Monday, December 24, 2007

Migrant Romanian workers leave children at home

Monday, December 24, 2007

BALACIU, Romania: Desperate parents are fleeing the poverty of Romania's countryside in search of work elsewhere in the European Union, leaving their children behind to be cared for by others.

Since Romania joined the EU at the start of 2007, thousands of children have been left with grandparents, neighbours or local authorities while their parents seek work, often illegally, on Italian construction sites or in Spanish orchards.

"The phenomenon is on the rise since Romania joined the EU, opening doors to free travel across borders in western Europe," said Mariela Neagu who runs the state child protection agency.

"The parents see it as a sacrifice for their children, to give them a better future."

In some schools, more than half the students live without either or both parents. Many villages in northern and eastern Romania appear to be inhabited only by children and their grandparents.

Official figures show 80,000 of more than 4 million Romanian children have one parent or both parents working abroad. Social workers and volunteers say the real number is much higher.

Bogdan Lacatus was seven years old when his father went to Spain to find work and 11 when his mother left their village in southern Romania to follow him.

A thin boy with large brown eyes and a soft voice, he now lives in a state child care facility, waiting for his parents to claim him or for social workers to find him a foster family.

"I think they will come back," he said softly.

He may have to wait a long time, according to social workers who are unable to locate either of his parents. Bogdan's mother returned to Romania briefly but disappeared after a few days.

At his great-aunt's farmhouse, where he stayed briefly before being moved into care, ducks and chickens picked through the dusty yard littered with rusting metal and rotting fruit.

Distant relatives have fought to be able to care for Bogdan and his two younger siblings since their mother left Romania months ago. Social workers say they are safer in state care where they avoid harsh treatment and poverty.

"Parents have to notify us when they leave children behind and the local authority monitors them," said Nicolae Badea of the social protection authority monitoring Bogdan's case. "If there are problems, we take them into care."


In some ways, Bogdan is lucky. He is likely to avoid being placed in one of the vast, dirty orphanages that caught the world's attention in the early 1990s, which have virtually disappeared in Romania.

However, the relatively poor state has just started overhauling its child care, crippled and corrupted by years of dictatorship and the graft-tainted society it spawned.

Care may be more friendly now, but critics say bureaucracy, corruption and ineptitude hobble reforms, while many children still have no state protection.

Small children dot Bucharest's busiest intersections during midday traffic, dodging cars to beg for cash. Others huddle along the capital's underground passageways, sniffing glue.

The migration problem is not unique to Romania, plaguing several other poor EU members in eastern Europe.

Romania has asked Spain and Italy, the main destinations of Romanians looking for work, to set up pilot language programmes in schools in the hope of making it easier for children to integrate and encouraging parents to take them along.

Bogdan's is a typical southern Romanian village which relies on corn and sunflower cultivation for its livelihood, and is struggling to survive in increasingly competitive markets.

Its small school, on a dirt road and surrounded by fruit trees tended by the children, teaches pupils French and English.

"These children are not fed right, not dressed right. They are sensible and sweet but they would do better if their parents were around," said Mariana Mirea, Bogdan's teacher.

Labour migration is an essential part of the Romanian economy, with 2 million Romanians, or one in 10, living abroad since the fall of communism in 1989.

Official figures show the outflow of legal workers has steadied in recent years, but anecdotal evidence shows illegal migration is still high.

The cash the migrants send home has helped rejuvenate parts of the countryside but has depleted the workforce and forced up wages which economists say may deter foreign investment.

Researchers say a generation of children is growing up without proper family support. Already, the number of years Romanian children spend in school is among the lowest in the EU, according to Eurostat figures.

Filanda, a mother of three who does odd jobs in Milan with her husband, said she could not afford to take her children when she went to Italy in January in search of work.

"They are my children and I am upset," she said, declining to give her full name. "There was no hope in Romania. There is a bit of hope here."

(Additional reporting by Iulia Rosca in Bucharest and Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Milan; editing by Janet Lawrence)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Greece, Bulgaria, Romania say Serbian EU membership not linked to Kosovo issue

Saturday, December 22, 2007

ATHENS, Greece: Serbia's future lies within the European Union and its eventual entry into the bloc must not be tied to developments in Kosovo, the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and Greece said Saturday.

"Nobody wants to put Serbia into this kind of dilemma (to choose between EU entry and holding on to Kosovo). These are two separate issues; any attempt to link Serbian accession with developments in Kosovo would be wrong and counterproductive," Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told reporters in a joint news conference with Bulgaria's Ivailo Kalfin and Romania's Adrian Mihai Cioroianu.

Greece, which has consistently opposed any change in Balkan borders over the past couple of decades, opposes recognizing an independent Kosovo state if the Albanian majority in the province unilaterally declares independence from Serbia. Greece fears this could undermine the Balkans' fragile stability.

Romania, which has a substantial Hungarian minority, shares Greece's position.

Bulgaria looks more favorably at the idea of an independent Kosovo, but Kalfin did not openly disagree with his two colleagues. He agreed that "any solution not based on compromise is bad" but said EU membership "is a community of values" to which the Serbs must adhere. Both the Serbs and Kosovars must show "commitment to a political process and (avoid) recourse to violence," he added.

Cioroianu said that "We need a democratic Serbia sparing no effort to implement reforms" that will help it join the EU.

Kosovo Albanians have threatened to declare independence unilaterally if the U.N. Security Council remains deadlocked on the issue. Russia threatens to veto any Security Council resolution that is not supported by the Serbs, and the latter continue to reject an independent Kosovo, offering broad autonomy within Serbia instead.

Asked directly whether Greece and Bulgaria would recognize an independent Kosovo, Bakoyannis said that "we are not there yet. ... We will evaluate the situation on the ground (and) we must strive for a unified EU position." Bakoyannis and Kalfin agreed the EU must strive to keep communication channels open between the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians "to keep the region as peaceful as possible".

Serbia should be ready to take the first step toward EU membership by signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in January 2008 and achieve candidate status later that year, the ministers said. "Serbia has no alternative to a European perspective," said Cioroianu.

The meeting was part of the three countries' regular rounds of consultations. The foreign ministers will meet early next year in Bucharest to prepare a summit meeting of their respective heads of state and government in Sofia next year.

Greece, Bulgaria, Romania agree to step-up cooperation for Balkan stability, growth

Athens News Agency

"Greece, Bulgaria and Romania have increased resonsibilities for stability and growth on the Balkan region, and we intend to shoulder these responsibilities," Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis said on Saturday, following a tripartite meeting in Athens, at Greece's initiative, with her Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts Ivaylo Kalfin and Adrian Cioroianu, respectively.

The three foreign ministers, who represent the NATO and EU member countries in SE Europe, agreed to boost their cooperation in view of the critical developments in Kosovo and the difficult situation in Serbia, and also reaffirmed their dedication to the European perspective of the western Balkans, which was rejuvenated by the recent Greek initiative '5 proposals with a timetable' while, on a regional level, they stressed the importance of cooperation in the framework of the Black Sea Cooperation Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and and the new EU neighbourhood in the Black Sea.

Stressing the need for "the region's issues to be confronted by the region itself", the three ministers decided to hold a follow-up meeting of the Greece, Bulgaria, Romania Tripartite Cooperation in the first half of 2008 in Bucharest, which will prepare for a summit meeting among the priime ministers of the three countries later in 2008, in Sofia.

Saturday's meeting focused mainly on Kosovo.

