Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New CEFTA accord signed in Bucharest

The prime ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Hertegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia signed a new Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in Bucharest on Tuesday. The deal replaces the current network of 32 bilateral and free trade accords between SE Europe countries and will contribute to the creation of a free trade area in the region.

Romania and Bulgaria will leave CEFTA when they join the European Union on January 1, 2007.

The creation of a single such agreement is aimed at boosting commercial exchanges and to support countries in the region to prepare more efficiently to cope with rules and competition pressure on the single market, Romanian PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu said on the occasion.

He said the initiative was supported by the European Commission and top EU officials.

For his part, European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, who attended the reunion, said that CEFTA complements stabilization and association accords that the Commission operates or negotiates with Western Balkan countries. For candidate and potential candidate countries CEFTA is a phase of initiation to the tight economic cooperation specific to EU member states, he said.

The deal is the most important multilateral accord in the region as it is the first form of regional economic association since the fall of communism regimes in this part of Europe.

Romania has been a member of CEFTA since 1997.

HotNews.ro, Dec 19, 2006

Parliament adopts 2007 budget

The Romanian Parliament adopted the state budget for 2007 on Tuesday. The budget law was passed with 187 votes in favor and 139 against. MPs also passed the state insurance budget for 2007 with 191 votes against 140 and one abstention.

Most of the Social Democratic (PSD) and Greater Romania Party (PRM) opposition MPs voted against the bills but failed to reject them as the Conservative Party (PC), which left the government several weeks ago, opted to support them.

The vote comes after weeks of stagnation in parliamentary debates on the future budget, which was approved by the government on October 13.

The budget is based on a prospective economic growth of 6.4% next year with an inflation rate of 4.5% and a budget deficit of 2.8%.

HotNews.ro, Dec 19, 2006

16 deputies, 8 senators resign from National Liberal Party

24 parliamentarians who have joined the dissident “Liberal Platform” movement this autumn have announced their resignation from the National Liberal Party-PNL, one of the two major political groups forming the governing coalition. They first planned to resign last week, but opted to postpone the move until the state budget is adopted. The Parliament passed the bill earlier today.

They are 16 deputies and 8 senators who have joined a the “Liberal Platform”, a political initiative turned political movement led by former leaders of the PNL, including former party president Theodor Stolojan. They withdrew or were expelled from PNL over the past several months due to their opposition towards the current leadership of the party, led by PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu.

The new group announced today they would support initiatives of the governing coalition in Parliament.

The mass resignation leaves PNL with a single seat above its coalition partner, the Democratic Party (PD), in the Parliament. The Democrats have been saying they would consider both parties for political cooperation in the legislative.

HotNews.ro, Dec 19, 2006

EU Commissioner warns Romania on justice reform

European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has warned Romania in a BBC interview that the EU would continue to monitor the country’s performance in the reform of Justice, one of the issues where Bucharest risks the activation of a safeguard clause linked to the establishment of a National Agency for Integrity - ANI.

ANI is aimed at monitoring the wealth of elected politicians to prevent possible acts of corruption. But its scope was considerably limited earlier this year when Romanian MPs left the Agency without the means to do more than receive wealth statements from politicians.

Rehn told the BBC that ANI remains a serious issue that will be monitored by EU institutions after Romania joins the Union on January 1, 2007.

The Commissioner was in Bucharest for a trade reunion of Balkan countries. He warned on the occasion that ANI complies with Eu standards in this regard Romania may be excluded from certain areas of judicial cooperation between member states.

HotNews.ro, Dec 19, 2006

Bad weather hits Bucharest

The Romanian capital faced serious traffic problems on Tuesday as bad weather took over the the already overcrowded city in a period when everybody is preparing for Christmas. According to meteorologists, while it is expected to rain today, decreasing temperatures will soon bring non the first snow of the year.

The areas most affected by traffic problems in Bucharest earlier today were the Bucharest-Ploiesti road north of the city, Calea Mosilor, Colentina and Iancului to the east and the Unirii Boulevard and the Magheru Boulevard downtown.

Meteorologists forecast snow falls and low temperatures in South Romania starting later today. It was already snowing in the Predeal resort in Lower Carpathian Mountains, Central Romania, on Tuesday morning.

HotNews.ro, Dec 19, 2006

What the newspapers say: December 19, 2006

President Traian Basescu condemned communism in the name of the Romanian state with a speech in Parliament on Tuesday - and that was just enough to spark unprecedented chaos among legislators, as newspapers report today.

The December 1989 anti-communist revolution is also remembered on many of today’s front pages, along with various reports about the accession of Romania in the EU on January 1, 2007.

Basescu kept his word and stood before MPs until he finished his statement condemning communism yesterday afternoon, Cotidianul writes.

But it was not an easy task as hell was unleashed with MPs from the far-right Greater Romania Party-PRM booing the President permanently and insulting members of the presidential commission that put up a report on the crimes of the communist regime.

The commission published its report officially yesterday to coincide with the 17th anniversary of the anti-communist revolution in Romania.

The 200 PRM agitators brought by PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor - himself named and blamed in the report for his role under the Ceausescu regime - made sure to turn December 18 into a “black day for the Romanian Parliament”, as Romania Libera puts it.

And it is complemented by Jurnalul National, according to which “born from violence, communism ends in violence”.

Evenimentul Zilei publishes a list of 21 crimes specific to the communist regime, from abandoning the national interests in favor of the Soviets to the repression of any form of opposition.

They’re all in the report published yesterday, along with names of the people that made communism work, some of them still on the political stage of Romania today

And it also writes that high-profile anti-communists such as Lech Walesa from Poland and Jelio Jelev from Bulgaria assisted at the chaos produced by President Basescu in Parliament yesterday - a situation which, according to Jelev, was “normal”.

Gandul publishes an opinion poll according to which 53% of Romanians believe communism was a good idea with 12% of them considering it was well administered and 41% that it was badly managed. Only 34% of Romanians see communism as a bad idea, according to the poll.

The same Evenimentul Zilei remembers the events taking place 17 years ago in Timisoara, where the revolution started. It quotes a history professor who, at the time, was part of a platoon that was ordered to smash the upheaval of the Timisoara people.

And he says late general Victor Atanasie Stanculescu, who would be part of the first post-communist power structures in Bucharest, was one of those who ordered soldiers to fire at protesters.

And Jurnalul National tells the story of the three soldiers who executed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena on Christmas Day 1989, the peak of the revolution. Whan has become a cab driver, one turned to masonry and the third opted for retirement not long ago.

Meanwhile, Gandul turns its eyes on the EU accession and quotes a Reuters report according to which Romania and Bulgaria, the two countries due to join the Union on January 1, 2007, face difficulties in absorbing European funds because of their domestic political struggles and corruption.

But in a separate report Gandul shows how National Bank governor Mugur Isarescu knows how to move and is planning to develop wine production at a farm he owns, with use of European funds.

And Isarescu seems to know something: Cotidianul quotes European Commissioner for Agriculture Marianne Fischer Boel who says in an interview for the Romanian news agency Rompres that Romania’s wine, cheese and organic products may have real success on the European market.

HotNews.ro, Dec 19, 2006

Romanian President defies scandal in condemning communist regime "explicitly and categorically"

A joint session of the two chambers of the Romanian Parliament in which President Traian Basescu presented a report condemning communism for the first time in CE European history was marred by unprecedented protests among some parliamentarians that prompted security officers to intervine to calm down demonstrators.

Traian Basescu appeared before the Parliament to present a report put up by a presidential commission of historians and experts that studied the effects of the 45-year communist regime on Romania and its people. The report found communism as an “illegitimate and criminal regime”.

The report names and blames communist-era officials who supported a regime that affected the interests, rights and security of its people. Among those names one can find many of today’s politicians, including ex-President Ion Iliescu and far-right leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor.

That prompted charges that the report was based on biased historical investigations.

Basescu accompanied the presentation with a statement that said “as head of the Romanian state, I explicitly and categorically condemn the communist system of Romania” in the second half of the 1900s.

The statement showed the communist regime in Romania was based on a “foreign diktat” in the years of 1944-1947 and could only last until its collapse in December 1989.

In a position unprecedented in former communist states of the ex-Soviet bloc, Basescu said he fully supported the findings of the commission condemning communism as the regime was based on a “fanatical ideology, an systematic hate-fueling ideology for which class fight and the dictatorship of workers symbolized the essence of historical progress”.

And he asked the joint chambers of the Parliament to support the statement condemning the crimes of the communist regime, of regret and compassion towards its victims. And he called for the building of a monument dedicated to victims of communism and the establishment of a Communist Dictatorship Museum in Romania.

He also hailed anti-communist dissidents who rose their voice against late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, including intellectuals like Paul Goma, Mircea Dinescu or Radu Filipescu, but also Liviu Babes, a man who in early 1989 put himself on fire in protest of the communist regime.

But his statements were marred by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the far-right Greater Romania Party-PRM, and his party colleagues who booed the President throughout his speech.

CV Tudor, who was a “court poet” for the Ceausescu family under the communist regime and ran a daily newspaper seen as the mouth of the Securitate, Ceausescu’s dreaded political police, also carried a banner depicting Basescu behind bars and reading “the Prison of the Mafia”.

While not as violent in their behavior as the PRM parliamentarians, representatives of the Social Democratic Party-PSD, the main opposition group in Romania, also dismissed the report as futile and lacking credibility.

According to PSD president Mircea Geoana the document - known as the Tismaneanu Report after the name of Vladimir Tismaneanu, the head of the presidential commission - was presented at a time when Romania did not need such fuss as a country about to join the European Union.

"The wounds of the past have been re-opened," Geoana added.

HotNews.ro, Dec 18, 2006

Sweden and Finland not to apply restrictions to Romanian workers

Authorities in Sweden and Finland announced officially on Monday that they would not apply restrictions to Romanian and Bulgarian workers once the two Eastern European countries join the European Union on January 1, 2007, AFP reports.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Justice Ministry said the decision took into consideration the “beneficial consequences” of the EU enlargement.

Sweden was one of the countries opening their doors for workers coming from the ten CEE states that joined the EU in 2004.

Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Greece and Spain have so far announced restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens starting January 1.

But Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Portugal and Netherlands are yet to clear up their position on the degree of access for Romanians and Bulgarians to their markets.

HotNews.ro, Dec 18, 2006

New CEFTA accord to be signed in Bucharest on Tuesday

A new free trade accord for South East Europe that results from the updating of the CEFTA accord and the withdrawal of Romania and Bulgaria from the regional network of bilateral accords once the two countries join the EU will be signed in Bucharest on Tuesday.

The accord brings together signatories from Western Balkans and the Moldovan Republic and will replace the existing network of 32 bilateral and free-trade accords between countries in the region.

Besides provisions and general terms related to the agricultural and industrial goods trade, CEFTA-2006 includes a series of new provisions related to the trade with services, public procurement, technical obstacles to trade, protection of intellectual property rights, promotion of investments, competition and state assistance, and regulation of disputes.

CEFTA-2006 will come into force on May 1, 2007 as long as the signatories will submit the ratification instruments, accepted or approved, by March 31.

Romania has been a member of CEFTA since 1997. The group also includes Bulgaria, Croatia and Macedonia.

The total volume of Romania’s exports to Bulgaria, Croatia and Macedonia reported in the first ten months of the year grew by some 80 million euro, compared to the same period last year. Imports rose by 60 billion euro.

HotNews.ro, Dec 18, 2006

Subway train derailed in Bucharest

A subway train derailed near the Distor 2 subway station in Bucharest on Monday morning. No victims were reported as all 150 commuters were evacuated safely to the station several hundred meters away from the scene of the accident.

The subway police was sent to investigate the situation while a technical commission is due to identify the causes of the accident.

“Nothing sensational - it’s just a technical malfunction. But yes, the subway train schedule was affected”, Gabriel Sburlan, deputy manager of Metrorex, the company managing the subways system, told the Realitatea TV news channel.

HotNews.ro, Dec 18, 2006

In the EU "5-star restaurant", Romania "must order as much as it can pay"

“Once in the club, one risks despise if it fails to stand up to demands. In this five-star restaurant, one must order as much as he can pay, that is essential”, says Romanian President Traian basescu in an interview for the “euRopeanul”. And he warns that Romania joins the Union at a time when pessimism is the dominant feature among Europeans.

He says in the interview that Romania “is bothered that some countries, especially Britain, have applied more restrictive terms on Romania than on the ten countries that joined in 2004”. But the bitterness was partially removed when authorities in Paris decided to allow considerably more Romanian citizens to work in France, he says.

He warns that Romanian employers should improve salaries if they wanted to have access to workers as many have already left to work abroad. Still, he believes salaries in Romania as compared to the EU are attractive in certain fields, such as IT.

Traian Basescu says that once a member of the EU Romania must pay full attention to maintain its macroeconomic stability. That means the people cannot expect 30-50% higher salaries just because the country joins the EU, as salaries cannot exceed a pace of growth of 10-11% with a maximum of 14%.

And Romania still needs consistent reform in administration, education, health and agriculture if it wanted to remain stable and not return to higher inflation and huge budget deficits, he says. In his opinion, these are fields of activity where the situation has hardly improved since 1989 as centralization is still in place and the local communities has little to say about it.

When it comes to Romania’s position regarding the energy relationship between the EU and Russia, Basescu says EU member states must appeal to a common energy policy as there are fundamental elements to be considered - the predictibility of energy supplies, an inter-dependency between supplier and consumers, price transparency and the security of transport infrastructures.

And he says Romania will not abandon its strategic partnership with the United States even as a member of the EU as the country will continue to support strong trans-Atlantic relations.

euRopeanul, Dec 18, 2006

Moldovan Republic wheels towards Russia again

Relations between Russia and the Moldovan Republic are warming slowly but steadily as tensions are on the rise between the former Soviet state and Romania.

The two neighboring countries have been facing new troubles after a reputed Romanian actor said in an interview for a Chisinau-based newspaper that “historically speaking, Moldova was always part of Romania and sooner or later it will return to its motherland”.

When the interview was published, Moldovan authorities contacted their Romanian counterparts to demand explanations, accusing Romania of interfering with its neighbor’s political affairs.

Under constant economic and political pressure from Russia and continuously falling to Ukraine’s unpredictable tricks, Moldova has to face an intense disinterest from the European Union and the reluctance of the US to get involved in the disputes with Transdniestr, the separatist region west of the former Soviet Republic.

And Bucharest’s dual policy towards the communist authorities in Chisinau have provided little results over the past couple of years.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin reacted promptly when his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu said earlier this year that “a single people lives in the two countries”. Voronin did not hide his irritation about Romania’s role as “an attorney” for Moldova in the European Union.

Political relations deteriorated further when Voronin refused an invitation to attend the summit of the French-speaking world, Le Sommet de la Francophonie”, hosted by Bucharest in September. And it all peaked in December when Romanian actor Ion Caramitru, who heads a major theater venue in Bucharest, made the statements about Romania as a “motherland”.

Meanwhile, authorities in Chisinau have been suggesting a stronger interest to improve links with Russia. The Novaya Izvestia newspaper recently quoted Muldovan PM Vasile Tarlev who said his country “does not want bilateral relations to stagnate. As far as we’re concerned, we’re ready to negotiate with Russia anywhere, even on the Moon”.

Russia has been providing more credit to Moldovans at a time when it threatened to boycott meat imports from the EU because of the lack of food safety in Romania and Bulgaria, two countries that will join the EU next year. Moscow has decided to lift a similar embargo applied to wine and meat imports fom Moldova.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin announced further ways of trade relations between the two countries at a CSI summit in Minsk, Belarus.

But a majority of the Moldovan population believe Romania may help the Moldovan Republic more in terms of economy. Lured by the European mirage, some 400,000 Moldovan citizens (10% of the population) have applied or plan to apply for Romanian citizenship as Romania joins the EU on January 1, 2007.

And a study by CIVIS, a Chisinau-based social analysis group, shows some 40% of Moldovans believe authorities in Chisinau should unconditionally accept Romania’s offers to support Moldova in the EU.

HotNews.ro, Dec 18, 2006

Romania celebrates 17 years since anti-communist revolution

Romania marks 17 years since its anti-communist revolution these days with a series of events that started in Timisoara - where hell was unleashed on December 16, 1989 - yesterday and would continue throughout the country. A march was organized in Bucharet in the memory of Revolution heroes as well.

A symbolic “flame of the Revolution” was lit at the balcony of the Romanian Opera on Saturday and would stay lit until December 22, the peak of violent events 17 years ago.

December 17, 1989 was the most terrible day in the history of Timisoara, the Western Romania city where the revolution started. That day, anti-communist protesters entered the county committee HQ and three party documents and symbols out of the windows. They tried to put the building on fire but were stopped by military units.

Soldiers followed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s orders and fired at protesters across much of downtown Timisoara, prompting unheavals in Bucharest and other major cities across the country.

HotNews.ro, Dec 18, 2006

Leonard Orban: "Stop fighting, start building post-accession strategies"

The European Commissioner for Multilingualism, Romanian Leonard Orban, drew the attention of politicians in Bucharest that they should mainly focus on the post-accession strategies, rather than continuing the interior political quarrels. Orban says that the main emergency for the moment is to create "a management system for European businesses".

"There are some essential elements that need to be decided on and, unfortunately, I see that the debate on European issues is rather inexistent. We're all so preoccupied with what's going to happen in Romania after the accession that we fail to see the historic momentum and its value" said Orban.

"We need to realize that important decisions will be taken in Brussels and other European capitals after January 1st, decisions that regard Romania in an important manner", Orban added.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Spain may lift restrictions for Romanian workers in 2008

Spanish authorities intend to allow Romanian workers to access the labor market in the first two years after Romania's accession to the EU. Restrictions could be lifted after an evaluation conducted at the end of 2007, the Romanian National Radio Announced.

The subject was discussed on Saturday in the Romanian govt., where PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu met the Spanish Interior and Labor & Social Affairs Ministers.

The Spanish interior minister underlined the fact that authorities in Madrid wanted to consult Romanian officials before taking any decision, given "the special relationship between the two countries".

The solution found by Spanish authorities was to allow Romanian to work using a work permit and a labor visa.

Spanish officials also emphasized on the fact that these conditions are better by far, compared to the conditions imposed to the countries joining EU in 2004.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 200

Bulgaria risks safeguarding clause activation

The European Commission may decide to issue an official document imposing a safeguarding clause for Bulgaria, according to the Novinite.com news website. The final decision is due on December 20, referring to the 37th article in Bulgaria's Accession Treaty.

It would be the second safeguarding clause activated for Bulgaria.
The effect would take shape in limiting the access of Bulgarian air lines in European airports, given the flawed security conditions.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Defense Ministry builds anti-corruption structure

Defense Minister Sorin Frunzaverde announced in a press conference on Sunday that the institution he leads is about to create an interior anti corruption structure, operative after January 1st.

The Fraud Investigation Service in the Defense Ministry will assess the institutional risks and vulnerabilities.

Created following a British model, the new structure will be run by a military judge subordinated to the National Anti Corruption Prosecution Office (DNA).

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Dinamo meets Benfica Lisbon, Steaua against FC Seville

Steaua returns to Seville, the city where the team won the Champions' Cup in 1986, to play against FC Seville, currently holding the UEFA Cup and the European Supercup. Dinamo faces again the team that eliminated the Romanian champions seven years ago.

FC Seville is now the second best in the Spanish championship, with two points less than Barcelona. "As it happened in the Champions League, the fate offered us the worst possible games. We'll play our chance", says Steaua coach Cosmin Olaroiu.

The full program of the games in the last 32:

Zulte Waregem (BEL) - Newcastle United
Braga (POR) - Parma
Lens - Panathinaikos Athens
Bayer Leverkusen - Blackburn Rovers
Hapoel Tel Aviv - Glasgow Rangers
Livorno - Espanol Barcelona
Feyenoord Rotterdam - Tottenham Hotspur
Fenerbahce Istanbul - Alkmaar
Werder Bremen - Ajax Amsterdam
Spartak Moscow - Celta Vigo
TSKA Moscow - Maccabi Haifa
AEK Athens - Paris Saint Germain
Benfica Lisbon - DINAMO Bucharest
STEAUA Bucharest - FC Seville
Bordeaux - Osasuna
Shahtior Donetk - Nancy

The winner in the Steaua vs. Seville would meet in the last 16 the winner in Shahtior Donetk vs. Nancy.

