Sunday, September 30, 2007

AP: Romanian Orthodox Church enthrones new patriarch

BUCHAREST, Romania: Church bells rang out around Romania on Sunday to celebrate the enthronement of Metropolitan Daniel as the new patriarch of the country's Orthodox Church.

Dozens of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant clerics attended a ceremony, joined by hundreds of Orthodox faithful and the country's political leaders.

Daniel was elected patriarch Sept. 12. The previous patriarch, Teoctist, was elected during the communist period and he died in July of a heart attack at age 92.

Daniel, 56, is one of the youngest bishops in the church, known for his ecumenical stance and desire to modernize the church.

The Eastern Rite Catholic Church, with which the Orthodox Church has property disputes over churches seized by the state during communism, said it welcomed Daniel as the new patriarch.

Ninety priests, most of them Orthodox from Romania and other Christian Orthodox countries, but also from other Christian denominations attended the ceremony. President Traian Basescu, former President Ion Iliescu and former King Michael were also there.

People who woke up early were disappointed not to be allowed in the small Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest, the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Two huge television screens were set up nearby so that Romanians who gathered outside could witness the event.

During the ceremony, the new patriarch was given a series of objects, including a silver staff, symbol of his authority, and a white headdress.

The Romanian Orthodox Patriarch is the only one among Orthodox heads of church to be dressed completely in white. The dress code was adopted in the 1930s as a way of distinguishing the Romanians among the orthodox faithful.

"We want to intensify the church's mission beyond the walls of the church," said the new patriarch, who added that he wished the church became more involved in the life of Romanians. He announced plans to launch a radio, a TV station and a newspaper.

Daniel was one of the founding members of a group proposing renewal for the Orthodox Church. But the group was disbanded in 1990 after he was elected Metropolitan of Iasi, a traditional stepping stone to becoming patriarch.

Born in 1951 in western Romania, Daniel spent 12 years in Western Europe studying theology and was a teacher at an Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland — a rare privilege for Romanians who often were prevented from traveling abroad.

An estimated 87 percent of Romania's 22 million inhabitants are Orthodox, and the church has enjoyed a revival since Communism fell in 1989.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

2,000 Christians meet in Romania to worship and work

Date Added: Friday 28th September 2007
by Martin Conway
Diocese of Oxford

The most important fact about the Third European Ecumenical Assembly which met from September 5 – 9 in Romania was that it met at all! Given that the first such gathering, in Switzerland’s Basel in 1989, was the first large-scale meeting of the Christians of this continent since the mutual excommunications between Rome and Constantinople in 1054, it is a matter of real joy and hope, this third time, that over 2000 Christians were sent by their many churches to meet, to worship God and to work together.

Sibiu is Romania's European Capital of Culture for 2007 and proved to be a charming place, as well as providing lessons from a difficult history in which people of different languages and confessions have learned to live and work together, even to appreciate the gifts they variously bring to common life, in a way that many more of us in Europe still badly need to!

Many many speeches

The Assembly received many, many speeches. Three of them may deserve to stand out. His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, stressed ‘that we unreservedly promote and support every ecumenical theological dialogue, on equal terms, as something absolutely necessary.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, spoke with conviction about the fact that the European Union is by no means just a matter of economic or legal agreements between the member nations, but essentially ‘a community of values that takes shape in a diversity of cultures and mutually enriching traditions within the framework of an enlarged and open Europe that is capable of building bridges towards other world regions and of holding a dialogue with other cultures and religions.’ Gpakilè Félémou, a Roman Catholic biologist and member of the San Egidio Community, from Guinea in W. Africa, then spoke movingly to the Forum on Migration - one of nine in which members worked on specific areas - about how Africa has had so much inflicted on it by Europe that the two cannot be separated: ‘We can save ourselves, if together, and only if together. We do not see how Africa can save itself on its own, or save the world on its own; we do not see how Europe can save itself and abandon Africa, or how Africa can face its development challenges without Europe.’

Challenges

The Message of the Assembly, prepared in a horribly rushed way, nonetheless brought out strongly, from the Forum on Migration, an impressive set of challenges: ‘As we meet Christ in our needy sisters and brothers (Matthew 25: 44-5) we ... commit ourselves to repent for the sin of exclusion; deepen our understanding of ‘otherness’; defend the dignity and rights of every human being, and ensure protection to those in need of it; call upon European states to stop illegal administrative detention of migrants (...) to uphold the value of family unity and combat trafficking in human beings and exploitation of trafficked persons.’

The Creation Forum

The Creation Forum was no less vivid in its awareness that 'we are irreversibly damaging the ecological systems on which life (all life) depends. Our life-styles are not simply a matter of personal choice - we are part of a culture that tempts us to seek identity and status through possessions and to rely on transport that puts carbon into the atmosphere.

We must bring pressure on our Governments and industrialists to re-orient their political and economic priorities, putting first the safeguarding of the Earth's life-supporting resources. Only radical alternatives can promise a happier future for the entire human race.'

Look up the website on www.eea3.org for texts and photos, or contact martinconway@abelian.net if you would like to ask more about it all.

Martin Conway is chair of the diocesan board for social responsibility

Oct. 3 vote in Romania could be crucial for Gabriel Resources

Source: The National Post

Romania’s political parties remain locked in conflict and the country’s main opposition party has asked for a no-confidence vote by parliament on Oct. 3.
If the plan succeeds, Romania could have a new political majority and much of the instability since the minority centre-right government came to power in 2004 could end.

For miner Gabriel Resources Ltd. (GBU/TSX), which is working to develop its 80% Rosia Montana gold project in Romania, this could be exactly what is needed.

The company continues to face environmental permitting delays, that it says are partly motivated by politics. Resumption of the permitting process now hinges on a ministerial change, according to Canaccord Adams analyst Nicholas Chalmers.

“We acknowledge that the project’s immediate future is now out of Gabriel’s control, but on balance believe the permitting process will proceed given the fragile position of the current government and the legal avenues open to the company,” he said in a note to clients.

As a result, Canaccord upgraded its recommendation on Gabriel from “hold” to “speculative buy,” while its last price target, which pre-dated the suspension of the permitting process, was $5.50 per share.

Romania's ratings affirmed with stable outlook - Fitch

MUMBAI (Thomson Financial) - Fitch Ratings affirmed Romania's ratings with a stable outlook, saying the ratings are supported by sustained GDP growth and solid public finances, as well as the structural and institutional reform undertaken to secure EU entry.

"But with the current account deficit set to hit 13.5 pct in 2007, risks are building up in the external finances. While these risks should be manageable, Romania's prospects for a soft landing would be boosted by more disciplined fiscal policy, the agency said.

Fitch has long-term foreign currency issuer default rating at 'BBB' and long-term local currency IDR at 'BBB+', country ceiling at 'A-' and short-term IDR at 'F3' on the nation.

TransAtlantic Gets Final Approval from Romania for Production Licenses

TransAtlantic Petroleum Corp
Friday, September 28, 2007

TransAtlantic Petroleum has received final approval from the Romanian Government for the three production licenses in Romania awarded to the Company last year. The three production licenses, Izvoru, Vanatori and Marsa, are all located in the Moesian Platform within 100 kilometers west of Bucharest. All three fields were discovered by the former national oil company and were prematurely abandoned. Each license covers approximately 1,200 acres, is for a term of up to 30-years so long as production Related Products Production Operations, Volumes 1 and 2 Production Optimization Using NODAL Analysis is established in the initial 3-years.

TransAtlantic owns 100% working interest in each of the licenses subject to a royalty ranging from 3.5% to 13.5% based on the level of field production. The corporate tax rate in Romania is 16%. All of the licenses are close to existing infrastructure. Oil produced from the licenses will be sold at world market prices; gas is currently priced at $5.50 per mcf. The licenses were awarded based on committed work programs. In anticipation of final approval of the licenses, the Company shot a 3D seismic survey over the Izvoru license and 2D surveys over the Vanatori and Marsa licenses in late 2006.

