Tuesday, October 31, 2006

PM announces 2.5% budget deficit

The Government is about access a new budget rectification, aimed at lowering the budget deficit. The measure was announced by the prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu on Thursday, during a “The Economist” seminary where he assumed a 2.5 GNP deficit margin.

Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu, answering the Hotnews.ro questions, said that 2.5% of the GNP is still the target.

In case this would truly happen , it’s the fourth budget rectification in 2006, after a previous deficit also at 2.5% of the GNP, but after an optimistic 0.5% beginning of the year.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

MPs overwhelmingly vote in favor of mutilated wealth check law

An overwhelming number of Romanian deputies voted in favor of a controversial law that establishes an official body to supervise the wealth of elected officials despite a series of changes that turns the entire legislative effort futile.

Justice Minister Monica Macovei left all decisions in the hands of the Senate after the Parliament's majority decided to vote in favor of the law.

251 deputies voted the piece of legislation that establishes the National Agency for Integrity-ANI in its latest version, with only five against and one abstention.

ANI was initially conceived as a body that would monitor and check the wealth statements of elected officials across the country. But the House Legislative Commission crushed the initial intent, eliminating a series of articles in the law that allowed wealth checks.

The final version, passed for the House vote, turned ANI in a simple recipient of wealth statements of parliamentarians and other officials, with no authority to check them.

This final version was passed by the House today. The voting figures show that deputies belonging to the two senior members of the governing coalition, the Liberals and the Democrats, voted in favor of the law just like the main opposition parties and the two junior members of the coalition, the Conservatives and the Hungarian Democrats.

The latter and the opposition parties had a major role in drastically changing the first versions of the draft law.

On Tuesday morning, Justice minister Monica Macovei, who initiated the law, had said she considered withdrawing the bill as she was disappointed with the changes.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

Spain to allow free access for Romanian and Bulgarian workers in two years

Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants will have free access to the Spanish labour market two years after their countries join the EU in January next year, Spanish Foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Tyuesday, quoted by Reuters. He said his country has adopted similar measures in the case of CEE countries that joined the EU in May 2004.

But he recalled that Spain has concluded a series of bilateral accords on the issue with Romania. There are currently some 400,000 Romanian citizens working legally in Spain, one of the main destinations for East European workers in Western Europe. That comes despite the unemployment rate in Spain has just reached its lowest level in the last two decades.

The news comes as Britain announced last week it would limit the access of unskilled Romanian and Bulgarian workers on its market to only thousands and only for the food industry and agriculture.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

What the newspapers say: October 31, 2006

Romanian media on Tuesday hails the official nomination of the country’s future European Commissioner, which puts an end to a scandal that tainted the image of the political class in Bucharest. Newspapers today also look into a wave of Westerners flowing into Romania and fills in the blanks with new reports of shady deals and moves in the local economy.

“Habemus comisar”, proclaims Jurnalul National, reporting that Romania finally gets a candidate for a seat in the Brussels Commission who falls within the profile of a valid European official.

He is Leonard Orban, a state secretary with the EU Integration Ministry in Bucharest, whose nomination was confirmed by EC President Jose Manuel Barroso officially yesterday and who is now waiting for the final stamp of approval from the European Parliament.

Gandul focuses on Orban’s new portfolio, that of Commissioner for Culture, Education and Multilingualism, with special focus on the latter.

And the newspaper notes that while European commissioners named by the CEE countries that joined the EU in 2004 had six months to prepare for hearings in the European Parliament, Orban and Bulgaria’s nominee Meglena Kuneva have less than a month.

Cotidianul believes the portfolio of multilingualism is less important than those speculated so far - migration or customs union - and notes that European Socialists who argued against the first Romanian nominee Senator Varujan Vosganian, forced to withdraw last weekend, are now much more pleased with Orban.

And Evenimentul Zilei explains what the multilingualism portfolio means - policies that provide access for EU citizens to documents translated in all 22 EU languages and programs to promote these policies.

Meanwhile, the newspapers also take special interests in the goods and bads of EU accession.

The same Evenimentul Zilei reports that the number of real estate transactions in the SE region of Dobrogea, close to the Romanian coast at the Black Sea, has been increasing as Italians are taking special interest in expanding their agricultural properties here.

Cotidianul tackles the inflow of Westerners backwards: it writes that Romanian professionals take the place of Scots, Englishmen and Spaniards in the offices of multinational companies in Romania, as the firms are trying to cut costs by moving their activities to the country.

And yet another angle from the same Cotidianul: a new scandal is about to affect Romania as the future EU member has the right to two judges in the European Court of Justice.

A candidate for such a job, the head of the Open Society Foundation in Bucharest, Renate Weber, publicly claimed a lack of transparency in the contest for the two seats as rules were changed along the way.

For its part, Jurnalul National publishes a document of the Antifraud Office of the Romanian Government that draws the profile of crime groups specialized in fraud with EU funds.

And it reports that over the past several years local officials across the country became experts in fraudulently use such funds, delivered to PHARE, SAPARD and other EU programs.

And Gandul looks south and reports that President Traian Basescu got angry at a Turkish investor who, during a seminar, complained about the lack of continuity in the Romanian tax control system as well as about the effects of political tensions on the business environment in the country.

Basescu replied with what Gandul calls a diplomatic blunder, loughing out that „eventually we will ask the Army to guarantee political stability, just like in Turkey”.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

EC President accepts Romanian nominee for "Multilingualism Commissioner" Leonard Orban to hold second tier portfolio in EU executive

EC President Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed Leonard Orban as Romania’s official nominee for a seat in the Brussels Commission on Monday.

According to the official announcement made on the margins of an energy conference in Lisbon, if approved by the European Parliament Orban will be in charge with the Culture, Education and Multilingualism portfolio in the European executive, with a focus on the latter.

The Multilingualism is a second tier portfolio in the EC and has been held by Slovak Jan Figel.

Seen in Romania as a good technocrat with little political abilities, considering his key role in negotiations for Romania’s accession in the EU over the past several years, Leonard Orban said he was honored his candidacy was accepted. Prior to the official announcement, he had face-to-face talks with Barroso.

Orban started his European career as early as 1993, when he became a parliamentary counselor for European and International affairs. Now 45, he served as deputy chief negotiator with the EU in 2001-2004 and then chief negotiator until April 2005.

Since December 2004, Orban has been a state secretary at the EU Integration Ministry in Bucharest coordinating the preparation of Romania for EU accession.

He is due to defend his nomination in hearings before the specialized committees of the European Parliament and then get the final stamp of approval from the European legislators.

His nomination comes following political talks over the weekend in Bucharest as the first Romanian candidate for the Brussels seat, Liberal Senator Varujan Vosganian, was forced to resign late last week.

Vosganian rose many eyebrows in Brussels and Strasbourg for his “being on the payroll” of controversial Romanian tycoon Sorin Ovidiu Vantu and for alleged - though officially dismissed - links to late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s political police.

Following the announcement yesterday, Romanian PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu tried to mask the second tier status of Orban’s future job saying that the Romanian Commissioner will have no less than three general departments of the EC in his subordination.

Multilingualism promotes the linguistic diversity and foreign language learning in the European Union.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

President speaks up in nominee commissioner case

Senator Varujan Vosganian’s failure to have his nomination accepted for the Romanian seat in the European Commission had nothing to do with allegations that he collaborated with ex-dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s secret police, Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a TV show on Monday evening.

He said the nomination of Vosganian - who was pushed for the EU job by PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu early last week only to be forced to withdraw in a major media scandal - was more likely affected by his links to a Romanian controversial tycoons and some old statements of his related to the establishment of ghettos for the Rroma community in Romania.

Liberal Senator Varujan Vosganian was Romania’s first proposal for the country’s seat in the European Commission once it joins the EU next year. After his withdrawal, the new nominee - technocrat Leonard Orban - received the support of EC President Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday.

Basescu said during the “Stirea Zilei” talk-show on the Antena 3 TV news channel that he had warned PM Tariceanu against the nomination of Vosganian, but to no avail. He also said he opposed the nomination of another potential candidate, Foreign minister Razvan Ungureanu, as “it would have been a huge mistake to change the Foreign minister by mid-term”.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

Cosmote covers 76% of Romanian territory

Cosmote Romania, the mobile telecom company, has announced that it used a 220 million euro investment to expand its territorial network to about 92% of the country’s population and more than 76% of its territory in record time.

It also announced that it will continue to invest in extending its GSM network to reach over 95% population coverage and over 82% of territorial coverage by the end of the year.

According to the company, the number of Romanian Cosmote clients is rising at a pace of some 15,000 daily. Its current goal is to reach a 98% demographic coverage and 85% territorial coverage, above the current maximum limits of the competing companies, Orange and Vodafone.

In its first seven operational months in Romania, Cosmote reports some 531,600 users and a market share of about 4%. In comparison, Vodafone Romania had over 6.7 million clients by the end of June while Orange reported 7.1 million clients by the end of the first quarter this year.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

Authority sells assets for companies facing 1.4 mln USD debts

The Authority for State Assets Recovery-AVAS in Bucharest organizes a series of tenders on October 30-November 3 this year to sell assets belonging to seven companies that have accumulated over 1.4 million USD, an AVAS press release says.

The companies are Agrofilip Bontida, Carpe Diem Bucharest, Aprotrans Bucharest, Ovis Prodimpex Brebu, Hamadeh Constanta, Agroindustriala Savini Piscu Sadovei and Agromec Zatreni.

The tenders involve among others a series of livestock facilities and agricultural land near Bucharest.

HotNews.ro, Oct 31, 2006

Ex-EU negotiator to replace senator as Romania's European commissioner nominee

Leonard Orban, a state secretary at the Romanian EU Integration Ministry who had a key role in accession negotiations over the past several years, is the second nominee the Romanian government will push to represent the country in the European Commission, according to official sources quoted by the NewsIn press agency and other media.

Orban replaces Senator Varujan Vosganian, who this weekend has asked for the withdrawal of his candidacy after a series of revelations about him.