The winner in the Dinamo / Benfica match will face the winner of the AEK Athens / Paris Saint Germain game.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Romanians blocked in Spanish Airports

Several hundreds of Romanians working in Spain who wanted to return to Romania for the holidays are currently stuck in airports, after the Air Madrid flight company lost its license and had to suspend its flights. Thousands more travelers are in the same situation.

According to the Antena 3 TV station, the company representatives in Romania confirmed that solutions are being sought, so that the passengers in Bucharest and Madrid could fly with other companies.

Two Air Madrid flights were scheduled to leave the Romanian Henri Coanda airport on Saturday. 300,000 more tickets are already sold for the Air Madrid flights schedules until February 2007. The Spanish Transport Ministry announced it would spend some 5 million euros to help the affected passengers.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Romanian EC forms cabinet

The European Commissioner for Multilingualism, Romanian representative in the EC, Leonard Orban, named on Friday a French, a German and two Romanians in the seats of the cabinet he would run, the NewsIn news agency informs. The Orban cabinet complete formula will be announced on Sunday, in an official press conference.

Leonard Orban named as chief of cabinet the French public servant Patricia Brunel, currently manager in the European Commission’s Secretary General’s Office.

The number two in the cabinet is a German public servant, Johan Richter, currently employed by the European Parliament. Spokesman for the Orban cabinet is the Italian Pietro Petruci, who took the same seat as a provisory situation, during the discussions on Orban’s acceptance.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Parliamentarians reject "One laptop per child" program

Deputies returned to the Education Commission the law draft for Romania joining the worldwide program "One laptop per child" (OLPC). The document was already rejected by the Senate, but was approved by the Education Commission in the House of Deputies.

OLCP aims at selling special laptops for young students. In the Romanian version, the program was expanded to cover the teachers' needs as well.

Ioan Ghise, promoter of the program, says that there is no political will to develop the program. Ignorance is not a bless in this case: "A minister promised to support Intel and Microsoft in this initiative, when the subject of the program was laptops with AMD processors and Linux operating system", Ghise added.

The choice of the offering is also an issue, with at least two other industry players offering products similar to the 100 $ laptop.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Cheaper natural gas in January

The domestic consumption of natural gas will cost 2.5% less starting in January, after the tax on interior production was eliminated. The price for Imported natural gas will also decrease some 12 US$ for 1,000 cubic meters. In addition, the Romanian currency, Leu (RON), has a positive evolution, contributing to the price decrease, the National Natural Gas Regulation Agency informs.

The current price for natural gas , for domestic users with a 2,400 cubic meters/year consumption, is 881.75 RON/1000 cubic meters, when bought from SC Distrigaz Sud SA Bucuresti, and 874.52 RON/1000 cubic meters if provided by EON GAZ Romania. Prices don't include excises and VAT.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Newcomers' party in Brussels

Romania's and Bulgaria's accession to the European Union was celebrated on Thursday in Brussels, with officials symbolically adding two pieces of gingerbread shaped as the two countries to the gingerbread cake shaped as the EU map before January 1st, 2007.

President Basescu and PM Tariceanu had nothing to discuss backstage, but acted as best friends on stage, as usual. The party yesterday was a first event in three months dedicated to the new enlargement wave.

People participating in the events are to be photographed in order to build the longest human chain ever, in an unprecedented initiative coming from MTV.

The happy event on Thursday was a sad moment for South-Balkan countries and for Turkey, given the accelerated anti-enlargement movement in Europe.

HotNews.ro, Dec 15, 2006

Munaf files against Romania in UN Human Rights Committee

Mohammad Munaf - the Romanian / Iraqi / US citizen involved in the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists - had his lawyers filing a complaint against Romania at the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee. The lawyers claim that Romania broke Munaf’s rights in refusing to offer him diplomatic assistance. Munaf was sentenced to death by hanging two months ago.

The purpose of the action is to determine Bucharest authorities to demand that Munaf’s sentence is commuted from death to life in jail.

Romania did nothing in the case, although the Romanian embassy in Baghdad could have prevented the transfer into American custody after Munaf’s release along with the hostages, the document reads (Munaf posed as a hostage as the rest of the group).

HotNews.ro, Dec 14, 2006

International press sees National Bank of Greece as favorite in CEC privatization

The National Bank of Greece (NBG) is widely considered as a favorite in the latest privatization process initiated by the Romanian state for the popular bank CEC. Forbes reads that the improved offering of NBG for 69.9% of the CEC shares would win in front of the OTP offer.

Hungarian media also informs that OPT representatives don’t have too much hope for taking over CEC.

As HotNews.ro announced a month ago, the OTP deputy manager had already declared that OTP « wasn’t expecting a reasonable price demand from the Romanian authorities ».

As a result of the information and rumors during the past days, the NBG shares grew 1.1% on the New York Stock Exchange.

HotNews.ro, Dec 14, 2006

Deputy judged for embezzlement

The prosecutors in the High Court of Justice and Causation sent to court the independent deputy Nati Meir. Member in the Human Rights Commission in the House of Deputies, Meir is accused of embezzlement and tax evasion in the case of Romanian workers looking for contracts in Israel.

The estimated damage is 300 million ROL, meaning some 11,000 dollars, found in the misrepresentation in accounting documents of some labor contracts.

According to investigators, the file was opened a year ago, following several complaints from persons affected by Meir’s activities.

HotNews.ro, Dec 14, 2006

Gazprom takes over Sakhalin 2

The Russian gas giant Gazprom will take over the Sakhalin-2 project, after the British-Dutch accepted to sell the majority of shares in the gas extraction company to the Russians.

The Shell decision came after a series of pressures from the Russian authorities that spread over few months, the Mosnews press agency informs.

The Gazprom president, Dimitri Medvedev, said on Tuesday that the company intends to buy some 50% of the shares in the Sakhalin Project, owned by Shell, but the cost remains a problem.

Medvedev’s statement comes shortly after the Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, and the Gazprom executive manager, Alexey Miller, signed an agreement saying that Shell will hold at least 25% of the Sakhalin-2 project.

According to Kommersant, Sakhalin-2 is currently the largest project in liquid gas. Analysts find it quite controversial, since its initial investment reaches 22 billion dollars.

The project aims at extracting from two giant deposits some 150 million tons of oil and 500 billion cubic meters of gas

The project officially has as shareholders Royal Dutch Shell (55%), Mitsui (25%) and Mitsubishi (20%). After signing with Gazprom, Shell shares will represent 25%, while the Japanese companies will hold 10% each.

HotNews.ro, Dec 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

WB Report: Emergent countries will serve as engine for economic growth

Optimism and caution: these are the key words in the annual report issued by the World Bank, regarding the development perspectives for 2007, published on Wednesday.
The emergent markets, with an economic growth estimated at 7% in 2006 and stable over 6% for the following two years, are seen as an important engine for the world economy.

The report underlines the economic globalization advantages, but also draws the attention towards two perils: social inequity growth and increased pollution.

According to the report, coordinated by Richard Newfarmer, an economic consultant within the Commerce Department in WB, the globalization would lead to the economic performance growth for the future 25 years, with a key role played by developing countries.

The basic scenario indicates a growth of the world economy from 35,000 billion dollars in 2005 to 72,000 billion dollars in 2030. Extreme poverty would decrease, while developing countries will provide 65% of the goods imported by developed countries (compared to the current 40%).

HotNews.ro, Dec 13, 2006

Smeeianu, back in seat

Ion Smeeianu, former president on the National Authority for Communication Regulations (ANRC), won the lawsuit against PM Tariceanu for abusive quietus and will be reinstalled as president of the institution. As a first result, the ordinance allowing Orange and Vodafone to postpone one year the interconnection fee decrease may be soon annulled.

The sentence of the High Court of Justice and Causation states that Smeeianu must take back his position as ANRC president in less than 30 days after the sentence is pronounced (November 30).
Therefore, most lawyers believe that the postponing ordinance may be easily attacked, being signed on December 12, when the interim president, Dan Georgescu, was already aware that he will not remain in seat for long.

Smeeianu declared for HotNews.ro that he intends to re-evaluate the system that led to the conclusion that inter-connection fees may remain unchanged until January 1st, 2008. “I told Georgescu his decisions null and void, but he didn’t listen. I shall re-evaluate all his decisions”.

Smeeianu lost his position as ANRC president in 2005, but the Justice decided that the governmental decision was abusive.

Dan Georgescu’s decision to allow the two telecomm giants to maintain their interconnection fees one more year stirred massive discontent among the other players on the market, namely Romtelecom, Cosmote and Telemobil (ZAPP operator).

HotNews.ro, Dec 13, 2006

What the newspapers say: December 13, 2006

Good news is bad news in Romania, or at least that’s how it looks. Strong currency, lots of cash entering the country, huge funds, low inflation should all be good signs for a strong economy. Well, it seems things are far from being healthy and the best sign is the Health Ministry, where money won’t be spent because of a recent Parliamentarian embargo on some funds.

The Romanian currency, Leu (RON), may end the year as the most rewarding investment, according to Bloomberg. RON was in top on Monday but fell to the second place on Tuesday. A foreign investor who would have deposited 1,000 dollars in a Romanian bank in 2004 would withdraw some 1,500 today, Evenimentul Zilei reads.

“The Little Sicily in Baneasa” is the title of an excellent piece of investigative journalism published in the same newspaper. Two reporters found a piece of luxury terrain in the Northern Bucharest, bought after a series of commercial “engineering” by some controversial Italian investors, one of them member of the feared Sacra Corona Unita.
The piece of land now works in favor of a small, but powerful group that includes football boss Mitica Dragomir (aka Corleone), Elena Stolojan, a former tourism boss investigated for corruption, as well as former foreign intelligence officers (Evenimentul Zilei).