The Company is in the process of completing its engineering reservoir study on the Izvoru license, which incorporates the results of the 3D survey. The Company plans to re-establish production at the Izvoru field in early 2008. The Izvoru field produced 1.4 million barrels of oil (177,000 tons) from 26 wells according to government records. Discovered in 1968, this field produced from a Sarmatian (Tertiary age) limestone reservoir at a depth of approximately 4,000 feet. In addition, one of four wells which penetrated a deeper Albian (Cretaceous age) carbonate reservoir tested oil; this formation is productive in nearby fields.

Based on third party engineering studies, the combined Sarmatian and Albian formations contained original resources in place of approximately 22 million barrels of oil (2.8 million tons). Completion difficulties and water production resulted in limited flow rates and recoveries leading to field abandonment in 1998.

The other two fields, Vanatori and Marsa, were both discovered in the 1970's and both produced oil or gas. Five wells were drilled in the Vanatori Field; two of which produced a total of 1.3 Bcf of gas over 6 years from the Sarmatian formation at depths of approximately 5,600 feet. There is also deeper Cretaceous potential at Vanatori. In the Marsa Field, five wells were drilled of which three were productive. Between 1974 and 1983, these wells produced a cumulative 0.3 Bcf of gas from the Meotian (Tertiary age) reservoir at a depth of approximately 2,100 feet.

TransAtlantic is engaged in the exploration, development and production of crude oil and natural gas and has interests in the U.S., Morocco, Turkey, Romania and the U.K. North Sea.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Equest Investments agrees to buy Romania's Domo; proforma NAV up 17.1 pct

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Equest Investments Balkans Ltd said it has agreed to buy Romania's retailer of electronic goods Domo in the second half and posted a 17.1 pct increase in first-half proforma net asset value per share.

Balkan region focused property investment company reported a proforma net asset value per share of 21.17 eur for the period to end June compared with 18.08 eur previously.Its net asset value per share, after writing off placing expenses, came in at 20.99 eur from 16.32 eur per share.

Greece's Alapis eyes bidding for 100 pct of Romania's Labormed sources

ATHENS (Thomson Financial) - Greek pharmaceutical company Alapis is considering bidding for 100 pct of Romanian pharmaceutical company Labormed, sources close to the matter told Thomson Financial News.

The sources added that the price range is expected to reach between 80 to 100 mln eur.

Labormed had revenues of 27 mln eur and profits of 10 mln eur in 2006.

Brokers said that Alapis' interest is in line with the company's strategy to expand in the production and distribution of pharmaceuticals in the Balkans.

Ceausescu's Rotten Vines Thrive Under Winemaking Central Banker

By Adam Brown

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Romanian central bank Governor Mugur Isarescu spends most days controlling money supply. On weekends, he worries about another liquid asset: wine.

Isarescu has become one of Romania's newest vintners as he tries to revive cramposie, a 2,000-year-old grape that all but died out under communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

``It's a race to rehabilitate a Romanian wine,'' says Isarescu, who last year made 25,000 bottles of wine at vineyards in the southwestern Dragasani region. ``In a lot of ways, this is every bit as mysterious as a good monetary policy.''

Cultivating Romania's wine industry, the world's 12th- largest, may prove tougher for Isarescu than it was to resuscitate the nation's economy during his 17 years as head of the central bank. Vintners are struggling to recover from decades of communist-era overproduction and win back the favored spot they had in Paris restaurants in the 1920s.

Winemakers such as Isarescu and neighbor Jakob Kripp say they are focusing on quality rather than quantity.

Ceausescu's agricultural managers insisted on high-yielding grapes and expanded acreage by planting vines in ill-suited areas, such as hillsides.

Since communism collapsed in 1989, the area planted with wine grapes has dropped by 50 percent to about 440,800 acres, says Kripp, 47, who bottles wine under the Prince Stirbey label.

``This is a healthy development,'' says Kripp, an Austrian aristocrat whose Romanian wife inherited the vineyard. ``Now, Romania has a chance to get back an international winemaking reputation. The conditions for making wine are excellent.''

Unknown Abroad

To fulfill that potential, vintners must upgrade bottling and grape-crushing equipment, plant a wider variety of grapes and recruit experts from abroad, wine critics say.

Unlike the merlots, pinot grigios and sweet Tokajis made in neighboring Hungary, Romania's wines are relatively unknown to international consumers.

Romania made 6 million hectoliters (159 million gallons) of wine in 2006, sending only 181,600, or 3 percent, abroad. Output is similar to 11th-ranked Portugal's and a little more than a 10th of that in France, the world's biggest winemaker, according to the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization.

``I taste 5,000 wines a year, and it's been several years since I've tasted anything Romanian,'' says Tom Cannavan, editor of Fine Expressions, a wine magazine published in England. ``The Romanians have a lot of work to do.''

Hugh Johnson, a London-based wine historian and co-author of ``The World Atlas of Wine'' (Mitchell Beazley, 2001), blames Ceausescu for the faded reputation of Romanian wines, which were appreciated throughout Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Parisian Fashion

Grasa de Cotnari, a sweet white from the eastern Romanian region of Moldavia, was referred to as ``Perle de la Moldavie,'' he says. It all but disappeared during communism while Hungary's Tokaji survived and then thrived.

``There was definitely a fashion for Romanian wine in Paris,'' Johnson says. ``They were quite capable of making fine wine. Ceausescu totally killed it off. It was total neglect.''

The regime chose to produce as much wine as possible from the cheapest grapes, adding excessive amounts of sugar to increase alcohol content during fermentation, Johnson says. Romania still has the climate, soil and tradition for a revival.

That tradition dates back more than 2000 years. Wine probably originated in what is modern-day Georgia, east of Romania on the other side of the Black Sea, according to the ``World Atlas of Wine.'' The vines spread south and east, and by the time the Romans conquered what is now Romania in 106 A.D., the local tribes were making wine.

Collectible Vintage

Romanian wine is getting better and people are paying more for it, says Ovidiu Gheorghe, director of Romania's National Association of Vineyards and Wines in the capital, Bucharest.

The country's wine sales will rise to 450 million euros ($632 million) this year, from 400 million euros last year, even as production drops 8 percent to 5.5 million hectoliters, Gheorghe says. A drought has cut output, though improved quality by increasing the natural sugar content of the grapes.

``This year will be an exceptional year for wine quality --a year for collectors,'' Gheorghe says.

Isarescu, 58, has a place for such wine.

This year, the National Bank of Romania will begin storing select vintages next to the gold bars in its Bucharest vaults. The first deposit will be 300 bottles of Grasa de Cotnari made in 1956, one of the last good years during communism.

Isarescu has headed the central bank since 1990, except for the year he served as prime minister. He helped slash the annual inflation rate from 317 percent in 1993 to 4 percent in June.

He sells wine mostly to bars and restaurants at 14 lei ($6) a bottle and serves it at central bank functions. His vineyard employs 15 people at peak season, including his wife and son.

``The fame of these vineyards almost disappeared in the communist period,'' Isarescu says. ``Now I'd like to be a part of their rebirth.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Brown in Bucharest at abrown23@bloomberg.net

AP: Romanian ex-minister says inquiry into alleged CIA secret prisons is 'unwelcome'

BUCHAREST. Romania-A former Romanian defense minister was quoted Thursday as saying the EU's call for further inquiries into CIA prisons allegations was unwelcome and that the European Parliament was ignoring Bucharest's denials that it permitted such prisons on Romanian soil.

Former minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, who now is a member of the European Parliament, also accused the parliament of failing to take into account the conclusions of Romanian parliamentary inquiries that found there had not been such prisons.