Bakoyannis told a joint press conference after the meeting, speaking on behalf of the Tripartite, that "the channels of communication between Belgrade and Pristina must remain open, regardless of what the 'following day' is", stressing "how important this is for us who are countries of the region".

"We share the same concerns, the same worries, but also the same vision for stability, peace and prosperity to the benefit of all the peoples," Bakoyannis added.

On the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which "serves as a powerful catalyst in the achievement of the above goals", Bakoyanni said that no state can be excluded from the process, including Serbia. "This rapprochement must not be linked to issues other than the European prerequisites. Any attempt at linking Serbia's European perspective with the developments in Kosovo would be erroneous and counter-productive," the Greek foreign minister said categorically. This position was endorsed by her Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, and was recorded in a joint communique issued after the Tripartite meeting.

To a question on whether this would eliminate an incentive to Serbia for finding a solution to the Kosovo issue, Bakoyannis replied: "We don't want to place Serbia before a dilemma. No one wishes to put forward the dilemma of the European perspective with Kosovo as the counterbalance."

"I make this clear," Bakoyannis said, while Cioroianu added that "that would be unfair".

She stressed, however, that the European perspective of the Balkan neighbours must be founded on firm foundations such as respect of International Law, the International Treaties, good neighbour relations, peaceful resolution of differences, and seeking mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding issues.

Regarding the future status of Kosovo, Bakoyannis said that "we must act with lucidity, without haste, because it is a complex and complicated problem, and we must give diplomacy the opportunity to achieve a viable solution that will contribute to regional stability".

"We also believe that an international and a European presence are necessary, in accordance with the recent decisions of the European Union and NATO," Bakoyannis said, stressing the need that the international presence should be founded on the broadest and strongest possible basis of legitimisation.

In their joint communique, the three foreign ministers stress the need for the signing of an Association and Stability Pact with Serbia as soon as possible, and for the encouragement of the other countries of the region to also submit accession requests to the EU, while they also express the hope that the European Council (summit) of December 2008 will grant candidate status to every applicant.

The ministers further endorse the Greek initiative that rekindled the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which is expected to be a subject of deliberations in the EU in the first half of 2008.

Finally, the three ministers reaffirm that the BSEC comprises the main forum for regional cooperation in the region and for the rapprochement of the countries of the region with the EU.

Saturday's discussions also focused on strengthening cooperation on and confrontation of natural disasters, which plagued the countries of SE Europe this past summer, a subject that has already been put forward in the EU as well by the Greek government.

Before the Tripartite meeting, Bakoyannis had separate meetings with her Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, respectively.

After the Tripartite, the three ministers strolled through the festively-decorated centre of Athens, followed by lunch at a downtown restaurant.

Enel to expand in Romania, elsewhere - CEO

MILAN, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Italy's power utility giant Enel has ended its expansion drive by acquisition and begun focusing on developing its operations in Romania and other countries where it has a presence, according to its chief executive.

"The phase of the big expansion via acquisitions has come to an end with Endesa (ELE.MC: Quote, Profile, Research) and OGK-5 (OGKE.MM: Quote, Profile, Research)," Fulvio Conti told the Borsa & Finanza weekly business newspaper, published on Saturday.

"But this has not put an end to the phase of organic growth that we will pursue with vertical integration in various markets where we are present," he said.

Conti also said Enel (ENEI.MI: Quote, Profile, Research) would start paying off the debt it had accumulated after the acquisitions, with money raised from bond issues, asset sales, and a strong cash flow.

Enel and its Spanish partner Acciona (ANA.MC: Quote, Profile, Research) bought Endesa, Spain's largest electricity producer, for 42.5 billion euros earlier this year.

In Russia, it began buying out minority shareholders in OGK-5 (OGKE.MM: Quote, Profile, Research), one of six wholesale power generators being spun off from former monopoly, Unified Energy System (UES).

Conti said he wanted to emulate the way Enel operated in Russia in Romania and other countries.

"Only in Russia do we have the whole value chain: the production of primary materials, their transformation into energy, and the commercialisation of it," he said.

"In Romania, for example, we are only in distribution -- we want to enter into energy production," he said.

On Friday, Enel won permission from the European Commission to buy Romanian power distributor Electrica Muntenia Sud in a 820 million euro deal it had struck in 2006.

After its acquisition spree, Conti said Enel's debt stood between 57 billion and 58 billion euros.

He said it was essential for Enel to keep an "A" rating to prove that it was not expanding to the detriment of its finances.

On Dec. 14, Standard & Poor's cut its long-term corporate credit ratings for Enel to "A-" from "A", citing the weakening of Enel's financial profile. (Reporting by Gilles Castonguay, editing by Mike Peacock)

Embassy Protests at Publication of Anti-Islamic Book in Romania

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iranian embassy in Bucharest voiced strong protest against the publication of the anti-Islamic and blasphemous book 'Satanic Verses' in Romania.

In a meeting with Romanian foreign minister, Iran's ambassador to Bucharest Hamid Reza Arshadi condemned translation and release of the insulting book in that country, and described it as an insult to divine religions, provoking Muslim sentiments in Romania and other countries.
Meantime, Iran's mission in Bucharest in a statement condemned translation and release of Salman Rushdie's blasphemous book 'Satanic Verses' by Romania's Editura Polirm Publications, and called on Bucharest officials to prevent distribution of the book in that country and make those in charge of Polirm to extend an apology to Muslims living in Romania.

Also following consultations with Romania's Orthodoxy Church and Islamic centers, the Iranian embassy called for immediate and coordinated action by Muslims to prevent distribution of the book in that country.

Petrom completes building of 100 PetromV stations in Romania

Energy Business Review
20th December 2007
By Staff Writer

Romanian oil and gas group Petrom has announced that it has built 100 filling stations under the PetromV concept in the country in less than three years. The new stations include Viva stores, restaurants and leisure areas such as a playground and the customers are offered full services such as the filling of car tanks, checking wheel pressure and cleaning car windows.

Petrom claims that the new concept brought in major changes in the network in Romania in terms of additional services and facilities and established new quality, safety, reliability and convenience standards. In order to achieve its objective of opening 250 PetromV stations by 2010, Petrom committed to a substantial investment program for the marketing segment and plans to increase the efficiency of operations and personnel to offer quality services in a modern environment.

Until 2010, Petrom will invest approximately E500 million in marketing activities. Tamas Mayer, executive board member of Petrom, responsible for marketing, said: "The PetromV concept was born out of the wish to offer the customers a premium brand. The PetromV concept represented the alignment to the OMV quality standards and provided the customers with products and services at international level."

Romania voices HIV/AIDS victims’ struggles

20 Dec 2007 12:27:10 GMT

Thousands of Romanians were sensitized to the struggles HIV positive persons face each day as a result of activities organized by World Vision to commemorate World AIDS Day in December. In Romania there are approximately 12,000 persons living with HIV, according to the Health Ministry National Commission to Fight Against AIDS.

'We believe World AIDS Day is an important time to draw people's attention to this epidemic and to sensitize the community to the HIV/AIDS problem,' said Cristina Marin, Together for Health Project coordinator, World Vision Valcea Area Development Program (ADP).

In Valcea city, 210 km northwest of the capital city Bucharest, World Vision raised community awareness and sensitivity to persons living with AIDS through the 'Say 'No' to Discrimination!' campaign, in honor of both World AIDS Day and the International Day of Disabled Persons, also in December. Flyers and advocacy materials were distributed to the community and a red ribbon, the symbol of solidarity of people living with AIDS, was hung in the middle of a major shopping center. Two days later, community members arranged candles and red ribbon, and released balloons.