Orban was chosen after Foreign minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu was also courted for the job afte Vosganian’s withdrawal, but refused the offer.

A technocrat, Orban was chosen at a meeting between PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu and President Traian Basescu on Sunday morning.

Varujan Vosganian, whose nomination was first announced early last week, was forced to step aside after a former officer of the Securitate, the dreaded intelligence service in communist Romania, who is now established in the US, revealed to Romanian media that Vosganian was involved in political police under the Ceausescu regime.

Vosganian rejected the accusations immediately and the main body studying the archives of the Securitate announced it had not yet found any evidence to confirm the allegation. But the media also revealed that Vosganian had received electoral contributions from a controversial businessman, Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, in 2000.

He decided to ask PM Tariceanu to withdraw his nomination eventually, saying that his move was one of responsibility as he did not want to bring any prejudice to the country.

Leonard Orban has been deeply involved in EU issues since 1993, when he became a parliamentary counselor for European affairs. Between May 2001-December 2004, he also serves as Romania’s deputy chief negotiator with the EU, and then chief negotiator until April 2005.

In an interview published by the Jurnalul National newspaper on Monday, President Traian Basescu says Vosganian’s nomination was a failure that proved his involvement in the nomination of a new commissioner was necessary.

HotNews.ro, Oct 30, 2006

"Fewer jobs" for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens in the UK

The British Home Secretary John Reid may cut by half the number of jobs available for Romanian and Bulgarian workers after the accession of the two countries in the EU in January 2007.

According to The Sunday Times, quoting a secret Home Office document, Reid planned to force British agriculture employers to replace immigrant workers from non-EU countries such as Russia or Ukrain with Romanian and Bulgarian workers.

Reid’s argument, according to the newspaper, was that after the 2007 wave of enlargement Britain should use labor from EU countries, not from beyond the Union borders, according to European legislation.

But the move is opposed by food industry companies and farmers who threaten to protest the Government if forced to abandon seasonal workers from Russia or Ukraine, who’ve been working in the country for years, according to the newspaper. The pressure forced Reid to reduce the number of permits for Romanians and Bulgarians to 10,000 from the original 20,000 announced earlier this month.

HotNews.ro, Oct 30, 2006

Media group managers under criminal inquiry for blackmail

Six members of the regional media group Gazeta Trust were placed under criminal investigation on Monday, charged with the creation of a crime group and blackmail. They face hearings before anti-organized crime prosecutor’s office DIICOT in Cluj, north-western Romania, according to reports today.

The group includes Gazeta Trust general manager Liviu Man, “Gazeta de Cluj” investigation manager Ioan Otel, executive director Dorel Vidican, administrative manager Aurel Muresan and another person, apparently an accountant. They were retained by the police and brought to the Palace of Justice in Cuj today.

According to prosecutor Mircea Hrudei, they are charged with blackmailing businesspeople, politicians and public office managers during 2005. The targets were threatened with revelations on their activities in the pages of the group’s newspapers unless they signed advertising contracts.

Prosecutors say the targets belonged mainly to the counties of Cluj and Bistrita and the goods received were used in the personal interest of the blackmailers.

HotNews.ro, Oct 30, 2006

Managers expect prices grow in all economic sectors

Romanian managers expect an increase in activities in the manufacturing, retail and services sectors in the fourth quarter of the year while the construction works sector will see a drop in activities, according to a study by the National Statistics Institute - INS. Interviewed managers say that prices are expected to grow in all economic sectors as a result of the trend.

In the manufacturing sectors, managers expect a continuation of growth both in terms of production volume and the number of contracts and orders. 79% of the respondents the number of employees will remain stable for the period.

In the retail sectors, managers expect a growth of sales due to seasonal opportunities, which will boost economic growth and a slight increase in payroll. Prices in this sector are also expected to grow, but at a slower pace than so far this year.

The same trend is to be felt in the services sector with the only exception reported in the tourism and restaurant industry, where pessimism is increasing both in terms of market demand and payroll.

HotNews.ro, Oct 30, 2006

Erste Bank reports 28% profit, BCR aside

Austrian banking group Erste Bank reports a net profit of 649.3 million euro profit in the first nine months of the year, up from 508.8 million, with the total value of assets growing 6% from 152.7 billion by the end of 2005 to 162.6 billion. The operational profit grew 16.2.% to 1,398.8 million euro during the period, while operational income grew 9.9% to 3,511.1 million.

The acquisition of a 61.9% stake in Romania’s biggest bank, the Romanian Commercial Bank-BCR, concluded on October 12, 2006. The new subsidiary will be included in the Este Bank Group consolidated results starting with that date. Due to restructuring costs, there is no significant BCR contribution to the Erste Bank Group profit for 2006.

HotNews.ro, Oct 30, 2006

Bulgarian nuclear shutdown worries Balkans

EU demand for Sofia to shut Kozloduy reactors poses major headache for region short in energy supplies

Gjergj Bojaxhi, Albania’s deputy energy minister, suffers from back pain that gets worse when he sits. He walks around the office, hunching and wincing, absorbing the twinges as he speaks. But one word makes him stand up straight - Kozloduy.

The towering chimneys of Kozloduy, a nuclear power plant, lie 300km from Albania in northern Bulgaria. But the distance is irrelevant in a Balkan energy market that was unified by a major treaty one year ago.

Across the region, energy officials like Bojaxhi are keenly concerned by the imminent closure of two of the plant’s four Soviet-built reactors by December 31, the last day before Bulgaria joins the European Union. EU officials have made closure a precondition for accession.

"It makes me nervous," said Bojaxhi. But the Albanian minister is not alone. Concern about the impact of the closure on the whole of Southeast Europe is widespread. Hungarian and Slovenian members of the European parliament issued an extraordinary eleventh-hour appeal to the European Commission, requesting a "temporary reprieve" for Kozloduy.

There is concern also in Montenegro. "We were hoping they would delay the shutdown again and keep it open for another year," Srdjan Kovacevic, head of Montenegro’s electricity utility, EPCG, told the newspaper Vijesti.

But a reprieve is most unlikely. Bulgaria’s nuclear plant faces the same fate as other outdated, Soviet-built facilities in other new EU member states, most notably Lithuania.

The Baltic state’s massive Ignalina nuclear power station was taken off-line at great cost to the country before it could join the EU in 2004.

Slovakia, a net exporter of energy in Eastern Europe, faces the same dilemma. It may turn into an importer if it closes Jasovske Bohunice, another old Soviet-made plant.

The difference is that Kozloduy’s decommissioning threatens to have an impact on a larger set of countries in a region where energy resources are perilously low already.

Albania has a particular problem. Last winter it struggled with daily power cuts lasting up to ten hours. This winter, Bojaxhi says the country must "pay any price" to maintain a better supply.

As other countries feel the same way, experts expect energy prices to rise quickly once bidding for winter power supplies begins in earnest.

Croatia and Albania will announce their bids in October 27, while Macedonia and Montenegro will buy electricity in November.

As demand for electricity in the region rises by about five per cent annually, most countries, with the exception of Bulgaria, Romania and Bosnia, have turned into net importers already, or are about to. Those three countries have together poured more than 14 terawatt-hours, TWh, in the regional market in the past year.

But they cannot fill the gap. "There is simply not enough electricity in the regional market anymore," said Atanasko Tunevski, director of Macedonia’s transmission operator MEPSO.

The closure of Kozloduy III and IV will drain about 40 per cent of the pool of electricity that Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo use to cover their energy deficits, according to Platt’s, the industry newsletter.

Other importers from Bulgaria, including Serbia and Croatia, could also feel an impact. Serbia has assured its winter imports from Bulgaria until February but Mijat Milosevic, a manager at Elektro-Privreda Srbije, said the country could still suffer as a result of unreliable Russian gas supplies if there is a cold winter.

Bulgaria itself might have to import power after the two reactors shut down, as domestic consumption increases in line with economic growth. The country exported half of its 7.6 TWh production last year to Greece, while the rest was sold in the region.

Utility officials across Southeast Europe predict prices to climb by at least 20 per cent from 0.05 euro per kilowatt-hour, KWh, to more than 0.06 euro.

Officials in Kosovo and Macedonia say their prices may surpass 0.07 euro per KWh. MEPSO, which has been struggling financially, said it could cost the country at least 50 million euro more next year than this one.

Some bids already exceed these price levels. Albania’s utility KESh has announced it is ready to pay up to 0.078 per euro KWh for supplies during the first quarter.

This could means increases in household electricity bills. At the moment Montenegrins and Macedonians pay just over 3 cents of a euro per Kwh while Greece pays seven cents. This in turn is the lowest electricity price in the European Union. The EU average is more than ten cents a KWh.

"If MEPSO buys for more, we will automatically increase the price," said Lence Karpuzoska, a spokeswoman with EVN, Macedonia’s distribution company.

Wary of rising prices in the international market, energy utilities are searching for extra supplies closer to home. Tunevski, of Macedonia’s MEPSO, suggested Macedonia may attempt emergency refurbishment of the aged Negotino thermo-power station if the market price approaches 0.07 euro per KWh.

But old plants such as the one at Negotino are in poor shape and are unreliable. The region is strewn with them, however. Albania’s last power station was built in 1986, and Montenegro’s in 1982. If utilities in the region lean too heavily on ageing facilities, "we will face even worse problems in domestic production later", said Tunevski.

In the meantime, utilities may have to take out high-interest loans to pay for the imports at a time when governments are desperate to cut expenses. Customers will bear the cost of such loans, in the form of immediately raised electricity bills, or down the line.

Many already cannot afford much power. Evgenia, aged 72, in Skopje, who lives on small pension in a country where pensions average 120 euro a month, says higher bills will be a big blow. "It is too expensive for me already," she said.

The most obvious way out is a substitute supplier, and Romania aspires to fill this role. Romania boosted electricity exports 20 per cent in the first half of this year, to 2.9TWh, and with a new nuclear reactor due to reach full capacity by next summer, it could plug part of the supply hole left by Kozloduy.