«The decision to ask Romania and Poland once more to investigate the secret prisons is not welcome,» Pascu said in an interview with the state news agency Rompres. He was defense minister at the time the CIA allegedly had prisons in Romania.

EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told the parliament on Wednesday that he sent a letter to Warsaw and Bucharest in July urging them to conduct in-depth judiciary inquiries into the findings by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

The council, a major human rights watchdog, made a separate report saying «high value detainees» such as self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and suspected senior al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah were held in Poland. The report, based largely on anonymous sources, said lesser detainees, who were still of «remarkable importance,» were taken to Romania.

Frattini said that while allegations relying on anonymous evidence can only be used as a basis for a judicial inquiry and not proof of any wrongdoing, the EU states had an obligation to respond.
Romania and Poland have firmly denied the allegations.

Pascu said that allegations from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe had failed to demonstrate that Romania had allowed such prisons to operate.

«These people who brought accusations weren't capable of demonstrating them,» Pascu told Rompres. «Then there is the presumption of innocence. Asking the accused to show he is innocent is a breach of the most elementary of democratic rights.

European Parliament report last year said the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had conducted more than 1,000 secret flights with stopovers on European territory since Sept. 11, 2001, some to transfer suspected terrorists to secret detention centers.

U.S. officials have not denied there have been CIA flights over Europe or flights with stopovers, but dismissed implications all had detainees on board. They have said the flights were likely to have carried intelligence experts, counterterrorist officials or forensic evidence.

Pascu said in 2005 that parts of the airport at Mihail Kogalniceanu_ one of the sites named by Human Rights Watch as having prisons _ were off-limits to Romanians when the U.S. was at the base.

PAS Technologies and Cameron Romania sign services agreement


Source: OilOnline
Thursday, September 27, 2007

PAS Technologies Inc. has entered into a new multiyear agreement with Cameron Romania, a subsidiary of Cameron, to provide a turnkey on-site facility for industrial coating and finishing of oilfield components. The agreement includes plans for PAS Technologies to establish a facility within the Cameron Romania facility located at Campina in the country of Romania.

The new entity will be known as PAS Technologies Romania Ltd. The on-site plant will supply industrial coating and finishing for gate valve components manufactured in the Cameron Romania operations, and further strengthens PAS Technologies' capability to provide highly reliable service in the geographic region of Europe.

PAS Technologies will facilitate and operate the state-of-the-art coatings facility for start up in 2008. The on-site facility concept enables PAS Technologies to provide a lean manufacturing environment that minimizes turn-times, reduces waste and increases productivity for Cameron by eliminating the need for outsourcing these processes.

"Combining quality and industry-leading technology expertise with faster turnaround times for customers throughout this region is the mission of PAS Technologies," commented Jim Andrews, vice president acquisitions and ventures for PAS Technologies Inc. "This move is in line with our strategy to establish operations and ventures to support our customers in all regions of the globe."

Bulgaria and Romania score worst on corruption index

EU Observer
27.09.2007 - 17:17 CET | By Jochen Luypaert

Bulgaria and Romania, the EU's two newest member states, are the most corrupt in the Union, according to this year's Transparency International report.

The index ranks 180 countries on the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians, based on surveys of business people and assessments by country analysts.

Following their accession to the EU earlier in January, Bulgaria and Romania replaced Poland and Greece as the union's worst-forerunners on the corruption front.

In general, newer member states score worse than older member states on corruption, although the gap is gradually narrowing.

Of the original EU15, only Portugal, Italy and Greece are perceived to be more corrupt than several newer member states. Denmark and Finland, traditional high-flyers, top the list as the least corrupt states.

Of the 12 mainly central and eastern European member states that joined in 2004, Slovenia and Estonia emerged as states with the least perceived corruption.

Austria and Malta more corrupt since last year
While the authors of the index warn that comparisons between years should be made with caution, they identified Austria and Malta as the EU members that have suffered from a significant increase in corruption levels since last year.

For Malta, it is the third year in a row with an increased perception of corruption. The recent deterioration comes as the tiny island has suffered one corruption allegation and scandal after another in the past year.

The authors of the report also mention that the Czech Republic, Italy and Romania were the EU members that made most progress on corruption since 2006.

Croatia and Macedonia, two EU candidates, also made significant improvements. Turkey, the third candidate member shares the same ranking as Croatia.

While EU candidate states still trail almost all EU members, they are far ahead of ex Soviet-states, where corruption is perceived to run rampant.

Russia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Belarus are in the same league as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Miklos Marschall, regional director for Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International, provided an explanation in an interview with Radio Free Europe.

"Wherever there is a stronger influence of the European Union, you see improvement. Wherever Russian influence is growing, the corruption situation is worsening," he said.

Education Specialties faculty create vibrant partnership in Romania

The excitement that Bob Ives and Kathy Obenchain feel for Romania’s education is palpable, and their passion has attracted the interest of University faculty and graduate students who are contributing to - and benefiting from - research and educational partnerships in the country.

“This relationship is atypical of some international efforts,” said Ives, assistant professor of education specialties. “It’s become a long-term effort with outstanding collaborative results in research, and service.”

The College of Education faculty members first organized trips to Romania to teach research courses with University graduate students as a study abroad program. Within two years, the burgeoning scholarly and collegial relationship has stimulated ongoing work with Romanian K-12 and university educators to develop standardized testing and assessment instruments, collaborate on scholarly research among faculty and graduate students from both countries and develop strong service and outreach projects.

“It’s been a pleasure to see Bob and Kathy achieve such ambitious goals in an international arena,” said William Sparkman, College of Education dean. “Their efforts to introduce and improve standardized testing in the country’s public education system are complemented by their scholarly achievements and dedication to graduate student development. They have helped extend the reach of college faculty beyond traditional borders and brought an impressive level of service and outreach recognition to the department of Educational Specialties.”

Ives and Obenchain have helped graduate students implement teaching and research projects during consecutive four-week trips to Romania in 2006 and 2007. The students complete course assignments related to Ives’s and Obenchain’s academic research, collect data for projects suggested by other University faculty or develop original projects.

To express appreciation to the participating host schools, or as part of a service project, the students may conduct workshops for the Romanian teachers or teach lessons in the schools. Students have also donated materials and raised funds to support Romanian educational programs that have limited resources.

As a result, the students have made essential connections with Romanian educators and university faculty. More importantly, they learn about educational research while actually performing it.

“All of our students have met impressive objectives for teaching and research,” said Obenchain, education specialties associate professor. “One student has collected research from 700 participants and applied those data to her doctoral dissertation. These trips allow students to collect huge amounts of data in a relatively short period of time and then apply it toward the advancement of their degrees.”

Ives and Obenchain have made it possible for University faculty members who do not travel with the group to develop and send research projects with students for implementation.

“We are recruiting other faculty to become involved with this opportunity,” Obenchain said. “The collaborations that are taking place are significant. And, we are an incredibly special opportunity to work in a wonderful country that is struggling to redefine itself in the post-Cold War era.”

Students of Rod Case, associate professor of educational specialties, collected data on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and other students collected data for Mike Robinson, professor of curriculum, teaching and learning, which looked at science instruction and the environment in Romanian schools.

To promote original projects, students have written academic papers and presented their work at conferences, a rite of passage in an academic environment.

During their recurring trips, Ives and Obenchain have collected volumes of data that Ives and Obenchain have used for their own publications. Last April, their paper was published on the history of special education in Romania. Two additional papers are under review and others are in various stages of development.

Ives received a Fulbright fellowship and will return to Romania in spring 2008 to continue to teach and perform scholarly research.