Volunteers made a red ribbon from candles and grouped together to form a human red ribbon at an event that honored those who have died of AIDS.

In Constanta, 190 km east of Bucharest, World Vision organized a round table where media representatives were informed on HIV/AIDS. In addition, World Vision staff and volunteers shared their work with HIV positive persons and personal messages from HIV infected youth who participate in World Vision's 'Together for Future' project in Constanta County.

At the roundtable, media representatives learned that HIV positive persons are legally considered people with disabilities, a fact of which even most local authorities are ignorant. Local authorities are poorly informed of HIV/AIDS and believe laws protecting people with disabilities only apply to people with physical or mental impairments. Hence, laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities are seldom enforced for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, many banks are unaware that HIV positive people are legally considered disabled and do not offer HIV positive people and their families special loans for which people with disabilities are eligible. For example, the families of HIV positive children, teenagers and youth are qualified to access a type of loan supported by the State to purchase items to support their special needs.

In Romania, people living with HIV/AIDS suffer discrimination and lack of opportunity due to their condition. In some cases managers unlawfully require new employees to undergo a medical review, even though such a review is unnecessary for employment and new employees' medical conditions are irrelevant to the position(s).

HIV positive youth are separated from HIV negative youth in schools due to the public's ignorance of how HIV is transmitted and indifference towards the disease and those who suffer from it. Parents and teachers are particularly reluctant to allow HIV positive students to study at the same desks as HIV negative students.

Also, children with HIV/AIDS frequently miss school due to extended periods of hospitalization, causing many of them to not begin high school until they are 18-19 years old. Romanian law forbids children's registration in a daily education program if the children are two or more years older than the age level of the class in which they want to register, which means that many HIV positive children are 'too old' to enrol in school. Some of these children resort to studying during the evening and weekend in order to complete their education, though it takes them longer to finish school this way. In addition, HIV positive children do not benefit from coaching, long distance education or special lectures that may help them recuperate because such programs are in small supply and frequently inaccessible to people living with HIV.

Orphanages Stunt Mental Growth, a Study Finds

Published: December 21, 2007
The New York Times

Psychologists have long believed that growing up in an institution like an orphanage stunts children’s mental development but have never had direct evidence to back it up.

Now they do, from an extraordinary years-long experiment in Romania that compared the effects of foster care with those of institutional child-rearing.

The study, being published on Friday in the journal Science, found that toddlers placed in foster families developed significantly higher I.Q.’s by age 4, on average, than peers who spent those years in an orphanage.

The difference was large — eight points — and the study found that the earlier children joined a foster family, the better they did. Children who moved from institutional care to families after age 2 made few gains on average, though the experience varied from child to child. Both groups, however, had significantly lower I.Q.’s than a comparison group of children raised by their biological families.

Some developmental psychologists had sharply criticized the study and its sponsor, the MacArthur Foundation, for researching a question whose answer seemed obvious. But previous attempts to compare institutional and foster care suffered from serious flaws, mainly because no one knew whether children who landed in orphanages were different in unknown ways from those in foster care. Experts said the new study should put to rest any doubts about the harmful effects of institutionalization — and might help speed up adoptions from countries that still allow them.

“Most of us take it as almost intuitive that being in a family is better for humans than being in an orphanage,” said Seth Pollak, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, who was not involved in the research. “But other governments don’t like to be told how to handle policy issues based on intuition.

“What makes this study important,” he went on, “is that it gives objective data to say that if you’re going to allow international adoptions, then it’s a good idea to speed things up and get kids into families quickly.”

In recent years many countries, including Romania, have banned or sharply restricted American families from adopting local children. In other countries, adoption procedures can drag on for many months. In 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available, Americans adopted 20,679 children from abroad, more than half of them from China, Guatemala and Russia.

The authors of the new paper, led by Dr. Charles H. Zeanah Jr. of Tulane and Charles A. Nelson III of Harvard and Children’s Hospital in Boston, approached Romanian officials in the late 1990s about conducting the study. The country had been working to improve conditions at its orphanages, which became infamous in the early 1990s as Dickensian warehouses for abandoned children.

After gaining clearance from the government, the researchers began to track 136 children who had been abandoned at birth. They administered developmental tests to the children, and then randomly assigned them to continue at one of Bucharest’s six large orphanages, or join an adoptive family. The foster families were carefully screened and provided “very high-quality care,” Dr. Nelson said.

On I.Q. tests taken at 54 months, the foster children scored an average of 81, compared to 73 among the children who continued in an institution. The children who moved into foster care at the youngest ages tended to show the most improvement, the researchers found.

The comparison group of youngsters who grew up in their biological families had an average I.Q. of 109 at the same age, found the researchers, who announced their preliminary findings as soon in Romania as they were known.

“Institutions and environments vary enormously across the world and within countries,” Dr. Nelson said, “but I think these findings generalize to many situations, from kids in institutions to those in abusive households and even bad foster care arrangements.”

In setting up the study, the researchers directly addressed the ethical issue of assigning children to institutional care, which was suspected to be harmful. “If a government is to consider alternatives to institutional care for abandoned children, it must know how the alternative compares to the standard care it provides. In Romania, this meant comparing the standard of care to anew and alternative form of care,” they wrote.

Any number of factors common to institutions could work to delay or blunt intellectual development, experts say: the regimentation, the indifference to individual differences in children’s habits and needs; and most of all, the limited access to caregivers, who in some institutions can be responsible for more than 20 children at a time.

“The evidence seems to say,” said Dr. Pollak, of Wisconsin, “that for humans, we need a lot of responsive care giving, an adult who recognizes our distinct cry, knows when we’re hungry or in pain, and gives us the opportunity to crawl around and handle different things, safely, when we’re ready.”

Romania sets initial price on drugmaker sale

BUCHAREST, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Romania's government set a starting price to sell the country's last remaining state-owned drug maker Antibiotice ATBE.BX at 136 million euros ($195.4 million), privatisation agency AVAS said on Thursday.

The government plans to sell its 53 percent stake in the firm through an open bidding procedure in an effort to speed up the privatisation process.

"The advisers have proposed a price of 130 million euros ... we decided a 5 percent increase, so the starting price will be 136 million euros (for the stake), or 2 lei per share," Teodor Atanasiu, head of AVAS told a news conference.

The auction will take place on March 18, 2008.

European Union newcomer Romania received 22 non-binding letters of interest last year for Antibiotice, which has ambitious growth plans, including the addition of 40 new products to its portfolio in five years.

The company posted a 22 percent annual rise in net profit to 23.2 million lei ($9.7 million) in the first nine months and a 15 percent increase in turnover to 150.4 million lei.

Antibiotice shares closed 0.6 percent down at 1.79 lei on Thursday. (Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by David Holmes)

Romania approves 2008 budget law, inflation at risk

By Radu Marinas and Marius Zaharia
BUCHAREST, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Romania's parliament approved on Thursday the government's 2008 budget with a deficit of 2.7 percent of gross domestic product, boosting social spending in a move that analysts say may hamper the fight against inflation.
The centrist minority government has faced an uphill battle to push its fiscal plan through parliament, where the leftist opposition Social Democrats (PSD) threatened to block it unless the cabinet backed greater welfare help.

Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu defended the final plan, saying it would help Romanians to catch up with higher living standards in the European Union, which Romania joined in January.
"Your vote represents an investment in the future of Romania," Tariceanu told deputies. "The budget reflects our status as European Union member and allows for a decreasing of gaps compared with other member states."

