ion Uta, deputy head of the League of Romanian-French Cooperation, believes French studies are going down in Romania.

“We analyzed the situation and by 1997 French had a slight advantage against English. The balance was restored a bit later and now English seems to rule”, he says.

Uta blames the situation on the engines that make English a more accessible language: “The Internet, films, music are the reasons for which English is much more popular. And the Spanish language catches up too, mostly thanks to telenovelas”, the South American-style soap operas.

He believes culture is one of the means by which French may regain its supremacy - that is, an “edible culture” such as the cartoons that were so popular decades ago, like the famous Pif and Rahan.

French bakery
But culture is not the only “solution” for a growth in the popularity of French language. One should ask what the French should do to counterbalance McDonald’s and KFC, which are so popular in Romania.

While Bucharest sports several French-style restaurants and patisseries, not all of them are relevant for the French gastronomy. And the music they play is not quite the famous chansonette, but more like the MTV heavy rotation hits.

Not to mention the patisserie chain named “French Bakery” (in English!), which serves brownies, cookies, muffins, cheese cake and sandwiches (all in English terms) more than the world famous croissant.

Despite all that, historian Neagu Djuvara sees a glimmer of hope. “Chances are strong to keep a link with France for the simple reason that the French influences during the late 18 and 19 centuries were very intense, especially when it comes to language, politics and economy”, he says.

“It’s true there is a major risk of thinning the layer of French speakers in Romania, but I don’t think it will all be lost”, Djuvara says., Sep 27, 2006

EU-Romania reactions following September 26 report

Top EU and Romanian officials have reacted with trust and caution to the European Commission report on Tuesday that confirmed January 1, 2007 as the date Romania and Bulgaria will join the EU.

In its last such report, the Commission took into consideration the progress registered by the two countries and said it trusted they’d be ready to assume all the rights and obligations of member states at the beginning of next year. But it also proposed a set of measures to push Romania and Bulgaria into further reform in key areas.

EC President Jose Manuel Barroso
The head of the European Commission voiced Brussels’ determination to implement a mechanism to check further progress in the two countries, eyeing the process of reform in the fields of justice, fight against corruption and organized crime. “EU rules provide a set of complex measures to allow the evaluation of risks”, he said.

And he said the EU looks forward to the historical accomplishment of Romania and Bulgaria becoming members of the Union in 2007, energetically contributing to the process of EU integration.

Barroso also said in a press conference that he thought the ratification process of the EU accession treaty with the two countries would continue smoothly without any difficulties.


Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn
For his part, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Romania made remarkable progress in fighting corruption and solving issues related to the illegal funding of political parties. But he insisted that further efforts were needed for the reform of justice and fighting corruption.

He said Romania and Bulgaria must submit bi-annual reports on the progress they made in key areas and in case they fail to move forward the EC might call for a reduction of the funds allocated to support their economic improvement.

But he said he was trusted the two countries would enrich the European Union without compromising it.


Hans Gert Poettering (EPP-ED)

In the first intervention after the EC report was presented, the head of the Popular group in the European parliament said EPP-ED welcomed the Commission decision. It was not just a decision that the group expected and hoped for, but it was also a “historical milestone” for the two countries, Poettering said.


Martin Schulz (PSE)

Socialist group leader Martin Schulz was also optimistic. He said the construction of Europe moved further with the accession of the two countries and considered that with each country that joins the European market gets richer.


Graham Watson (ALDE)

The Liberal group leader opened his presentation in Romanian: "Unde-s doi puterea creste" (Two make for more strength), he said, welcoming the joint EU accession of Romania and Bulgaria.

He welcomed the efforts of the two EU Integration ministers of Romania and Bulgaria, Anca Boagiu and Meglena Kuneva respectively, who he said fought to bring the two countries to the surface.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Verzii/European Free Alliance)

One of the few negative reactions came to the Greens leader Cohn-Bendit, who while welcoming the accession of the two counbtries accused the debates in the EP as some of the “most hypocrite so far”. Whatever happens, he said, the EP has no word to say in the decision-making process.


What Romanian officials say


Traian Basescu

President Basescu welcomed the EC announcement and called it “a moment of celebration” as “Romania went through an impressive process of reform. Romania and the Romanians must be congratulated for the success of their efforts” for accession, he said.

But he said the accession target was reached in an “acceptable manner” taking into consideration that there were lots of key fields of activity where Romania is far from perfect.


Calin Popescu Tariceanu (PNL)

The Romanian prime-minister said “Romanians have a reason of national pride today... We join the European Union in the exact conditions of the ten countries that joined in 2004, without saveguarding clauses”, he pointed out.

And he said Romania enters a period of certain facts: in less than 100 days Romanian will be european citizens just like the French, the Germans, and the British, with the same rights and the same obligations.


Titus Corlatean (PSD)

The representative of the main opposition party in Romania, the Social Democrats, said it was a “historical day for Romania and for Romanians”, but predicted sectorial clauses would be applied in important fields of activity within the coming months, especially the agriculture.

Euractiv, Hotnews, Sep 27, 2006

What the Newspapers Say: September 27, 2006

Romania’s accession to the European Union looks a bit like a very long swim after a shipwreck. Reaching the shore exhausted, the first thing the survivor thinks is: “Well, what now”.

After years of watching every official move and blaming every decision that might have jeopardized Romania’s accession, the newspapers today are satisfied with noting that the green light is on.

Maybe, in a few years some things might change, most newspapers say, then return to their usual business. Corruption, the never-ending odyssey of the Information Services, who was and who wasn’t in Ceausescu’s political police, dirty business, food and liquor, political scandals - all the same, as if nothing had happened.

“You can’t even start to imagine how well the economy does today”, says prime minister Tariceanu, in an interview for Evenimentul Zilei. He also finds an explanation why the journalists aren’t dancing in the street yet: “Instead of talking about accession, politicians stay by the same small businesses.

And they newspapers… well… accession was a headline as long as Romania was incapable to meet the European demands. When things go well, the subjects falls in the second line”, Tariceanu believes.

In the interview, the prime minister seems to be sure about two facts: accession won’t cause a major emigration wave and the investments in education, health, agriculture and research would grow significantly. Everything is pink: extremists won’t gain ground and the unemployment rate is so low it is hard to handle major projects. So be it!

While Tariceanu praises the efforts the new leading political alliance put into fighting corruption, same Evenimentul Zilei finds a major controversial businessman free and un-bothered by any investigation, although, they say, the new media mogul has an old history of not paying his debts.

Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, who became this year one of the most important media owners in Romania, had a $ 3 MN loan from Bancorex, the bank that was the source of wealth for most of the controversial Romanian businessmen.

Vantu was manager of the General Investment Society at the time when the loan was acquired. The only head that fell belonged to the president of the Trust Council, Gh. Negura, who was sentenced to five years in jail. Other documents also show that Vantu had a $ 36 MN credit from the same bank, out of which he only paid 1.6 million dollars. Anti corruption works, at least for some businesses.

How well it works becomes obvious after reading Cotidianul: prosecutors went to the house of the former prime minister Adrian Nastase, to see the content of the safe houses they sealed a few months ago.

Not only was Nastase warned at the time about the incoming prosecutors, but living in the same house with the officially sealed safes really paid off: when prosecutors returned, they were absolutely empty. Even though Nastase previously joked about hiding a mummy in the safe house.

Nastase is investigated by the Anti Corruption Department, along with a member of his cabinet, Miron Mitrea, suspect in some abuse files. Both of them made it clear that Justice shall never prevail, at least for the simple reason that they are as innocent as a new born lamb.