“It’s important to us is that students and faculty recognize the amazing opportunity that these trips represent to carry the quality of University education and collaboration into an international platform,” Ives said. “We hope that faculty from disciplines across the University and teachers from Washoe County School District and other communities in Nevada are able to participate and benefit from the creative and scholarly work that is being advanced.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mittal Unit, Romania Face EU Probe of Debt Waivers

By Anthony Aarons

Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union will investigate the legality of 26 million euros ($37 million) in state aid that the Romanian government gave to Mittal Steel Roman SA before it was privatized.

The investigation will look at whether public authorities agreed to waive and reschedule outstanding debts during the privatization of the company, formerly known as Petrotub, in 2003, the European Commission said in a statement. The company was bought by Mittal Steel and is now a unit of ArcelorMittal.

The commission, the EU's regulator in Brussels, said Romanian authorities waived 25 million euros in debt and rescheduled another 520,000 euros before the company was sold.

The press office of Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu had no immediate comment on the investigation. Romania argued that the privatization, taking into account the debt waivers, was economically more advantageous than liquidating Petrotub, the EU said.

Calls to Nicola Davidson, a spokeswoman for Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal in London, weren't immediately returned.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Aarons in London at aaarons@bloomberg.net .

Romanian Central Bank Leaves Key Interest Rate at 7%

By Adam Brown

Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Romania's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged, after cutting it four times, as a drought and a weaker leu threaten to stoke inflation.

The National Bank of Romania decided to leave its Monetary Policy Rate at 7 percent at a board meeting in Bucharest today, it said in an e-mail. The decision was expected by all 10 economists in a Bloomberg survey.

``The short-term inflation outlook has worsened due to a prolonged impact of drought on food prices and the evolution of the leu exchange rate, given the difficulty of assessing the duration and effects of the recent world financial market turbulences,'' the central bank said.

A drought that damaged two-thirds of Romania's crops this year pushed up food prices and a weakening of the leu this month made imports more expensive. The government also plans to increase spending, driving an eight-month budget surplus into a full-year deficit of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Romania's annual inflation rate rose to 5 percent in August from 4 percent, reaching the upper limit of the central bank's year-end annual inflation target of 4 percent, plus or minus a percentage point.

`Under Threat'

``The 4 percent year-end inflation target is under threat,'' Beat Siegenthaler, a senior economist at TD Securities in London, said in an e-mailed note. ``We continue to believe that the National Bank of Romania will wait until the first quarter of 2008 to hike rates but the risk is for tightening to occur before year's end.''

Simon Quijano-Evans, a strategist at UniCredit Markets & Investment Banking, said in an e-mail that the central bank is ``clearly now waiting for the next inflation release before taking the next step.'' He predicted the central bank will raise its rate to 7.75 percent by February of next year.

The central bank board today also decided to leave its minimum reserve requirements on commercial bank deposits at 40 percent for foreign-exchange deposits and 20 percent for deposits in lei.

The Bucharest-based bank cut its key rate, the annual amount the central bank offers to commercial banks for one-month deposits, at its first four board meetings of this year. The rate was 8.75 percent when Romania joined the European Union in January, the highest in all of the 27 member states.

Prior Cuts

The reductions came as a stronger leu and lower-than- expected government spending helped slow inflation close to a 17-year low of 3.8 percent by June.

The leu was among the world's five best-performing currencies for much of the previous two years, helping slow inflation amid an inflow of investment as Romania prepared to join the EU this year.

A weaker leu in August raised prices of goods and services indexed to the dollar or the euro, including rents, telephone bills and gasoline. The leu has continued to decline in September, bringing its loss against the euro since Aug. 1 to 6.6 percent and its drop against the dollar to 3.5 percent.

The International Monetary Fund warned last week that Romania's widening current-account gap makes the economy and the currency more vulnerable to external issues such as international investors' reluctance to place money in emerging markets amid the U.S. subprime crisis.

The current-account deficit widened to a record 9 billion euros ($12.6 billion) in the first seven months of this year from 4.9 billion euros in the same period last year as imports rose because of the stronger leu and the scrapping of many trade barriers when Romania joined the EU.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Brown in Bucharest at abrown23@bloomberg.net

Romanian Central Bank Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged

Source: Romania Economy Watch

Romania's central bank today left its key interest rate unchanged, after cutting it four times in previous meetings. The decision was taken as a the effects of an extensive drought and a weaker leu threaten to add to pre-existing inflationary pressures.

The National Bank of Romania decided to leave its Monetary Policy Rate at 7 percent at a board meeting in Bucharest today. According to the press statement

"The short-term inflation outlook has worsened due to a prolonged impact of drought on food prices and the evolution of the leu exchange rate, given the difficulty of assessing the duration and effects of the recent world financial market turbulences..

The analysis of recent trends in macroeconomic indicators reveals a slowdown of the disinflation process and of the economic growth mainly due to supply-side factors (the impact of a prolonged drought on the farming sector) but also attributable to persistent domestic demand pressures. These pressures are also highlighted by the widening external imbalance.

Year-on-year inflation climbed to 4.96 percent in August, close to the upper limit of this year's target band, due to a significant increase of food prices and a correction of the leu's exchange rate against the background of recent turbulences on the world financial markets.

Wage dynamics have accelerated well above productivity growth, emphasizing the risks of deteriorating external competitiveness and of labour cost-related inflationary pressures. "

A drought that damaged two-thirds of Romania's crops this year hus pushed up food prices and a weakening of the leu during this month is making imports more expensive. The government also plans to increase spending, moving an eight-month budget surplus earlier this year into a full-year deficit of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Romania's annual inflation rate rose to 5 percent in August, reaching the upper limit of the central bank's year-end annual inflation target of 4 percent, plus or minus a percentage point.

A weaker leu since mid-August has helped raise the prices of goods and services indexed to the dollar or the euro, including rents, telephone bills and gasoline. The leu has continued it's decline in September, bringing its loss against the euro since Aug. 1 to 6.6 percent and its drop against the dollar to 3.5 percent.

The International Monetary Fund warned last week that Romania's widening current-account gap makes the economy and the currency more vulnerable to external issues such as international investors' reluctance to place money in emerging markets amid the U.S. subprime crisis.

The current-account deficit widened to a record 9 billion euros ($12.6 billion) in the first seven months of this year from 4.9 billion euros in the same period last year as imports rose because of the stronger leu and the scrapping of many trade barriers when Romania joined the EU.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

IN DEPTH: Roma Dream of Better Health in Romania

26 09 2007 Despite rhetoric that Roma health is a priority, Romanian authorities fail to improve conditions in Bucharest’s largest Roma neighborhood.

By Marian Chiriac and Daniel Ganga in Bucharest

Almost every morning, as soon as dawn breaks, Gogu takes his cart filled with odd bits of scrap metal and slowly pulls it to a recycling center. He unloads his cart there and, in return, he gets a meagre sum of money that barely pays his meal for the day. Then he goes home.

What Gogu, also known as Ion Gogonet, does every day is not at all uncommon for many people who live in Ferentari. Located at the southern end of Bucharest, Ferentari is a large neighborhood, something in between a slum and a ghetto.

Several warehouses, a couple of dubious pubs, a few run-down stores, one little park which appears more grey than green and one soup kitchen facility away, there is Zabrautului Street.

The area is well-known for its one-room apartments in horrible five-storey buildings, with clothes hung up to dry and small windows where, every now and then, a woman’s head sticks out to shout at the kids playing with a ball below, alongside stray dogs who scour the heaps of garbage.

Here, in this ghetto-like fetid yet lively world, lives Ion Gogonet, a 50-year-old Roma man.

His one-room apartment is just 16 metres square; it includes a small kitchen and a three- square-metre bathroom. It is however connected to the electricity and running water supply systems, which, according to the dwellers, is a major improvement since not so long ago the buildings were bereft of such basic public utilities.

