Monday, March 31, 2008

NATO leaders will glimpse Romanian dictator's dreams

By Justyna PawlakSun Mar 30, 8:07 AM ET

When NATO leaders meet in Bucharest on Wednesday, they will be granted an inside glimpse of the megalomaniac dreams of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania's communist-era dictator.

The Alliance's April 2-4 summit will be held in the giant Parliament Palace, built in the 1980s on the orders of Ceausescu to reflect his power and his vision of a mighty state.

Romanian guidebooks tout the building as the world's second largest after the Pentagon. Architects lament the demolition of Bucharest's historic centre, with its churches, synagogues and unique Modernist villas, to make room for construction.

The building is in some ways a monument to the scars inflicted on Romania by the late Ceausescu's brutal policies.

At the time of construction, its ostentatious excess contrasted with the harsh living conditions endured by ordinary Romanians, whose food was rationed to near starvation levels and whose heating came on for a few hours a day, if at all.

Almost 20 years after Ceausescu's execution in 1989 during a bloody revolution against his regime, authorities are still struggling to modernize the dilapidated city, get its chaotic traffic moving and ease the poverty of many inhabitants.

"The palace is a very good illustration of the totalitarian way of seeing the relationship between people and their leaders," said Mariana Celac, an architect and Ceausescu-era dissident.

"It has walls, boundaries, locked gates and huge distances to be walked through, presumably with humility."

Ceausescu, who initially named the building "House of the People," was once quoted as saying the Palace would become Romania's "Acropolis."

"I need something grand, something very grand, that reflects what we have already achieved," he is reported to have said.

KITSCH AND SECURITY

Thousands of tonnes of crystal, marble and wood were hauled to Bucharest from across Romania for the construction of the Palace, with its sprawling corridors and glitzy halls, as well as secret tunnels and a nuclear bunker.

The security features, a testimony to Ceausescu's fears of attack, might still be useful during the April NATO meeting if the Alliance's leaders were to come under threat, said its designer and chief architect, Anca Petrescu.

"The building is prepared for a high degree of security," she said.

Ceausescu and his feared wife Elena regularly inspected the construction site. Some 40,000 residents were evicted to make way for the palace, and many were housed in the drab apartment blocs that now make up large swathes of Bucharest, rusting and crumbling only a couple of decades after being built.

Petrescu said six people died in accidents during the construction of the 3,000-room building, which now contains both of Romania's chambers of parliament, an art museum and a vast conference venue.

The Palace's eclectic facade is replete with soaring marble columns. Together with matching tower blocs nearby -- inspired by North Korean architecture -- it looms over Bucharest.

"During construction, the entire (national) production of stone was reserved. Marble was banned for private use," said Celac.

Bucharest was once a quietly elegant capital, with tree-lined boulevards and discreet villas designed by progressive Modernist architects in the 1920s and 30s.

At the start of World War Two it was considered one of Europe's most advanced in terms of urban planning.

But after Ceausescu's demolitions, two earthquakes and free-for-all construction that marred Romania's sluggish transition from communism to democracy, the city is struggling to regain its style.

This leaves Ceausescu's palace as its biggest tourist attraction. Despite being widely considered a monstrosity, its sheer size means it isn't going away soon -- and it does have its uses.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, asked by Reuters what he thought of the building, was diplomatic.

"In my mind this building is relevant for a single reason. It is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. Period," he joked.

(Additional reporting by Iulia Rosca and Luiza Ilie; reporting by Justyna Pawlak; editing by Andrew Roche)

Romania's Stock Exchange: What Went Wrong?

Daily Article | Posted on 6/15/2001 by

In post-communist Romania, the CNVM (National Stock Commission) was founded to be the sole regulator of the stock and capital market. Despite its promise to rigorously police the markets--or perhaps because of that promise--Romanian stock markets have experienced several crises in recent years. These crises have wrongly given rise to complaints about "unbridled capitalism" and the excesses of laissez-faire.