However, next summer is too late for this winter, when electricity demand will peak, especially if it is dry and cold, as it has been at least three times in the last ten years.

By Altin Raxhimi in Tirana and BIRN teams in Sofia, Skopje, Sarajevo, Pristina, Belgrade and Podgorica (Balkan Insight, 26 Oct 06)

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Oct 30, 2006

Romania rejects AI charges on Congo embargo

Checks in the African country of Congo as part of a campaign to fight arms trafficking have led to the discovery of weapons from Russia, China, Greece, the US but also from Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, an Amnesty International spokesperson has announced, quoted by British newspaper The Scotsman. Romanian officials promptly rejected allegations of breaching the Congo embargo this weekend.

Bucharest-based news channel Realitatea TV quoted ex-Defense minister Teodor Atanasiu on Saturday who said that Romania has not exported weapons to Congo for the past several years. Also on Saturday, the Romanian Foreign Ministry issued a press release saying that Romania was strictly complying with arms embargoes established by UN Security Council resolutions.

And it said the National Agency of Exports Control has not approve any request for arms export license involving the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2003 and that Romania has stopped delivering weapons to the African country in 2000, three years before the international embargo was introduced.

HotNews.ro, Oct 30, 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Turkey upset with Vosganian’s nomination

What seemed for a second unavoidable really happened. Turkey is angry with Romania nominating an Armenian minority representative as European Commissioner!
Turkish daily Hurriyet reads that Turkish officials expressed their discontent with the nomination made by Romania, „a Black Sea ally”. „Vosganian played a major role in Romania’s recognition of the Turkish genocide against Armenians”, Hurriyet comments.

Romania declared the april 24th as an official date for the genocide commemoration, thus joining the group of nations that accuse Ankara for the actions taken during the first half of the XXth century.

The European Union is currently putting pressure on Turkey in order to make the state admit this delicate subject in its past.

Historians claim that over 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1923.

HotNews.ro, Oct 27, 2006

Vosganian denies any connection with the Securitate

Liberal senator Varujan Vosganian, the Romanian candidate for the European Commissioner seat denied on Friday all allegations concering his possible collaboration with Ceausescu’s political police, Securitate. Vosganian claims that the information, released during the negotiations in Brussels, is false and intended to manipulate.

The president of the European Commission did not confirm yet Vosganian as Romania’s commissioner, due to both the Securitate collaboration suspicion and some relations Vosganian had with the controversial businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vantu.

„I never had any sort of collaboration with any Securitate organs”, said Vosganian, who also claimed that there are no documents that may prove the allegations.

Regarding the sponsorship his party received from Vantu for the electoral campaign, Vosganian said that his only income after 1990 was the Senator emoluments, the Writers’ Union salary and the shares’ profit at the two small enterprises where he’s partner.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu demanded further veriofications to see if any file on Vosganian exists.

HotNews.ro, Oct 27, 2006

Bundestag ratifies Romania’s accession treaty

The German Bundestag, ratified on Thursday Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession treaty, with 551 votes for, 12 against and 10 abstentions. The vote thus concludes the first parliamentarian stage in the treaty ratifying process. The second stage - the treaty ratifying by the superior Parliamentarian chamber, the Bundesrat - is expected in November.

The vote was attended to by the Romanian Integration Minister, Anca Boagiu, who emphasized on the fact that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presence gave weight to the event.

After Belgium’s 23rd vote, the Accession Treaty has yet to be approved by Denmark.

HotNews.ro, Oct 27, 2006

Romanian EC candidate still on hold

Varujan Vosganian, the Romanian nominee for the European Commissioner seat, was not yet accepted by Jose Manuel Barroso. After the European Commissioners' meeting yesterday, the installment procedures begun only for the Bulgarian candidate, Meglena Kuneva, the former European Integration Minister.

From the fact that Vosganian is not a known individual in Brussels, to an alleged collaboration with the Foreign Intelligence services, more and more data seem to make Vosganian incompatible with the European Commissioner position.

In today’s newspapers, most of the articles tell about the fact that Vosganian’s party, the United Right Wing Forces, had the controversial businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vantu as official sponsor.

In a public interview, a former foreign intelligence officer claimed yesterday evening that Vosganian was also an employee of the Romanian Foreign Information Service.

European socialists are unhappy with the fact that Vosganian would bring an advantage to the Liberals in the European Commission, while the Green say that the examination of the Romanian candidate would be the same, regardless the political background.

Vosganian’s situation has a precedent: in 2004, Barroso demanded Latvia to find another candidate, after some information shown that the first nominee, Ingrida Udre, could be accused for illegally financing a party.

HotNews.ro, Oct 27, 2006

Romania opens consulate in Castellon (Spain)

Romanian president Traian Basescu signed on Friday the decrees for the opening of a Romanian Embassy in Montenegro, the Romanian consulate in Castellon, Spain, and for the transforming of the Romanian Consular Agency in Torino into a General Consulate.

Oct 27, 2006

Coal and nuclear energy for Romania

The development trends for Romania’s energy policy aim at the use of coal and nuclear fuels, as president Traian Basescu already announced during a conference on Romania’s energy security in India.
Analysts seem to agree with the president, still warning on the fact that next year;s budget is far from showing any development in this area.

Traian Basescu participated on Wednesday in the „Energy - Co-Operation Development” conference, organized by the George C. Marshall Association,the U.S. Embassy and the German Embassy in Bucharest.

President Basescu reminded that the energy mix used in Europe is still dominated by fossile fuels. In 2005, the oil represented some 37% of all European consumption fuel, natural gas - 24%, solid fuels - 18%, nuclear power - 15% and „green resources” - 6%.

Before 2030, the amount of coal used would diminish, still the Earth’s demand for energy would grow 50%, compared to 2003. The need for oil will be 46% higher, while the known resources would last only until 2040 for oil and 2070 for natural gas.

Oct 27, 2006

Natural gas price growth

The price for the domestic use of natural gas will grow 8.1 - 8.5% in November. The price growth comes as a result of the interior production pricwe growth decided by Petrom and also due to conflicts between producers and distribution companies.

The National Authority for Natural Gas Regulation (ANRGN) previously announced that no price changes would take place in 2006.

The gas price for domestic customers with less than 2,400 cubic meters consumption per year will become 911.55 lei / 1,000 cubic meters for Distrigaz Sud customers, and 911.11 lei for EON Gaz Romania.

The production cost increased from 330 lei for 1,000 cubic meters to 397.5 lei.

Oct 27, 2006

What the newspapers say: October 27, 2006

A few hours after his nomination as European Commissioner, Varujan Vosganian is targeted by most of the main newspapers, with new information spreading every minute. From a possible collaboration with Ceausescu’s former political police, Securitate, to funds received from the most controversial Romanian businessmen, Vosganian has gone from angel to dust in less than a day.

“Raised by the Securitate, fed by Vantu” is the title in Evenimentul Zilei, where a huge article tells a story about how the controversial businessman paid for Vosganian’s party during the electoral campaign. Other sources of the newspaper claim that Vosganian was an undercover Foreign Intelligence officer before 1989.

Despite the fact that we’re sill unable to find a proper person for the job, the Government has decided the day for the European Parliament elections: May 13, 2007, in case the necessary laws are ready until then, Evenimentul Zilei reads.

With or without officials, Romanians are everywhere in Europe. In Austria, for example, a group of Romanians seems to have planned the kidnapping of Fiona Swarovski, the heir of the Swarovski empire, also wife of the Austrian Finance Minister, Karl Heinz Grasser, same Evenimentul Zilei informs.

And since Romanians are so pro-active and filled with private initiative, the newspaper also quotes the latest census in Italy, where Romanians became the most important minority, with 270,845 individuals working legally. Over 50% first settled in Italy illegally, but came to terms with the authorities after a series of laws against the black market labor.

Back home, the family of the former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, is subject for a new anti corruption investigation, concerning a terrain obtained in 1996, Gandul reads.

Well, the Nastase family doesn’t have to worry much: whatever they do, they would be still targeted by everyone who was at least once annoyed by their non-secret wealth.
Even more now, after the German ambassador in Romania, Roland Lohkamp, said he’s sure that it would take some 20 years for Romanians to live at Western standards, as Gandul quotes.

The good news of the day is that Romanians are not the only thieves in Europe, where 44 million euros are stolen everyday, mainly by the employees, reaching an all-time high of 16 billion euros per year, Adevarul found.

As for the way Romanians do it, nothing has changed yet: over 2,300 public servants used phony documents in order to obtain their jobs, according to Cotidianul.

HotNews.ro, Oct 27, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Romanians trust their president

President Traian Basescu, former Liberal leader Theodor Stolojan, football manager Gigi Becali and another former Liberal main figure Mona Musca leat the popular confidence top, according to the Social Research Group (BCS). The study also reveals that former Liberals Theodor Stolojan and Mona Musca are more popular than PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu, the Liberal Party president.

38% of the respondents in the interview taken while Stolojan and Stoica (another expelled Liberal) were launching their own platform, said their confidence is in Stolojan. 34% believe that Mona Musca is the most trustworthy, although she recently passed through a huge scandal on her collaboration with the former political police, Securitate.

The first place in popularity and trust is still held by president Traian Basescu (54%), while former PM and presidency candidate Adrian Nastase is near the end of the rankings, with 16%. The only less trusted politician is the Conservative Party Dan Voiculescu, with 12%.

Oct 26, 2006

Basescu’s new energy policy

The coal-based and nuclear energy production are the two main options in Romania’s future, said president Traian Basescu during the International Conference “Energy - co-operation development”, as quoted by Realitatea TV.

The Romanian chief of state emphasized on the fact that the dependence on a single natural gas source will continue for the following years, while Romania must take the best advantage on its own resources.

Romania’s resources cover the needs for the following 14 years, in oil and gas, or 240 years in coal, the documents issued by the Economy Ministry show. The situation is quite serious, given the fact that the European Union also relies on the same resource provider and has a low chance to gain its independence.