However, economists said the planned widening of the deficit, from this year's target of 2.4 percent, and insufficient spending on investment, coupled with more money spent on consumption, threatened Romania's economic stability.

"It is an electoral budget ... Bad news for the central bank as it proposes higher social spending leading to revenue rises when Romania needs to control aggregate demand," said Ionut Dumitru, head of research at Raiffeisen Bank in Bucharest.

"Inflationary expectations are so strong ... the central bank will be forced to hike rates as early as next year."


Market watchers and the central bank have warned Bucharest's centrist government should tighten its fiscal and wage plans to safeguard a fast-growing economy from overheating.
But several PSD amendments made their way into the law, including bigger pensions for surviving spouses and raises in scholarships and student aid.

Other proposals, such as increasing minimum monthly wages to 640 lei ($261) from a recently agreed 500 lei, or a sharp reduction of the value added tax for staple food were not included.
"This budget represents further fiscal loosening. This does not seem to be a budget focusing on greater investment and lower consumption. It is mainly focusing on consumption," said Catalina Constantinescu, ABN Amro analyst in Bucharest.

"Revenues are overestimated ... the budget deficit goal is not adequate from the perspective of a widening external gap ... and double digit wage rises might boost pressures on the demand side, so inflation will be much difficult to control."

Romania's inflation has jumped to more than 6 percent late this year, on the back of fast wage growth, internal consumption and global gains in food costs.

Analysts say the central bank will struggle to bring annual price growth to within next year's goal of 2.8-4.8 percent, from this year's estimated figure of just under 6 percent.

They also warn about the risk of further spending on consumption next year, when Romania holds general elections. Major opposition groupings and the ruling Liberal party are all struggling to boost their flagging public support. (Editing by David Christian-Edwards)

Romania picks three banks to manage eurobond issue

BUCHAREST, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Romania picked Greece's EFG Eurobank (EFGr.AT: Quote, Profile, Research) and Swiss banks UBS (UBSN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) and Credit Suisse First Boston (CSGN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) to manage a eurobond issue next year, the government said in a statement on Thursday. The finance and economy ministry wants to sell the 10-year issue worth at least 500 million euros ($718.4 million) no later than in February. It will be the European Union newcomer's first international issue since 2003. The ministry has said it plans to use proceeds from the issue to finance payments for other international debt maturing in the middle of 2008. But it is not clear what portion of the sale proceeds would be used to pay off debt.

Market conditions have deteriorated in the second half of the year after inflation shot up and the global liquidity squeeze has left the leu currency vulnerable, particularly as the country has a double-digit external shortfall.

Last month, ratings agency Standard & Poor's has revised Romania's outlook to negative from stable due to worries over a lack of policy response to the yawning current account deficit. (Reporting by Marius Zaharia; editing by David Christian-Edwards)

Romania Arrests "PKK Fundraisers"

19 December 2007
Bucharest _ Three suspected fundraisers for the Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK, allegedly involved in drug dealing, were arrested on Wednesday, according to information from the public prosecutor.

They allegedly organized the transportation of 58 kg of heroin, destined for the Netherlands.

The suspects - two from Turkey and one from Syria, who are all Romanian residents – have been put under temporary detention for 29 days.

Romania is a transit country for drugs coming from parts of Asia on its way to western Europe.

Founded in the 1970s, the PKK is a militant organization that has been fighting to establish an independent Kurdish state mostly in the south-eastern part of Turkey.

Romania president says Romania should offer citizenship to Moldovan neighbors

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - President Traian Basescu said millions of people in Moldova should be offered Romanian citizenship, in comments likely to increase tensions between the fractious neighbors.

Basescu's comments in a television interview late Tuesday followed a series of spats between the two countries this year including the expulsion of Romanian diplomats from Moldova and failure to agree a border treaty.

«We should give Romanian citizenship to everyone if they are citizens of Moldova, in a sea of Romanians. Moldova is a sea of Romanian citizens,» said Basescu in the interview on national television late Tuesday. Basescu is an influential figure but policy is made by his government.
«I will remain a supporter of tightening the relationship with the Romanian population, because there are Romanians living there,» said Basescu. He said Romania «should regard Romanians from Moldova with due respect, because they are suffering a historical injustice.

Moldova was part of Romania until 1940, and two-thirds of its 4.2 million citizens are of Romanian descent. It declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1 and hundreds of thousands of Moldovans applied for Romanian passports so they could travel freely and seek jobs in EU countries. Moldova's Communist leadership has criticized Bucharest's policy of issuing Romanian citizenship to Moldovans of Romanian descent.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who has sought to improve relations with Russia, on Wednesday last week accused Romania of not respecting the sovereignty of Moldova because it did not sign a treaty this year respecting current borders.

Last week, Moldova expelled two Romanian diplomats, claiming their activity was «incompatible with their diplomatic status,» diplomatic shorthand for spying.

In October, Moldovan border guards denied entry to eight Romanian officials who were traveling to Chisinau for a religious celebration.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A gray day in Romania

'4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' depicts a harrowing time in that nation's history.
By Hugh Hart, Special to The Times
December 19, 2007

THIS year's Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," chronicles a bleak day in the life of a pregnant college student who enlists her roommate to arrange an illegal abortion. Writer-director Cristian Mungiu's drama culminates in a brutal bargain the two women strike with a black-market abortionist. And the backdrop for Romania's foreign language film Oscar contender is every bit as grim as the characters' predicament.

"4 Months" takes place in the winter of 1987, two years before communism collapsed in Eastern Europe. Mungiu was 19 at the time and vividly remembers daily life during the waning days of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime. "Everything was difficult, nothing came easy, people were not joyful," Mungiu recalled during a visit to Los Angeles last month. "There was this general feeling that you're being watched. Everybody who had a little authority over you would use it and abuse it somehow."

To evoke the period's drab atmosphere, Mungiu made Bucharest's gray skies appear even more dreary with a bleach-bypass process that reduced the images' color saturation on film by 30%. He instructed his production designer to eliminate all colorful objects and shot exclusively at real locations. "Even for the scenes that take place at night," he recalls, "we tried to respect the historical truth, which is to say, we used very little light. In the last years of communism, it was complete darkness and we wanted to preserve that feeling as much as possible."

Mungiu found most of his cast through the TV commercials he directs between movie projects but spotted his star, BAFTA-winning actress Anamaria Marinca in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Channel 4 miniseries "Sex Traffic." "She was the last actress to audition for me," he recalls. "I called Anamaria in London and flew her to Romania. When she read for me, I saw this amazing blend of strength and sensitivity. Suddenly, my character Otilia was talking through Anamaria's mouth, as if she were possessed."

Following a series of intense rehearsals last fall, Mungiu filmed the actors in long, uninterrupted takes. Performances feel more organic that way, Mungiu says. "I find that actors relate to a scene better if you allow them to develop their emotions in a continuous shot for several minutes. When you stop to change the camera's perspective every two minutes they lose this flow of energy."

The film almost wasn't ready in time for the festival. "Last October, I was rewriting, scouting, casting and looking for money all at the same time. I'm my own producer, so I could make all the decisions. I convinced the others to work over Christmas and New Year's Eve to make sure we'd have the film ready for Cannes." After snagging the top French prize in May, Mungiu's quick turnaround character study (which opens theatrically in February) gathered additional buzz at the Telluride, Toronto and New York film festivals before earning a nod earlier this month from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. as 2007's best foreign language film.