Romanians should not worry too much about the destiny of the two politicians. More important news comes from Adevarul: home made spirits will be more and more expensive, while the housekeeping and utilities’ expenses will grow win an unprecedented rate. A scary winter at the horizon, so why would anyone care about Nastase?

After all, Nastase is in the same party with the future Information Service manager, nominated by Basescu, although the Liberal allies have longed for quite a while for that seat.

With the same kind of people leading the parade, is no wonder that Gandul finds ghost-companies that come to Romania and win biddings worth tens of millions of euros, although their activity here is represented by one employee and one laptop or desktop computer.

Nothing to worry, after all. Romanian corruption still stands, but Europe might find a way to fight it.

And it’s going to take some time, since Gandul informs how, after Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession, the European Union will shut it’s gates for a while. So be it!, Sep 27, 2006

Steaua - Lyon 0-3

"When it’s not bright, it’s efficient. Terribly efficient" reports the special correspondent of French sports publication L'Equipe to Bucharest, where Olympique Lyon defeated host Steaua with no less than three goals scored, none taken before a boiling audience on Tuesday evening.

Lyon managed to score once in the first half of the match counting for the Champions League groups, than followed with two more goals against a weakening Steaua in the second half. That allowed OL coach Gerard Houllier to say that “serious, realistic and loyal to its reputation, the Lyon team won on Steaua turf without any sense of danger....

Spaceless, paceless and almost hopeless, the Romanian team ceded the position of group leader to the French”.

Houllier said his team would have won even without a terrible mistake by Steaua goalkeeper Carlos that allowed the first goal before the end of the first half.

For his part, Steaua coach Cosmin Olaroiu said the score difference was too harsh for his team. “Had we endered the second round at 0-0, it might have been something else. But I don’t think so... In fact, Lyon gave us no chance”, he said.

Steaua failed to get over the shock of losing to local contender Dinamo in a separate match last week. And it had little advantage from playing on its own turf, as it has just returned there after a long period of stadium works.

Champions League Group info

Group E

Club J V E I GM GP Pct.
Lyon 2 2 0 0 5 0 6
Real Madrid 2 1 0 1 5 3 3
Steaua 2 1 0 1 4 4 3
Dynamo Kyiv 2 0 0 2 2 9 0

Tuesday results

Group E
Real Madrid 5 - 1 Dinamo Kiev
Steaua Bucharest 0 - 3 Lyon

Group F
Benfica 0 - 1 Manchester U.
Celtic 1 - 0 FC Copenhaga

Group G
CSKA Moscova 1 - 0 Hamburger SV
Arsenal 2 - 0 FC Porto

Group H
AEK Athena 1 - 1 Anderlecht
Lille 0 - 0 AC Milan, Sep 27, 2006

President Basescu: Mediocre Achievement of Accession Targets

“Romania reached its goal for European accession in a reasonable way, but there are still 27 chapters in which the performance is mediocre and that need a better preparing in order to meet the European expectations”, said president Basescu after the EU report on Romania was presented.

“We must get used to living in an environment that demands performance. There were countries that thought they can offer their citizens anything and they now talk about austerity. Our lives won’t fundamentally change after January 1st”, said Basescu.

On his turn, prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu believes that the European Commission issued a fair and exigent report, making it clear that Romania’s accession is due to its own efforts and merits.

“Romanians have a reason to be proud as a nation. We join the European Union all the same as the other ten countries and without any safeguarding clauses”, says Tariceanu, obviously misinformed.

Sep 26, 2006

We’re Officially Europeans, Worries Still Haunting

The European Commission recommends Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession to the EU on January 1st, 2007, showing that Romania recorded a significant progress in the economic reforms. Still, some areas are a reason for worries, in the eyes of some European officials: the level of tax collecting, the public expenses, privatization and companies’ debt erasing.

The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said: „EU looks forward for Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession. Both countries are ready to join the Union on January 1st, 2007. It is a historic moment”.
The Commission is about to implement a mechanism designed to check the progress of the two new members in areas such as the Justice reform and the anti corruption and anti organized crime activity.

Commissioner Olli Rehn: „Romania and Bulgaria must present a report every six months, presenting their progress. In case the expected results aren’t obtained, the European Commission may demand a reduction of the European funds allocated for the respective country. I trust Romania and Bulgaria will be enriching for Europe, without compromising it”., Sep 26, 2006

President Basescu Free from Securitate Collaboration Charges

The body charched with the study of the archives inherited from Ceausescu’s political police, Securitate, has issued its final verdict on the activity president Basescu had before the fall of communism. According to officials of the institution, Basescu didn’t have an informer, collaborator or employee contract with any political police.

The same verdict was pronounced for Liberal senator Hasotti, Conservative senator Radu Terinte, and Hungarian Minority Party’s deputy Toro Tibor.

Previously, Basescu had already denied, in August, any form of collaboration with the Securitate and said he never offered any notes to the officer in charge with the ships he sailed on.

Sep 26, 2006

Romanian Migrants £8 Flights to Britain

Flights costing less than £10 will help to bring tens of thousands of new migrants to Britain, it can be revealed. Budget airlines are opening new routes to cater for waves of workers from Romania and Bulgaria when they join the European Union.

The migrants will get set to leave their homelands for a brighter future in Britain and other rich western countries as the European Commission today gives the green light for the planned EU expansion on January 1, dismissing demands to delay entry for another 12 months.

The development puts Labour under fresh pressure to act now and shut the door to the thousands of migrants. Last week Home Secretary John Reid gave the strongest hint yet that the Government is ready to bow to public pressure and control the next wave of immigration.

But, given such cheap, rapid means of mass movement, fulfilling this policy may well prove beyond the Home Office. Low-cost airline Wizzair is beginning a three-times-a-weekservice between Bucharest and London in January with tickets selling for just £7.75. Government taxes bring the total to £24.95.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for the airline told the Daily Express: "We think it will be a popular route when Romania joins the EU. We have already sold lots of tickets. "It will be very attractive for people who will want to go to Britain to work."

The company’s 180-seat capacity Airbus A320 will carry more than 500 passengers from Romania to Britain every week.
Last night Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said the new route would prove highly significant. He said: "Low-cost flights have played a huge role in the massive immigration from Poland.
"They could do the same for Romania and Bulgaria which are even poorer countries."

Speaking from the company’s offices in Bucharest, the Wizzair spokeswoman added: "We are also opening up other routes in January to Germany, Hungary, Spain and Italy. These are also for people who want to work or visit these countries after we join the EU."

Wizzair already operates a four-times-a-week service from the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, to London with tickets selling for £1.
But the high demand for seats in January means that the airline has almost sold out. A spokesman from Wizzair’s Sofia office said: "You can buy a ticket to London for as little as £1 for the period of November or December.

"But in January the route is already very popular. Almost all of the tickets have been sold. We only have a few seats left for the beginning of the month. The best price in January is £5. That is for January 22."

The European Commission progress report on Bulgaria and Romania, the last obstacle to membership, will today give the go-ahead for them to join the EU in January.

The confirmation comes despite continuing concerns over corruption and domestic conditions inside their borders.

Labour have faced demands from all quarters not to repeat the disaster of the last EU enlargement, when it threw open its doors to eight Eastern European countries, including Poland, in 2004.
Mr Blair predicted fewer than 13,000 a year would come, but at least 600,000 have arrived in the last two years.

Experts have warned that as many again could come from Romania and Bulgaria if we grant the same access, because they are poorer than their neighbours. Despite Mr Reid’s apparently firm line, the Home Office refused to be drawn on the issue yesterday.