This is the home of Gogonet’s family: his partner, Ilie Stela, 33, and three children, two of whom already attend elementary school. Their father has to stay in a separate bed because he has had tuberculosis. He had 72 holes in his lungs and, because of his unhealthy and destitute lifestyle, he had become very ill. Yet, he refused to see a doctor, partly out of carelessness and partly out of shame and fear so that he would not to be exposed to his friends.

It was only two years ago that he was persuaded by a health care adviser to start treatment for TB. He is healthy now, even if he is still suffering from some after-effects. At least he is no longer contagious.

Gogonet is just one of the beneficiaries of a TB prevention and treatment campaign set up by several, mainly American-based, NGOs, and financed by the US Agency for International Development, USAID.

The reason for starting this campaign was that Romania has the highest incidence of tuberculosis in Europe, and the number of TB cases doubled in the 1990s. According to official statistics, in 2006, the incidence of tuberculosis across Romania was 117.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.


However, Roma communities are about ten times more affected by TB than the rest of the population, according to epidemiological data. The causes for this include limited access to public health services, very little knowledge of health issues, widespread illiteracy, living in very crowded and insalubrious places and poverty in general.

Taves Bahtalo!

The Roma greet each other every day with the words, Taves bahtalo – meaning, “Be healthy”. Good health is something every human being appreciates, regardless of their ethnic origin, especially in Romania, where the public health system is still in a poor condition.

According to a survey carried out in April by the Romanian Center for Economic Policies, CEROPE, the amount earmarked for health in Romania is a mere $470 per annum per capita, well below the world average of $650 per capita.

“Romania is in a difficult position as far as access to medical services is concerned, with an unfair regional distribution of resources, the rural areas and the poor communities living on the margins of society being the most disadvantaged”, the survey points out.

“One explanation resides in the insufficient funding of public health services, coupled with the prolonged crisis of the health insurance fund and the low level of budget spending, between 3-4% of GDP, in sharp contrast with the 8-10% in more developed EU countries.”

In this grim picture of the poverty of the national health system, the Roma stand out in a particularly noticeable way.

Officially, there are some 550,000 ethnic Roma or some 2.6 per cent of Romania’s 21 m population. But many studies and statistic say that real number of Roma people is between 1-1.5 million.

The situation in Ferentari is especially alarming. Just eight kilometres away from Bucharest’s downtown area, several thousand Roma live there in appalling conditions.

“There’s nothing we can do, my son. That’s how they’re used to livin’. The garbage truck almost never comes this way, but the thing is people ain’t no good. It’s not like when Ceausescu was alive and people were more careful ‘cause they was afraid”, says an old woman, recalling the days of the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, while selling roasted sunflower seeds.

One of the biggest problems in the area is that people do not have stable jobs, which prevents them from getting health insurance.

“If you have no employment record or some certificate from your employer that you are a taxpayer, you can’t be registered with a family doctor’s practice. This is where the problems start”, says Ioana Constantin, a health adviser in Ferentari.

People would like to have a medical centre in the area. “The nearest one is about 15 bus stops away. They are discouraged by the great distance and the bus fares. In fact, there is one medical centre which is somewhat closer, but that is a private one, so it’s expensive”, Ioana added.

Priority or not?

Yet, the Ministry of Public Health, MSP has no programmes for the Roma communities. That is because of the idea that disease and suffering should have nothing to do with an individual’s ethnic background.

Since 2001, the year when Romania adopted the EU regulations that ban patients’ classification according to ethnicity, there has virtually been no official data containing an inventory of the Roma’s health problems.

Surprisingly enough, officials often say that Roma are the main target group of the government strategies to promote health and fight poverty. However, there is not much that the health minister can do for the people in Ferentari.

“Currently, that area is not a priority of the MSP. Things might change only if the Bucharest Authority for Public Health, ASPB or some NGO identifies specific problems and comes up with a concrete plan to improve the conditions in that area”, says dr. Hanna Dobronauteanu, former counsellor for Roma issues within the Public Health Ministry.

For now, in Ferentari – in the absence of a substantial, long-term effort on the part of the government – only individual NGO initiatives or projects appear to be yielding results, but these are limited in scope.

Hundreds of thousands of euros have been spent on all kinds of programmes, including fighting TB, providing sex education and family planning, breast cancer screening and other schemes. But all that is, as yet, producing few visible results.

“The programmes carried out so far should be only the preface to a large, coherent campaign designed to address the complex health problems of the Roma population in Ferentari”, says Alina Constantinescu, a social worker for the American organization, Doctors of the World.

“Of course they have been very useful, but they have not always been focused on the most stringent needs.


"Besides, the real causes are poverty, unemployment or lack of education”, Constantinescu says and warns: “Furthermore, as Romania has become an EU member state, the US and other western countries have stopped funding many projects in this country for Romania is now deemed capable of solving its problems alone. Well, I kind of doubt that.”


Planning is what we do best!

When targeting Roma issue, the health ministry supports only the health advisers, who are members of the local community, trained to facilitate communication between people and their doctors. Thus, the 500 health advisers now working throughout Romania – who are all women – must enter people’s homes, find out their problems and try to put in place solutions to them.

In fact, what they do is not only to take care of health-related problems, but also to help the Roma get their ID cards or birth certificates or to report their social problems to the authorities.

Even if, with the assistance of health advisers, significant steps have been taken, the problems are far from being solved. First, they are employed only for a limited period of time, usually one year, and then their fixed-term labour contracts are extended for another year, which makes their jobs insecure.

Then their salary – paid by the Authority for Public Health – is far from motivating, as it amounts to the equivalent of just €125 a month at the most.

Furthermore, there are problems related to the Roma’s access to public health services. While health ministry officials say it has improved, local NGOs are of a different opinion.

Daniel Radulescu, the health project coordinator of the Roma organization Romani Criss, says: “Even if there are more people registered with the doctor’s office now, this does not mean that they have equal access to the services provided by that doctor. Very often, Roma people inform us that some doctors display racist attitudes”.

Even the State Secretary at Health Ministry, Ervin Zoltan Szekely, confirms the existence of such cases. “We have recently been informed about a Roma lady who had filed a complaint for not having received adequate medical assistance which resulted in serious problems when she gave birth to her child. The officials assessed the situation and imposed disciplinary sanctions on that doctor not for having committed an act of discrimination, but because he had failed to provide proper medical assistance. So he was not sanctioned for discrimination because that is difficult to prove.”

Romani Criss also monitors instances of segregation in hospitals - which is illegal in Romania – but admits that such cases are equally difficult to prove. “Discrimination and segregation have not been our priority so far. However, we are planning to include these phenomena in the scope of our investigation work”, Szekely says.

Many Roma hope such promises may mark a shift in official attitudes to improving health care provisions for them.


Marian Chiriac is BIRN Romania country director and Daniel Ganga is a freelance journalist of Roma origin. Balkan Insight is BIRN`s online publication.

S&P: New EU Members Bulgaria, Romania Risk Overheating

26 September 2007, Wednesday

The economies of Bulgaria and Romania, the two Balkan neighbours that joined the European Union in Januay, are at a risk of overheating, a report released by international ratings agency Standard&Poor's claims.

The two countries, plus EU-hopeful Croatia, who targets entry to the bloc in 2009, have been at risk for some time, increasingly so in recent years, although price increases have been moderate as surging imports have kept a lid on inflationary pressures, according to S&P.

But with current account deficits reaching unsustainable levels in Bulgaria and Romania, although somewhat less so in Croatia, making this "pressure valve" less likely to be effective in the future, so overheating could lead to a drastic increase in prices.

"This will require a prudent response by policymakers, especially because tighter global liquidity conditions loom and political risks are on the rise as the endgame for the resolution of the final status of Kosovo has begun," said S&P analysts Moritz Kraemer.

The solution is to adopt a fiscal stance that would smooth out the fluctuations and prevent a hard landing, believes report author Remy Salters.