Based on a true story that haunted Mungiu for 15 years, "4 Months" -- shot by cinematographer Oleg Mutu (2005's Un Certain Regard Cannes prize winner for "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu") -- implicitly addresses the effect of Romania's 1966 abortion ban but steers clear of speechifying. Instead, mundane obstacles underscore the characters' wary worldview. Marinca's stoic heroine is worn down by bureaucratic clerks, sluggish public transportation and needy boyfriends, not evil dictators or aging ideologies.

"This film comes from the perspective of somebody living at that time, which is why I decided not to have any direct mention of communism or Ceausescu. To me, that has become a little bit cliché," Mungiu says. "I also didn't want side stories and biographies to explain motivations. You never know who the father is. That's not relevant. I wanted to make this very simple epic that relates what happened to these girls in one day, from morning to evening. This is something I think goes beyond the historical context. It can be understood by everybody, even today.

"Honestly, I never thought I was going to make a film about this story because it's so personal," he says. "But when you are looking for a story to tell, everything that's ever happened kind of transmits to you a signal about what you have to do."

EU drops threat to cut Romanian farm aid
18 December 2007, 19:02 CET

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission dropped on Tuesday a threat to slash Romania's farm aid by a quarter after finding Bucharest had taken sufficient action to improve its controls on handouts to farmers.

On October 10, the European Union's executive body first threatened to withold the aid unless the Romanian government resolved "serious problems" in the way it manages and controls the aid it allocates to farmers.

In November, it then called on Romania to install computer systems to feed in results of on-the-spot checks on farms and the calculation of money paid to farmers.

After an independent review found the changes had been made, the Commission decided that cutting farm aid to Romania "cannot be justified," it said in a statement.

"I commend Romania for the rapid progress they have made in improving their control systems, which avoided a triggering of the safeguard," EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said.

While some problems still needed to be solved, Fischer Boel said: "I hope the remaining issues can be ironed out quickly, which will permit farmers to get their payments."

Romania, which joined the European Union along with Bulgaria on January 1, is earmarked to receive 443 million euros (638 million dollars) of EU agricultural aid this year.

When it joined, Romania was still considered to have inadequate control over its farm aid, food safety problems, and shortfalls in the fight against corruption, and was to remain under Commission surveillance for three years.

EU: Romanian farmers will get handouts after country improves bookkeeping

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BRUSSELS, Belgium: Millions of euros in planned European Union aid to Romanian farmers will be sent as planned after officials said Tuesday that Bucharest had enough to improve its bookkeeping procedures to prevent fraud.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said Romania had made "rapid progress" in improving control and oversight to avoid a threatened freeze in farm aid for next year.

EU officials gave Romania until mid-December to improve controls and auditing of where the EU aid is spent, through the adoption of new computer software.

Fischer Boel had warned Romania the EU would withhold 25 percent in handouts next year until its controls met EU standards.

EU officials had reviewed EU agricultural handouts for both Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the bloc this year and which are to get a substantial increase in farm aid over the next six years.

The European Commission said Tuesday's decision did not mean that Romania's checks were perfect.

"As in all new systems, certain problems may only emerge when payments start," the EU executive said in a statement, adding it would continue to monitor "closely" how aid is given out in the months ahead.

"Just as we do for all other member states we will not hesitate to claim back any misspent money," Fischer Boel said.

Both nations had been warned that some of their EU aid could be withheld unless they met EU anti-fraud controls.

Romania is set to get €443 million (US$638.6 million) from the EU's farm budget next year for direct payments to farmers.

EU decides not to withhold farm payments to Romania following IT improvements

18/12/2007 1

BRUSSELS (Thomson Financial) - The European Commission said it has decided not to apply the so-called ''safeguard mechanism'' to withhold farm payments in Romania following rapid progress by the Romanian authorities in putting in place the necessary controls over agricultural spending.

In November, the commission asked Romania to make further improvements to the software module designed to ensure that farm payments are made correctly, in order to avoid a provisional 25 percent cut in EU payments.

A new report from Deloitte, which is acting as an independent expert, concludes that no major deficiencies remain to be solved for this IT module.

However, the commission said the decision not to use the safeguard does not imply that everything is perfect. It said Romania still needs to increase its control rate and there are still some IT deficiencies to be solved.


(openPR) - The 150 million euro new residential development combines traditional English architecture and lifestyle with a special care for the environment and the facilities provided to its residents.

Bucharest – Clinceni, Romania, October 19, 2007 - Today Helios Development SRL publicly introduced the
English Village project, the first residential compound in Clinceni and one of the largest in Western Bucharest.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Bucharest, Mr. Robin Barnett, was the guest of honour for the groundbreaking ceremony, together with county and local officials: Mr. Marian Gustil, Vice-Mayor of Clinceni and Mr. Nicolae Jecu, the Prefect of Ilfov County.

On the occasion, His Excellency, the Ambassador, and the Vice-Mayor of Clinceni planted an English oak tree, a symbol of Britain’s legendary forests and wonderful natural environment.
"I am delighted to see a new investment bringing a piece of Britain to the outskirts of Bucharest, as well as adding to our existing bilateral investment of over 4.5bn Euros. The English village will bring to Romania not only key elements of our traditional lifestyle but also the concept of environmentally friendly "green" residential development. This model is particularly relevant for Bucharest and its surroundings where the green space has been drastically cut down in the last 15 years,” the Ambassador stated.
“The English Village project represents an important development for the Clinceni community and it adds to our current local investments which include the modernization of all main village roads, the centralized sewage systems and filtering station for the village, the renovation of the school and the construction of a new kindergarten, a new football field and sports facility, as well as a new Local Council building” the Vice-Mayor of Clinceni, Mr. Madrian Gustil, has stated.

The English Village project will be built over a 5 year period, on a total area of 24 hectares and will comprise 710 house units.

The first phase of development will cover a total area of 3.8 hectares and will include: 10 detached houses, 30 semi-detached and 70 apartments with 1 and 2 bedrooms and penthouses. The three level apartment buildings resembling classic English mansion houses will harmoniously blend in with the overall design.

This first phase of the English Village will be completed by February 2009 and will comprise numerous facilities and services to ensure convenience whilst providing refinement and elegance to the future community. All facilities and services are well structured and meant to enhance the focus on life style within the development, offering generous green spaces, children playgrounds and relaxation areas, a kindergarten and library, pub & restaurant, office spaces, fitness centre, 24h/24h security services, maintenance services for public areas and utilities, landscaping services, efficient waste collection, baby sitting and after-school child care, resident transport (school run and emergency) to Bucharest.

English brands will be used as much as possible for the construction materials, house specifications and finishing, whilst the project management team will be conducted by British specialists.

“The English Village development represents a unique concept on the Romanian residential market, addressing the growing need of the Romanian customers for higher comfort, privacy and quality standards. “Solid Investment for Generations…” is the slogan defining the English Village and it reflects our long-term vision that future generations living in this community will equally enjoy its personality and superior lifestyle”, has stated Mr. Philip A. Stapley, COO of Helios Development SRL.

The developers have emphasized the care for the natural environment which will make the English Village a sought after community. Thus, every buyer of an English Village home will be encouraged to plant an oak tree in their garden or vicinity.

For more details please contact:

Tel: 00403124828

Investment Solutions Romania was formed in 2001 with a purpose to invest in high caliber projects on the Romanian market.

The company focuses on the property market with strategic purchases of land and property in key areas targeted for future development. Investment Solutions Romania has initiated and participated in numerous projects on Romanian market.