A laissez-faire capital market permits traders to engage in as many mutually beneficial exchanges as they see fit. The most promising businesses are able to acquire resources they need in the shortest possible period of time. However, behavior in this market, as with all markets, must be subject to rules of conduct that forbid and punish theft and fraud. The government usually assumes responsibility for oversight, with unfortunate results. Government regulators crowd out private overseers and impart to consumers a faulty sense of the inherent soundness of all approved investments.

The point is illustrated by the case of the "National Investment Fund" fraud. The FNI was founded in 1996 as an ordinary investment fund. Although it was not designed on a fraudulent fractional reserve principle, the device was similar: the fund was using borrowed money and investing it in stock, while promising full redemption within three weeks of the request. The strategy seemed to work for four years. Indeed, the fund looked like the most successful on the Romanian market.

In May 2000, however, the fund was unable to fulfill the redemption orders and it collapsed. Once scrutinized by higher regulatory authorities, documents revealed that it had been running huge losses since 1998. It ended that year with a deficit of 133.4 billion ROL (approximately $12.2 million, at 1998 parity). In 1999 it redeemed shares at the value of 307.5 billion ROL and it sold shares worth 53.8 billion ROL, which left it with a deficit of 253.7 billion ROL (approximately $14 million, at 1999 parity). As a result 300,000 people were robbed, many of them of their "last penny."

The fraud was made possible only through the deliberate blindness of the CNVM, which had guaranteed fairness and safety. The fund administrators were inflating the value of the title. Some of these stocks never traded. Their values were set by the fund administrators, according to their whims, with the permission of the regulators. Another technique was to underreport the number of stock titles in circulation. At the end of May 2000, the real number in circulation was over 75 million, but the fund declared only 34 million units. As a consequence, some CNVM and FNI officials, among others, were arrested.

In a market economy, with private regulation of the securities industry, such fraud would have been easily ferreted out. But with government regulation that prohibits competitive overseeing boards, the fraud was left unchecked while investors were disarmed.

Later last year, another controversy faced the regulators: the RASDAQ scandal. Rasdaq is the Romanian version of Nasdaq. It was created in 1996 with the help of more than $20 million from the U.S., in order to "modernize" the local stock market. In the U.S., the NASDAQ evolved as an automated version of the over-the-counter market, but the Romanian version was created by the state. One of its purposes was to handle the stock issued in the mass privatization process. RASDAQ held 5,000 titles to unattractive State enterprises.

RASDAQ was a freer exchange than the Bucharest Stock Exchange. There were no floors or ceilings imposed on the price of stocks. Once a transaction was made, no term for payment was imposed. This made it possible for brokers, with the help of the reciprocal cancellation agency, to negotiate spot transactions with the payment not due for thirty days. Rasdaq became a heaven for traders who were active in credit markets.

First, the owner of a large number of stocks (or someone with money, ready to buy stock for credit mediation) became the borrower. Then the creditors were sought out. When the two parties met through the brokers, two transactions were made: in the first, the creditor bought the stock from the borrower with payment promised in three days (T+3) and at a higher price than the prevailing one. The price of the stock received one large boost. Immediately, in the second transaction, the creditor sold back the stock, this time with the payment promised in thirty days (T+30) and at an even bigger price, which thus included interest. The price received a second boost. The brokerage firms of the creditor arranged for collateral from the borrower to guarantee the credit. Now the borrower could sell the stock or use it again in the same way.

The practice was profitable and made the RASDAQ look more "healthy" and dynamic. The stock titles appeared sound, but in fact their increased values were derived from their new use as special mediators of credit. While this was not a case of fraud, it still implied some heavy risks: buyers of stock "loaded" with one or several deferred payment contracts were left very vulnerable.

One might ask: Why was all this hazardous adventure necessary just to borrow some money? Shouldn’t there have been separate loans markets available to serve this clientele? The answer lies in the regulation and centralization of the money (loan) market with the central bank, which created abundance of credit in some areas (usually the State treasury) and scarcity in others ("simple" borrowers).

The RASDAQ stock market operation was ended by an edict of the CNVM that reinforced T+3 payment restrictions. This action hampered entrepreneurs active in the field. One more regulation was imposed to meet the effect of previous State intervention. Now RASDAQ is as unattractive as the thick-regulated BSE, or even more.