The Conservatives, senior Labour MPs and business leaders, including the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce, have called for limits.
David Frost, Director-General of the BCC, said: "We need a pause after the huge influx from Poland and the significant impact it has had.
"The numbers that have come in have been way, way above Government projections. The Government needs to make a decision and the sooner the better."

Tory MP Andrew Rosindell feared that the increase in low-cost flights was a "worrying sign". He said: "It is a sign that the low-cost airlines are ready to benefit by potentially encouraging people to fly to Britain.
"The Government needs to think very carefully before they allow another avalanche of people turning up on our doorstep looking for work."

Daily Express, Sep 26, 2006

Liberals to Boycott Presidency

Liberal deputy George Scutaru took attitude today against president Basescu’s intention to nominate a social democrat (PSD) senator as chief of the Romanian Information Service (SRI). Scutaru said that the Liberal Party would vote against the presidential suggestion.

“In his electoral campaign, Basescu promised to fight all the represented by PSD, against their corrupt system. We won’t be part of this lie”, said Scutaru.

The Liberal threats went even deeper. The deputy reminded that the Liberal - Democrat protocol forbids any collaboration with the main opposition party, PSD. In case Democrats break the treaty, Liberals say they would feel free to do the same, thus giving the signal for the first truly deep and structural crisis in the in governing alliance., Sep 26, 2006

WEF: Romania 68th in Competition Ranking

The World Economic Forum (WEF) studied how competitive the world’s economies are in 125 developed states. This years top has a few surprises, including Switzerlande ranking above the United States.

Romania ranked 68 out of 125, still far beyond some nighboring or former communist countries: Estonia ranked 25th, followed by the Czech Republic (29th), Slovenia (33rd) and Latvia (36th).

Romania still ranks above Bulgaria (72), Ukraine (78) or Moldova (86).

The first places were won this year by Switzerland, Finland and Sweden, while last year’s leader, USA, fell to the sixth place, mainly due to macro-economic problems., Sep 26, 2006

What the Newspapers Say: September 26, 2006

Another strange day ended and echoes still leave people all at sea. Metaphorically and in reality, since the greatest prank of them all was played yesterday by the sailor president, Traian Basescu. Naming an Opposition senator as chief of the Romanian Information Service (SRI), Basescu made the most unexpected move on the political scene. Don’t even dare to try to understand…

A former journalist, Claudiu Saftoiu, is nominated for the first seat in the Foreign Information Service. Not really a surprise: Saftoiu has been close to the president for the past eight years, being on of the key-figures in the electoral campaign and also in the presidential administration.
His background isn’t a surprise either since, as Evenimentul Zilei writes, he is the second journalist in this seat, after Catalin Harnagea.

The big surprise of the day, shocking everyone to the level that they haven’t waken yet: the nominee for the Romanian Information Service is the social democrat senator George Maior, who’s main business until now was to negotiate the installing of American military quarters in Romania.

Choosing Maior came as a shock for everyone, from allied Liberals to Opposition social-democrats. And, of course, Basescu didn’t feel any urge to explain his gesture, stirring massive discontent among Liberals, analysts and journalists.

Late in the evening, Liberals seemed to loosen the jammed jaws and reminded that they would prefer civilians running the information services,
Adevarul reads. Well, they did get it, didn’t they?

But morning came and sun shines upon all alike. At least in Bucharest, hell-like traffic caused by the Francophone Summit made everyone forget about all the fuss and concentrate on how to get to the job without being two hours late.

Not a problem for French president, Jaques Chirac, and Canadian officials, Evenimentul Zilei assures us. Chirac would lead France for a few days from Ceausescu’s “People’s House”, which is about seven or eight times bigger than the entire presidential palace in Paris.

Cannucks already made reservations for some of the finest spaces in the building, so their provinces won’t suffer either.

They seem to enjoy it a lot, since the European Council will confirm January 1st, 2007, as EU accession date for Romania, as Adevarul hasn’t forgot to remind.

Not necessary related in politics, the Summit and the EU accession still have something in common.

After the accession, some of the streets may be shut because of the high level of noise, so that the traffic might be soon permanently chaotic, as it is during the days of the Summit, same Adevarul

Not a problem for Romanians and even for the authorities. The only problem is that the 2.3 billion euros Romanians spend yearly on alcohol, as Cotidianul found out, would maybe double, or triple, with all the cars blocked on sidewalks.

Fearing the drivers’ road rage, Bucharest Mayor, Adriean Videanu, spends most of his time traveling on public funds, seeing the world from Paris to Beijing, Gandul unveils.

Traffic is about to become a problem in the areas with a large majority formed by the Hungarian minority.

Hungarian ethnics’ officials suggested that their minority members should use as many iconic colors and symbols as possible, including on cars and dogs, according to Gandul. Just imagine the traffic with every driver staring at the red-white-green dogs.

Sep 26, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Romania’s Problems and Targets

According to the Monitoring Report arrived in the newsroom, the European Commission and Romania set four major targets that must be reached after the accession, under the threat of safeguarding clauses being activated. Bulgaria has six such targets.

The main problems refer to the Superior Justice Council (CSM), the National Agency for Integrity (ANI), the agriculture and the parliamentarians. Transparency and efficiency are the keywords in Justice reforms, expected mainly through the CSM capacity increase.

The Integrity Agency is supposed to check on the wealth and possible interests conflict of politicians, public servants, Police, Army, Justice etc.

The report draft shows that the Superior Justice Council has not yet approached any moral issues that might refer to its members and that currently affect negatively the image of the institution., Sep 25, 2006

New Candidate for Prosecutor General

The Justice Minister, Monica Macovei, recommended Laura Codruta Kovesi for the Prosecutor General seat on Monday. According to a press release issued by The Anti Terrorism and Organized Crime Department (DIICOT), Laura Codruta Kovesi is 33 years old and directed, since January 2006, the Sibiu county division of the Department.

The suggestion was already passed to vote to the Justice Superior Council. “During her professional career up to this moment, Mrs. Kovesi activated in several forms of prosecution, fact that allowed her to have a full image on the general institutional, financial an personnel problems”, the release reads.

Laura Codruta Kovesi begun her work in 1995, in the Prosecution Office near the Sibiu Judges’ Court, promoted in 1999 to the Sibiu Court Assembly.

Between 2000 and January 2006, she was chief-prosecutor in Sibiu.

Former Prosecutor General, Ilie Botos resigned after Omar Hayssam, who’s alleged involvement in terrorist acts was being judged, disappeared.

Sep 25, 2006

Justice Blocked Throughout Morning

The judges issued their own protest, along with the auxiliary personnel, blocking during Monday morning all Justice activities and schedule. The common employees of the institution, court clerks, archivists and others are discontent due to the fact that the already approved income law has not yet come into force, 20 months after all votes were concluded.

No new negotiations were scheduled yet, after the Labor Ministry representatives failed to attend the last discussions on Friday.

Protesters say that the last date for the law to come into force was September 1st, but various problems still maintain it as an inapplicable project,

Justice Minister, Monica Macovei, declared after the protests begun that the average salaries would grow, but not reach the expected level.

Judges joined the protest, with other reasons though. Their main source of discontent is a new law draft that would enable on strange basis the material responsibility and also would let free all kind of inspections for any possible verdict, starting from a basic complaint, without any other verifications.

Judges say such power for inspectors would render courts powerless and that time wasted in verifications would totally block the Justice processes., Sep 25, 2006

Musharraf: Romanian Airplanes Were to Be Used in Terrorist Attacks

Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, claims that Al Qaida planned to commit several terrorist attacks using Romanian aircraft. The unveilings were published in the president’s recently published autobiography - “In the first line”, a book partially quoted by The Times.
The suspect of organizing the 9/11 attacks and a series of plots on the British territory, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, planned in 2002 an attack against the Heathrow airport, that would have employed several planes from Eastern Europe, including Romania, Pervez Musharraf claims.