"Progress on that front is uneven among the trio, with Romania lagging in fiscal rigor, although this is partly balanced by a more flexible monetary policy," he said.

"A policy mix cooling down excessive domestic demand is therefore crucial to minimize the risk of asset and debt bubbles emerging and bursting, bringing the real economy down in the process," added Salters.

Bulgaria is rated by S&P at "BBB+", with Croatia one notch down at "BBB" and Romania at "BBB-". All three ratings have a stable outlook.

Romania: Unchanged rates despite inflation risks

September 26, 2007
Lars Christensen, Senior Analyst, Danske Bank

The Romanian central bank (NBR) has just announced that it has kept its key policy rate unchanged at 7.00% – in line with ours and the consensus expectation. However, NBR signalled a more cautious stance than earlier. The market reaction to the decision has been limited, but we expect the recent weakness in the Romanian leu to re-accelerate in the coming days and weeks.

Looking ahead we see room for significantly more weakness in the Romanian leu and that is likely to "force" the NBR to hike its key policy rate in the coming months. In that respect it should be noted that the NBR mentioned in the rate decision that the short-term inflation outlook had deteriorated due to drought (and therefore higher food prices) and uncertainty over the outlook for the leu.

That undoubtedly is a signal that there is a limit to how far the NBR will “allow” the leu before taking action. That said, NBR is notoriously dovish and we believe it is already behind the curve and hence we believe that the NBR will probably “lose” the fight to keep inflation in line with its official inflation target (3%-5%).

We remain bearish on the outlook for the Romanian FX and fixed income markets due to Romania's large internal and external imbalances and a significant overvaluation of the leu. Hence, we continue to recommend investors to buy EUR/RON with a target of 345.

AP: EU Investigates Romanian Debt Write Off

BRUSSELS, Belgium — European Union regulators said Wednesday they would investigate if the Romanian government should have written off about $37 million owed by a local steel company now controlled by Mittal Steel Co. NV.

The European Commission said it doubted the legality of the Romanian decision to waive and reschedule debts before the state-owned pipe and tube maker Petrotub was privatized and sold to Mittal in 2003.

If its probe finds that the money is effectively an illegal state subsidy, the EU can order that the company, now called Mittal Steel Roman, pay back the 26 million euros.

Regulators said they would check if the privatization was economically more advantageous for the government than seeing the company collapse _ as Romania argues.

But they said the state should not be counted as a single creditor and Romania would have to prove the economic benefits of privatization for each state agency.

The EU executive also questions Romania's liquidation costs.

The investigation is unusual because state subsidies granted before a country joined the European Union are normally exempt from strict state aid rules.

EU governments are not allowed to fund businesses unless they can justify it using a narrow set of terms, showing that the money will not give the company an unfair advantage over others.

Romania became part of the EU on Jan. 1, 2007.

However, the EU said the steel sector had special rules that allowed it look into this case.

Mittal Steel Co. bought up a string of steel plants in the former Eastern bloc earlier this decade.

It is now the world's largest steel maker, with some 10 percent of global output, as it completes its takeover of Arcelor SA.

New Consulate General of Pakistan starts operation in Iasi, Romania

ISLAMABAD, Sep 26 (APP): First ever Honorary Consulate General of Pakistan in Romania has stated its operation in Iasi - capital of the north-southern region of the country. Simple but impressive inaugural ceremony was held to open the consulate, that was attended by a large section of business community, high officials of the city and the regional governments, according to a message received here. Ambassador of Pakistan to Romania Sanaullah addressing on the occasion said the opening of Consulate General demonstrated Pakistan’s deep interest to engage all regions in Romania in a constructive manner for further expansion of bilateral ties.

He expressed the hope that Honorary Consulate General Maricel Popa, who enjoys the support of Romanian government and the business community, would be able to convert the Consulate into a hub of cultural as well as business activities promoting understanding and friendship between peoples of Pakistan and Romania. The ambassador said Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) is planning to organize a two-day exhibition of Pakistani fabric at the premises of the Honorary Consulate General in lasi in the second week of October 2007.

Honorary Consul General Maricel Popa would be leading a 25-member business delegation to Pakistan in “February/March next year. Prefect (Governor) Nicusor Paduraru and Mayor Mr. Gheoghe Nichita speaking on the occasion expressed the hope that opening of the Honorary Consulate would be synergetic in the multi-dimensional bilateral relations of the two countries. Mayor Gheorghe Nichita promised that the undergoing official consultations and paper work would soon be completed to sign an agreement establishing sister city relations between Iasi and Multan.

Governor Iasi, Mr. Nicusor Paduraru, on behalf of Romania extended full support to all initiatives of the newly appointed Honorary Consul General Popa. He said that Romanian government appreciated the presence of Pakistani flag in Iasi as a symbol of goodwill and cordiality. He hoped that the existing potential for collaboration in all spheres of interstate relations would be exploited for mutually beneficial trading.

Lewis Charles lists Romania Property Fund on AIM

The Financial Mirror
26/09/2007

Lewis Charles, the UK-based securities firm set up by the Cypriot duo Stavros Loizou and Andy Charalambous has scored a new success following the launch and listing of a new property fund specializing in Romania, following the successful operation of its Bulgarian property fund. Lewis Charles Romania Property Fund Ltd., which raised EUR 40 mln, is a closed ended fund investing in residential and commercial property primarily in and around Bucharest and other large Romanian cities.

Lewis Charles Securities CEO Stavros Loizou told the Financial Mirror that the Romania Property Fund, as well as the Sofia Fund launched earlier, offer investors easy access and exposure to exciting developments in the promising property markets of Romania and Bulgaria. In addition to raising EUR 40 mln for the Romania fund, Lewis Charles Securities had previously raised EUR 50 mln for its Sofia Fund. Both funds are listed on London’s AIM said Andy Charalambous, Vice CEO, Head of Institutional Sales.

The proceeds of transactions in the Property Portfolio and any rental income derived from such portfolio are usually reinvested into further investments by the funds. The Sofia Property Fund, also a closed-end fund incorporated in Guernsey, invests in the Bulgarian residential property market and, particularly, apartments and villas to be built in and around Sofia. The fund may also invest in the ski resorts near Sofia. Investment Director Mark Anderson added that the Sofia fund is residential only. The Romania fund may invest in residential and commercial projects and has two initial projects: one residential project in Bucharest and a retail project near Ploesti.

“We have no formal bias toward any particular type of project but at the moment would probably favour residential because of favourable supply vs. demand. Both funds may acquire land with a view to either developing it or holding it in the land bank.”

A fund offers four main advantages to investors over direct investment: diversification of exposure and consequent lowering of risk; liquidity, as it is usually quicker and easier to sell shares quoted on a reasonably liquid stock market than it is to sell land or buildings; it is generally cheaper to buy and sell quoted shares than to deal through estate agents as the latter charge high commission rates; owning shares is less of a hassle than having to maintain a property. Lewis Charles Sofia Property Fund (LCSS.LN) was last trading at GBP 100 in a 52-week range of GBP101.75-75.75 with a market cap of GBP 48.35 mln and a 32% one-year return and 15.94% year-to-date return according to Bloomberg data. Lewis Charles Romania Property Fund (LCSR.LN) was last trading at GBP 144.50 in a trading range of GBP 145.00-142.25 since it was launched and a market cap of GBP 28.29 mln, according to Bloomberg data.

Anderson states that AIM-listed funds have enough liquidity to allow potential investors to exit if they want to and much faster and at a lesser cost rather than an individual investment.

The Sofia Fund has a maximum life of seven years expiring on 2012. The manager intends to arrange the property portfolio so that it can be realised in an orderly way by the end of six years and liquidated. The life of the fund may be extended by another year at the discretion of the directors, on the advice of the manager, if it is necessary for an orderly realisation of the fund’s assets. The management fee is 2% per annum and the manager will also be paid a performance fee of 20% of any gains generated by the property portfolio in excess of a 7% p.a. compound hurdle rate, plus 5% of any gains in excess of a 23% p.a. compounded.