The Romanian government's solution to this situation is not more freedom but more control: "We aim to redevelop our institution this year, so as to be able to say, without doubt, that it represents for the capital market what any central bank means for the monetary markets" (Ileana Agalopol, official of the National Stock Commission, quoted in Ziarul Financiar)

The central bank is the State's "solution" to the disastrous effects that the principle of fractional reserve banking has, namely inflation and business cycles. All that the new regulation will do is delay maldistribution effects, thus spreading more havoc in the long run.

Centralized control of capital markets eliminates competition by setting up a licensing system. Without free entry, the services offered on that market are of a higher price and of a poorer quality than they otherwise would be, because the privileged firms will not have to compete with others offering the same service--better, safer, and cheaper.

The State's regulations will succeed only in freezing innovations that entrepreneurs have created for the smooth working of affairs, and, as the time passes and conditions change, will render existing institutions ever more inadequate.

If the declared aim of eliminating speculation succeeds, resources will not be used any more efficiently than they would have been, simply because speculation is a characteristic of any action intended to reap profits from the anticipation of future conditions.

As for the avoidance of further fraudulent crises, the capital market was lacking, not control, but free access on the market for supervising institutions. The new measure will not eradicate the real source of the problem, which is not laissez-faire capitalism but state-granted monopolies in the securities industry. The Romanian experience does not discredit a free market in capital but rather the idea that the government is the right agency to police it.

____________

Tudor Smirna lives and works in Bucharest and is a summer fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. tudor_smirna@usa.net

Friday, March 28, 2008

Home Alone in Romania

Time.com
Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2008
By Mihai Radu and Stephanie Kirchner

In the court yard of the small house made of straw-and-clay bricks, 60-year-old Aurica Draghici washes her laundry in a wooden tub. She doesn't seem surprised by the arrival of visitors. "I was expecting a package from Spain," she explains.

Aurica Draghici lives in the small southern Romanian village of Peretu, where most locals have traditionally been farmers. Some have jobs at a ball-bearing factory in Alexandrina, the nearest town, but a growing number, among them Aurica's eldest son Florian and his wife Adriana, have left to find work abroad.

Florian Draghici left two years ago, following his wife, who had gone to Spain three years earlier to work as a nanny. They left their two children Catalina, 14, and Stefan, 6, in the care of their grandmother. Aurica's other son, Gabriel, and his 6-year-old daughter, Andra, also live in the house. Gabriel has been looking after the child by himself for two years now — his wife Florentina, while working in Spain, fell in love with another man.

Grandma Aurica points at the marks on the wall from the flood, which entered the house in 2005. "My son left to save money to rebuild the house," she explains. "He said until they have enough money to start with the foundation, they are not going to come home".

The Draghicis are hardly the only family in Romania torn apart by migration. By some estimates, up to 2.5 million Romanians have left to work abroad. Adrian Vasilescu, spokesman for the Romanian National Bank, estimates that in 2007, around 7 billion euros ($11 billion) flowed into Romania in the form of remittance sent home by migrant workers.

Still, despite the financial benefits of migration for poor rural communities such as Peretu, one of the sadder side effects has been documented in a reported published last year by the Soros Foundation. It found that around 17% of all junior high school students — some 170,000 children — have one or both parents working abroad.

"I miss my parents very much", says Catalina, a short girl with a round face and a blond ponytail, "but I know that they went to Spain to make money for us, for our future. The last time I saw my mom was two or three years ago, and my dad one year ago. But I talk to them on the phone once or twice a week. I talk to my mom about intimate things, ask her advice. My grandmother raised me, so she is like a mother to me, but she was young in different times so there are certain things I can't talk to her about."

Catalina, who dreams of becoming a lawyer, wants to be able to make different choices than were available to her parents. "I want to be there for my family," she says. "I understand what my parents do, but..." she hangs her head.