The Pakistani president says the terrorist chose these planes because of the low security regime of the air travel companies and departure airports.

At the same time, Musharraf unveiled the fact that CIA secretly financed the Islamabad government with billions of dollars, in exchange for surrendering a few hundreds of al-Qaida suspects to the American authorities., Sep 25, 2006

"Police Shouldn't Use Fire Arms"

APADOR-CH - The “Human Rights Protection Association-Helsinki Committee” - issued a protest asking for the Police and Gendarmerie to lose their right to use fire arms. The protest comes after three such incidents took place in less than a month.

“It’s about the fundamental right to live and also about the minimum training of those who use the guns”, say NGO officials.

In September, shots were fired in the city of Reghin, during a raid in a gipsy neighborhood; in Bucharest, against a 22-year old who was shot to death after stealing candy from a truck; and also against the participants at a football game, Steaua - Dinamo, also in Bucharest.

APADOR-CH reminds that the use of fire arms is allowed only on a strictly necessary basis. The European jurisprudence also establish that the gravity of the suspects’ acts must be considered before taking the decision to shoot. (i.e.: shooting a thief is completely unnecessary)

The NGO demanded the Interior Ministry to regulate as fast as possible the way fire arms should be used, and to forbid the use in any case but the emergency need.

Sep 25, 2006

Swiss Against Immigration

The Swiss citizens voted for more restrictive immigration and asylum laws. According to the partial results of the Sunday scrutiny, 72% of the voters voted for the suggested restrictive laws, France Presse informs.

The leaders of the Center Democratic Union, a right-wing formation that lobbied for the vote in favor of the new laws, said they were content with the result. Still, the result stirred discontent among the Protestant Churches’ Federation, The Swiss Bishops’ Conference and the Israelite Communities Federation.

The new laws will prevent the entrance of foreign workers from outside of Europe, without being previously recruited for a certain job. Along with this, those who ask for asylum must prove they have the requested professional grades and that no Swiss or European worker was found for that job.

The social aid was suppressed, being replaced by an “emergency aid”, worth some 600 euros, this being considered as the lowest necessary amount, according to human rights organizations., Sep 25, 2006

What the Newspapers Say: September 25, 2006

Some might say that the Francophone Summit in Bucharest and the country report scheduled for tomorrow are matters important enough to get the front pages in most of the newspapers. Well, they don’t, since more and more information on the Ceausescu’s former political police, Securitate, continue to make the news.

“Romania’s Last Run Towards Europe - Accession Receives Green Light Tomorrow”, is the most significant coverage for tomorrow’s historic event in Brussels, and Evenimentul Zilei seems to be the only paper really interested in the story.

Accession is a must, but the “return to the European family” will be doubled by the specter of activating the safeguarding clauses. The report expected tomorrow is the fruit of seven years of negotiations and reforms.

Although the accession is important, the same Evenimentul Zilei dedicates a similar printing area to a forgotten subject, now revived by investigative journalists - banks going bankrupt.

Among the dozens of banks that shook up the system between 1990 and 2000, one always seemed untouchable: Bancorex, the bank took over by the state after its bankruptcy and transformed in one of the most desirable banks in Eastern Europe: the Romanian Commercial Bank, also one of the state’s best privatization examples.

Thanks to the new information, we now know that most of the operations leading to its fall were credits offered to one another by former Securitate officers. Not a secret, yet never proven before.

In the same note, Adevarul opens an investigation on the fabulous ICE Dunarea, the only foreign trade company during Ceausescu’s time, a company where the legendary “Ceausescu’s money” was gathered.

Constantin Rotaru, former deputy director in the Foreign Information Service (after 1989), Dan Voiculescu, president of the Conservative Party, Theodor Stolojan, former prime minister and recently expelled member of the Liberals’ board, Barry George, recently involved in the “Frigates’ Scandal” that shook the UK are just a few names in the file
Still, there is hope for the former Securitate officers now active in politics.

As Gandul reads, the recent suggestion to eliminate the “political police” phrase from all verdicts would help politicians avoid criminal trials, if accepted
So, we integrate Securitate officers in the EU structures.

So what? Adevarul has a feature story that should postpone the accession for at least another five years: in a village near Giurgiu, HIV infected children are often beaten by the clinic’s employees and are denied access to emergency treatments.

But, since democracy is consolidated, is better for us to forget these matters, since extremists have a new reason to quarrel: Marko Bela, the president of the Hungarians’ Minority Party, returns with the same demands as 10 years ago: autonomous Hungarian province, Hungarian as official language in the area and so on.

Meanwhile, under this smoke, the leaders of the main opposition party, social democrats (PSD) are quite at war after the former prime minister Adrian Nastase went to hearings in his file at the National Anti Corruption Department.

His former right hand, Miron Mitrea, laid all the responsibility on Nastase’s shoulders, saying that all funds received by PSD during the electoral campaign were checked by the prime minister himself, Cotidianul reads. Enough to make a good start this week?

Oh, and do NOT forget: avoid Bucharest this week! Nice concerts, nice plays, but traffic is Hell!

Sep 25, 2006

Securitate Collaborators Still in CNSAS Hands

A scandal is about to die young. Two days ago, Mircea Dinescu threatened to resign from the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS), in case his suggestion - to publish the files of the former political police on the Internet - is not taken seriously.
Assuming the same informal way of talking to journalists - at a desk in front of the institution, Cazimir Ionescu, another CNSAS member, explained why the suggestion isn’t viable.

The facts Ionescu explaind are quite simple. First, the CNSAS law issued by the Parliament doesn’t allow this kind of data publishing. Second: the persons referred to are entitled to protect their image, at least until a final verdict of the Council.

Fearing misinterpretations, all information on former Securitate informers should firt be analyzed by the CNSAS members, only then bought to public opinion.

Still, Ionescu made no comment on Dinescu’s accusation for the „lack of transparency” that governs the institution. On Wednesday, Dinescu promised to hold himself two press conferences every week, even in case he’d have to move his chair and desk on the sidewalk.

Cazimir Ionescu also made another mention: three categories must be defined in order for CNSAS to categorize the Securitate paraphernalia: „collaborator”, when persons signed angagements; „political police”, when persons signed information notes; „good behavior”, in case they aren’t related in any way with the Securitate., Sep 22, 2006

Free movement of labour in the EU-25

Some of the EU's strongest and wealthiest 'old' member states continue to restrict access to their labour markets by workers from Eastern Europe. Germany and Austria are the only member states, however, which have voiced their intention to block access to their labour markets until the end of 2011.

The first two-year period specified in the 2+3+2-year scheme expired on 30 April 2006. The member states have to declare themselves again on this issue in May 2009.
If Romania and Bulgaria join the EU on 1 January 2007, their citizens will be subject to a 2+3 scheme. This means that all labour movement restrictions between the EU's future 27 member states will be lifted by 1 January 2012, only eight months after the transitory measures for the EU-8 must phase out.

In an attempt to address the complex implications of the EU's 2004 enlargement, several member states from the EU-15 introduced 'transitional restrictions' on the movement of the labour force from the new member states. At the end of the first two-year transition period - on 1 May 2006 - the old member states remained split over easing access to their labour markets by Eastern Europeans.