HotNews.ro, Oct 26, 2006

Barroso confirms Bulgarian commissioner

The Romanian and Bulgarian candidates for the European Commissioner position, Varujan Vosganian and Meglena Kuneva, respectively, must undergo serious tests, warn the vice presidents of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Jan Marius Wiersma and Hannes Swoboda.

In a recent statement made on Wiersma’s personal website, both officials seem concerned with the quality of the Romanian candidate.

"Bulgaria’s candidate is known for the pro-European attitude and the political involvement. The Romanian candidate is not. We only know that he was a right-wing politician and that he also was on the payroll of some industry moguls”, Wiersma and Swoboda say.

Wiersma and Swoboda claim they would be fair but rough in the hearing of the two. In case both candidates are accepted, the balance in the European Commission would present a right-winged majority.

Oct 26, 2006

Defense Minister to run State Assets Agency

The suspended Defense Minister, Teodor Atanasiu, resigned yesterday, in order to end the conflict he had with president Basescu. After the resignation Atanasiu was nominated by PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu as chief of the State’s Asset Agency (AVAS).

PM Tariceanu’s order was already signed and the former AVAS chief, Razvan Orasanu, was called back to the Government, to serve as counselor.

The new Defense Minister is Democrat Sorin Frunzaverde, who occupied the seat before, during the 1996-2000 mandate.

Oct 26, 2006

"Romania is the scapegoat of a biased press”

In an interview for EurActiv.ro, the well known historian Dennis Deletant makes a portrait of the major problems Romania faces short before becoming an official member of the European Union.

The lack of individual private initiative is one of the main reasons that separates the Western standard of living from the Eastern poverty, Deletant says.

“Each one of us has an inner force that has to be stimulated. I’m glad to see that many youngsters have this pro-active attitude, have the initiative. They left their country - and that is not a simple thing to do, to work, to build and make money. When they return, they will bring a new spirit with them”, says Deletant.

The historian also believes that the anti Romanian spirit is in some cases provoked by a biased media, fact that also happened in the case of Serbs, Gypsies and Albanians.

Euractiv.ro, Oct 26, 2006

Romanians, last in purchase power

Romanians rank last but one in Europe in the nominal monthly minimum income, ahead of Bulgaria. Still, when it comes to the purchase power that comes with the minimum income, Romania ranks last, with Bulgarians being able to buy more for less money.
The evaluation was recently concluded by Eurostat, an European institution specialized in statistics.

Labor union CNS "Cartel ALFA" considers that the national budget principles for 2007 will maintain a low level of income for several social and professional categories.
The ratio between the minimum and the average gross income (390 RON vs. 1,270 RON) is still in the area of 30%, although Romania signed an agreement with the European labor unions, promising a 60% ratio.

HotNews.ro, Oct 26, 2006

Brasov Industrial Park - a Greenfield project at Brasov

A new Greenfield Industrial Park project arises in Brasov.

Brasov Industrial Park www.parc-industrial.ro will stretch over 34ha, nearby the Brasov International Airport, totalising a production area of 160.000 sqm, distributed in 12 production halls and 3 office buildings - in a long term renting scenario.

The advantage is given by the fact that the production halls will be designed according to each costumer’s specific request, with surfaces that can vary between 3.000 and 20.000 sqm. In addition, 3 campus type buildings will be available on site, totalising 20.000 sqm of office areas.

The clients of the park will benefit of access to centralized services: perimeter security, exterior lighting, banking services, kindergarten, non-stop store, medical centre, 2 hotels of 2 and 4 stars, custom point specific activities, conference rooms, restaurants and canteens.

The entire infrastructure and needed utilities will be available on site, in the amount requested by each client: electric power, gas, sewage and telecommunication.

The commencement of the works is planned for March 2007, thus the first clients will be able to move in the park, next autumn.

The project initiators offer a price dynamic independent of the future price changes within the area, so the monthly rent will avoid the artificial price increases. Furthermore, the park’s clients will benefit from all logistic and infrastructure advantages, which are common for the entire park, as well as of the requested specific services.

The Brasov area has an excellent economical development potential with a rich industrial tradition, an important technical university, high unemployment rate (over the country average) all this being a solid ground for attracting foreign investments.

HotNews.ro, Oct 27, 2006

Romanian real estate brought 1 billion euros profits

During the past two years, Romanian natural persons that invested in real estate obtained over 1 billion euros worth of profits, Realitatea TV informs. Experts say the profits would have been significantly larger is a new real estate profit tax didn’t come into force in 2005.

During the last seven months of 2005, the state budget gained over 25 million euros from taxing the real estate speculations. During the same period, real estate speculations brought 253 millions to investors. The state income could have reached over 43 millions, but the tax came into force only in June.

Oct 26, 2006

“Top employers” at job fair for youth

Catalyst Solutions organizes a job fair for youngsters this weekend (Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28). The event, “Top Employers” is said to be the largest of its kind and addresses to young professionals with at least five years of experience, aspiring to a successful career.

The employers participating in the event are all top companies active in Romania in IT&C (IBM, Microsoft, Cosmote, Zapp), banking (BRD, Finansbank, ING), constructions (Impact, Lafarge), oil & energy (Enel, Petrom), pharmacy (Ozone, Pfizer, Zentiva), food & drinks (Coca-Cola HBC, Danone, P&G, Pepsi).

Each day will be concluded by a workshop designed to guide the freshly graduated and final years-students towards the available career opportunities.

HotNews.ro, Oct 26, 2006

What the newspapers say: October 26, 2006

Romania found its future commissioner at the European Commission, but the problems just begin: Germany is about to demand the activation of the Justice and anti corruption safeguarding clauses, starting on January 1st, the first day for Romania as an European country.
Meanwhile, back home, a top investigative journalists admits his collaboration with the former political police, Securitate.

A shock-interview in Cotidianul unveils some old news: Cornel Ivanciuc, head of the investigative journalism department at Academia Catavencu, was a snitch for the former political police, Securitate, and was also paid for it.

About three months ago, another top journalist, Carol Sebastian, was publicly executed in the same newspaper for the same kind of collaboration, although Sebastian had only one “victim” who used to read his notes before they were turned in to the Securitate officer.

Today, the Academia Catavencu editor in chief, Doru Buscu, says he was aware since 1995 of Ivanciuc’s collaboration, but never regretted maintaining him in the editorial team. In a typically Romanian manner, A.C has been gathering funds for the past two years in order to build a monument for the anti-Communist Resistance.

As for more bad news, same Cotidianul reads that the business environment in Romania is suffocated by 500 papers, stamps, approvals and documents required for normal functioning, many of the bureaucratic operations also demanding some bribe to fasten things up a bit
In Europe, things are also far from pink.

The German political parties decided to demand today the activation of the Justice and anti corruption safeguarding clauses, starting on January 1st, the first day for Romania as an European country, according to Adevarul.

Not much to worry about, Gandul replies, showing that the officials in Brussels already decided to vote against the German suggestion.

With or without the safeguarding clauses, Romanians illegally working in the United Kingdom are to be fined with 1000 pounds, some 1500 euros, same Gandul informs.

Well, they might as well work in Romania for some energy companies, where it seems we would need soon some supplementary labor force.

Unless, of course, Greenpeace doesn’t get to shut down the works at the Cernavoda atomic plant’s new reactors, as Gandul suggests it might happen.

All’s well that ends well, we may say, and Romania Libera reminds us that the dignitaries’ illegal wealth is still untouchable, even for the newly born National Integrity Agency. So long, anti corruption, and have a nice life!

HotNews.ro, Oct 26, 2006

Senator Vosganian officially nominated for EU commissioner seat

Romanian PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu announced on Wednesday that he nominated Liberal Senator Varujan Vosganian to take over Romania’s seat in the European Commission once the country joins the European Union.

The news came shortly after the Reuters press agency had quoted Brussels sources according to whom Romania’s commissioner would be Justice minister Monica Macovei - a piece of information later proved to be unfounded.

“I am sure Varujan Vosganian, with his political experience and professional profile, would be able to fulfill his duties in this important position, which is one of a EU minister responsible for all EU countries”, PM Tariceanu said today.

He refused to name the other candidates for the job.

Senator Varujan Vosganian’s nomination had been confirmed for HotNews.ro by governmental sources several days ago. A Senator for Tariceanu’s National Liberal Party-PNL, with a PhD in economics, he would most probably receive an economic portfolio in the EU executive if confirmed in office.

A member of the PNL since 2003, he is currently heading the Budget-Finance Commission in the Romanian Senate.

The decision for the nomination comes after a meeting between PM Tariceanu and President Traian Basescu on Wednesday morning, which led to a decision that Basescu’s Democratic Party would chose a new Defense minister - instead of the newly resigned Teodor Atanasiu - while the PNL would receive the seat of Romania’s EU Commissioner.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

Defence Minister Atanasiu resigns on Army Day

Romania’s suspended Defence minister Teodor Atanasiu announced his resignation as the country celebrates the Army Day on Wednesday. He said in a press statement that “the wisest gives in” and that his move was aimed at ending a crisis that has hit the Defence ministry over the past several months.

His seat will be taken by a Democrat, Sorin Frunzaverde. Talks between the leadership of the two main parties in the governing coalition early on Wednesday decided that the seat held so far by Liberal Atanasiu would be passed to a Democrat.

PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu's Liberal Party obtains instead the nomination for the seat of Romania's future Commissioner - who later on Wednesday was announced to be Liberal Senator Varujan Vosganian.

Atanasiu accused President Traian Basescu of not bringing him back to office despite Justice has proven his innocence in two cases opened against him for abuse in office.

President Basescu suspended the minister on September 12 following two abuse in office-related criminal complaints against Atanasiu by presidential aide Adriana Saftoiu and from deputy Eugen Bejinariu.

On October 6, military prosecutors decided not to open a criminal inquiry against Atanasiu, but President Basescu said that he would only let the minister take back his office when Saftoiu and Bejinariu would have had their chance to appeal against the verdict.

Meanwhile, former General Chief of Staff Eugen Badalan submitted another criminal complaint against Atanasiu at the Supreme Court, also for abuse in office.