Russia finally decided to punish Romania for joining the EU: Romanian pork meat is banned. “We demand each EU country to guarantee they would not re-export Romanian or Bulgarian meat to Russia”, said Serghe Dankvert, the Russian Agriculture Minister, according to Romania Libera.

Still, the road to EU has no U-turns. Romanian commissioner Leonard Orban was accepted yesterday by the European Parliamentarians, along with the Bulgarian candidate, Meglena Kuneva, with a huge majority, Romania Libera reads.

In Bucharest, at the same time, the former candidate for the commissioner seat, Varujan Vosganian, was accepted by the Parliament as Economy Minister, with 288 votes for and 66 against, Gandul informs.

Meanwhile, president Basescu was visiting the Cernavoda nuclear plant, where the second reactor is scheduled to come into use in some 8 months. For the next two reactors, Basescu counts on private investments, since “the State has a lot to spend on”, Gandul reads.

The bad news came from the constructions field: new constructions will be more and more expensive, in order to increase the workers’ wages. With millions working abroad, construction workers have no reason to stay in Romania and earn next to nothing.

A growth of at least 10% in the final price of new constructions is expected in 2007, according to Gandul.

Well, working abroad seems to be worth even on the black market: illegal Romanian workers sent home some 3 billion euros during the first 9 months of the year, causing the inflation to drop to a historical minimum of 4.67%, Adevarul shows.

We have the cash, we have the needs, we can’t spend the cash on needs. That is, in short, the latest update about an incipient scandal.

Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu won’t be allowed to spend the money he raised through the “vice tax” on cigarettes and alcohol, unless he convinces parliamentarians that the destination is fair, Adevarul found out.

Romanians don’t get scared easily. Nothing to buy in Romania? We’ll go abroad! The foreigners that decided to spend their holidays in Romania were 2.8% more numerous than in 2005, while Romanians leaving to other countries to relax demanded 70% more seats in 2006, according to Cotidianul, which also estimates a 20% growth in 2007.

HotNews.ro, Dec 13, 2006

Hungarian labor market partially opened for Romanians, Bulgarians

Hungary will gradually open its labor market for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens after their countries join the European Union on January 1, 2007.

Budapest authorities decided that the number of professions for which applicants from the two new member states may automatically receive working permits would be limited to 130-140 for the first two years since accession, according to Hungarian news agency MTI.

Hungarian PM Ferenc Gyurcsany said the list of professional categories will be established by a governmental order that would then be reviewed every six months.

The decision was announces at a reunion of representatives of the Hungarian Parliament, trade unions and employers aimed at setting the necessary measures related to the access of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in Hungary after January 1.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

"It's professionalism that matters for an European Commissioner, not the country of origin"

The hearings Romania’s future representative in the European Commissioner had to face in the European Parliament were difficult despite allegations that his portfolio - Multilingualism - was rather “light” or “second hand”, Leonard Orban told Romanian website EurActiv.ro minutes after his nomination received the EP approval today.

The EP vote sealed Orban’s entrance in the EC as Commissioner for Multilingualism starting January 1, 2007, when Romania will join the EU.

He told EurActiv.ro that professionalism is what counts most for a commissioner, and the capacity to meet the job description.

And he dismissed claims shared by some MEPs according to which multilingualism was insignificant to have an entire portfolio in the EC. He said the issue of multilingualism proved its sensitiveness during his EP hearing, where he was not tackled with as a representative of Romania, but as one who has to answer the elected representatives of European citizens.

Leonard Orban said he has yet to decided whether to join a political party and that he would make such a decision after spending a period as an independent observer to the works of a political group. He did not mention what group that would be.

Euractiv.ro, Dec 12, 2006

EP OKs Romanian nominee as European Commissioner for Multilingualism

The European Parliament approved the Romanian nominee for the position of European Commissioner for Multilingualism with a large majority on Tuesday. Leonard Orban passed the EP vote with 595 votes in favourt, 16 against and 29 abstentions.

Bulgarian nominee Meglena Kuneva was also approved to take over the seat of European Commissioner for consumer protection today, three weeks before the two countries join the European Union.

The heads of the political groups in the EP have expressed their appreciation of Orban and said they would support him in his new position despite many have argued that the multilingualism was too small an issue to have its own portfolio in the Commission.

Orban will officially become Commissioner for Multilingualism in January, when he will be sworn in at a ceremony at the European Court of Justice.

He told Romanian news agency NewsIn that once the EP vote over he would begin forming his cabinet, due to be completed by the end of this week.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

Romanian candidate for European body defies speculation before MEPs

European parliamentarians approved on Tuesday afternoon the nomination of Ovidiu Ispir to represent Romania at the European Court of Auditors. Many analysts have predicted Ispir’s nomination might fail in the EP vote as the European Popular Party MPs said they would not support him politically or morally because of the financial scandals he’s been involved in.

Supported by Dan Drosu Saguna, the head of Romania’s Court of Accounts, Ispir already passed a vote in the budget control commission of the European Parliament. But that success may not repeat today as the EPP, the largest group in the Parliament, has said he not only failed to prove his competence for the new job, but was also involved in scandals back home.

The most recent one occurred this summer when Ispir as a counsellor for the Romanian Court of Accounts was accused of improperly coordinating checks at Eximbank when the financial company was headed by the wife of Cristian Diaconescu, spokesperson for the main opposition party in Romania, the Social Democrats.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

Three cable companies fined 7.5 mln euro for cartel behavior

The Competition Council has finalized investigations on the Romanian cable market and applied fines amounting to 25,944,809 RON (some 7.5 million euro) to four companies charged with cartel behaviour. The four companies are UPC Romania, RCS&RDS, Astral Telecom and Cablevision of Romania.

The Council found that in 2001 UPC Romania concluded a deal with HI-FI QUADRAL to divide the cable market in the western city of Timisoara. That was found as a move to undermine competition and thus UPC was fined 7,258,984 RON, while RCS&RDS as rightful successor to HI-FI with 807,272 RON.

The Council also found that Astral Telecom - which was acquired by UPC in a merger deal that concluded this autumn - and Cablevision of Romania have committed an abuse of dominant position in Bucharest where they applied unjustifiably boosted tariffs.

In this case, UPC as successor for Astral was applied a fine of 17,605,784 RON, while Cablevision with 273,766 RON.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

President revokes resigning ministers

Romanian President Traian Basescu followed judicial procedures on Tuesday and signed the documents revoking two ministers who had announced their resignation from the government after their Conservative Party decided to withdraw from the coalition in power.

The two are Codrut Seres, who served as Economy minister, and Bogdan Pascu, who served as deputy prime minister. Once the President signed the documents revoking them, Seres is no longer the subject of inquiry for a special presidential commission formed recently to overview a criminal investigation on Seres and another member of the government, Communication minister Zsolt Nagy.

The investigation was related to allegations that the two contributed to an organized crime ring profiting from the privatization of Romanian energy companies.

President Basescu made the announcement as Liberal Varujan Vosganian took over the Economy Ministry portfolio today.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

Erste Bank takes over new stake in Romanian Commercial Bank

Erste Bank, the majority shareholder of the Romanian Commercial Bank (BCR), took over another 7.2% stake in the Romanian group that have so far belonged to BCR employees. Erste Bank’s stake thus rises to 69.11%, an Erste press release says.

Of a total of 64,497,500 shares held by BCR employees (8% of the total), 57,313,356 shares (7.2% of the total) were sold or changed as Erste’s offer to take over the package was accepted.

About a third of the transacted shares were sold for 6.5 euro per share, totaling some 130 million euro. The other two thirds were replaced with Erste Bank shares at an exchange rate of six to one. Thus, Erste will issue 6,287,236 new shares with a capital increase accounting for 2% of the share capital of the bank.

Some 12,197 of the 13,000 BCR employees agreed to the Erste offer in November.

The BCR privatization was the most important such process in Central and Eastern Europe. Erste Bank paid 3,75 billion euro for 61.88% of BCR last year. The Austrian bank effectively took control of BCR in autumn 2006.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

Mobile phone cost cuts postponed by one year

The National Regulatory Authority for Communications (ANRC) has confirmed public fears when it decided this week to postpone by an year a decision to apply the second phase of cost cuts for interconnecting tariffs with the Orange and Vodafone networks in Romania.

Mobile owners will thus have another year to pay more for calls in other networks, despite complaints in this regard by many competitors.

Competing networks have been threatening to take ANRC to court for damages of many million euro in case of such a decision as Romanians are paying among the highest tariffs in Europe for mobile telephony services.

ANRC had decided to cut the tariffs yearly until 2009 in July 2006, but was taken to court by Orange and Vodafone, which thus forced the Authority to reconsider its move.

But now Romtelecom alone has threaten with damage claims amounting to 12 million euro to suspend the postponement decision. Romtelecom is the main wired telephony operator in Romania. The position of two other mobile companies, Cosmote and ZAPP, was expected on Tuesday.

Cosmote si ZAPP au aununtat ca isi vor preciza in cursul zilei de marti punctul de vedere referitor la decizia ANRC.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

Syngenta starts testing of GM corn crops in Romania

Syngenta Agro SRL is the first company to test genetically modified corn in Romania. The moves comes as the Romanian authorities have decided to ban GM soy crops because the “problem” was not managed properly in the country at a time when the European Union is pushing to stop such crops.

The Environment Ministry authorized the testing of GM corn in May this year. The authorization is valid until 2009.

Syngenta Agro SRL represents Swiss group Syngenta Agro AG in Romania. The group is one of the major providers of crop protection products worldwide. Its best financial year so far was 2004, when company sales rose to 7.3 billion US dollars.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

Parliament validates Economy Ministry candidate

Romanian MPs approved the candidacy of Liberal Varujan Vosganian to take over the position of Economy minister with a large majority on Tuesday. Vosganian will replace Codrut Seres, who resigned from the government when his political group, the Conservative Party-PC, decided to withdraw from the governing coalition recently.

Vosganian received 289 votes in favour and 66 against as only the opposition Social Democrats-PSD and the far-right Greater Romania Party-PRM have said they would oppose the nomination.