Free movement of persons is one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by community law (Article 39 of the EC Treaty) and is also an essential element of European citizenship. Community rules on free movement of workers also apply to member states of the European Economic Area (ie to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

The relevant rights are complemented by a system for the co-ordination of social security schemes and by a system to ensure the mutual recognition of diplomas.

The Accession Treaty allows for the introduction of ‘transitional measures.’ Commonly referred to in EU circles as the ‘2+3+2-year arrangement’, this scheme obliges the member states to declare themselves in May 2006, and again in May 2009 and May 2011, on whether they will open up their labour markets or keep restrictions in place.

The Commission’s February 2006 report said that very few citizens from the new member states were actually moving to the EU-15 countries. According to the report, EU-10 citizens represented less than one percent of the working age population in all old EU member states except Austria (1.4%) and Ireland (3.8%).

At the end of the first two-year 'transition period' - on 1 May 2006 - the policies relating to the free movement of workers of the EU-15 states could be classified into four categories:

Keeping the restrictions in place for at least three more years (ie until 2009): Austria and Germany

Lifting the restrictions gradually, within the next three years (ie until 2009): Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands

Keeping labour markets open / removing restrictions: Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Citing “pessimistic” labour market forecasts, Vienna continues applying the restrictions for at least three more years. “We do not have particularly high levels of unemployment, but the long-term forecast is not good,” Austrian Labour Minister Martin Bartenstein has said.

The government of Germany has decided to continue the transition period for another three years, until 2009. One main reason cited by Berlin is high unemployment, especially in the federal states bordering the Czech Republic and Poland.

The Belgian government, saddled with unemployment exceeding 8%, keeps sectoral restrictions on free labour movement after 1 May 2006. In the words of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, “a number of countries have already opened their borders. A number of others we know of are going to decide in the coming days and weeks whether to keep their borders closed for another three years. We’re not doing one or the other.”

Denmark will ease the restrictions after 1 May 2006, but some form of transitional arrangement is likely to be kept in place. “From 1 May 2009, Denmark will probably not need transitional arrangements,” Euro-reporters quoted a Danish Ministry of Employment official as saying.

In early March 2006, France’s government decided on a “step-by-step controlled lifting of the restrictions” on the free movement of labour from the EU-8 countries. The partial opening of the French labour market will start with sectors where labour is in short supply (eg social and health care, hotels and catering, transport and construction).

The country’s social partners are mostly in favour of the immediate lifting of the restrictions, notwithstanding France’s 9.6% unemployment rate. Some 20% of the jobless are in the 18-25 age group.

As a first step to slowly phase out restrictions, the Dutch governement opened, on 17 September 2006, 16 sectors of its labour market to workers from the EU-8 states. The decision concerns sectors where workers are scarce or where there has been a high percentage of illegal workers.

In a letter to the Dutch Parliament, Secretary of State H.A.L van Hoof wrote that the country will consecutively drop barriers also in other sectors, adding that once all sectors have been liberalised, the country might even drop its work permit scheme altogether. (See EurActiv, 18 September 2006)

In July 2006, two months after it was sworn in, Italy's centre-left governemnt, led by former Commisison President Romano Prodi, took the decision to end the transitory measures.

At the same time, the Italian Council of Ministers passed a decree granting legal status to a total of 517,000 immigrants, most of which could not apply for a residence permit as a result of a quota imposed by the former centre-right wing government led by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.

Euractiv, Sep 22, 2006

Romania's Current Account Deficit Still Growing

During the first seven months of the year, Romania’s current account deficit increased to 4.87 billion euros, 43% more compared to the similar period last year. The main cause for the evolution remains the growing deficit in the commercial balance.

The goods exchange since January were 5.35 billion euros lower than the exports, compared to last year’s balance, when the deficit was 3.64 billions. In services, the balance is positive, with a 264 million euros in Romania’s favor, compared to last year’s 129 millions for the first seven months.

The current account deficit was covered 82.2% by direct foreign investments (4.0 billion euros, compared to 2.7 billions in 2005).

At the end of July, Romania’s foreign debt was 25.714 billion euros, 4.6% more than in December 2005.

National Prognosis Commission estimated a 8.7% GNP deficit this year, the same as in 2005., Sep 22, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brussels Expects Positive Report on Romania

Joseph Borell, chairman of the European Parliament, said Tuesday that there were no safeguard proposals referring to Romania, from any of the parliamentarian groups’ presidents, nor any suggestions on a limited access to the labor market.

The statement came five days before the final country report on Romania, in an extraordinary reunion of the European Parliament (EP) group presidents, also attended by Romanian PM Tariceanu.

“I don’t know what measures will be taken by the European commissioners, I only know that no one suggested any restrictions referring to Romania”, said the EP chairman. Borell also said that “everyone in Brussels expects a positive report and foresees Romania’s accession to EU in 2007”, Sep 21, 2006

"Throw away all the stuff, clean up and think instead"

Mr. Christian Madsbjerg is a partner at ReD Associates (Denmark), one of Europe's leading innovation agencies working with sophisticated user insights, product development and innovation strategy.

He leads a team of 35 smart people, whose main job is to think, to get the insights from a changing world, to transform them into patterns, and then into commercial business models fitting people’s needs. ReD’s clients are large companies around the world, like Adidas, Intel, Samsung, Greeland. own and run a company working in sophisticated innovation, in ‘creative industries’ field. What is this field about?
Christian Madsbjerg: Creative industries mean a big field, has many, many areas, but basically it has to do with changes and capitalism. Capitalism used to be about creating products to people who didn't have anything. If you created a new product, it would fulfill an obvious need.

Now, if everybody has all the needs fulfilled, you have to come up with new ways to make your products and product offers interesting and relevant.

That leads to a different way of creating new products. It used to be engineers, new technologies were used to sell. But now there are so many products, ten times more than 20 years ago and different sharing your product is very difficult if you have the same technology.

The only way you can do now is by creating a different bit, a different feel to a product and making it relevant in a way. And that is how the creativity is working. Can you give an example?
Christian Madsbjerg: If you take the Apple ipod, it has Samsung technology inside, it is not an Apple technology, but the way it is packaged, the way it is designed and it is connected to the Internet by a really simple service, it is a new way of treating music.

That whole concept - the design, the business concept, the relation with i-tunes music store, treating music as one song, the way to personalize it is basically a new concept: of how to listen to music, having extreme amounts of music on your ipod, a few CDs.

It is not a new technology, that was created in '80s, and the way you make it relevant to people is a new type of relation. It is about how to understand what people want without asking them; because if you ask people what they want, they don’t know what to say: they would say cheaper and better or something like that.

Ford has always said, the founder of Ford Morris company [the car producer]: ‘If I had asked people what they wanted they would have asked for a faster horse instead of a new car.’

Don’t ask people what they want

So people have great difficulties in explaining what they want, so if you use a survey or if you use a focus-group to ask people what they need, they normally lie, they tell stories or they don’t know what to say because they don’t know what they need.

The interesting thing is that there are sciences that are strong everywhere, psychology, anthropology (that's about human beings and the life of human beings), ethnography (gathering data about people's lives and seeing patterns in their lives), and those sciences can be used to study people and the insights, and you can use the understanding you get from that to develop your products.

That's basically the concept: that you use a science to systematically get data about people's life. On the basis of that, you can use related tools to transform those insights into new ways of dealing with a certain product.

Focus has been taken away from the exact product, like technology, because you can buy it, which is easy to get. The focus switches on other arias, like the feel of the product, the way you sell it, where you sell it, the pricing, the whole business model, and how you make money on a certain product.

For instance, the core of the ipod is free, the i-tunes software is free, you can actually download it, the core concept is given away to make money from something else. And that's the business model.

