Vol. 2 No.8  

Romania set to become destination country for human traffic

Romania will become a destination country for human trafficking after it joins the European Union, predict local experts on the issue.
Easing of the freedom of movement around Europe means it will be less hard for trafficked people to enter the country. “I anticipate it will be three years until Romania becomes a destination country,”  Dumitru Licsandru, president of the National Agency for Combating Human Traffic told The Diplomat.
At present, Romania is a place of source and transit for trafficked people.
The majority of these are girls forced into prostitution, while others are enslaved for work or begging, almost exclusively in western Europe.
“Most of them are coming from the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine and to Latin countries as a destination,” says Gabriel Sotirescu - deputy director at the General Directorate for Fighting Against Organised Crime (DGCCO).
Labour traffic is increasing, such as the exploitation of the handicapped to beg on streets and kids for petty crime.
“In future, most probably in labour exploitation, there will be victims from Asia and North Africa coming to Romania,” says Sotirescu. In forced labour, people are often paid small wages and do not see themselves as victims.
But Licsandru estimates that now 70 per cent of the cases are trafficked for sex. There are also growing numbers of people inside Romania who are trafficked from one region to another for prostitution and begging.
In the first semester of this year the authorities convicted 41 people to a term of over five years in prison for trafficking crimes.
(See Feature)

Heading for an imperfect accession

Romania and Bulgaria have won accession to the European Union only three months before the entry date, with a tough package of accompanying measures.
The country must show that measures introduced in its fight against corruption are not irreversible, said the head of the Eurpean Commission Delegation to Romania, Jonathan Scheele. No one, he said, must be perceived “to be above the law”.
He said Romania and Bulgaria’s preparation was not “100 per cent perfect”.
But Romania was praised for efforts to collect and treat dead animals, and for linking up its IT tax systems with EU standards.
“Romanians today have a reason to be proud,” said Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu.
“This enlargement has consolidated peace and brought more prosperity in Europe,” said President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.
In the reform of the judiciary, the Monitoring Report stated that some members of the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM) continue to face potential conflicts of interests and “individual ethical issues”. In the fight against corruption, the report asked for clear political will to demonstrate “sustainability and irreversibility” in the battle. Corruption also remains a concern at local government level.
The Commission will set up a mechanism to monitor judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime.
But there was still little to praise in Romania’s efforts to treat people with disabilities, in mental healthcare and the protection and integration of minorities.
Scheele, who leaves his mandate at the end of this month, said that 2010 was a target for Romania to enter the open borders of the Schengen area.
When Romania joins the EU, Scheele sais it will be paying about one per cent of its GDP into the EU purse, and receiving seven per cent in return.
Four countries - Belgium, Denmark, Germany and France - still have to fully ratify Romania’s treaty of accession for the nation to enter the EU in 2007.

Precedents in legal system on the table for justice reform

To smash the trend of inconsistent and unpredictable decisions by judges in legal cases, a team of British judges in Bucharest has been discussing with Minister of Justice, Monica Macovei, the idea of introducing binding precedents to Romanian law.
“At the moment it is down to each judge to interpret the legal code,” said Justice Coleman, from the High Court of Justice in London, at a recent meeting by the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce. “This leads to inconsistency and unpredictability of outcome.”
Business people have complained that judges make vastly different decisions on cases which have the same premise.
“Businessmen need to know where they stand,” said Coleman, who has also worked on procedural changes in the justice systems in the Czech and Slovak Republics.
This would make legal decisions part of the common law.
But Justice Coleman acknowledged that introducing a precedent system, where a decision by a high court could be binding for lower courts, is foreign to legal thinking in Romania.

To introduce such as system there would also need to be a vote in parliament.

Short News

Hungarian leader calls again for autonomous region

      Hungarian Democratic Union (UDMR) leader Marko Bela, last month told over 300 UDMR officials that, to fulfil the Hungarian minority Szeklers' wishes, an autonomous region is necessary. He also initiated a manifesto detailing the creation of a future Union for the Szekler Region, which includes the counties of Harghita, Covasna and Mures.