Investment Solutions Romania has built relationships with experienced Romanian lawyers and accounting firms, architects and project managers, construction companies, banks, real estate valuators and Romanian authorities in order to provide a complete service to its clients and ensure that the investment is safe and fully compliant with the Romanian laws and the local business practices.

Casa Del Sol Real Estate is the sales and marketing division of the group covering a wide spectrum of property services: search and acquisition of land and property, sale of land and property, rental management for both Romanian and foreign nationals.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Liberals propose Senator to be new Romanian justice minister

Monday, December 17, 2007

BUCHAREST, Romania: The ruling Liberal party on Monday nominated Norica Nicolai, a Liberal Senator who investigated claims that the CIA hosted secret detention centers in Romania, as the country's new justice minister.

Nicolai would replace Tudor Chiuariu, also a Liberal, who resigned last week amid a corruption investigation. Her nomination needs to be approved by President Traian Basescu.

Nicolai said she would not be politically biased in running the ministry, adding she would formulate an anti-corruption strategy.

The European Union, which Romania joined in January, has urged Romania to continue reforms in the justice system and to continue to fight corruption, particularly high-level corruption.

Nicolai who headed a parliamentary commission into the claims that the CIA had hosted secret prisons, said there was no evidence that was the case and called on the Council of Europe to back up its claims.

Chiuariu resigned after prosecutors accused him and a former telecommunications minister, Zsolt Nagy, in September of corruption in a real estate deal.

Prosecutors say Chiuariu and Nagy abused their positions when they sold real estate owned by the national post office in April to a private company reported to be linked to the ruling Liberal Party. Chiuariu said the claims were politically motivated.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Children's gift boxes leave city

BBC News

More than 15,000 shoe boxes filled with gifts are on their way to poor children in Romania in time for Christmas.

The boxes contain small toys and sweets donated by people from Stoke-on-Trent and the surrounding areas.

Volunteers from Operation Christmas Child spent about three months packing up thousands of boxes.

They worked from the United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) headquarters in Burslem. A lorry carrying the boxes is set to arrive in Romania on Monday.

The gifts will then be distributed to children around the country by Operation Christmas Child volunteers.

Brian Bennett, UCB's communications director, said: "We're delighted that some spare floor space in our Burslem building could be put to such good use.

"It's been fantastic seeing so many volunteers from the area arriving daily, helping to pack the boxes and to make Christmas extra special for many poor families in Romania this year."

Moldova urging Romania to sign basic political treaty

The Republic of Moldova is looking forward to completing negotiations with Bucharest and to signing a Basic Political Treaty with Romania and a Treaty on the Moldo-Romanian Border, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration wrote in its press release today.

The Ministry perceived with surprise the statements made by Romanian official structures concerning “an alleged linguistic motive” of non-signing of the Basic Political Treaty and the Border Treaty between the Republic of Moldova and Romania.

The Ministry stressed that Moldova has consistently conducted negotiations on the Treaties’ basic principles and demonstrated readiness to flexibly tackle topics which the Romanian side regards as sensitive ones.

“At treating problems of the linguistic character, the Moldovan side abides by provisions of the Moldovan Constitution, but, at the same time, proposed – in a spirit of constructiveness – a diplomatic formula acceptable for both sides”, the Ministry said.

The Moldovan side presumes “the formula related to the name of the languages, in which the two Treaties are to be signed, has never presented an insurmountable problem”, so Chisinau “perceived with concern the statements bearing a definitely misinformation character, regarding them as an evidence of the counter-productive attitude by Romanian officials”.

The Moldovan foreign ministry invited Romanian partners to “a constructive, transparent and brave dialog” to accomplish the negotiations and to sign the documents so important for both states.

The Basic Political Treaty negotiations between Chisinau and Bucharest have been under way for over a decade, and a real insurmountable obstacle to the Treaty signature has been the dispute about the name(s) of the language(s) the Treaties are going to be done in – Romanian or Moldovan? The thing is, Romania would not recognize the existence of “the Moldovan language identical to Romanian”, as it is fixed in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. In 2000, the Moldovan and Romanian foreign ministers, Nicolae Tabacaru and Petre Roman, initialed a document that was to be signed shortly after by Presidents Petru Lucinschi and Emil Constantinescu. But they did not sign it. Their successors – new leaders of the two states began talks on the document from anew, and were close to its signature, but periodic aggravations of bilateral relations systematically upset the sides’ work over the documents. // Infotag

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Romania: Election Inflation

Oxford Business Group Latest Briefing

November's inflation rate, which exceeded expectations, is likely to lead to interest rate rises early next year. Romania is expected to overshoot its inflation target for this year, due to the leu's recent fall and global price increases. However, as the minority government enters an election year, fiscal policy is not realistically expected to tighten, meaning the central bank will have to ratchet up interest rates to counter this inaction.

On December 11, the National Statistics Board announced that year-on-year inflation had fallen slightly to 6.67% in November, a decrease of only 0.17% from the previous month's figures. Monthly inflation was 0.93%, and food and service prices grew 1.21%. A recent international news service's poll of analysts predicted monthly inflation of 6.5% and monthly inflation of 0.8%.

The National Bank of Romania (BNR) has revised its 2007 inflation forecast to 5.7% from an initial 3.9%. The bank cited rising food prices, partly caused by a drought in the country, and a decline in the local currency, the leu, as major causes for missing its target of keeping inflation in the 3% to 5% band this year. An increase in global prices for food and construction materials are also feeding into domestic inflation.

The recent depreciation of the leu has increased the costs of imports. The currency hit a two-year low of 3.69 against the euro on November 23, having dropped 7.6% since September. It is possible a rise in the interest rate could bolster the leu, dependent on continued faith in the stability of the Romanian economy. It has already been creeping upward against the euro in the last two weeks.

BNR is presently aiming for 2.8% to 4.8% inflation in 2008. This will probably necessitate further hikes in interest rates early next year. The bank increased rates by 50 basis points to 7.5% on October 31 after cuts earlier in the year when the slowdown of developed economies and political wrangling seemed in danger of putting Romania's high growth at risk. Bets are generally on a 0.5% increase in January, followed by another in February. This could slow the property market and construction industry, which have been buoyant for several years, and make life more difficult for small- and medium-sized businesses that do not borrow abroad.

But monetary policy will have to come about without much government guidance as a general election is due to be held before the end of November and is expected to be hotly contested. Until then, the country will be run, as at present, by a minority administration of Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu's centrist National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), backed by the left-of-centre Social Democratic Party (PSD). This awkward arrangement has not always been able to deliver the policy mix that Romania

After 17 years of post-Ceausescu flux, Romanian politics are solidifying into left-right-centre blocs. In December, the Democratic Party (PD) of President Traian Basescu announced it would merge with the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), which largely consists of disillusioned former members of the PNL. The PD and PNL were previously in coalition in the Justice and Truth (DA) alliance, which fell apart in April when Tariceanu expelled PD ministers from his government. The new party will align itself with the European People's Party (EPP), a bloc of conservative and Christian Democrat Parties. The PD took the largest share of the vote in November's European Parliamentary election and, cut free of the PNL and effectively led by the popular and irrepressible Basescu, is looking like a formidable force. Meanwhile, on the left, the PSD remains the largest party in parliament and is shedding the taint of association with communism that has long dogged it. Many analysts expect it will mount a strong challenge for government after the election, albeit in coalition with other parties.