So that is why people with creative minds are now more welcome in board rooms, R&D departments, they are able to connect different types of innovation at the same time. If you say that there are maybe ten different types of innovation or more, you can play it as a piano, you can play business model, planning or sales channel.

Before you use one finger, just make better technology or cheaper products, now you have to play several keys at the same time, which makes it much more complex and much more difficult. And you need more insight to do that. That's a kind of new feel that that model makes sense for businesses because those products are the most successful and difficult to copy. They are more complex.

A lot of different companies now go in that direction and they start hiring anthropologists.

“I would never create a need, I will find a need” The difference compared to advertising, to copywriting, is it that you create a product, and not the image of a product?

Christian Madsbjerg: I would never create a need. I will find a need, I will see what people really need. We created a product for Adidas, the German sports manufacturer, and it was about how to help people to start training. We did a study and we could see that a lot of people, especially the women, have big problems with first starting, and second, to stay on track.

Short bio

Partner at ReD Associates (Denmark), leading a team of over fifty designers and consultants in large innovation and corporate identity projects
one of the Top 100 Leaders in Denmark by Berlinske Nyhedsmagasin
previously a journalist
a member of the Special Committee on Creative Industries.
a master’s degree in architectural theory from the University of London
a bachelor’s degree in political science from Copenhagen University.

The whole sports industry treats sport as something wonderful. But it’s not wonderful, it hurts a lot, it’s not fun, it’s not interesting, it's something that you have to do in your life for other reasons, so it's a mean to an end. If people want to go to gym, they pay in advance to oblige them to go not to loose the money.

They use a psychological way, telling the others: ‘I’m going to run 20 km today’; it will be really embarrassing if they didn’t do so. It is a kind of create expectations, of having to do things. Some of them bought a lot of expensive equipment to make it so embarrassing not to do anything or all kind of rules for themselves.

We did a product that mashes where you want and how much you want. The sport shoe is connected to software, which monitors your training. You can set up a target and then your shoes will tell you if you did it. That's one part, about technology.

But the interesting part is that we use the sales channels, so another finger on the piano keyboard, the private health insurance company. We asked them how much they spend on health insurance for people who are overweighed and need a lot of training. They said: “a lot of money”.

They replied: “If you can do that and get people walk 10.000 steps per day, just 10,000 steps, just walk, we will cut the costs of their health insurance by 20% [that’s a lot of money in the USA, 400 USD/month].” And then we asked them what about having a system to make people to train and to measure it?

But the mean thing about it, the capitalist idea about it is that the minute you stop, your health insurance goes up.

It makes a kind of the same idea of paying in advance you fee for your fitness class or buying expensive equipment, but it's much better, it’s connected to your health. The idea is to connect software, a service, an experience, a shoe and a training system and a business model.

Than they sold a lot of Adidas shoes instead of one pair of shoes that people buy in the store, they sell 2000 pairs per day. So the model, the whole way of thinking the business on shoes is just different, and all of this came from studying women in their every day life, and what they need.

So it’s taking the insight of something into a very commercial business model that also helps people with their lifestyle.

Creativity to me is not about choosing black or blue colours or designing things wonderfully or writing a nice text for advertising, creativity is about creating solutions to people that are relevant, and that uses different elements of all values of a company to create new. What's the profile of a person working in your company?
Christian Madsbjerg: They are heavily academics, normally in social sciences, but not necessarily. They are smart, really smart people and creative. I have seen a lot of creative mathematicians, and engineers or biologists. When you are smart you can see new solutions to things. …and connections between facts
Christian Madsbjerg: …and taking an example from one aria and applying it to another aria. However, there are differences between individuals, how can you deal with that?
Christian Madsbjerg: There are patterns. When we do a study, we normally have 20-30 people in each segment. Maybe we have 90 people in a study and then we see the pattern that goes across that.

When we are out, researching, we live with the people maybe for a week, maybe more, we meet them early in the morning, we hang up with them during the day, we talk to them, we won’t interview them, it's more like journalism, like an open situation when you talk about things. You were a journalist yourself before.
Christian Madsbjerg: Yes, exactly.

So it is the same situation you try to create, then we videotape - at the beginning it's a kind of annoying for them, but then it disappears, it is there - and then we take all those data, all the videotapes that we have - one week with 90 people, that's a lot of hours of video tape we have, all that videotape we put it into a piece of software, so it's basically a kind of detective software. …which creates these patterns
Christian Madsbjerg: We tack different works to clips / to videos, it could be: men, women, family, luxury, those that are relevant to the situation and then 30-70 different words.

And family - it can be father, brother, son, siblings, different kind of words. And then we have people sitting there typing into the system and you can go and search across all these different things, you can look for, for instance, women buying electronics, not mobile phones, luxury, afternoon etc.

And then you get all those clips that have all those tacks involved in the situation. You can go in and cross-check across all these different data. It's basically like a library, an advanced database. You can go and search.

If you want to search on kids, as we did a study about toys, then you say kids having fun, you click and all the different clips that were tacked with those words like fun, kids, play, for instance, will come up. And you can see all those. And you can see the pattern.

And then we have people going again and again, searching across all these data to find the strongest patterns. We work on which of those patterns is the most commercially interesting, the most interesting in terms of the business model. Because it might be something, that is not relevant at all or difficult, or technologically impossible or all kinds of things. On some markets it seems like a beautiful science-fiction… Just because it seems so, I imagine that your clients are rather multinational companies or anyway large companies across the world. But how do you see the evolution, do the medium companies realize the need of such approach?
Christian Madsbjerg: In the USA it is starting. It's beginning also for the medium companies. In the beginning we only worked for the big companies, because those were only ones to have the resources and the time to think. But did you have to educate also the large companies in having such approach?
Christian Madsbjerg: Yes. And the only way to educate them is to show them the commercial success, to show them they can get money from that. What they care about is the commercial impact. And it's not that expensive. If you think how much companies spend for advertising… for me, if you have a really good product, it will sell itself. Do you think so, don’t your products need advertising?
Christian Madsbjerg: Of course they do. But they need less. and less exaggerating probably their features.
Christian Madsbjerg: Advertising is used for telling the market that there is a new product. But if you use advertising to convince people that they have a need, that way is wrong. What we often do is that a package from us comes with a cutting of costs in advertising.

You don't have to advertise that much if the product is actually directed to needs that are real and are there, because people need it, they didn’t know that they needed it, but they do. I know people working in copywriting industry who feel often frustrated because sometimes they know that they are selling a lie, they create an image which is just stimulating for consumption.
Christian Madsbjerg: I think that costumers now are much more intelligent than they were 20 years ago, they are able to understand better the media messages, especially the young generation, they want honesty, simplicity, and clarity. And they want great products. I will switch the field to politics. Have you ever worked for a politician or political organization? A party does not provide goods, but provide services.
Christian Madsbjerg: There are two arias that I am really interested in right now. One of them is the public sector. Places like hospitals: if you think about a hospital, it's basically built for the doctors and the nurses. And the last is the people who go there. Understanding how it really feels to be a client in a hospital, what is the pain, missing the one you love.

You live in those places, with white walls, and all the others are sick and you feel even much sick just by being there. What if you create another experience? And in term of impact, you can get people out of there much quicker because they would feel better. They would get better services.

And that is one aria. But if you think about how politicians, how civil servants come up with new initiatives, it's always based on some kind of brainstorming, where they come up with ideas, about how to tackle a problem. If the problem is, for instance, the integration of minorities, they think that they simply come up with ideas and they will help.

But what if they don't understand people, what if they don't understand the feels of people and the relation to people, and they just use their intuition, and there is something there is a way to be very, very sure that you misunderstand your customers is by thinking that they are the same as you.