This autumn, Vosganian, a Senator for the National Liberal Party-PNL, was nominated to represent Romania in the European Commission. But was forced to withdraw from the process following a series of allegations that he had collaborated with the Communist-era political police. He has repeatedly rejected the allegations.

During hearings on Monday, Vosganian has said he planned to maintain energy prices within acceptable limits for the population and that he would push for the Economy Ministry to retain the management of state-controlled energy companies.

That right has been in doubt after the main body managing this companies on behalf of the state, OPSPI, was passed from the Ministry to the Authority for State Assets Recovery in a maneuver commonly seen as politically motivated.

HotNews.ro, Dec 12, 2006

EU restricts Romania, Bulgaria food exports

The European Commission has to apply a one-year period of restrictions over milk and meat product exports from Romania and Bulgaria in order to protect food safety on the EU market, according to Novinite.com.

European experts decided that authorized companies in the Romanian and Bulgarian food industry halt exports of animal products that do not comply with European standards starting January 1, 2007, when the two countries join the Union.

It was decided, though, that production units in line with European standards may avoid the restrictions if sanitary investigators evaluate their guarantees positively.

He decision was made after EU food officials visited Romania and Bulgaria recently. They found certain meat and milk processing units not complying with EU food safety standards.

The two countries will face a transition period to modernize their processing units and improve their systems.

The Union expanded its restrictions on food imports to convince Moscow that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria would not threaten food safety and the health of livestock in Russia. Authorities there have expressed concern about the situation for the past several weeks.

According to the online edition of Evenimentul Zilei, the EC decision does not affect Romanian producers as they focus almost exclusively on the domestic market. But it affects importers from the US and Asia who build up stocks in Romania before selling the products on the single market.

HotNews.ro, Dec 11, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Romanian inmates enter enter fourth day of protests

Some 6,500 inmates at 26 Romanian prisons refused food on Monday morning - the fourth day of protests against living conditions and in favour of an amnesty for those with short-term sentences. The protest comes as a parliamentary committee has rejected a draft law that would have provided a pardon for some 10,000 prisoners whose sentences do not exceed fiv years.

It is the largest such protest in Romania’s penitentiary system.

PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu summoned Justice minister Monica Macovei and the head of the Penitentiary Administration Alexandru Serban to talks on the situation on Monday. Tariceanu urged the two to provide a report on the situation after several days of protests in prisons across the country.

The hunger strike - accompanied by other forms of non-violent protests, started at the Codlea Penitentiary in Central Romania last Thursday. It comes as independent deputy Nati Meir, who has pushed legislation to pardon short-term inmates, saw his bill rejected in the Parliament.

HotNews.ro, Dec 11, 2006

Fog affects port, airport activities in Romania

Dense fog perturbed usual activities in Romania’s main Black Sea and Danube ports as well as at the Kogalniceanu Airport in SE of the country on Monday morning. According to the national public radio, Romania Actualitati, the ports were operational early today but maneuvers were difficult because of unstable weather conditions, especially the presence of fog.

Port authorities in Constanta, the country’s main maritime gate, were ordered to take all necessary measures to prevent accidents. The Mihail Kogalniceanu Airport, in the same area, was closed due to low visibility earlier today.

HotNews.ro, Dec 11, 2006

Igor Smirnov re-elected Transdniester president

Igor Smirnov, the man who’s been runing for more than 15 years the breakaway region of Transdniester, east of the Moldovan Republic, won another five-year term at the helm of the territory following a presidential poll on Sunday, the Central Electoral Commission in regional capital Tiraspol announced, quoted by Reuters.

The elections were validated hours before the polling stations closed with a voter presence above 50%.

Smirnov, 65, obtained 82.4% of the votes, against 7% and 9% respectively for his main adversaries. Prior to the announcement of results, Smirnov had said he would withdraw from presidency only after the independence of Transdniester is internationally recognized.

The poll was not recognized by the international community whose representatives have said its results would not be judicially valid.

HotNews.ro, Dec 11, 2006

Mircea Geoana re-elected head of Social Democrats

Mircea Geoana was re-elected head of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the main opposition group in Romania, in a party poll organized at the Extraordinary Congress of the party on Sunday. Geoana received 977 votes of 1400 delegates at the event, while the second candidate, Sorin Oprescu, received 385 votes.

A third candidate, Antonie Iorgovan, had withdrawn from the race and said he would cede his votes to Oprescu.

Geoana had been considered the imminent winner of the PSD poll.

The Congress on Sunday also decided a new secretary general of the party. Titus Corlatean outpaced incumbent secretary Miron Mitrea with over 680 votes against 604.

Geoana told the media in the wake of the vote that the competition was real and said his rival Oprescu was a valuable politician that he party needed. And he said he regretted Miron Mitrea’s loss as the former secretary general, who had previously served as Transport Minister in the 2001-2004 PSD government, provided a real support for the party.

For his part, Mitrea did not hide his disappointement as he said “I didn’t expect it [to lose]… I have nothing to recommend to Corlatean and I’m not interested to head the Bucharest branch of the PSD”.

And Sorin Oprescu, who prior to the vote had said he would withdraw from the PSD unless elected head of the group, said he would not withdraw his words without further comment.

HotNews.ro, Dec 11, 2006

Luxembourg and Sibiu become official capitals of European culture

Luxembourg officially became the European cultural capital for 2007 following a pompous inauguration ceremony on Sunday evening, attended by His Highness Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker and Sibiu Mayor Klaus Johannis. Luxembourg shares the status of 2007 European cultural capital with the Transylvanian city of Sibiu.

The Central Romanian city will mark the opening of the European Cultural Capital programme on January 1, 2007, as festivities first scheduled for November 29 were postponed not to interfere with the ceremonies organized to mark the National Day of Romania. On January 1, 2007 Romania will also celebrate its first day as a member of the European Union.

The slogan promoting Sibiu for the programme is “City of Culture, Inter-cultural City”.

HotNews.ro, Dec 11, 2006

Vatican urges Romanian Govt to stop works at "threatening" building

The Vatican has urged the Romanian Government publicly to stop the construction of an 18-storey building near a Catholic cathedral in Bucharest, Catholic.org reports. According to the Vatican statement, the construction works at the office building are threatening the physical stability of the St. Joseph Cathedral, which was built in the late 1800s.

Catholic.org quotes the Vatican Secretariat of State, according to which “a rapid and satisfactory solution” was needed to protect the cathedral, which it calls a symbol of “the values of faith” not only for Catholics in Romania, “but for the entire Romanian population”.

By December 4, Vatican officials were still waiting for the Romanian Government to act in this regard, according to the website.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

What the newspapers say: December 11, 2006

A revolt in penitentiaries across Romania challenges the Sunday internal elections of the Social Democratic Party as the most important news in today’s newspapers. They also write of various Romanian successes internationally, while one paper warns about the troubles Bucharest is facing as a city that grows faster than its capacity to improve.

Adevarul reports that a protest sparked by detainees at the Codlea Penitentiary in Central Romania spread lightning-fast across the country over the past several days. On Sunday, some 3,000 convicts from 26 penitentiaries were on hunger strike while some 6,500 chose other forms of protests.

While the events were sparked by a draft legislation pushed by an independent deputy asking for a pardon for short term convicts, the message from prison cells on Sunday included slogans such as “Down with corruption!”, according to the newspaper.

Cotidianul blames the situation on deputy Nati Meir, who sparked opted to promote his legislative bill “all by himself” instead of complying with the usual parliamentary procedures.

For its part, Gandul notes that while authorities have been insisting the situation was under control the management of Romanian Penitentiaries admitted yesterday that they were facing a “crisis situation”.

And it reports that several head wardens in many prisons across the country limited the access of the media and refused to provide details about what is happening there.

Meanwhile, the same Gandul focuses on the Extraordinary Congress of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) as well. The Sunday congress was organized with the money of old-time “PSD barons” - PSD officials with huge influence in local areas across the country - because the party treasury was empty, the newspaper reports.

Jurnalul National opts to channel its reports on the political events at the Congress: while it was expected that party president Mircea Geoana keep his seat against challenger Sorin Oprescu in a party vote yesterday , a major surprise occurred when PSD elder Miron Mitrea lost the position of secretary general of the party.

Mitrea was one of the key characters of the 2001-2004 PSD government and one of the very few who survived a major PSD leadership reshuffling last year.

For Evenimentul Zilei, it was a “nervous congress” as it revealed the “accumulated hate” between many characters and factions of the PSD and stopped short from leading to a fist fight.

And Cotidianul reports that Geoana and Corlatean have secured the leadership of the PSD until 2010 in a congress closely watched by bodyguards and gendarmes.

The newspaper mocks the situation as “the hall was full of people under criminal inquiries”, from ex-President Ion Iliescu, charged with bringing violent miners to crash an opposition protest in Bucharest in the early nineties, to people suspected of graft, including ex-PM Adrian Nastase.

Elsewhere in the newspapers, Romanian citizens abroad draw considerable interests starting with a Romanian woman who was named general manager for integration and immigration at the city hall of Alcala, Spain, the city where writer Miguel de Cervantes was born.

Thus, according to Evenimentul Zilei, “a woman from [the Romanian region of] Vrancea gets to work for migrants from across the world”.

Jurnalul National tells the story of another Romanian woman, aged 25, who has obtained an East Africa internship for the UN Tribunal investigating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda
But not all is a success when it comes to Romanians abroad.

According to Adevarul, quoting the Financial Times, Romania’s candidate for the European Court of Auditors Ovidiu Ispir may be rejected by the European Parliament as he is one of the weakest candidates from the 12 new members of the Court.

And the same Adevarul looks back at the situation in Bucharest and publishes a comprehensive interview with City Mayor Adriean Videanu, who admits the city is facing a period of overgrowth and implicitly huge problems because administratively it finds it hard to keep the pace with progress.

That is because Communist-era plans for the city considered a Bucharest with 1.5 million dwellers, while the number has already exceeded 2.3 million and is rising.

HotNews.ro, Dec 11, 2006

Democrat President: Better Liberal-Democrats than Social-Democrats

Democrat Party president Emil Boc used the party’s National Coordination Council session on Friday to praise each and every Democrat minister in the Cabinet. Boc also approached the delicate subject of collaborating with the dissident liberals, who recently formed the Liberal-Democrat Party.