According to the resigned official, the Army suffers most from the political fight, “which I find very dangerous”.

It is the fourth time Frunzaverde holds a portfolio in the Bucharest government. He had served as Defense minister in March-April 2000; as Environment minister in December 1997-February 1998; and as Tourism minister in April-December 1999.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

Germany presses for activation of safeguard clauses on Romania, Bulgaria

A day after Britain and Ireland announced officially that they would limit the access of Romanian and Bulgarian workers on their market once the two countries join the EU next year, the four most important parties in the German Bundestag “are set” to call for the activation of safeguard clauses on the two East European countries from the very first day of their EU membership,

according to German media quoted by EUObserver.com.

The two governing parties in Germany and the two parliamentary opposition parties said such a move is needed as soon as January 1 next year, considering Romania and Bulgaria have not yet met the European criteria on justice metters.

The move comes against the trend in Brussels, where the European Commission would agree with the activation of the safeguard clauses - such as non-automatic recognition of court verdicts in Romania and Bulgaria - at a later date.

According to German MPs quoted by local media, the final decision in this regard should be made at the EU summit in December the latest.

The German Parliament is among the last not to have ratified the Accession Treaty of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

Government approves national security laws

The Romanian Government approved on Wednesday a legislative package on national security and forwarded it to the Supreme Defense Council for approval, PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu has announced.

The package contains the Law on Romanian Security, the Intelligence and Counter-intelligence Law, the law of the Romanian Intelligence Service-SRI; the law of the Foreign Intelligence Service-SIE and the law on the status of intelligence officers.

Government secretary general Radu Stroe, who worked on the final versions of the law, said he was partially pleased with the package.

According to the final versions, two key security bodies, the Special Telecommunication Service-STS and the Guard and Protection Service-SPP would no longer be changed in departments under the supervision of the Interior Ministry as previously planned and will retain their current status.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

MPs take investment money to boost education salaries

Romanian MPs voted an amendment on Wednesday that boosts teachers’ salaries by 22% instead of the 18% set by the 2007 draft budget. The supplementary funds - some 420 million RON - will be sucked away from the funds reserved for investments. The only official to oppose the move was Finance minister Sebastian Vladescu.

In the presence of trade unions, parliamentarians proposed the creation of a commission to redistribute the funds for the Education and Research Ministry. The 22% salary boost would be based on money reserved for investments in infrastructure.

Education minister Mihail Hardau accepted the amendment, considering he was facing representatives of the education trade unions.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

Helicopter pilot found dead

Rescue teams found on Wednesday morning the dead body of the pilot of the military helicopter that crashed in a dam reservoir in southern Romania yesterday. Pilot Adrian Marinescu, 44, had an experience of 2,400 flight hours on Puma helicopters and has been the commander of the Kabul International Airport for three months.

Rescue teams were still trying to find the bodies of two other people on the plane - Lt Adrian Cioarba and military worker Constantin Hurchi.

The helicopter crashed during a military mission in the area of the Golesti reservoir, Arges county on Tuesday. The causes of the accident are yet to be identified.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

Romania current account deficit reached 5,92 bln euro in January-August 2006

Romania’s current account deficit grew 51% to 5,92 billion euro in the first eight months of 2006, compared to the same period last year, mainly because of a higher trade deficit, the National Bank-BNR has announced. It also said Romania’s medium and long term foreign debt reached 25,8 billion euro.

According to the BNR, the current account deficit was covered 73,1% through foreign direct investments totaling 4.3 billion euro in the first eight months of the year, compared to 2.7 billion euro in January-August 2005.

The trade deficit exceeded 6.2 billion euro in the same period.

According to National Prognosis Commission forecasts, Romania’s current account deficit this year will reach 8.25 billion euro, accounting for 8.7% of the GDP - the same level as in 2005.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

UK, Ireland impose restrictions on Romanian, Bulgarian workers

London’s Home Secretary John Reid announced on Tuesday a series of restrictions regarding the access of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to the British labour market once the two countries join the European Union on January 1, 2007. He said that only unskilled workers will have limited access to work in Britain’s food industry and agriculture temporarily.

The move was followed shortly by a similar decision from Dublin, as Ireland had hinted it would happen.

According to Reid, checks on Romania and Bulgaria migration will be maintained for a “transitional” period and unskilled work quotas will be established by a consultative committee.

However, there is no limit for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens coming to the UK to establish companies.

The number of unqualified workers will be limited to 20,000 a year - 16,250 in agriculture and the rest in the food industry. And the new system says they would have the right to work there for six months without any welfare benefits.

The measures will be reviewed on a yearly basis, Secretary Reid said.

Qualified workers from the two countries can instead work in Britain, based on working permits, in fields of activities that cannot be covered by British citizens. Their number will be set according to Britain’s “economic needs”.

And students from Romania and Bulgaria can choose Britain to study and even work on a part-time basis.

The move comes as a major sign Britain is changing its policies on workforce migration, two years since it provided full access to its market for workers from eight Central and East European communist countries that joined the EU at the time.

Britain expected some 15,000 migrants would come to the UK from the Accession 8 countries yearly. But at least 600,000 did so in the past two years.

Bulgaria’s EU Integration minister Meglena Kuneva was among the first to respond Reid’s announcement, sharing her disappointment with the British plans.

HotNews.ro, Oct 24, 2006

Conservative Party renews disputes within governing coalition

The Conservative Party, a junior member of the governing coalition in Bucharest, sparked new disputes with its political partners on Tuesday as it announced it joined the opposition Social Democrats-PSD and the far-right Greater Romania Party-PRM in tabling a parliamentary motion against another junior member of the governing alliance, the Hungarian Democrats-UDMR. A coalition session discussing the issue concluded without results later today.

Following the session, the PC representatives said that their move was not accepted by the governing partners and that the party was asked to withdraw the motion against UDMR. And they said their possible exit from the coalition was not discussed today.

For their part, representatives of the Democratic Party-PD, a senior member of the governing alliance, said they found it unconceivable that a member of the coalition, hand in hand with opposition parties, tabled a motion against another member of the government. And they said the PC was requested to make their position clear in order to see whether they stay in the government or not.

And UDMR representative A. Verestoy said his party wanted to save the coalition government, but criticized the political gesture of the Conservatives.

The motion targeted deputy prime minister Marko Bela, head of UDMR, who is accused of breaching the Romanian constitution and fueling dissention between the Romanian majority and the Hungarian minority in the country with a series of radical statements lately.

HotNews.ro, Oct 24, 2006

Bulgarian media has more freedom than Romania's

Romania falls 58th worldwide in terms of press freedom, according to a study the Reporters without Borders organization published on on Tuesday. Romania is in line with Poland, Hong Kong and Fiji Islands, while its southern neighbor, Bulgaria, has upped to 35th place in line with France, Australia and Mali.

One of the most serious fall was recorded by the United States which dropped from 17 to 53. The organization explains that happened because of deteriorating relations between the Bush Administration and the media as politicians invoke national security to consider any journalist questioning the war on terror a suspect.

Additionally, the federal justice in the US does not recognize the privilege of the press to keep sources anonymous, according to the report.

13 EU member countries, Norway and Switzerland take the top 15 places in the Reporters without Borders study. Of the 25, Poland reports the least free media, due to a rising number of censorship cases.

North Korea, Turkmenistan and Eritrea have the least free press worldwide.

HotNews.ro, Oct 24, 2006

Three "dead" as military helicopter crashes in south Romania

A military helicopter crashed in the reservoir of the Golesti Dam in the Arges county, south Romania on Tuesday. The Puma helicopter, with three people on board, belonged to the Defense Ministry. It crashed at 1.10 p.m. local time during a military mission.

The crew were believed to have died as rescue operations were halted at night fall.

Early data show that the accident might not have been caused by weather conditions. Search operations will continue on Wednesday, it was announced.

HotNews.ro, Oct 24, 2006

Romania GMOs stay unchecked despite EU warning

Romania has no body, governmental or autonomous, to supervise the use of genetically modified products in the food industry.

Despite EC has mentioned the issue in its latest monitoring report on the country before it joins the EU in January next year, 2006 is the last year when GM crops are allowed and Romania and the country still doesn’t have a EU-level certified laboratory to identify food products containing GMOs.

In its report on September 26, the European Commission warns that the legislative framework on GMOs in Romania needed significant improvement as a well-defined system was needed to guarantee the whole GM soy crops will be registered, sent to processing plants, labelled and monitored according to European Council requests.

That brings Romania closer to the core of a worldwide debate on genetically modified organisms. While the US and large South American countries are promoting GM food heavily, it is still opposed by many EU countries.

The European opponents say that while genes have been modified to provide higher productivity and better protection for various plants the measure of hazard GM food poses is yet to be established clearly.

In Romania, lax legislation has allowed the development of GM soy crops for eight years. Experiments were also made on potatoes and plum trees. But while many US companies have lobbied for a continuation of such practices in Romania, the EU has the last word as it forces the country to put an end to such crops once it joins the EU in January next year.

Romania’s most important problems is GM soy. In 2006 alone, Romanian farmers cropped no less than 130,000 ha of transgenic soy, according to Agriculture Ministry data. That means a 300,000-ton production which nobody knows where it went and what was done with.

Romanian authorities have no idea in what measure GMO food can be identified in the country.

Marian Avram, head of the National Sanitary-Veterinary Authority for Food Safety, says Romania does not have a EU-sanctioned laboratory to identify such food. He told Hotnews.ro that a national laboratory was established in late September and it expects EU approval. Until then, the lab results are not EU-recognized.

But Liviu Rusu, head of the General Department for Food Safety, told Hotnews.ro that Romanian GMO tests are confirmed by Europeans. Between two conflicting statements, the EC report on Romania in September seems to support Marian Avram.

An opinion poll run by the Association for Consumer Protection in Romania shows 78% of Romanian consumers do not want to spend money on GM food. And 98% of the country’s citizens say the labelling of such products is necessary, while half of them believe GM food can affect health.