If you think that your customer does the same thing as yourself and you have the same values and you share the same needs, then you are wrong. And that's what the politicians do. They haven't got the data, they haven't got the analysis, they don't understand it, and they waste so much money on stupid initiatives instead of thinking about what are the real needs. But sometimes they use polls.
Christian Madsbjerg: There is a difference between bacteria and people. If you look at bacteria through a microscope, you'll see they won't change their behaviour just because you're looking. But if you are looking at people by giving them a poll sheet, they change their behaviour. That's called double hermeneutics.

The only thing in the world that has this behaviour, that when you look at them they change their behaviour is people. So you have to go behind what they think, you have to go behind that polling situation, because they answer the questions in a way that they think you want to hear or that they represent themselves in a way that they want to be represented. What they want to hear about themselves.
Christian Madsbjerg: Exactly. And that's a lie. It's not an evil lie, but people lie a lot. If you base your judgement upon how people want to be represented and not how they actually live, then you can make big mistakes and spend a lot of money on things that are not relevant.

The tools of polling and of focus-groups are wrong for innovation. It is good for testing things, for understanding: do you like this product to be red or black, do you like it to be like this, do you have any problems with that? But understanding the new, finding the future first is something about understanding that people are not aware of themselves. It's a classical example about polls, when people are asked: what kind of newspaper would you prefer to read, they would rather say FT, and not Playboy, although they have Playboy in their case.
Christian Madsbjerg: And they say that they read the editorial first. They don't . They read the lifestyle.

“I won’t work for George W. Bush. I don’t like him” We are in the USA right now, so I'll challenge you with an exercise of imagination: what if your client is George W. Bush?
Christian Madsbjerg: I don't think I'll ever take him as client. Why?
Christian Madsbjerg: Because I don't like him. And I don’t want to help him. We often say “No”. Really? So it is important to be empathetic with clients.
Christian Madsbjerg: It is. I have in my company some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and if I came with a project they did not like, they would resign. If I came with a project with George Bush, they would stop to work for me. That’s how it is to have clever, smart people around you. How could you recruit such smart people?

Christian Madsbjerg: They just want the best, the most intellectually challenging projects. They want to be able to think about things. And have time to think. And they want to have very problematic, difficult questions posed to them. Questions like ‘Why is the pattern of the way that children play changing today?’ They want to work with this kind of questions.

They attract each other. And we have people moving from the USA or from Korea to Denmark because they feel this is one of those places where actually you have time to think. You can think how the world is changing, Is it Denmark such a place?
Christian Madsbjerg: No, but our company is.
Well, Denmark is also, in terms of the companies that are in Denmark, they are pretty advanced, not only technologically, but also in the way of thinking about the future. And how to understand it.
Christian Madsbjerg: Yes. So we don't have any production at all in Denmark, we don't produce anything, we only produce ideas, so that's the only product that we basically have, ideas. It’s a kind of ideal country, to play with the words…
Christian Madsbjerg: I don’t know.

It's a country where a lot of people have high education, they work on research, development, green technology (like wind-meals, solar cells), that has all to do with understanding people, and there is also one thing that I am not aware of because I am Danish and I can’t see myself in the back, but they say that there is a certain attitude to watch consumption.

That just consuming, just buying new stuff is basically ugly; it is seen as something very negative, some call that minimalism, but it is also about just having enough. Not buying three big cars if you don’t need them. Buy a small one. Not doing something is a kind of classic in our society.

So if you are in China, they would not understand that, they will say: we've just got this, why shouldn't we spend the money?

Or if you go to Russia, they have another feeling of money, which is that good, it's just different, and this kind of very aesthetic and restrictive way of treating consumption, some people think that's beautiful, they think that the products have a long lasting timeless quality, so are the furniture we produce, you buy a chair for 30 years and you’ll give it to your kids.

You don’t need more than that. It's a beautiful chair, it's perfect, you just keep that instead of buying new ones all the time.
So cutting down on consumption hysteria, and only have few things that you like, that you really like and you think they will last for a long time. And that way of thinking is very Scandinavian and a lot of my associates in the company that I work with, my colleagues that are not from Denmark, they came often because of that.

They feel that they can live a clean life, it's like throw away all that stuff, clean up and think instead. If you look at the American society, it is full of stuff, and we hate stuffs, we don’t like it, and when we like something, it should be really, really good. So you can keep it.

And that's a kind of design attitude, attitude towards products, and that is something that my clients like because they know that this way of thinking will be a broader way, a broader thing. And it's moving to the big cities, it’s to live a clean, minimalistic life. One question about the emerging markets in Eastern Europe: how do you see the evolution of the creative field in this region?
Christian Madsbjerg: I don’t know a lot about Eastern Europe, but we are doing a project about media in Eastern Europe for a Finish company, and what I can see now is that the emerging markets are emerging very, very fast. I travelled a lot in Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia, India, those places.

In the West, in Denmark, for instance, a kind of general feel, a general idea about the future is that we will be the brains and they will be the legs and arms.

That's just not true. They have brilliant engineers, brilliant concept designers, they have brilliant people, they are moving with a speed that there is much, much higher than what we do in sleeping old Europe. I feel that emerging markets will pretty soon come up at the same level in terms of competitiveness as the Western world.

That will create a whole new situation for all of us. I don't know how that will happen, but I think that companies like Eastern European companies, some of the African companies, from India, Pakistan, China, of course, Korea, especially Korea - Korea has this hunger for getting up and being productive, being competitive.

And I am not afraid, I love it, I think it is fantastic, and I work with them, with these people, and I wouldn’t feel bad if companies in Denmark, companies in Germany go bankrupt because they are challenged. I think it’s wonderful if some Indian companies or some Romanian companies are more competitive, do better products, do have better technologies than Danish companies, fine.

That's how it is. And that is how the global situation we are in, that is about being really, really smart and attracting the best people and working with the smartest people. And not being local, being global in your approach.

And when I look at countries like, let’s say France or Germany, they can't speak English. You can't pay with a Visa cards. They are just so behind in many, many ways, because they think they are good enough.


Christian Madsbjerg is a Summer 2006 German Marshall Fund (GMF), a program which connects young leaders from Europe and the USA to strengthen the transatlantic relations, a chance for the author of the interview, also a fellow of the program, to interview Mr. Madsbjerg in Washington, DC, in June 2006.
An interesting question is: would you rather be an A+ student coming from China, India, or Romania, or a C+ student coming from France? What would you rather be? A C student? I would be the A+ student from China, because I would have the leverage to be a part of what's happening right now, instead of being served by the state as it's happening in France, and not be able to get up.

I think that the smart young people, let’s say, Romania, India, China, from those places, have so much opportunities, than they've ever had before. And they are running now, and I really feel that. They want to live interesting life, be part of the global culture, community. Speaking about career, how do you see yourself in 10 years?
Christian Madsbjerg: Something very different. I only see myself in 2 or 3 years, maximum. I see so many turns in my life already, I don't know. I want to write some books at some time. In this field?
Christian Madsbjerg: Not necessarily. Maybe a novel.

the interview is simoultaneously published in the cultural weekly Dilema veche, Manuela Preoteasa, Sep 21, 2006

Custom Officers Arrested

18 employees of the Customs at the International Airport Henri Coanda were taken in custody on Thursday by the anti corruption prosecutors (DNA). Sources in the institution told that all 18 are investigated for corruption. It is the second group of custom officers heard this month., Sep 21, 2006

Italian Business Man in Phone Tap Scandal

Giuliano Tavaroli, former chief of the Romanian branch of giant company Pirelli, was arrested for involvement in the illegal interception of hundreds of thousands of phone conversations, involving bankers, businessmen and politicians. The operation begun before his arrival in Romania and continued during his stay.