Minister of Defence: Basescu’s decision to suspend me is rational

      President Basescu has suspended his Minister of Defence Teodor Atanasiu from his position, as the dignitary is subject to criminal investigations. The Defence Minister has been sued by presidential spokesperson Adriana Saftoiu for “abuse in service against somebody's personal interests,” following alleged comments that he knew of Saftoiu's past in the Military Intelligence Division. Atanasiu said Basescu's decision to suspend him “is a rational decision which I requested from the very beginning, because I want to be treated as a common citizen of this country.” Atanasiu has previously called for the withdrawal of large numbers of Romanian troops from Iraq.

Political adultery rife as Social Democrats lose former minister

      Former Minister of Economy and Trade, now deputy Dan Ioan Popescu, has resigned from the Social Democratic Party (PSD), citing his displeasure with the actions of the leadership in the party, which he says is no longer democratic. He stated that other parties had approached him to join, but he has come to no decision. Two other PSD deputies, Ioan Timis and Gheorghe Sarb have also resigned from their party. Timis has joined the National Liberal Party (PNL), while Sarb has preferred to pick the Democratic Party (PD).

US throws ball in Europe's court over secret prisons

      President Bush has admitted that secret CIA prisons have existed under his jurisdiction, although he did not detail any location. This follows a Washington Post article that revealed illegal CIA prisons housing terrorist suspects were operational in ex-Communist countries in eastern Europe. "If the European countries want to continue to try to find out where the secret sites are, that is up to the Europeans," John Bellinger III, a legal adviser to Condoleezza Rice was quoted as saying in UK's The Guardian. The President's comments back up a Council of Europe report by Senator Dick Marty in June, which was mocked by officials from the USA and Romania. Marty told Associated Press that the prisons are not likely to have been large, but may have been cells put at the CIA's disposal for a short time.

National Liberal Party proposes to throw out old guard

      Bucharest’s National Liberal Party (PNL) has proposed the expulsion of former Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan and former Minister of Justice Valeriu Stoica, following their intense criticism of the Prime Minister and his record. President of PNL Bucharest, Ludovic Orban, said the two ex-ministers broke the PNL code of ethics. Stoica hit back. “Such an expulsion contradicts the liberal spirit,” he told The Diplomat. “Inside a liberal party there is expected to be a multitude of opinions. This kind of punishment puts into the spotlight the non-democratic practices inside PNL.”

Romania: more pro US foreign policy than Bulgaria and EU

      Romania is one of the strongest pro-US nations in the west, according to a report by the German Marshall Fund of the USA, with local assistance from the Romanian Academic Society. 51 per cent of Romanians think partnership in security and diplomatic affairs should be closer between the EU and USA – as opposed to 24 per cent of Bulgarians and a 28 per cent average of the EU nine (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain). Twice as many Romanians as Bulgarians and the EU nine approve of Bush's handling of foreign policy.

Youth and opposition party win in intelligence appointments

      Basescu has appointed two men under 40 to take over the most senior positions in intelligence. He proposed Social Democratic Party (PSD) senator George Maior, 39, and presidential counsellor Claudiu Saftoiu to take over as heads of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) respectively, with President Basescu's proposals surprising both opposition and coalition members. Maior is president of the Defence Commission and former charge d'affaires at the Romanian Embassy in Ireland. Saftoiu, a former journalist, is internal policies counsellor of President Basescu.

First woman due to take up top prosecutor post

      Justice Minister Monica Macovei last month nominated 33 year-old Laura Codruta Kovesi to take over as Romania's chief prosecutor, a decision which has gained acceptance from the Superior Council of Magistartes (CSM). This follows Ilie Botos's resignation in connection with the flight of Romania's most wanted man, Omar Hayssam. Kovesi is the first female prosecutor to take over after 1989 and, until now, has been head of the Sibiu branch of the division to investigate organised crime and terrorist activity. President Basescu will make the final decision.

Musca to contest decision on secret service past

      Investigators of the secret police archives CNSAS has decided former Minister of Culture Mona Musca was an informer for the Securitate, under the codename Dana, when working at the University of Timisoara. Musca will appeal against the decision. The National Liberal Party has expelled Musca and she now stands as an independent member of parliament.