HotNews.ro, Oct 25, 2006

Bucharest real estate market dominated by big spenders

A vast majority of developers on the Bucharest real estate market have opted to focus on developing small real estate bases of up to 100 units aiming at high income buyers for the past several years. According to a new study by A1 Real Estate, a consultancy firm, none of the projects completed in the city so far aimed at the medium class.

Interested in maximum profit at small investment, developers have so far reached their objectives, the study says. But the market offer has only grown at a very small percentage for years.

Despite dropping demographic numbers, Romania is facing a serious lack of living space. In average, each Romania has at home only 55% of the living area of a Hungarian and only 34% of that of a German. And in Bucharest A1 Real Estate analysts say only 60,000 families with a global monthly income of about 1,500 euro have the financial capacity to buy a new apartment or house.

If all projects announced so far are finished in due time, some 20,000 new apartments will be delivered in bucharest by 2011 - much below the market demand.

In comparison, some 70,000 new apartments have been delivered in Budapest since 2002 and another 10,000 are currently built if not yet sold.

A majority of apartments announced for the medium class on the Bucharest market have prices ranging from 800 to 1,2000 euro per square meter, plus VAT. But the buyer pays the same price for common surfaces (block entrance, terraces) and other areas that are not considered as living areas.

When it comes to office buildings, the total surface of office in Bucharest is of only 900,000 square meters, compared to 1,650,000 square meters in Budapest, a city that has 200,000 less people than the Romanian capital.

HotNews.ro, Oct 24, 2006

Antibiotice Iasi buyer to be announced by end of year

The final announcement on the privatization of the Iasi-based drug maker Antibiotice will be made in early November and the last two tender participants are expected to submit their financial offers before the end of December 2006, the Authority for State Assets Recovery-AVAS announced on Tuesday.

The clauses of the privatization contract will be further negotiated starting January 2007. According to official data, AVAS head Razvan orajanu has rejected a request by Antibiotice employees to buy a 10% stake in the company in preferential terms.

He said such a move would have reduced the majority stake held by the state to well below the current 53.02%, which would have meant reduced interest from potential investors.

Antibiotice Iasi is the last state-controlled pharmaceutical company in Romania. The company has full priority in AVAS’ privatization plan for 2006. It is listed at the Bucharest stock exchange.

HotNews.ro, Oct 24, 2006

BCR first Romanian bank to implement the Security and Labour Health Management System

The Romanian Commercial Bank-BCR is the first Romanian bank to implement the Security and Labour Health Management System, which sets requirements that allow an organization to keep its risks under control and continuously improve its performance.

“As a result of the audits carried out in July, Moody International unconditionally recommended the certification of the Security and Labour Health Management System. The implementing of this standard is part of BCR’s efforts to align with the European Standards and to observe the Directive 89/391/CEE”, according Gabriel Drilea, head of BCR Human Resources Division.

BCR received, based on third party audits performed by the certification body Moody International, the unconditional recommendation for the certification of the Security and Labour Health Management System, which observes the provisions of the BSI - OHSAS 18001:1999 referential for the certified field - banking activity and support activity.

BCR has also started the project for extending the certification, according to the BSI - OHSAS 18001:1999 referential, for county branches too.

Furthermore, BCR was the first Romanian bank to receive the certification for the Quality Management System (observing the SR EN ISO 9001:2001 provisions), from the prestigious international certification body - Moody International.

BCR is the leading bank in Romania, managing assets in excess of EUR 11 billion. At present, the bank has 456 branches and agencies throughout the country, with outlets in most towns and cities with over 10.000 inhabitants.

Oct 24, 2006

Justice minister approves national security laws

Romanian Justice minister Monica Macovei approved a package of laws on national security on Monday evening but announced they would not be approved by the Government as soon as its Wednesday regular session because they need the approval of the Supreme Defense Council-CSAT first.

She warned on a TV show that the package has not even been sent to CSAT approval yet.

A key provision of the laws is that the Special Telecommunications Service-STS may be passed under the authority of the Interior Ministry, while the Guard and protection Service-SPP will remain a separate body.

HotNews.ro, Oct 24, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Britain to announce restrictions for Romanian, Bulgarian workers

Britain is to announce plans to restrict the access of skilled workers from Romania and Bulgaria on its labor market once the two countries join the European Union on January 1, 2007. The announcement, expected today and due to be made by Home Secretary John Reid, may be followed with a similar move in Ireland, according to the BBC.

A Blair Government official quoted by the British media has said authorities in London try to establish a balance between Britain’s interests and the need not to send a negative message to Romania. And they pay heed to increased domestic discontent towards the still larger Polish community that entered the British market unrestrictedly since Poland joined the EU in 2004.

That comes as the Romanian community in Britain has for its part sent a letter to PM Tony Blair accusing a campaign of denigration against Romanians in British media, which it says is seriously affecting the image of the East European country.

According to various reports in British newspapers on Sunday and Monday, the British plan aims at limiting the access of skilled Romanian and Bulgarian workers while letting in a number of unskilled workers, such as for fruit picking.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Britain unwilling to receive "skilled" Romanian and Bulgarian workers

The British Government has decided to restrict access to the country’s labor market for Romanian and Bulgarian workers once the two countries join the European Union on January 1, 2007, according to The Observer.

The British weekly says London’s Home Secretary John Reid will unveil a plan to limit labour migration from the two countries, giving in to anti-immigration lobbyists in Britain.

The newspaper says the restrictions would apply to skilled personnel such as those applying to work in construction works, but would allow unskilled workers for agricultural activities.

It also reports that the leaders of the Romanian community in Britain have sent a letter to PM Tony Blair accusing a campaign to discriminate Romanians, run by the British media and seriously affecting the image of Romania. The letter also says the number of Romanians who would be interested in finding work in Britain has been exaggerated.

The news comes as a new poll published by the Financial Times on Friday says 76% of British citizens believe there were too many immigrants in their country - the largest figure in a series of countries where the poll was conducted, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Liberal preferred as Romania's future EU commissioner

Liberal MP Varujan Vosganian will most probably become Romania’s future EU Commissioner, governmental sources have told HotNews.ro. The official announcement will be made by EC President Jose Manuel Barroso on October 27 the latest, according to official statements made in Bucharest last week.

With an economics PhD, Vosganian would receive an economic seat in the Commission if approved for the job. That means he may receive the taxation, customs union, financial programming, budget, internal economy or services portfolio.

Before 2000, Vosganian has been a leader of the first post-communist authority in Romania, head of the national minorities parliamentary group, deputy for the Union of Armenians in Romania and Senaor for the Union of Democratic Forces. He’s been a member of the National Liberal Party-PNL since 2003. He currently serves as head of the Budget-Finance commission in the Romanian Senate.

The sources said his name figures on a short list sent by PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu to Barroso these days. The list also includes EU Integration minister Anca Boagiu and Foreign minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Romanian Zoo mourns star elephant

The Bucharest Zoological Garden has announced that one of the oldest elephants on the European continent, Gaya, died in its compound this weekend. Gaya, 48, was brought to Romania from Rostock 34 years ago, when it just turned 14.

The animal’s health deteriorated lately.

The longest lifespan reported for a captive elephant was 52 years. It was recorded at the Sidney Zoological Garden in Australia. It is common for a wild elephant to live as much as 70 years.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Romanian kidnapped in Nigeria returns home

Romanian citizen Emil Neagu, who was kidnapped along with six other people in Nigeria on October 3 and later released this year, returned to Romaniaon Monday. He refused to provide detailed information on the ransom paid for his and his colleagues’ release.

“I spent 19 days there, they used to give me boiled rice for food, i lost some 10 kilograms. I resisted as I only thought of my family”, Neagu told reporters on his arrival. “Negotiations have stagnated for a week and then the kidnappers started beating us”, he said.

He said the kidnapped were chosen at random mostly. “If you’re white and European or American, the price is high”, he said.

Neagu said he would spend some ten days on holiday in Romania and would then return to Nigeria to continue his work.

Neagu along with four Britons, one Malaysian and one Indonesian were kidnapped October 3 near the Exxon Mobile HQ in Eket, Nigeria. The media has speculated the kidnappers set a 40 million USD ransom for their release. Negotiations were carried by local authorities and four US and British companies before their release.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Ex-PM indicted in new fraud case

Romania’s ex-PM Adrian Nastase and his wife faced a new hearing at the National Anti-Corruption Office-DNA on Monday morning in a new case related to a complicated fraud case involving one of his properties in Bucharest.

This time around, Nastase is charged with receiving goods evaluated at some 400,000 euro in what is suspected to be an illegal deal, but which he says is the value of double-glazed windows at the house in Zambaccian Street, Bucharest.

Anti-graft prosecutors demand a new investigation at the property, but Nastase’s agreement is required in this regard.

Nastase told journalists on leaving the hearing today that the new inquiry was futile considering the legality of ownership rights over the property. He said investigators were interested in the value of the building and in a partnership between him and a former Transport and Construction Works Ministry official, Sergiu Sechelariu, according to the NewsIn press agency.

Nastase and his wife Dana spent about one hour at the DNA on Monday. He said throughout the hearing he didn’t see any documents relevant for his case.

Nastase, a Social Democrat who served as prime minister in 2000-2004, is charged with accepting bribes in the Zambaccian case, while his wife is charged with complicity to bribe-taking.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

President, governing alliance lead popular trust

About half of Romanian voters are pleased with President Traian Basescu’s activity and more are trustful or very trustful of him, a new poll shows. The head of state is followed by two Liberal dissidents and a populist businessman politician, the public opinion study published by the INSOMAR on Sunday pollster shows.

It says 52% of Romanians are pleased with Basescu’s activity and 57% of them trust him. The president is followed by his ex-aide Theodor Stolojan (43%), a Liberal dissident recently ousted from the National Liberal Party-PNL, which shares the government with Basescu’s Democratic Party-PD.

Another Liberal, Mona Musca, who has also dismissed from PNL over alleged collaboration with the communist secret police, comes third with 39%.