“A relationship with the Liberal-Democrat Party comes naturally, since it’s about people who worked before along with the Democrats”. The Democrat leader also emphasized that collaborating with the dissidents is by far more natural than with the former governing party, Social-Democrats.

As for early elections, the conclusion is the same as always: “early elections may be organized only in case PM Tariceanu resigns or a censorship motion is passed through the Parliament”.

HotNews.ro, Dec 8, 2006

Crisis solved, Govt seats shared

The Liberal and democrat delegations finished negotiating how to share the portfolios left vacant after the Conservatory Party’s withdrawal from the governing alliance. According to a press release, Liberals accepted the Economy Ministry, while democrats and Hungarian Minority Party will share six state secretary seats, as well as 11 management positions in national companies and agencies.

PM Tariceanu nominated Varujan Vosganian as Economy Minister and notified the both Parliamentarian chambers on the subject. Despite recent disagreements around this ministry, it seems that the Liberal proposition will be generally accepted.

HotNews.ro, Dec 8, 2006

Everyone agrees Vosganian should be Economy Minister

Varujan Vosganian, the first choice for the European Commission seat, rejected by the European Commission, fulfilled the 100% agreement dream of the governing coalition. Conservatory Party, Liberals, Democrats and Hungarian Minority, as well as the dissident Liberals that formed the Liberal-Democrat party seem to support Varujan Vosganian for the Economy Minister seat.

The candidate has all the chances to gain the votes of all the parties above mentioned, while Opposition parties like far-right Great Romania and the Social-Democrats have not decided yet.

Democrats announced soon after this midday meeting with the President that they would support the Liberal candidate.

HotNews.ro, Dec 8, 2006

New regulations in agriculture incentives

The European Commission recently approved new rules on the state aid and incentives for agriculture. The decision aims at simplifying the aid offering procedures for small producers and enterprisers.

The law is formed by two sections: tax exemptions - in which member states may avoid to notify on the incentives’ level, if certain conditions are met - and a guide containing the applicable rules for notified aid.

Euractiv.ro, Dec 8, 2006

European Commissioner in sex scandal

One of the European Commissioners’ vice presidents, Gunther Verheugen, has severe public image problems, after the German media threatened to publish of some explicit photos, showing Verheugen while sunbathing naked along with his lady cabinet director.

In October, EurActiv Romania told about the war between the commissioner on industrial policies and Brussels public servants. Tables have turned, and Verheugen is now the perfect scandal subject for the German media.

After less than two months after accusing his “power greedy” collaborators of “sacrificing reforms for the sake of their power”, Verheugen has to edit some new statements.

In case the photos are published, they would not only prove the inappropriate behavior of the European official, but also the fact that he lied when he described the relationship with his cabinet director as “purely professional”.

HotNews.ro, Dec 8, 2006

UK Govt softens tone towards Romania, Bulgaria

The British government accepted the idea that the restrictions imposed to Romanian and Bulgarian workers are too rough and take into account the possibility to ease the conditions after 12 months.
After an year, Romanian and Bulgarian workers with low qualifications will be able to get jobs in food processing, but with a 20,000 persons limit per year, The Independent informs.

An increasing number of politicians challenge the governmental decision to shut the labor market for Romanians and Bulgarians, while the authorities refuse to make an official estimation on the amount of immigrants from the two countries.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne was presented last week in the Parliament with a letter from Richard Thomas, the former UK ambassador to Bulgaria, who accused Byrne of a “hateful behavior” in treating Romania’s and Bulgaria’s citizens as second-rank Europeans. Thomas said he’s so ashamed he won’t be able to show his face again in Bulgaria.

Wayne David, representing the Labor Party, said the letter is an accuse against the governmental policies and considers that the current attitude may bring “irreparable damages” in the relationship between UK and the two countries.

HotNews.ro, Dec 8, 2006

Basescu: “Find a solution before 14:00h”

President Traian Basescu summoned Liberals and Democrats, demanding the urgent nomination of an Economy Minister. During the ceremony in which the new Agriculture Minister sworn in, the president gave ministers an ultimatum.
“My dears, solve this problem before 14:00h. Find a solution. You can not keep on doing this publicly”, said Basescu.

Liberal and Democrat leaders were invited by president Basescu after the ceremony to private discussions on the nomination of a new Economy Minister.

After Seres’ resignation at the beginning of the week, and after the Privatization Office changed its subordination from the Economy Ministry to the State Assets Agency, both parties refused to accept the Economy portfolio.

HotNews.ro, Dec 8, 2006

Dutch Aegon interested in Romanian pensions market

Aegon NV, the second largest insurance company in Holland, want to expand its operations in private pensions in Romania, Italy, Germany and Ukraine, while continuing its development in Holland and the USA, Bloomberg informs.
Aegon announced in November its intention to double the business with pensions insurance, up to 1.1 billion euros in 2010.

In Holland, Aegon controls 24% of the pensions insurance market (data in 2005), with a 21% growth year over year.

HotNews.ro, Dec 8, 2006

Former Justice Minister - Political Police collaborator

CNSAS, the body studying the archives of Ceausescu’s political police, Securitate, decided on Thursday that the former social-democrat senator and Justice Minister, Rodica Stanoiu, wrote and signed information notes for the political police.

Stanoiu declared for the NewsIn press agency that she expected such a verdict, since it’s all just a political decision.

The former minister added that she would pursue the legal possibilities to attack the verdict.

The CNSAS decision may be appealed in 15 days. In case the appeal doesn’t lead to changing the verdict, it can subsequently appealed in Court.

HotNews.ro, Dec 7, 2006

Romania, second most corrupt in Europe

Bribe demanded or accepted by police officers and other public servants represents a major problem in all developing countries, but also exists in EU countries like Greece or the Czech Republic, a report on corruption, issued on Thursday by Transparency International (TI), shows.

Romania ranks second most corrupt country in Europe, one out of five questioned persons declaring they had to pay a bribe recently.

The highest percentage is recorded in Africa, where bribes were paid in the recent past (less than 12 months) by over 36% of the subjects. In Europe, the absolute leader is the poorest country, Albania, with 66%.

HotNews.ro, Dec 7, 2006

ID card enough for Cyprus and Czech Republic too

Romanian citizens will be able to visit Cyprus and the Czech Republic using only their ID cards, instead of passports, Interior Minister Vasile Blaga announced on Thursday. Two weeks ago, both countries said they would still maintain some travel restrictions for Romanians.

For the moment, Sweden is the only EU country that hasn’t cancelled all low restrictions for Romanians for January 1st, 2007.

Still, an official answer from Sweden is due momentarily, said Vasile Blaga, after sending on Wednesday specimen of Romanian standard documents to Swedish authorities.
Same travel advantages were gained by Bulgaria, which will join the European Union at the same date Romania does. Passports may still be used for EU countries, but it’s no longer an obligation.

HotNews.ro, Dec 7, 2006

“Liberal Platform” becomes political party

Theodor Stolojan announced that the dissident Liberals, along with members recently expelled from the party former a new political party: Liberal-Democrats. Sources say the group already gathered 20,000 signatures out of the necessary 25,000.

In a press conference on Thursday, Stolojan said his new party enjoys the support of 8 Liberal county branches, including their presidents, 29 parliamentarians and 11,500 Liberal Party members.

HotNews.ro, Dec 7, 2006

Governing alliance quarrels on Privatization Office

After fighting all day yesterday on who should run the Economy Ministry, with a vacant seat after Seres’ resignation, the Democrats decided to let Liberals assume the portfolio.

Still, the arguing continued on the Privatization Office, subordinated by a Govt. Ordinance to the State Assets Agency (AVAS), instead of the Economy Ministry, as it was until now.

Democrats said on Thursday that the move is illegal, because the Ordinance only bears the AVAS signature, not a Justice Ministry approval.

Democrat vice president, Adriean Videanu, also claimed that the “Emergency Ordinance” had no urgent character at all and also shown that an energy crisis might be installed in case the ordinance is approved.

The stake for the entire scandal is quite important, the Privatization Office still holding in its portfolio some major companies in energy, chemistry, mining, gas transport and aeronautics: Hidroelectrica, Nuclearelectrica, Termoelectrica, Petrotrans, Conpet, Romgaz, Transgaz, Romarm, Romaero, IAR Ghimbav, Plafar, Oltchim, Automobile Craiova, Electrica Muntenia & Sud and Transilvania Nord & Sud.

HotNews.ro, Dec 7, 2006

SMEs Minister resigns

Eugen Ovidiu Chirovici resigned on Thursday from his position as president of the Small and Medium Enterprises (which provides an equal ministerial seat), accusing the Government of failing to offer the necessary support for the absorption of European funds. Four days ago, Chirovici also resigned form the Conservatory Party, so that he could maintain his position in the Government.

In a press release, Chirovici criticized the Government’s activity in the recent past, showing that priority projects, such as the winter fuel stocks and European funds management institutions, were constantly neglected.

Chirovici accused PM Calin Popescu-Tariceanu of ignoring the specialists and failing to promote performance and professionalism in his cabinet.

HotNews.ro, Dec 7, 2006

Former Culture Minister stirs Romanian-Moldovan diplomacy scandal

Romania and Moldova mutually interrogate ambassadors

Diplomatic relations between Romania and Moldova suddenly got tensed after an interview with Romanian actor, theater manager and former Culture Minister was published by a local newspaper.

Kishinev authorities demanded an “explanation meeting” with the Romanian ambassador, Filip Teodorescu. After less than a day, the Romanian Foreign Ministry summoned the Moldovan ambassador to explain Moldova’s attitude.

The entire fuss started after Caramitru said that “sooner or later, Moldova would return to its mother-land”. After the authorities’ reaction, Romanian officials explained that any statement made by Caramitru could not be interpreted as official positions of the Romanian government. Accent fell on the freedom of expression as fundamental condition for a lawful state.

The Romanian ambassador was questioned on the “defying attitude Caramitru had during his recent visit to Kishinev”, where he presented a play dedicated to Romania’s National Day.