In this environment, a tightening of fiscal policy through increasing taxes and/or cutting spending is unlikely. The government has already agreed to a 28% increase in the minimum wage, with a further 8% rise slated for July, to ensure the PSD's support for the 2008 budget. The wage increase and expected high levels of inflation mean wage demands are likely to increase in the private sector as well. This move will probably be unpopular with businesses, which will also be feeling the pinch from any interest rate increase.

Cynics point out that Romania no longer has the enticement of European Union membership to keep it on the fiscal straight and narrow. Certainly, inflation has worsened since membership. In 2006, when Romania's accession in 2007 was still in question, inflation dropped to 4.9% from 8.6% the previous year.

In an ideal situation, the authorities use a mix of monetary and fiscal policy to control inflation. However, with a divided parliament led by a minority administration entering an election year, decisive leadership making unpopular decisions is unlikely. This is unfortunate, as the higher interest rates that will be required to restrain inflation will also hurt small businesses and home owners, the middle classes who have been responsible for much of Romania's recent development. If they turn out at the polls next year, the government may pay the price.
requires, and has resorted to populist moves to maintain the coalition and fend off the resurgent right.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Conflict escalates between Moldova and Romania

A long-running conflict between neighboring countries Romania and Moldova has escalated. Moldova has expelled two Romanian diplomats and recalled its own ambassador.
Romania calls the measure is “totally unjustified”. Moldova's action is in response to comments by the Romanian ambassador to Moldova, who said the border between the two countries is not legally valid.

Until 1991 Moldova was part of the Soviet Union, but in the years before the Second World War most of it's territory was in Romania. Moldova accuses its neighbor of undermining its sovereignty, by offering its 4 million inhabitants citizenship. (radionetherlands)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Regal Petroleum finds gas in Romania

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Regal Petroleum PLC said it found gas in the first exploration well it drilled in the Barlad license in Romania.The well, known as RBN-4, flowed up to 3.74 mln standard cubic feet of dry gas per day, said Regal, which holds a 100 pct stake in the project.

'This initial test of the first zone of the RBN-4 well is very encouraging and the flow rates achieved are in excess of those expected,' said David Greer, Regal's chairman and chief executive.Regal said it has spudded the second exploration hole, RBN-3, located 5 kilometres to the northwest of RBN-4. Drilling will take about 20 days at a cost of around 1.1 mln usd.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Romania deplores Moldovan expulsion

BUCHAREST, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu deplored on Wednesday the Moldovan decisions to expel two Romanian diplomats.

"I regret the fact that, unlike the attitude of the Romanian authorities, which is one of cooperation and support of Moldova's European aspirations, the Moldovan authorities take such decisions," said Tariceanu, referring to the fact that two diplomats with the Romanian Embassy in Chisinau were declared persona non grata.

He underscored he asked the Foreign Ministry to analyze the situation, to decide what measures should be taken in such cases.

Two diplomats working with the Romanian Embassy in Chisinau have been declared persona non grata in the Republic of Moldova, on grounds of "incompatibility between their activity and their diplomatic status."

According to a press release of the Moldovan Foreign Ministry, quoted by local news agencies, Romania's Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova Filip Teodorescu was summoned on Wednesday to the ministry, to be informed that two diplomats of the Romanian diplomatic mission have been declared persona non grata and must leave Moldova in 24 hours.

The release does not specify the names of the expelled diplomats and the Romanian Embassy in Chisinau has not revealed their names either.

The Moldovan Foreign Ministry announced that Moldova's Ambassador to Romania Lidia Gutu was asked to return to Chisinau for consultations.

BBI Investment to open own funds and enter Romania

BB Investment, a Poznań-based capital group, which controls three stock-listed funds: BBI Capital, BBI Development and NFI Foksal, is expanding its operations.

It is opening its own investment fund, BBI TFI, which will submit an application by the end of the year to the Financial Supervision Commission (KNF) to be allowed to start operations. "We shall focus on closed funds investing in non-public companies. There are plenty of interesting enterprises in Poland and we have already proven that we can find and develop them. We think of strict profiling of funds to invest in companies from a given sector or region," said Dawid Sukacz, president of BBI Capital NFI. The management of funds will be handled by BBI Capital and BBI Development. One of the concepts envisages investments in companies awaiting restructuring. BBI is also eyeing foreign markets and to this end it plans to establish a fund investing in Romania. Last week, BBI Capital acquired two foreign investors, which purchased a total of a 10% stake and according to Puls Biznesu, these are Unicredit and Black Rock Merrill Lynch. (Puls Biznesu, pp. 1, 12) M.M.

GVA Enters Romania With New Affiliation Commercial Real Estate News and Property Resource
By Joe Clements

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA-Setting its sights on another emerging international marketplace, GVA Worldwide has united with ASCO Properties, a real estate services firm headquartered in this southern Romanian metropolis. The company is being recast as GVA ASCO to reflect the global affiliation.

“We are prepared to meet the increasingly diverse needs of our clients by elevating our services to the international level,” ASCO general manager Mihai Astratinei says in a release announcing the partnership. Michael Corbett, president of Chicago-based GVA Worldwide, cites ASCO’s “dedication to client service and strong network of business relationships” in its homeland as attractions for his company in striking a deal with the firm. Those skills coincided with GVA’s realization that the country is a logical choice for continued growth, he adds.

“Romania has rapidly emerged as a hot spot for real estate investors from Europe and across the globe,” says Corbett. GVA has recently launched operations in such markets as China, India and Israel and now has more than 3,500 real estate professionals under its wing in 90 markets.

ASCO will celebrate its 14th year in business in 2008, a period when Romania has become an increasingly important country in the Central and Eastern European region. Once a communist stronghold, the country’s outlook shifted dramatically after the revolution of 1989 led to the demise of despot Nicolae Ceausescu, especially this decade when an economic surge fomented substantial progress. The capital city, Bucharest is undergoing a wave of commercial and residential real estate development that has caught the interest of cross-border investors and multinational companies.

Entry into the European Union has been a catalyst of growth, as developers and investors try to get into Romania before opportunities--and returns--lessen from the crush of activity. Besides a more stable future, Romania mimics other former Communist regimes in having a great need for new construction in nearly every arena, from industrial and office buildings to hotels, residential and retail product. Already, some cross-border players are branching out to untapped markets beyond Romania’s southern markets in search of greater returns.

Even so, Bucharest is expected to increase in stature as a European destination city into the next decade. The so-called “Little Paris” benefits from both quick access to other European centers and a diversifying economy bolstered by a strong educational system featuring several prominent academic institutions. At 1.9 million people, Bucharest is the sixth largest city in the European Union.

Romania's parlt committees clear 2008 budget draft

BUCHAREST, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Romania's parliamentary budget and finance committees cleared on Wednesday the government's budget plan for 2008, raising social spending in return for cutbacks in investment and administrative costs, deputies said.

Analysts have warned the centrist government would face an uphill battle to get the budget approved by parliament, where the powerful leftist opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD) has threatened to block it unless the cabinet backed more social spending.

The government, which agreed the budget draft in October with a consolidated deficit of 2.7 percent of gross domestic product, commands only 20 percent of seats in the legislative assembly.

"There were relatively important changes done to the state budget ... there have been redistribution of funds, cutbacks in protocol and travel expenses ... unused investment money," said Aurel Gubandru, the Chamber of Deputies' finance committee head.

The state and social insurance budgets, which comprise the consolidated plan, still need to pass the two chambers' vote. Several PSD amendments made their way in the draft, including bigger pensions for surviving spouses and rises in scholarships and student aid. Other changes include granting cash compensation to pensioners who do not use up their free train tickets.