The Romania Fund will have a maximum life of seven years expiring in 2014. The manager intends to arrange the property portfolio so that it can be realised in an orderly way by the end of six years when it will be liquidated. The life of this fund may also be extended by up to a year if it is deemed necessary. The management fee is 2% per year and the manager will also be paid a performance fee of 20% of any gains generated by the property portfolio in excess of a 10% p.a. compound hurdle rate.

Both Funds are managed by Lewis Charles Securities Limited (www.lewischarles.com) which is a member of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Services Authority.

Lewis Charles has been established as a niche player in Europe, a fact underlined by the ethnic background of the founders. Stavros Loizou states that, “our roots very much tie us to Eastern Europe and we hope to build on corporate clients in this space as well as the introduction of further funds in the very near future.”

Romania puts bite on Dracula heir


Castle has rivals at cross purposes

A bloodcurdling row over who exactly should own a stake in "Dracula's Castle" has broken out in Transylvania.

Politicians have moved to block the return of Bran Castle to a Romanian royal heir.

Now the European Court of Human Rights could be asked to settle the ownership of the castle linked to Bram Stoker's vampire classic.

Bran Castle, the Transylvanian fortress commonly known as "Dracula's Castle", was given by Brasov villagers to Romania's Queen Mary in 1920.

But the castle was confiscated by Romania's new Communist rulers in 1948.

Archduke Dominic Habsburg, Queen Mary's grandson, was awarded the popular tourist attraction last year.

But now the Romanian parliament has ruled that deal was illegal.

The Archduke's ownership rights could now be subject to a Romanian court inquiry - or even an investigation in the European Court of Human Rights.

The court has previously ruled in other cases in which the Romanian state has been told to either return properties or buy their from their owners' heirs.

Bran Castle has featured in many movies, gaining fame - or infamy - for its links to Prince Vlad the Impaler.

The 15th century warlord, whose evil acts inspired Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, is thought to have spent time at Bran Castle.

The fortress was originally built to defend against Ottoman Turks, and now receives about 450,000 tourist visits every year.

Bulgaria Falls on Anti-Corruption Index, Still Ahead of Romania

26 September 2007, Wednesday
Sofia News Agency

Nine months after its entry into the European Union, Bulgaria fails to be a testament to the beneficial impact of accession on corruption combat, a Transparency International index shows.

Bulgaria, which joined the European Union together with Romania on January 1, 2007, is still ahead of its larger northern neighbour, even though the latter has tangibly improved its corruption score in comparison with last year.

Bulgaria ranks 64 in the index, which is based on perceptions of public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories. It scores 4.1 in a range between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt), down by seven spots from last year when it scored 4.0.

Bulgaria has been jointly ranked with Croatia and Turkey and comes ahead of Romania, which records a better progress in tackling corruption, moving from spot 84 last year up to 69, scoring 3.7.

Poland comes a spot ahead of Bulgaria, scoring 4.2.

Denmark joined Finland and New Zealand at the head of the table, which was compiled by the Berlin-based watchdog.

Forty per cent of the countries where corruption is perceived as rampant were classified by the World Bank as low income countries, Transparency International said.

Scores were significantly higher in several African countries in the 2007 index, with Namibia, South African and Swaziland making progress in the fight against corruption.

Gainers were also concentrated in Eastern Europe, with improvements in the Czech Republic and Romania pointed as testament to the impact of the European Union accession process on corruption.

Spain plans investing EUR 50 mln. to strawberry production in Romania

According to information provided by Ebronisze.pl with the reference to Romanian mass media, Spanish investors plan investing around EUR 50 mln. to the development of strawberry production in Romania. There is preliminary information saying that modern strawberry plantations will be established in the central regions of Romania.

To the opinion of the source, one of the main reasons of the increased interest of EU investors to Romania is a low land cost in this country, and relatively low labor cost if compared to the other EU countries. The analysts of "Agrooglyad: Vegetables and Fruits" weekly also point out the favorable weather conditions of Romania for strawberry production, and also good opportunities for strawberry sales on the inner market where the competition among the producers remains relatively low.

"Agrooglyad: Vegetables and Fruits" informs, strawberry is one of the most attractive crops to invest into in Ukraine; the production growth rates confirm this fact. Strawberry production has been growing for the fourth year; it has increased 55-65% during this period.

Romanian villagers resist mine owners' plans

Published Aug 31, 2007 6:56 PM

Rosia Montana is a small village in the nation of Romania. At one time it had jobs for all. Healthcare was provided to all citizens free of charge. There was full employment and many in the town worked in the local mines. Life was not perfect, but the economy was planned under the leadership of the Romanian Communist Party and was not dictated by the profit motive.

This is not the case anymore. Now the people of Rosia Montana make an average of $3 a day and live in poverty. The main source of income for the people of Romania's countryside is now tourism in the summer and what they can fish or grow for themselves in the other seasons.

In these circumstances, the Gabriel Mining Co. has decided to destroy the town of Rosia Montana and make it the site of a mile-wide gold mine.

Gabriel Mining, which is based in Toronto, Canada, is owned by Frank Timis. According to Dundee Securities, a financial securities firm, he was twice convicted of possessing heroin with intent to sell. (earthworksaction. org) But then Timis realized that, under the new capitalist system now installed in Eastern Europe, he could make more money exploiting natural resources than selling drugs. He now owns oil wells in Europe and some diamond mines in Africa—an industry known for its horrific conditions.

Timis has now turned his eyes toward the village of Rosia Montana. The soil there contains what is left of a gold vein that once went through the village. The project calls for destroying the houses, shops and schools so the mining company can use the deadly chemical cyanide to leach even little gold particles from the soil and turn it into jewelry for the wealthy of this world.

In the path of this proposed mine are not only 900 homes but also nine cemeteries and eight churches, motivating even the Catholic Church to raise its voice against this project.

The people of Romania witnessed an environmental and economic disaster in 2000 when cyanide used in mining spilled into the Danube River, killing all the fish in 250 miles of the river and its tributaries. Besides destroying an important food supply, the poisonous chemicals contaminated the drinking water of 2.5 million people.

The fish population of Romania has declined rapidly thanks to pollution caused by new privately owned industries. The Romanian government is considering banning fishing altogether, which would make it a crime to do what so many Romanians now have to do merely to survive.

The State Environmental Resource Center of Wisconsin says there is no safe way to use cyanide for mining. So what does Gabriel Mining propose to do with all the cyanide-laced waste it will produce from this operation? It will build a 1,482-acre "storage pond" in the nearby valley of Corna, where 196.4 million tons of cyanide-laced waste will be stored behind a cement dam.

In the new Eastern Europe, the ideology of communism is said to have been "refuted" and profit is now in command. There are no state committees made of workers and peasants to regulate the activities of mining companies. Those who would work in the proposed mine, if ever built, would have no say in how their workplace was run, or what actions the company would take.

Interviews with people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are beginning to show that, while the socialized economy that once existed there may have been greatly flawed, the return of these nations to the rule of private ownership over society's wealth has made life much worse for the majority of the people.

Now a coalition of groups seeks to make sure that Gabriel Mining's plans for Rosia Montana are not put into practice.

"It's been six years they've been terrorizing us into moving," a resident of Rosia Montana told Businesswire. "But we didn't go, and we won't go."


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Romania - Factors to Watch on September 24

Mon Sep 24, 2007 6:59am BST

BUCHAREST, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Here are news stories, press reports and events to watch which may affect Romanian financial markets on Monday.

NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

Romania's powerful leftist opposition party, the Social Democrats, are expected to file a no-confidence vote against the government.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

A presidential committee will analyse prosecutors' requests to start criminal investigations against Justice Minister Tudor Chiuariu and former Communication Minister Zsolt Nagy, for alleged graft-related crimes.

EXCLUSIVE-ROMANIA'S CBANK SEES RISKS TO CPI TARGET

Romania's inflation may not have peaked in August and rising food prices and a perceived depreciation of the leu pose risks to the central bank's inflation goal, governor Mugur Isarescu told Reuters.

[ID:nL22168520]

ROMANIAN CBANKERS LEND SUPPORT TO TROUBLED LEU

Romanian central bankers threw a lifeline to the slumping leu on Friday, saying its falls were temporary, while the International Monetary Fund soothed worries about domestic woes troubling the currency.

[ID:nL21823441]

ERSTE BANK TO CUT 2,400 JOBS AT BCR BY END-2008

Austria's Erste Bank (ERST.VI: Quote, Profile, Research) der oesterreichischen Sparkassen plans to slash almost a quarter of the workforce at its Romanian unit Banca Comerciala Romana to cut costs by the end of next year, it told investors on Friday.

[ID:nL21826285]

ROMANIA TO HIKE GAS PRICES BY 3.7 PCT AS OF OCT. 1

Romania will raise gas prices for household consumers by 3.7 percent from the start of October as cost estimates for imported gas in the fourth quarter have risen, energy price regulator ANRE said on Friday.

[ID:nL21786481]

ROMANIA TO FINALISE ELECTROPUTERE PRIVATISATION

Romania will sign a deal to sell its 63 percent stake in electrical equipment maker Electroputere (EPUT.BX: Quote, Profile, Research) in the coming days, the country's privatisation agency AVAS said on Friday.

[ID:nL21671508]

ROMANIAN SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ

The Romanian Defence Ministry said on Friday a Romanian soldier was killed and five others were severely wounded in an explosion in Iraq, during a patrolling mission next to their base in Tallil.

ROMANIA TOP COURT POSTPONES 1990 RIOT CASE TO OCT

Romania's top court postponed on Friday until October a case against four retired high-ranking officers for their role in four deaths during a miners' riot in 1990 due to procedural reasons, court officials said.

ROMANIA'S LAFARGE TURNOVER UP

The Romanian unit of France's cement maker Lafarge (LAFP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) expects a 2007 turnover of 300 million euros ($423.3 million), 30 percent higher than last year and compared with a previous estimation of 20 percent.

The revision was caused by a prolonged drought which boosted construction works, a company director said.

Ziarul Financiar, page 24

MORE CARS

Romania's car imports rose by 53.2 percent on the year in the first eight months of 2007, the Romanian Association of Car Makers and Importers said.

Ziarul Financiar, page 3

Naila Ahmadova’s exhibition “Azerbaijan-Romania” opens in Bucharest

Member of Azerbaijani Artists’ Union Naila Ahmadova’s exhibition “Azerbaijan-Romania” was held in Romanian Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs in Bucharest at the initiative of Romania-Azerbaijan Friendship Society.

Azerbaijani embassy told APA that officials of Romanian Culture and Religious Affairs Ministry, Foreign Ministry and other ministries, Romanian parliamentarians and professors of Bucharest University, chairmen and members of the management board of Romania-Azerbaijan Friendship Society, Romania-Azerbaijan Commerce and Industry Chamber, Azerbaijan-Romania Youth and Cultural Association, Romania-Turkey Commerce and Industry Chamber, Turkish Businessmen Association, Azerbaijanis living and studying in Romania, representatives of Turkish communities, heads and representatives of diplomatic offices in Romania participated in the opening ceremony of the exhibition.

Azerbaijani ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Romania Eldar Hasanov and advisor of Romanian Culture and Religious Affairs Ministry Luiza Ciolac spoke about the aesthetic features of the Azerbaijani artist’s works.

29 works by Naila Ahmadova were exhibited in Romania. /APA/

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Azerbaijani President continues working visit to Romania

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev who is visiting Romania arrived in Ploiesti city today, APA reports quoting “AzerTaj” State Agency.

The head of the state visited Clock museum at first. Azerbaijani President was informed that this museum was established in 1963 and has 500 exhibits and it is the one of the best museums of Eastern Europe. Clocks-the sun dials, burning clocks, with water or sand are demonstrated here. There are complicated-mechanism clocks concerning beginning of 20th century in the exposition. Following this, Azerbaijani President got acquainted with National Oil Museum in Ploiesti. Valuable exhibits related with the history of Romanian oil industry are kept in this museum. The museum was established in 1959, its exposition functions since 1961. /APA/

DPA: Three killed as Austrian plane crashes in Romania

Bucharest- Three people were killed Tuesday when an Austrian small plane crashed in southern Romania's Carpathian Mountains, Realitatea TV reported. No-one aboard survived, the report said. The dead included two Austrians who had been doing topographical recordings for a Romanian company. The plane crash landed in a forested area near Vaideeni in the Valcea region. As the area is difficult to reach, the cause of the crash was still unclear.

The Daimond DA42 aircraft had departed from Craiova, southern Romania, earlier Tuesday. The flight was the Austrian aircraft's second Tuesday, the head of the airport in Craiova said. There had been no contact of any kind with the pilot before the crash.
A rescue team arrived late Tuesday at the scene of the crash which is far from the road. An emergency services helicopter had earlier given up the search. The plane was completely destroyed, sources said. The three occupants had probably died on impact, they added. A commission set up by the Romanian aviation authority is to probe the circumstances of the crash.

Jeronimo Martins eyes Romania, Ukraine expansion

WARSAW, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Portugal's second-largest retailer Jeronimo Martins (JMT.LS: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to expand its Polish Biedronka retail chain to Romania and Ukraine, management board chief Alexandre Soares dos Santos said on Tuesday.

"We have a lot to do in Poland, but we are studying the possibility of expanding the Biedronka brand to Romania and eventually Ukraine," Soares dos Santos told reporters.

The retailer earlier said it would invest 500 million euros

($703.9 million) in 2007 through 2009 in Poland, opening 120 new Biedronka stores a year in the country and a new distribution centre in the first quarter of 2008.

The group opened its 1,000th Biedronka retail outlet in Poland on Monday. Shares in Jeronimo Martins were down 0.3 percent to 4.04 euros by 1108 GMT, outperforming Lisbon's main PSI20 (.PSI20: Quote, Profile, Research) index which was down 2 percent.

Romanian Main Opposition Party Asks for Vote to Oust Government

By Adam Brown

Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Romania's opposition Social Democrat Party, the largest in parliament, put forward a no-confidence motion aimed at ending the minority government of Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu.

``We could have a debate and vote as early as next Wednesday,'' Social Democrat spokesman Titus Corlatean said in a news conference today. ``We have ample support for the no- confidence motion, more than we need.''

The Social Democrats, formed by ex-communists after the anti- communist revolution in 1989, have about 150 seats in the 465-seat parliament and would need to ally with other opposition parties to get the motion passed.

Infighting between the main political parties since Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1 has delayed programs meant to speed up the absorption of EU funds and fight corruption, a key EU demand. Tariceanu and President Traian Basescu, former allies, split early this year amid mutual accusations of corruption.

Some prominent Social Democrats, including former Romanian President Ion Iliescu, said they oppose the motion, which could force elections a year earlier than scheduled.

In April, Tariceanu ousted the Democratic Party, which supports Basescu, from the government, firing all ministers loyal to Basescu. The Democrats joined the opposition with their 100 seats in parliament, leaving Tariceanu's supporters with about 100.

Basescu has repeatedly called for Tariceanu's resignation and has indicated his party may support a no-confidence motion although he has rejected any possibility of a governing alliance with the Social Democrats.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Brown in Bucharest at abrown23@bloomberg.net