The renowned actor declared for "Jurnal de Chisinau", in its November 23rd edition, that “historically speaking, Moldova was always part of Romania and sooner or later it would return to its mother-land”.

Caramitru, who also served as Culture Minister between 1996 and 2000, also expressed his concern with the fact that the Moldovan populace massively voted for the Communist Party during the last elections.

“We return to the Moldovan language, to the old habits. It’s a symptom the way the Communist Party lost the elections in all former Soviet republics, except for Moldova. Let’s hope it’s the last roar of the bear, which is an endangered species”, said Caramitru in the interview.

Recently, the Moldovan president, Vladimir Voronin, accused Romania of interfering with the interior affairs of the Moldovan Republic and argued that “Moldova is able to gain its European accession, its welfare and democracy without any border-friends”.

HotNews.ro, Dec 6, 2006

New Agriculture Minister

President Basescu signed on Wednesday the decree naming Liberal Dan Motreanu as Agriculture Minister, the spokesperson in the Presidential administration, Adriana Saftoiu, announced.

Liberals officially suggested Motreanu as a solution on Tuesday, after the recent resignation of the former minister, Gheorghe Flutur, who joined the dissident Liberal group.

Dan Motreanu graduated a Literature faculty in Timisoara and followed classes in European Funds Management in 1998-1999, under the European Commission’s supervision.

HotNews.ro, Dec 6, 2006

OMV won’t comment on Petrom privatization

The OMV CEO, Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, failed to offer any details on the Petrom privatization contract clauses, although the Romanian authorities recently demanded for the privatization file to be re-analyzed. In a press conference on Wednesday, the Austrian official focused on the future investment plans, designed to “develop Petrom and ensure Romania’s energy security”.

“There are not any unexplainable articles in the Petrom privatization contract”, said Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer. The Austrian state and International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) headquartered in Abu Dhabi hold 49% of the OMV shares and it’s impossible for other companies to hold shares through interims”, the OMV official said.

23 of the Petrom shares are held by various Austrian institutions, while the rest is marketed through stock exchanges in London and USA.

HotNews.ro, Dec 6, 2006

Presidential commission for accused ministers

The presidential spokesperson, Adriana Saftoiu, declared on Wednesday that a special presidential commission was formed in order to check the accusations against the recently resigned Economy Minister, Codrut Seres, and the IT&C Minister, Zsolt Nagy.

“The commission will issue a report for president Basescu, suggesting either the filing of a criminal report or the classifying of the case”, said Saftoiu. The firs session of the commission is due on Thursday.

HotNews.ro, Dec 6, 2006

Best 50 companies in Romania

The “Business Week” magazine put up the top of the best performances on the market. Metro Cash & Carry Romania leads the top, followed by mobile telephony giants Orange Romania and Vodafone Romania.

The top ten also includes Porsche Romania, Selgros Cash & Carry, ALRO, British American Tobacco, Petromservice, Coca-Cola HBC and Billa Romania, according to a study conducted by Coface Romania.

“Being the first edition of such a top, we can’t say how this ranking differs of what might have been last year, but it serves as a comparison for the years to come”, says Octavian Belu, feature editor at BusinessWeek Romania.

TOP 50 Performers is a classic top of the international magazine BusinessWeek and contains three annual issues: Top Performers, Top Performers Europe and Top Performers Asia.

Dec 6, 2006

Fuel price may grow on Environment tax

The 20 euro cents tax for a liter of fuel may balance the Romanian contribution to environmental funds, according to a suggestion made by the Romanian Center for Economy Policies. The fuel price growth would bring a supplementary fund of 1 billion euros for the state budget.

Still, for the moment, the Environment Minister, Sulfina Barbu, says a decision is too difficult to take, because Romanians are too poor to pay this tax.
“We have to emphasize the fact that any tax must be related to the living standards in a country.

It’s true, some countries have an environment tax that reaches 2% of the state budget, but Romania must reach this level gradually”, said Barbu.

HotNews.ro, Dec 6, 2006

EU accession celebration still foggy

European commissioner Olli Rehn and the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, confirmed their participation in the New Year’s Eve celebration in Bucharest, marking the first hour Romania spends in the European Union. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, still hasn’t answered the invitation.

Up to this moment, it is still not clear what entertainment schedule would be approved by the City Hall. The 3.3 million euros local budget allocation has an unknown recipient.

“At first, we wished to throw a party for everyone, but procedures exceed the laws. It’s a too big event to deal with private challenges”, said the Bucharest mayor, Adriean Videanu.

HotNews.ro, Dec 6, 2006

EU accession celebration still foggy

European commissioner Olli Rehn and the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, confirmed their participation in the New Year’s Eve celebration in Bucharest, marking the first hour Romania spends in the European Union. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, still hasn’t answered the invitation.

Up to this moment, it is still not clear what entertainment schedule would be approved by the City Hall. The 3.3 million euros local budget allocation has an unknown recipient.

“At first, we wished to throw a party for everyone, but procedures exceed the laws. It’s a too big event to deal with private challenges”, said the Bucharest mayor, Adriean Videanu.

HotNews.ro, Dec 6, 2006

Prosecutors demand criminal investigation on two ministers

The General Prosecutor’s Office passed a request to a Presidency commission on Tuesday to give its approval for the initiation of a criminal inquiry on the names of former Economy minister Codrut Seres and Communication minister Zsolt Nagy, an Office spokesman announced today.

The two are currently under scrutiny by DIICOT, the main body investigating organized crimes in Romania, over their involvement in a series of controversies related to leaks of classified information regarding the privatization of strategic companies in the country, which is seen as a threat to the national security.

Zsolt Nagy told the Realitatea TV news station today that he was surprised by the request but that he understood the Romanian Justice has to follow its course. He insisted that his ministry has not supervised in any privatization process and did not work with classified documents.

For his part, Codrut Seres has announced his resignation from the Economy Ministry on Monday as the party he belongs to, the Conservatives (PC), decided to withdraw from the governing coalition in a separate political dispute.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Parliament approval needed for one government seat

The permanent boards of the two chambers of the Romanian Parliament are due to discuss today the nomination of a new Economy minister as the coalition in power is struggling to find a way to keep the government running after the withdrawal of the Conservative Party, which left it without a parliamentary majority.

House speaker Bogdan Olteanu announced after long talks today that a solution was found to possible constitutional problems related to the nomination of new ministers to replace the leaving Economy minister and deputy prime minister, who represented the Conservative Party.

According to Olteanu, only one of the fresh nominees will have to receive the parliamentary approval. He is Mircea Toader, who’s been nominated to take over the Economy Ministry portfolio.

Another nominee, Liberal Varujan Vosganian, will not need such a vote as the seat of deputy prime minister will remain vacant. Instead, he is due to take over the responsibilities of Democratic officials in charge with the coordination of economic activities in the Romanian Government, according to Olteanu.

Toader would face specialized commissions in the Parliament on Thursday and a plenary session next Monday.

A new minister for Agriculture, Dan Motreanu, does not have to constitutionally receive the approval of the parliament as this is needed only for ministers nominated as a result of changes to the political formula of the government. Or, Motreanu is to take over a seat that belonged to a resigned Liberal, not to a PC representative.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Romania leads European consumption growth

Romania is the first among European countries when it comes to the growth of consumer goods sales with a 29.7% growth rate in September this year compared to the same month in 2005, an Eurostat study shows. Romania is followed by Latvia with 19.8% and Estonia with 16.9%.

Belgium is last on the list with a 1.6% decrease of sales. Across Europe, the average growth of consumer goods sales in September stood at 1.1% while the rate for the European Community stood at 2.1%.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Euro weakest against RON since August 2005

The Romanian currency RON grew 0.03% against the European single currency on Tuesday reaching a rate of 3.4311 RON/euro, the weakest stand for the euro since August 2005, according to the Newsin news agency. The US dollar did not fare better either with its rate today - 2.5758 RON/USD, unseen since December 2000.

The Romanian financial market does not trade the US currency directly, but the central bank in Bucharest computes the RON/USD rate according to the evolution of international financial markets.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Poll: Romanians want strong political leaders

With less than a month until the country joins the European Union, a new poll shows Romanians share most trust in charismatic, authoritarian leaders who seem capable of enforcing discipline.

Incumbent President Traian Basescu is unrivaled when it comes to the trust of Romanians and is followed in this regard by two other populist leaders - far-rightist Corneliu Vadim Tudor and businessman-politician Gigi Becali, according to a Public Opinion Barometer published by the Open Society Foundation on Tuesday.

According to the study, the parties with improving positions among voters are those associated to a strong leader. Democratic Prrsident Basescu leads the poll with an overwhelming 61% support among voters, followed by C.V. Tudor with 13% and Becali with 10%.

They’re followed at a considerable distance by Social Democratic Party-PSD leader Mircea Goeana (6%), ex-PSD head Adrian Nastase (4%) and Hungarian Democrats leader Marko Bela (2%).

Still, the poll shows many Romanians have not yet decided whom to vote (36%) or are determined not to vote (14%).

President Basescu is most popular among Romanian women, big city dwellers and the educated. C.V. Tudor is most popular among men aged 55 and older as well as in rural communities. Becali is more popular among youngsters, males and those who have worked abroad, are not married and live in medium-sized cities.

The Barometer is based on an opinion poll run by The Gallup Organization Romania in october this year.

Dec 5, 2006

Another major project will turn Bucharest upside down

The Bucharest City Hall is preparing a new passageway in one of Romanian Capital’s most crowded areas, the Romana Square. The works are due to last a year and a half and would cost some 64.6 million RON (18.4 million euro), according to a project that will be discussed by the Bucharest General Council in a future session.

The Romana Square is one of traffic-heaviest areas in Bucharest. For the past two years a series of other construction works, aimed at improving traffic across the city, have seriously perturbed exactly what they’re trying to solve, as Bucharest traffic is becoming impossible.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Democrats and Liberals name new ministers

The secretary general of the National Liberal Party-PNL Dan Montreanu was nominated to take over the reigns of the Agriculture Ministry following the dismissal of the previous minister, who entered a political conflict between PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu and a group of dissident Liberals.