Next in line are populist businessman-politician Gigi Becali (43%), who owns the Steaua Bucharest football club; Mircea Geoana, head of the main opposition party the PSD, and Emil Boc, the PD president, with 34% each; and PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu, with 27%. 24% of Romanians trust Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the head of the far-right Greater Romania Party-PRM.

If elections took place next week, 46% of Romanians would vote for the D.A. Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, while the PSD would only receive 23% and the PRM 12%.

Romanians have most trust in Church (85%), in the Army (78%) and the mass-media (66%) among the main institutions.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Sweden not to limit access for Romanians on its labor market

Sweden does not plan to restrict the access of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to its domestic labor market once the two Eastern European countries join the EU in January 2007, according to officials in the Stockholm government, quoted by AFP.

“Sweden did not restrict the access of workers from the ten countries that joined the EU in the latest wave in 2005. It will proceed the same this time around too”, according to Roberta Lenius, spokesperson for the Swedish prime-minister.

PM Fredrik Reinfeldt is yet to announce an official decision in this regard, but considering Romania and Bulgaria are even farther from Sweden than those who joined in 2004, there will be no restricting measures, according to the quoted official.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Romania military service officially optional starting today

Military service for Romanian youth loses its compulsory status starting today at noon, when a clock in central Bucharest, counting the time left (AMR) until the Romanian army becomes fully professional stops. The measure to suspend compulsory military service during peacetime is part of a strategy to professionalize the Romanian army capable of facing the current security context in the world.

In October last year, Romania’s Defense minister officially started the clock counting the AMR in central Bucharest. Exactly one year since, the clock stops today.

The Defense Ministry presented in Bucharest on Sunday its offer to people interested in pursuing an army career.

It comes several days before the Romania celebrates the Army Day on October 25, an event marred by the absence of a full Defense minister, after minister Teodor Atanasiu was suspended in a political row this year and his duties were taken over for an interim period by Corneliu Doritoiu.

HotNews.ro, Oct 23, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Barroso to announce European commissioners

The Government’s spokesperson, Oana Marinescu, declared on Friday that the name of the European Commissioner representing Romania will be made public by the European Commission’s president, Jose Barroso.

The prime minister considers that the procedure is justified since the future European commissioner will be more than an ambassador to Brussels, his position being as a minister in an European Government.

Adrian Ciocanea, state secretary in the Integration Ministry, explained for HotNews.ro that the naming of an European commissioner is made according with the candidate’s area of expertise and the available portfolios.

The list of Romanian candidates has seven names: Anca Boagiu, Integration Minister, Monica Macovei, Justice Minister, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, Cristian David, Foreign Minister and delegate minister for foreign financing programs, and state secretaries Leonard Orban, Gyorgy Frunda and Varujan Vosganian.

The European Commission currently employs 25 commissioners, one for each member state.

HotNews.ro, Oct 20, 2006

Romanian hostage in Nigeria released

Romanian Emil Neagu, kidnapped at the beginning of October in Nigeria, was released along with six other foreign citizens who were also held hostage, according to Reuters. All seven citizens are in good health.

The hostages - four British, one Romanian, one Malaysian and one Indonesian - were taken to Port Hartcourt, where the security services will hand them to the companies they work for, the police chief deputy in Akwa Ibom declared.

Oil and diplomacy sources say that a ransom may have been negotiated.

HotNews.ro, Oct 20, 2006

Government accepts Macovei’s version on Security laws

The National Security Laws will be adopted next week with all the changes suggested by the Justice Minister, Monica Macovei, announced the Government’s spokesperson, Oana Marinescu. Minister Monica Macovei will agree with the law drafts only after all changes are operated.

According to the NewsIn news agency, the main objections raised by the Justice Minister were discussed by the ministers involved: Interior Minister Vasile Blaga, Justice Minister Monica Macovei, Secretary General Radu Stroe, as well as the PM’s national security counselors.

“All the matters that were suspended until now are solved”, said Oana Marinescu. One of the modifications to be operates implies for the Interior Ministry to be represented in the future National Intelligence Community.

HotNews.ro, Oct 20, 2006

Brits worried with immigrant workers

More than three quarters of the British citizens consider that UK hosts too many immigrants, a survey conducted by Financial Times shows.

The study reflects the Western worry on the expected wave of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants threatening the local labor market.

The 76 percentage recorded in the UK is significantly larger than in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, the other countries took into account for the survey.

The British Govt. is about to publish during the following days a quota plan for workers coming from Romania and Bulgaria, The Independent reads.

The British Interior Ministry already announced that it would limit the number of work permits for foreign unqualified workers, coming from non-EU countries.

HotNews.ro, Oct 20, 2006

Romanians see Justice, Government and health care as most corrupt

Europeans have different views on the corruption in their countries. While the West European countries don’t see the corruption either normal or usual, in countries like Romania, Bosnia or the Czech Republic see it as a natural component of their lives, a GfK study shows.

Also in the area of personal level bribe, Romania ranks among the first in the region. 59% of the West-Europeans say that the bribe isn’t necessary and patience solves problems. Meanwhile, 61% of Romanians consider the bribe as a natural, day-by-day phenomenon.

While the Government and health care system are seen corrupt by 14% of the West-Europeans, 22% of Romanians point at Justice, 20% at the health care and only 13% at the government and its institutions.

HotNews.ro, Oct 20, 2006

What the newspapers say: October 20, 2006

Friday is not a good day for news. Rather for a bunch of scandals, since nobody would remember anything on Monday.

The former Foreign Minister illegally occupies a villa, a media mogul still hangs on to his compulsive dirty business and, since we all have our compulsions, the convicted fellow who lit the fuse in the case of the possible kidnapping of President Basescu’s daughter is, on his turn, a compulsive liar.

All newspapers jumped to spread the news that president Basescu’s younger daughter was about to be kidnapped in a conspiracy led by Omar Hayssam, the Houdini involved in the kidnapping of three journalists last year.

While some just copy / paste the agency news, others force their luck to get an exclusive interview, only Cotidianul finds that the surprise-witness is a professional crook, a compulsive liar who may very well made up the entire affair.

None of his information was confirmed since last year, when he first mentioned it.

It may have something to do with the owner of Cotidianul, Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, an extremely controversial businessman with a new touch of honorability after he became a media mogul. Still, Evenimentul Zilei tries to prove that old habits never die and Vantu is still up to some embezzlements.

No wonder that Cristina Dumitru, the gorgeous Romanian model that won the Miss Maxim award, would like to settle in the US, as Evenimentul Zilei reads. Maybe she knows that nothing is forever, except old habits.

Meanwhile, we deal with a lot less important stuff here. We need an European Commissioner and, of course, this is a new reason for a fight between Presidency and Government.

President Basescu supports Anca Boagiu, his former right-hand in the Transport Ministry, now Integration Minister, the Prime Minister wants his Liberal Foreign Minister, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, according to Evenimentul Zilei.

As for Romania, nothing changed. Europe demands a tough anti-corruption fighting, we produce a huge and powerful institution - the National Integrity Agency (ANI). Europe says ok and gives a green light for accession, we change the laws and render ANI impotent.

Romania Libera explained in four lines how this is done: instead of controlling the officials’ wealth, the ANI inspectors are now allowed to read the wealth statements. The verifications can take place only during the official mandate, or the crime goes unpunished. Inspectors are no longer granted access to any data they need. Romania rules.

Just as a joke, maybe it would be “cool” to mention that the Economy Minister, Codrut Seres, sworn to destroy the mob on the Energy market, as Gandul reads.
Well, here comes the third year of governing and no one wants to lead a ministry virtually without any activity.

Oct 20, 2006

Plan to kidnap President’s daughter

Omar Hayssam, charged with the kidnapping of three journalists in Iraq, seems to have had bigger plans. A former cell-mate claimed on Thursday that Hayssam’s plan was to kidnap president Basescu’s younger daughter, Elena, in case he wouldn’t obtain his release from prison.

Omar Hayssam disappeared from Romania and was never heard from again as soon as the doctors decided that his health condition was poor enough to give up imprisonment, even though the main accusation was terrorism.

The surprise witness, convicted for embezzlement, says that Hayssam had support from some social-democrat (Opposition) officials.

HotNews.ro, Oct 19, 2006

European parliamentarians demand Romania’s children

Three European parliamentarians in favor of Romania’s reopening the international adoptions process managed to gather 400 signatures from their colleagues and consequently paid a visit to Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, in the attempt to convince him that a foreign country would make a better choice for the kids.

International adoptions were an issue that brought constant European criticism upon Romania. Now, when all is stopped, the European Parliamentarians reconsider the problem.

Their argument - the lower level of minors’ trafficking - isn’t confirmed by any official body. Children from the Balkans are still a source of income for flesh smugglers.

The problem of “international adoptions” changed its name to “European adoptions”. Jean Marie Cavada, Claire Gibault and Francois de Combert, European parliamentarians, claim they have 408 signatures from their fellow parliamentarians, all asking for the international adoptions interdiction to be lifted, at least for Europe.

The figure, if true, would be huge, since the European Parliament has 732 members. The Romanian Government and the Romanian Office for Adoptions (ORA) stand against the European initiative.

“The Government maintains its position. Romania has for the moment 1,450 children that could be adopted and 2,300 adoption demands. In its protection system, France has 1.7% of children institutionalized, while Romania has an acceptable 1.65”, says Teodora Berti, ORA manager.

HotNews.ro, Oct 19, 2006

Romania and the secret CIA flights

There is no new evidence to confirm or clearly deny the illegal CIA flights passing through the Romanian Kogalniceanu or Constanta airports, the Investigation Committee of the European Parliament concluded. Still, it is not impossible for secret CIA operations to take place, without the knowledge of Romanian authorities.

Claudio Fava, European Parliament reporter for the CIA flights matter considers that there are some doubts on the possibility of certain prisoners being transported through the Romanian air space, but there is no clear evidence to prove it.

"Romanian authorities treated the matter in a shallow manner”, Fava said, mentioning that there some flights that should have been more closely investigated by Romanians, such as the Bagram-Bucharest flight on December 6th, 2004, operated by a company employed by the CIA.