Other proposals, such as increasing minimum monthly wages to 640 lei ($266), from the currently agreed 500 lei, or the reduction of the value added tax for staple food, were not included.

"It is likely that the budgets will reach the joint chambers on Tuesday," Gubandru said. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Ron Askew)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Romania won't recognize unilateral Kosovo moves

BELGRADE -- Defense Minister Dragan Šutanovac met his Romanian counterpart Teodor Melescanu in Belgrade Tuesday.

11 December 2007 | 20:47 | Source: B92, Tanjug

"A unilateral decision could have a very negative effect on the entire region and is not in keeping with international law," Melescanu told a joint news conference with Šutanovac.

Commenting different views among the EU members on the future status of Kosovo, he stated that "Romania will try to have its stand prevail".

Melescanu explained that Bucharest has a clear stand on the issue, that the future status of Kosovo should be determined through negotiations and be acceptable to both sides, and to the United Nations.

"I believe that recognizing any unilateral decision will be up to each of the member states' parliaments. Judging by what I know about the Romanian parliament, I do not believe that Romania will be one of the countries to recognize a unilaterally declared Kosovo independence," he explained.

Melescanu and Šutanovac agreed that Kosovo is the region's hot spot and that the issue of its future status should be resolved through talks and with a solution that would satisfy both sides.

Šutanovac expressed gratitude to Romania for allocating funds and deploying troops with KFOR peacekeepers in the province.

The two ministers also agreed that military cooperation between their two countries is at a high level and of a high quality.

Šutanovac and Melescanu agreed to continue promoting bilateral cooperation in the next year. The Serbian defense chief has also received an invitation to visit Bucharest.

Activists dig in to stave off gold mine plan in Romania

The Independent
By Daniel McLaughlin in Budapest
Published: 12 December 2007

A plan to exploit Europe's biggest gold deposit by flattening part of Romania's oldest recorded village is foundering amid legal setbacks and growing support for a law that would ban the use of cyanide in mining.

Gabriel Resources, a Canadian firm, has already spent £150m in the Transylvanian village of Rosia Montana, buying houses and land that would be pulverised to get at 330 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver that lie beneath.

Gabriel pledges to clean up pollution from the existing Communist-era mine and bring 6,000 jobs and £1.25bn to Romania but the planned open-cast, cyanide-leaching mine has become the bête noire of the country's fledgling environmental movement.

Opponents say the village would become a ghetto, shaken by explosions, shrouded in choking dust, and trapped between the vast maw of the pit and a valley filled with cyanide waste that could leak into local rivers and groundwater. Roman gold mining galleries dating back 2,000 years would also be destroyed, they argue.

And with the support of prominent activists such as the actress Vanessa Redgrave – who was given a plot of land in Rosia Montana after denouncing Gabriel Resources at a Transylvanian film festival that it sponsored – campaigners against the mine are clearly winning the battle.

Gabriel announced this month that it was scaling back operations and cutting about two thirds of 325 jobs at Rosia Montana, after Romanian courts annulled a vital permit clearing the way for the mine's construction and suspended its environmental impact review.

The company, whose shares have plunged by about 70 per cent this year, vowed to fight both decisions but the entire scheme could soon be dead in the water if a bill to ban the use of cyanide in mining continues to gain momentum in parliament and becomes law.

"There is a big chance that our proposed plan to ban cyanide in gold and silver mining will pass parliament," said the sponsor of the bill, Senator Peter Eckstein-Kovacs. "We have secured government backing ... and many opposition deputies back it."

Mr Eckstein-Kovacs belongs to the ethnic-Hungarian party which is a member of the Bucharest government, and has rallied opposition to the Rosia Montana project in Hungary, where the Tisza river was devastated by a cyanide leak from a Romanian mine in 2000.

Gabriel says using cyanide is the only economically viable way to leach gold from rocks in which it is present in low concentrations but insists the mine would be operated to the highest international standards and pose a minuscule environmental risk.

If the anti-cyanide bill became law, however, it would force Gabriel back to the drawing board and test its resolve to continue operating in Rosia Montana.

"The bill is now under debate in parliamentary commission. If it passes, Gabriel will need to bring a total change to their technical project," said Romania's Environment Minister. Attila Korodi. He also warned the company to expect delays even if it managed to overturn the suspension of the mine's environmental impact assessment. "If the court rules that a previous certificate obtained by Gabriel is valid, we can go ahead with reviewing the project," he said. "Such an assessment can take several months."

The company insists that it will not be driven out, however. "We are a financially strong and secure company," said Richard Young, chief financial officer. "And we are prepared to ride this out ... and take the necessary measures, however difficult they may be, to ensure the company's long-term viability to permit and build a model mine at Rosia Montana."

The Netherlands Want Bulgaria, Romania to Stay out of Labour Market

Sofia News Agency

11 December 200
7, Tuesday

The ruling coalition in the Netherlands announced they want to postpone the opening of the Dutch borders to Bulgarian and Romanian workers.

Christian Democrats CDA and Labour PvdA party said they do not consider lifting the work permit requirements for workers from the newly acceded members of the European Union within the next year or two, Expatica news agency reported.

The previous government had set a work permit requirement in effect until 2009 for residents of Romania and Bulgaria but the present cabinet said the restrictions must stay the way they are until the problems with the influx of Polish workers are first sorted out.

The decision comes twelve months after Dutch Ambassador in Bulgaria Willem van Ee said that the government would take a year to evaluate the national and European labour situation and decide if to open the labour market.

The Dutch social minister Piet Hein Donner recently announced that he is to combat problems caused by concentration of Eastern Europeans in certain areas, while PvdA and CDA said more inspections into illegal labour and exploitation must be carried out.

The bad news for Bulgarians and Romanians willing to work in Western Europe comes a month after the British government also said it would extend labour market restrictions for new EU members until at least the end of 2008, due to the great number of foreign workers coming into the country.

Azerbaijan and Romania discussed Trans-Caspian gas pipeline perspectives

Baku, Fineko/ The delegation at the head of Rasim Mammadov, Administration Office Chief of Ministry of Industry and Energy, visited Romania.

The Ministry informed that the delegation negotiated with Adrian Lucian Stancu, Romgaz Vice-President, Dorin Brau, Dorin Brau Deputy Director, Liviu Ilasu, Conpet Company General Director, and Ioan Rusu, Transgaz Company General Director. Realization of Trans-Caspian and NABUCCO gas pipelines were discussed. Romania mentioned the importance of cooperation with Azerbaijan to provide energy security in Europe.

Viorel Palaska, Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance of Romania, mentioned first positive results of negotiations with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for Trans-Caspian Project.

DPA: Romania hands over Algerian terrorism suspect to Italy

Rome - Romania on Tuesday handed over to Italy an Algerian man suspected of belonging to a mostly North African Islamist cell allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Italy and other European countries, officials said. The man, Kamel Abbachi, 36, was handed over to Italian police at Bucharest's Henri Coanda international airport, an Italian police spokeswoman told Deutsche Press-Agentur dpa. A court in Milan on October 30 issued an international arrest warrant for Abbachi who was picked up by Romanian authorities near the eastern Romanian city of Galati on November 28, the ANSA news agency reported.

Abbachi together with several nationals from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco allegedly operated a cell aimed at recruiting militants to carry out terrorist attacks, helping them to obtain false documents to enter Europe, ANSA said. Investigators have in the past identified an Islamic centre based in Milan acting as an international clearing-house for Islamist groups including Al-Qaeda.