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February - 2005

News Review

President Basescu makes military commitment to Iraq and Bosnia

Basescu has approved of sending 100 more troops to Iraq, where 750 Romanian soldiers are currently stationed, following a request by the UN and USA. Basescu has also given the green light to the modification of the Romanian squad in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a part of the EU military operation ‘Althea’. The 45 soldier engineers will be replaced by scouts and sappers.

Refinery battles with state and IMFin watershed corruption case

Refinery RAFO Onesti is under investigation by the National Anticorruption Prosecution Office for illegally producing and selling oil products without paying tax to the tune of 500 million USD. “The RAFO business is a test which shows whether the bankruptcy and competition policies are efficient,” said Graeme Justice, local IMF Representative. RAFO owners Balkan Petroleum hit back, claiming Justice was “costing the society of Onesti 7,000 billion lei (175 million Euro) by his comments.” Nineteen are under investigation in the case, including local PSD baron Corneliu Iacubov and businessman Ovidiu Tender. The RAFO enquiry is linked to the former PSD government, as one of the last deeds of Nastase’s term was to transform RAFO debts to the state into shares, rather than reclaim them.

PSD era contracts investigated

Calin PopescuTariceanu has proposed an investigation into the previous Government’s granting of contracts to Vinci, Bechtel and EADS, but is unlikely to renege on the deals. He said that these contracts, sometimes criticised in the media for lacking a competitive tender, raise “serious issues” regarding the legal and financial conditions under which they were signed. He also said that directly granting contracts is not in accordance with currentEUlegislation.

Wiesel revokes Iliescu award

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Romanian born Elie Wiesel has sent back the ‘Star of Romania’ medal awarded by Ion Iliescu in 2002, because the outgoing president gave the same distinction to CornelVadim Tudor, leader of right wing extremist party PRM (Party of Greater Romania) last December. “Vadim Tudor has published [in his ‘Romania Mare’ newspaper] offensive, ugly and false declarations regarding the Jewish people, its culture and its traditions proving the lack of respect towards moral values and towards the memory of history,” Wiesel told Iliescu.

Ungureanu ready to shake-up Romanian diplomats

Incoming ForeignAffairs Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu intends to reform Romania's diplomatic staff abroad, but may come into conflict with ambassadors appointed during the PSD leadership. However Mr. Sorin Ducaru will probably remain inWashingtonDCto help prepare Basescu's official visit to the White House, due around March this year, reports . (Cotidianul)

Basescu will not tamper with his foreign intelligence service...

President Basescu said he will not reform the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), but that he would like the secret service to help Romania respond to and partake in the foreign policy of NATO and EU in a more active fashion. He added that he was satisfied with the
service's ongoing reform programme, but would remain a severe judge of its record.

Basescu intends to focus domestic intelligence on busting gangsters

Basescu wants to orient the activities of the successor to the Securitate, the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), towards his campaign against high-level corruption. Seeing terrorism and corruption as the major threats to national security, he told the SRI to evaluate the mafia-like groups that influence political decisions.Also he wants to keep SRI apart from any political influence. He added that he would not tolerate the use of the service as a means of collecting
information to use in political battles.

European body to start monitoring public bids

Due to complaints from firms and a lack of adequate offers in the tender process for bids organised by local councils in the European financing programs, SAPARD will now send in a team to observe all bids. The agency says it reserves the right to appoint an observer, who has no right of vote, in the procedure, according to Mediafax.

Local dairy standards rancid

A tiny proportion of Romania’s 2,170 dairy and processed meat production units in Romania conform to EU standards, according to agriculture minister Gheorghe Flutur. Only 56 factories, three per cent of the total, respect such standards. He also called for investment in the sector before 2007.

Competition chapter closes with tough conditions

Romania has closed its Competition Chapter for accession to the European Union, but only after promising that it will stop unfair distribution of state aid, enforce anti-trust laws and stop paying
steel mills state subsidies. The European Union also wants Romania to pump more cash and appoint better qualified staff into its oft-criticised competition council.

Justice chapter closes with even tougher conditions

Romania has closed its Justice and Home Affairs Chapter for accession to the EU, although it faces massive problems in understaffing of the police service and a reputation as a hotbed of human traffic. The EU is demanding a huge effort in recruitment of 4,348 border guards, 7,000 more police and 18,000 gendarmerie. Further demands include seeing a more convincing track record from the Anti-Corruption Office, which
needs independence from Government and an immediate implementation of the Schengen Action Plan. Most worryingly,
the EU states Romania has to initiate measures to curb its status as a country of origin, transit and destination of trafficking victims.

Europe funds aim to take disabled into social care

European Union is funding a programme to kick-start the movement of
permanently disabled people from large institutions of around 100 people to smaller, community-based facilities. But the 14.4 million Euro project, partfunded by the Government with 2.9 million Euro, will only solve a small fraction of the cost of closing down around 150 large institutions and rehousing their residents. Its funds, in packages of between 20,000 and 600,000 Euro, are now available to local councils
on a competitive basis.