Thursday, March 29, 2007

US ambassador to Romania says "political turmoil" could detract investors

The Associated Press
Thursday, March 29, 2007

BUCHAREST, Romania: The U.S. Ambassador to Romania, in rare public criticism of the government, warned Thursday that political feuding could harm the country's chances of attracting foreign investment.

"Romania's many friends are prepared to help it continue to strengthen its democratic institutions — but we need to be realistic and recognize recent political turmoil has raised doubts beyond Romania's borders," whether this is a good place to invest, said Nicholas F. Taubman in remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce in Romania.

It is the first time that the U.S. ambassador, who arrived in 2005, has publicly criticized the government and his remarks come after weeks of political bickering between President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu.

The prime minister said Monday that relations between the two main parties in the ruling coalition had broken down, and he accused Basescu's Democratic Party of making life impossible for his Liberal Party.

Romania no longer has a foreign minister after Basescu blocked the appointment of Tariceanu's nominee for the job, saying he did not have enough experience.

In further turmoil, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu resigned last month as foreign minister at the Tariceanu's request after he failed to inform the premier that two Romanians had been arrested by U.S. troops in Iraq.

"People in private industry and in government are asking a lot of questions about Romania, trying to understand where the country is headed," Taubman added. "It is very important for Romania to continue to make progress on key areas like justice reform and in fighting corruption."

Romania joined the EU on Jan. 1 and officials in Brussels are watching the situation because the country is expected to carry out major reforms to stamp out corruption and bring its economy in line with richer Western neighbors.

"Losing traction on these reforms would not send the right signal to Romania's partners. We can only hope that things settle down, sooner rather than later," he said.

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