All seven passengers were Americans and traveling using business passports. The purpose of the flight remains unknown. The passengers left after two days.

HotNews.ro, Oct 19, 2006

“Clean Parliament Coalition” Expands to Eastern Europe

Over 20 NGOs from the former Yugoslavian space and the Black Sea region participated yesterday in the launching of the “Eastern European Integrity Network”. The non-governmental organizations will act in order to clean up the political class in the Balkans, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.

The initiative is supported with funds offered by the European Parliament and USA. The entire network is inspired by the Romanian “Clean Parliament Coalition”, formed before the 2004 electoral campaign, designed to unveil the communist background and/or the involvement in illegal affairs of the candidates.

In an interview for Hotnews.ro, Alina Mungiu Pippidi, president of the Coalition, talks about the need for a “anti-corruption revolution” in the South-East European space. The first “victims would be Bulgaria and Croatia.

Oct 19, 2006

Prince Charles’ affairs in Romania

Far from the light news and paparazzi approaches, the story of Prince Charles’ affairs in Romania are purely defined by figures and data. It’s a still unwritten story about the European accession and the fears it causes in two small villages.

The “crown jewels” are two small villages near the city of Sighisoara, Viscri and Malancrav, where the “Mihai Eminescu” Foundation, that has Charles as spiritual patron invests in ecological farming and restorations.

In Malancrav, 108 hectares in long term lease produce ecologically pure apple juice. This year, a few freezing days in spring cut down the harvest to a lot less than last years’ 17,000 liters. Starting in 2008, the affair might gain a 30,000 euros aid from the European Union but, for the moment, there’s no profit at all.

A bottle of natural apple juice costs 4.5 RON (1.3 euros), but the price might rise to 6 RON, due to the lack of profit. The 20,000 euros income this year is spent entirely to maintain the farm.

In other villages, the main interest of the Foundation is to upkeep and repair the ruins of 3-4 centuries old buildings and chateaus. Due to their presence, the tourist flow increased to 40 foreign tourists every day, a true blessing for the 12 peasant resorts authorized to offer accommodation. Average price ranges between 10 and 20 euros per day.

The Foundation’s total investments in restoration reached 260.000 dollars and continue with some major projects.

HotNews.ro, Oct 19, 2006

4.5 percent old-timers in intelligence services, President says

President Traian Basescu said on Wednesday that the Romanian Intelligence Service-SRI employs only 4.5% officers that also worked before 1989. “The Intelligence Service was a NATO-compatible structure before the rest of Romania”, Basescu said.

The President says that the populace still perceives SRI as heir of the former political police, Securitate, but this perception is wrong.

“The intelligence services must be always kept under control”, Basescu warned, mentioning that the required transparency would eventually increase the popular trust in the institution, mainly if applied in the financial area.

Traian Basescu also said that the legislation should enable the information services to gather their data, in order to protect citizens, but at the same time the individual rights and freedom must be protected.

HotNews.ro, Oct 18, 2006

EU Foreign ministers happy and worried

The European Union’s Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday have formally endorsed Romania and Bulgaria accession to the European structures on January 1st, 2007. Although they all declared their satisfaction for the fact that the accession was not delayed, there is still room for worries, EUObserver.com reports.

Due to the slow entry preparation, ministers say they now have their lesson for future enlargements, according to the website. Even after the accession, Romania and Bulgaria will be under constant and tough monitoring, so that EU would know the two countries do enough to fight corruption and crime.

If further problems relating to organized crime and corruption prove to damage the rest of the EU, the commission could impose new sanctions such as the non-recognition of court verdicts, for a period up to three years after accession. Food safety and environment are also issues to be kept under close surveillance.

HotNews.ro, Oct 18, 2006

Romania faces labor force crisis due to emigration

Romania begins to face a labor force crisis, a situation that already became critical in Bulgaria. According to statistics, the large numbers of Romanians that left to work abroad left a huge gap on the internal labor market, as the low unemployment rates show.

The construction companies, the textile industry and the personnel recruiting agencies admit that the demand for workers is above the available force.
The solution, as Bulgaria begins to practice already, is to stimulate the return of Romanians working in Spain and Italy, president Basescu admitted.

The Foreign Ministry had no idea, or it pretends it hasn’t, about how many Romanians work in other countries, but estimates indicate some 2 million people.

Most affected and personnel-demanding areas are the light industry, the constructions and the tourism. The National Occupation Agency is demanding at this moment over 10,000 workers.

“Construction workers may earn up to 2 euros per hour in Romania, compared to 20 abroad”, explains Irina Beltermann, manager at the Eurojobs recruiting agency.

HotNews.ro, Oct 18, 2006

Sparkassen Immobilien AG acquires novotel hotel

Sparkassen Immobilien AG acquired the newest four-star hotel in downtown Bucharest, Novotel City Centre Hotel, with a 29.5 million euros investment, the company informed. The seller, Accor Group, will still operate the hotel, due to a long-term rent contract.

Novotel has 258 rooms on 12 floors, with a total surface of 27,500 meters square, a restaurant and a coffee shop, one conference hall, a beauty center, a gym hall and a commercial gallery.

HotNews.ro, Oct 18, 2006

26 percent growth for Romanian telecom market

Romanian phone calls built up to over 10 billion minutes during the first six months of the year alone, said Dan Georgescu, president of the National Telecomm Authority. The user traffic increased 26.6% during the first quarter, year on year.

Romanians also sent over 1 billion short messages and 13 million multimedia messages. 66% of all mobile phone users employ prepaid cards.

In 2005, the GNP increased 4.1% in real terms, while the telecomm market grew 23%, up to over 3 billion euros at the end of 2005.

During the first six months of 2006, the alternative wired telephony reached 15% of the market, representing a 50% growth year over year - 650.000 lines out of a total of 4.4 millions.

HotNews.ro, Oct 18, 2006

Cheaper international calls from Vodafone Romania

Vodafone Romania, one of the major players on the mobile telephony market has cut down the price for international calls, reaching even a quarter of the former fees.
International calls to 27 operators and partner networks for prepaid cards are now 30 cents + VAT per minute, compared to the former 80 cents. Vodafone 2 in 1 clients may call for 22 cents per minute + VAT, four times less than the standard, regardless the calls’ duration, frequency or call time.

HotNews.ro, Oct 18, 2006

2,000 companies at Goods' Fair

The Consumption Goods’ Industry Awards will be offered on Thursday, during an event organized by the “Piata” magazine, in partnership with Metro cash & carry, Quadrant Amroq Beverages, Aldis Calarasi and MEMRB Romania. 20 companies are to be awarded after the vote of 2,000 players on the market.

Awards will be offered in different areas, such as the Best New Product, the Most Efficient Promotion Campaign, the Best Trade Marketing Initiative, the Nest Distribution and the Best Provider.

The participating companies are a representative group for the Romanian retail market. The media partners for the event are the NewsIn news agency, The Money Channel - exclusive TV partner, online news site Hotnews, Radio Total, Cotidianul Radio Romania Actualitati.

HotNews.ro, Oct 18, 2006

Google Just Can't Stop And Aquires JotSpot

After one of the most discussed acquisitions in the web 2.0 era, Google makes another step in acquiring the web and buys JotSpot.

For those who don't know JotSpot is:

a privately held company headquartered in Palo Alto, California, is the first application wiki company. Founded in 2004 by Excite.com co-founders Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer, the company is pioneering do-it-yourself application publishing to enable anyone to create, publish, and share collaborative and personalized wiki applications.
JotSpot’s wiki allows you to create rich web-based spreadsheets, calendars, documents and photo galleries. It’s as easy as using a word processor – you don’t need to know HTML. After the most likely integration with the Google Docs&Spreadsheets and with the Picasa Web Albums, Google is just getting one step away from the old discussed Google Office Online.

Two things to know is that paying customers will no longer be billed on JotSpot and that the new registrations are closed for the moment.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to Hide Blogger Navbar ore Blogger Beta Navbar

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Real smashes Steaua in Bucharest: 1-4

Real Madrid defeated Steaua with an unquestionable 1-4 despite consistent resistance from the Romanian eleven on Bucharest’s Ghencea stadium on Tuesday night. On the third leg of the Champions League Group E matches, Real delivered two quick goals by break and continued with another two in the second half of the game, when Steaua also scored once.

Ramos (9’), Raul (34’), Robinho (56’) and van Nistelroy (76’) argued against home criticism that the team faces a real crisis after a long series of defeats. For Steaua, Badea managed to score the honorable one goal in minute 64.

Still, the Romanian put a good if unspectacular show marked by many occasions to score, with several mistakes from goalkeeper Carlos.

HotNews.ro, Oct 17, 2006

At least nine Romanians wounded in Rome subway

At least nine Romanians were wounded in a major subway crash in Rome on Tuesday. The Romanian Consulate to the Italian Capital stated for HotNews.ro that the nine were all hospitalized in the San Giovanni hospital in the city.

The total number of Romanian citizens wounded in the car crash is yet unknown as checks continue other hospitals where victims of the accident have been sent.

Some 250,000 Romanians live in the Italian capital, according to official figures.

At least one person - an Italian woman - died and 110 people were wounded when two subway trains collided in central Rome on Tuesday morning. The circumstances of the event, in which one train arriving at the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II station crashed into the back of another, are yet to be cleared.

HotNews.ro, Oct 17, 2006

MEPs check CIA prisons allegations

Members of the European Parliament team investigating the alleged existence of CIA prisons in Romania have started a three day visit to Romania which might include a check of the Constanta-based Mihail Kogalniceanu airport, the place where CIA planes are said to have landed.

The European MPs have met the representatives of the special commission of the Romanian Parliament dealing with the case who presented them evidence against the allegations. The MEPs will also meet presidential adviser Sergiu Medar and former and current heads of the Romanian Intelligence Service Radu Timofte and George Maior.

The Romanian MPs reiterated the official position of the Parliament and the Government that there was no evidence of CIA prisons having been set up on the Romanian territory. Their European counterparts refrained from making public statements on the issue.

HotNews.ro, Oct 17, 2006