Italy is shook up in the world’s largest scandal involving telecomm companies. Heads of Telecom, a giant enterprise based in Italy and involves in several other countries, put up a diabolical system to tap phones.

The one who managed the birth of the entire system is no other than Giuliano Tavaroli, former general manager at Pirelli Romania and former Telecom Security Department manager.

According to Italian prosecutors, Tavaroli, a former anti terrorism officer, begun to work at ItalTel in 1985, than moved to Telecom. His arrival at Telecom came after a crisis moment, when the general manager found a microphone in his car and therefore requested a security expert.

Free to re-organize the department, Tavaroli formed a true secret service. In 2004, when the prosecutors caught a lead on the affair, Tavaroli left Telecom but remained inside the group operations, as country manager of Pirelli Romania. During his stay, he continued to lead the operations in Italy.

Sep 21, 2006

Securitate Snitches Go Online

“We must wither dissolve the entire CNSAS, or have total transparency. All politicians’ files should be posted online, for the press and the citizens as well”, said Dinescu, threatening to resign in case his suggestion isn’t taken seriously.

Roughly criticizing the lack of transparency of the institution, Dinescu promised the journalists to hold a press conference each Tuesday and Thursday, right after the CNSAS sessions.

On the other hand, Dinescu accused the Romanian Information Service of protecting certain politicians, who were allowed to rise in political careers, although they were compromised, alas subject to blackmail., Sep 21, 2006

Authorities to Ease Rules for Telecom Providing

Dan Cristian Georgescu, head of the National Agency for Communication Regulations (ANRC) announced on Thursday that the rules for Internet and postal services providing are about to relax significantly.

The providers of such services had to wait for seven days to get their authorizations, now they only have to notify the Authority. According to an ANRC press release, after the new orders come into force, natural persons would be able to provide postal services as well as the legal persons and would benefit from the same rights.

ANRC expects as result an increasingly flexible market, able to respond faster to demands. After the system is simplified, the individual licensing will be eliminated in postal services, while an unique authorizing regime would apply to all demands., Sep 21, 2006

Romsys Doesn't Stop Growing

Romsys, one of the main Romanian IT engineering solutions providers meets its clients in new quarters and with brand new operations. “The new projects are larger, more important, more numerous and increasingly targeted for foreign customers”, said Marius Cojanu, Romsys CEO, at the opening of the new quarters.

The company results in 2005 make Romsys one of the very few companies in the industry that managed to stabilyze a high growth and profit rate. Since 2003, the company grew from 18.7 million dollars to 31.5 millions in 2004 and reached 44.8 in 2005.
The main satisfactio, Cojanu says, is when Romanians studying abroad decide to return to Romania and work with us.

Sep 21, 2006

What the Newspapers Say: September 21, 2006

Scheele Fooled the European Commission, trusting too much the management talents of the local authorities, forgetting about co-financing and accepting too daring deadlines and targets, says Adevarul.

As a result, Brussels officials are quite unhappy with Jonathan Scheele’s activity in Romania, days before the official country report is issued.

In Budapest, hundreds were injured last night, after the confrontations between the Police and the protesters, Evenimentul Zilei says. It must be contagious, since during a football game last night, the Bucharest Police had to use water cannons and tear gas to calm down Steaua’ supporters.

Mike “the Bribe”, a.k.a the Social Democrat deputy Serban Mihailescu is the subject in a new scandal, being found in the records before 1989 as active officer in the Foreign Information Service, Cotidianul informs.

He even worked undercover for a few years, but the following amnesia seems to be long-lasting: Mike says a confusion is possible.
And, since we’re in the Intelligence area, we should tell you that Gandul found an impressive figure: 8,000 BILLION (!) ROL were spent fighting the spies and the “groups of interests”, only in 2005. No wonder utilities get more and more expensive.

Also in Gandul, and also in Intelligence, we find that the Romanian Information Service (SRI) lost a general and a colonel, both detained for the moment at the Anti Corruption Prosecution Office, accused of taking and offering bribe.

Last, but not least, the price for natural gas stirs a lot of discontent, for both the populace and the reporters at Cotidianul. Recently privatized Petrom established for it’s own operations a price for the natural gas 15-20 $ higher than the average on the market. A long and freezing winter is to be expected.

Sep 21, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Liberals Expel former Party Presidents

During an emergency meeting today, Theodor Stolojan and Valeriu Stoica, both former presidents of the Liberal Party, were expelled from their own “yard”. The decision of the party’s board comes after a long period of intense criticism headed towards the activity of the Romanian PM, Liberal Calin Popescu Tariceanu.
“It’s like having an ambassador that tells on his fellows to the ministers in the country where he works, instead of protecting the interests of the country they represent”, said Ludovic Orban, head of the Bucharest branch of the National Liberal Party (PNL).

Yesterday, Theodor Stolojan said during a TV interview that being thrown out of the party would not surprise, but disappoint him., Sep 20, 2006

Mona Musca Still a Blurry Case

The National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives-CNSAS, the Romanian body studying the archives of the Communist political police, “can not yet make public its decision in the case of the former Liberal leader, Mona Musca, expelled from the party after admitting that she signed a collaboration agreement with the Securitate.

Claudiu Secasiu, CNSAS president, explained that the decisions become public only when the verdict is final and refused to make any further comments. According to sources within CNSAS, quoted yesterday by the public TV station TVR, the institution decided yesterday to define Mrs. Musca’s activities in the ‘70’s as political police.

Meanwhile, Musca refused to accept the indictments, pretending all actions were barely common information on foreign students studying in Romania. Musca also protested against the information leak in the CNSAS that made it possible for the rumor to become public. /
Seven verdicts in case of politicians who worked with ex-Ceausescu's political police, Sep 20, 2006

Reforms Cause Total War in Budapest

Police dispersed the crowd gathered last night in front of the Hungarian Parliament’s building. Some of the 15,000 demonstrants headed for the Socialist Party headquarters, where the officers had to use force against the “tough core” of the protesters.

Demonstrators were at the party’s quarters met by special forces and the mounted police that spared no tear gas nor truncheons when it came to dispersing the mob. Still, some of the demonstrants, wearing gas masks fought back throwing stones and setting garbage bins on fire.

Other demonstrators headed for the Public Radio quarters, where they faced water cannons and an increasingly violent response from the special forces. During the riot night, most of the order restoring forced throughout Hungary were gathered in Budapest. Confrontations continued in Blaha Lujza Place, where a Police car was set on fire and violence escaladed. The toll of the night was 28 injured officers and 98 arrests.

Demonstrants promised to continue their actions until Gyurcsany’s cabinet resigns. Riots also sprung in other cities - Gyor, Bekescsaba, Miskolc, Szeged and Debrecen., Sep 20, 2006

President to Choose New Intelligence Heads

The Senate and the House of Deputies held a common meeting today, in order to take act of the resignation of the Foreign Intelligence Service director, Gheorghe Fulga, and the Romanian Information Service, Radu Timofte.

Romanian president, Traian Basescu is expected to suggest the names of the future Intelligence heads as soon as possible. The specialized commissions the two houses of the Parliament are to analyze the suggestions and submit the results to Parliament’s vote on October 4th.

The two directors resigned, along with the head of the Romanian equivalent of Police Internal Affairs Department, Virgil Ardelean, after the disappearance of Omar Hayssam, suspect in a terrorism-related case., Sep 20, 2006