The Liberals also nominated their spokesman Varujan Vosganian as deputy prime minister, while Mircea Toader was nominated by the Democratic Party-PD to take over the Economy Ministry portfolio.

The last two seats remained vacant after the small Conservative Party decided to withdraw from the Government last weekend. While the departure left PNL, PD and the HungaDemocrats and Liberals name new ministers

The secretary general of the National Liberal Party-PNL Dan Montreanu was nominated to take over the reigns of the Agriculture Ministry following the dismissal of the previous minister, who entered a political conflict between PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu and a group of dissident Liberals.

The Liberals also nominated their spokesman Varujan Vosganian as deputy prime minister, while Mircea Toader was nominated by the Democratic Party-PD to take over the Economy Ministry portfolio.

The last two seats remained vacant after the small Conservative Party decided to withdraw from the Government last weekend. While the departure left PNL, PD and the Hungarian Democrats-UDMR in the position of a minority government, the three groups decided last night they would try to gain a majority of votes in Parliament by drawing the support of specific MPs.

Before its withdrawal, PC held the seats of deputy prime minister and of Economy minister in the government.

Earlier this year, Varujan Vosganian had been nominated to represent Romania in the European Commission, but was forced to withdraw his candidacy after a series of allegations that he collaborated with ex-dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s secret police. He has repeatedly dismissed the allegations.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006rian Democrats-UDMR in the position of a minority government, the three groups decided last night they would try to gain a majority of votes in Parliament by drawing the support of specific MPs.

Before its withdrawal, PC held the seats of deputy prime minister and of Economy minister in the government.

Earlier this year, Varujan Vosganian had been nominated to represent Romania in the European Commission, but was forced to withdraw his candidacy after a series of allegations that he collaborated with ex-dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s secret police. He has repeatedly dismissed the allegations.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Marius Lazurca named Ambassador to Vatican

President Traian basescu signed a decree on Tuesday nominating Marius Gabriel Lazurca to take over the seat of Ambassador of Romania to the Holy See, an official press release says.

Lazurca, 35, has a history PhD. In Sorbonne.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Grawe Romania interested in buying general insurance company

Insurance company Grawe Romania, a member of the Austrian group Grawe, has announced its intention to buy the majority stake in a general insurance company currently operating on the Romanian market in early 2007, according to Peter Kasyk, Grawe Romania general manager.

Kasyk said negotiations are currently under way with a single company, but he refused to name it and only said “we plan to conclude the negotiations as fast as possible because it was proven that long engagements don’t have a happy ending.”

He also said that Grawe, which has been active in the life insurance market - with a 5% market share - is interested in expanding its activities in other sectors.

In March this year, Grawe concluded the take over of the Sara Merkur company.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Romanian trade deficit up 45%

The Romanian trade deficit grew to 11.24 billion euro in the first ten months of 2006, up 45% compared to the same period last year, the National Statistics Institute in Bucharest has announced.

In october 2006, the value of FOB exports stood at 2247.7 million euro, up 15.8% compared to October 2005 and 1.9% higher than September 2006.

CIF imports stood at 3879.5 million euro in October, 26% higher than October 2005 and 14.7% higher than September 2006.

HotNews.ro, Dec 5, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Three-party agreement to keep government in place

Representatives of the Democratic Party-PD, the National Liberal Party-PNL and the Hungarian Democrats-UDMR agreed at talks on Monday evening to maintain the current government despite the withdrawal of a junior member of the coalition in power, the Conservative Party-PC.

Theoretically, the PC departure would turn the current coalition into a minority government. But in statements earlier today Liberal PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu stuck to the idea that a majority may still exist.

The announcement that the government would continue its activities in a three-party formula wasd made by UDMR leader Marko Bela as leaders of the parties met President Traian Basescu tonight.

The parties are due to discuss how to fill in the seats left vacant by leaving PC ministers.

And the leaders of the three groups avoided statements related to the possible organization of early elections.

Meanwhile, debates on the 2007 Budget Law were postponed on Monday due to a high number of absentees in the Parliament session and to the indecision of PC representatives on how to vote.

PC leader Dan Voiculescu had said on Sunday that his party would vote in favor of the 2007 budget but set a series of terms that he said the Government should agree with if it wants a majority vote for the bill.

HotNews.ro, Dec 4, 2006

PM Tariceanu: Romania will not have a minority government

Romanian prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said on Monday that in the existing political framework he would not lead a minority government as speculated by the media. He made the statement a day after the Conservative Party-PC, a junior member of the governmental coalition, announced its withdrawal from the government.

The PC departure “does not equal a minority government and that would show when MPs are voting”, Tariceanu, who also heads the Liberal Party-PNL, a senior member of the government, said today.

The PC had announced that despite leaving the government it would further support in Parliament all projects that contribute to the economic development, political stability and European integration of Romania.

Still, the PC withdrawal prompted new clashes between the leadership of PNL and that of President Traian Basescu’s Democratic Party (PD). The PD leaders have adopted a document urging PNL to look for solutions to keep the government alive without appealing to the opposition Social Democrats (PSD).

PNL received the appeal with reluctance. However, it did not mentioned the idea of an official support with the PSD in its reply.

Only seven of the 19 representatives of the PC submitted their resignations from the government by the Monday at noon deadline. Deputy PM Bogdan Pascu and Economy minister Codrut Seres were among those who resigned.

HotNews.ro, Dec 4, 2006

Gallup poll: Romania seen as "corrupt", people unhappy

The perception on corruption remains negative in Romania, a country that falls among the first ten among 101 countries included in a Gallup poll where corruption is perceived as widespread. Only a third of Romanians trust their political leaders while only 58% believe they can manage to succeed in life through honest work.

The Gallup World Poll is topped by an unexpected “leader” - Lithuania. The small Baltic country is perceived as the most corrupt country, followed by Poland, Lebanon and Thailand.

Romania is tied with Russia, Ukraine and Morocco for the 7th-10th positions.

The countries perceived as least corrupt are Finland, Denmark and New Zealand, where some 55% of the population trust their political leaders. About 84% of citizens in these countries believe that honest work may bring success in life.

HotNews.ro, Dec 4, 2006

Romanians, Bulgarians to be allowed to work in 52 sectors of French economy

Romanian and Bulgarian citizens will have the opportunity to work in 52 sectors of the French labour market once the two countries join the EU on January 1, 2007, according to Europortal.bg. It quotes the French minister delegate for European Affairs, Catherine Colonna, during a visit to Bulgaria.

Colonna said citizens of the two countries will be immediately allowed to work in France, despite that citizens of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 faced a two-year period of restrictions in this regard.

The 52 economic sectors include agriculture, tourism and construction works.

HotNews.ro, Dec 4, 2006

Conservatives announce withdrawal from Romanian Government

The political board of the Coservative Party-PC, a junior member of the governing coalition in Bucharest, voted unanimously on Sunday to leave the government. A resolution in this regard, which was lated confirmed by the National Council of the PC, says the Party would withdraw its representatives from the government immediately and join the opposition.

The political dilemma thus created prompted President Traian Basescu to meet prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu later in the day. Basescu’s Democratic Party-PD and Tariceanu’s Liberal Party-PNL form the D.A. Alliance, which in the 2004 elections needed the support of two junior partners, the Hungarian Democrats-UDMR and the PC, in order to form a parliamentary majority.

PC’s withdrawal will leave the government with vacants seats in key ministers and with a minority representation in the Parliament.

PC leader Dan Voiculescu said however that his party would vote for the 2007 state budget but set specific terms in that regard, including a VAT cut from 19% to 9% for basic food products and new taxes on reinvested profit.

The party also said it would support measures for the political stability of the country and those related to its EU accession on January 1, 2007.

But Dan Voiculescu launched a fierce attack on President Traian Basescu and his Democratic Party, claiming that “the Democrats were turning into a totalitarian party at high speed. It’s a party of neo-Communists who have passed from Left to Right, a party that was pumped up by President Basescu and would come down with him”.

“We do not want to be part of the government but to hold power and we assure you we will hold power”, Dan Voiculescu concluded.

The decision to leave the government is based on PC’s claims that their legislative projects have never been supported by coalition partners. It all peaked last Wednesday when the Budget-Finance Commission of the House of Deputies rejected a PC draft to cut VAT for basic food products to 9%.

The PC has been holding a seat of deputy prime minister, the Economy minister portfolio, 6 seats of state secretaries and 11 representatives in governmental agencies.

Shortly after PC’s announcement on Sunday, the head of the National Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises ANIMMC Eugen ovidiu Chirovici announced his resignation from the Conservative Party in order to keep his seat in the governmental agency.

HotNews.ro, Dec 4, 2006

Political reactions to PC withdrawal

The Conservative Party-PC decision to withdraw from the Romanian Government sparked a series of reactions among Romanian and European politicians, who either accuse PC of demagogy or are still waiting for the situation to get clearer.

The deputy head of the Socialists group in the European Parliament Hannes Swoboda recommends that the new political crisis in Bucharest end be as short as possible.

“The first nine months after the EU accession are very important because they involve necessary reforms and efforts to avoid the application of EU safeguard clauses. If there is a crisis, it should be short and the new government be formed through elections or other method.

The most important thing for you is to have a strong Government very soon”, Swoboda was quoted by Radio France International.

The Liberal Party-PNL said it was “concerned” about the situation created by the announced withdrawal of the PC, especially as the decision comes shortly before Romania’s EU accession on January 1, 2007.

PNL spokesman Varujan Vosganian told HotNews.ro that his party could not yet say whether it was an irrevocable gesture or just a sign that PC wanted a renegotiation of governmental strategies.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party-PD president Emil Boc said that in his view the PC decision was taken because of a recent scandal involving Economy Ministry officials linked to controversial privatizations in Romania’s energy sector. “It sounds like demagogy to me that every time a problem appears PC blames it on the PD and on President Traian Basescu”, Boc said.

The Economy minister portfolio has been held by PC member Codrut Seres.

And the Hungarian Democrats-UDMR, the other junior member of the governing coalition, believe “we now have a minority government that will not be supported in the Parliament. Still, the PC has not been supporting the governmental projects so far either”, as UDMR head Marko Bela told HotNews.ro.

HotNews.ro, Dec 4, 2006