Even if most kids with migrant parents are, like Catalina and Stefan, left in the care of their extended families, many of them suffer severe psychological effects, says Mihaela Stefanescu, coordinator of the Soros study. "These children usually encounter the same problems as children who lost their parents through divorce or death; loneliness, problems at school, psychological effects. There are things a parent can provide that a grandparent cannot; some of them just lose control over the children."

Short- or medium-term effects, according to Gabriela Tonk, deputy chief of the National authority for child protection also include "a higher risk that the child will suffer emotional, physical or sexual abuse. In extreme cases children are even recruited for prostitution or a criminal network."

Adds Stefanescu, "These children have to be monitored, so nothing tragic happens."

That's a lesson Romania has had to learn the hard way. A year ago, a series of newspaper reports about children committing suicide after their parents had gone to work abroad shocked the country. One of them was 12-year-old Andrei Ciurea, who stayed behind with his brothers, aged 16 and 17, when his mother left to work as a maid in Italy. Newspapers printed a note reading "I am sorry that we have to part in dispute ... Sister keep going to school, Mom take care of the house for the world is bad ... Please take care of my puppy."

Last year, the Romanian National Authority for child protection responded by launching a program to improve the country's social assistance network. But that doesn't extend as far as being able to extend psychological support to the children of migrant workers in rural villages such as Peretu.

"Our school does not have a counselor at the moment, but we need one," says Magda Radoi, headmaster of Peretu's school. "Around 20% of our students have parents who are working abroad."

But where the government has failed to provide support, teachers have risen to the challenge. Two history teachers made a virtue out of necessity and, with the help of their students, transformed an empty classroom into a museum of Romanian peasant culture. One wall is covered with colorful blankets and rugs. There is antique furniture and other items that can be found in a traditional Romanian peasant's household. Photographs and historical documents on another wall tell the history of the local community.

"This classroom is empty since around 50 or 60 kids left our school to live with their parents in Spain, so we thought we would organize an extracurricular activity. That way, especially the kids whose parents are abroad are under supervision and don't get into trouble," says Catalin Ionut Florea. "The kids were really enthusiastic," adds her colleague Marian Vinatoru. "We have collected about 500 historical artifacts and are planning to expand the collection to a second room."

Back at the Draghici's, little Stefan is outside the front gate, fishing in a ditch with three other children. "I don't miss my parents, I often talk to them on the phone", the six-year-old declares with a motionless face. "I asked them to send me a racing car, but I only got candy and a regular car. I also asked them to send me an extra paddling pool. I want to have one of my own, because my sister always jumps into the pool and makes me wet." But in spite of all the Western consumer bliss, Stefan admits that there is one thing he misses: "My mother used to sing me a song every night before I went to sleep. I used to sleep in one bed with my mother and my father, because we had no space." Now Stefan sleeps alone.

Romania seeks a research revolution

From: Labnotes

March 27th, 2008

Countries in “old Europe” like to think that they can show the Americans a thing or two about doing research. Some of the newer kids on the European block, the so-called accession states, also have ambitions to teach the rest of us something.

Romania’s Prime Minister, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, has produced one of those worthy articles that appear in the likes of sponsored sections in business magazines. This time, though, he has written for something called Public Service Review: European Union.

In a piece with the title The Romanian research revolution, Tariceanu tells us that the country’s R&D budget is set to rise

“From a mere 0.22% GDP invested in 2005 for the R&D domain, we reached 0.5% GDP in 2007, and the 2008 R&D budget is 0.75% of GDP. Further, public expenditures for R&D will register a significantly high growth rate. Our goal is that Romania reaches an amount of 1% GDP investments in R&D by 2011.”

One interesting bit of the article is his reference to inward investment. We all know about big companies moving to India and China to do R&D. Now it seems that Romania is in their sights.

It may help that “the Government I lead introduced several fiscal advantages for those private companies who perform in the field of R&D in Romania”.

These inducements may already be paying off:

“We have already some important examples of centres of excellence, such as the ones created by Renault, Microsoft or Ericsson, and I do hope that such centres will grow to be top hubs of R&D infrastructure in Europe.”

Perhaps this is a part of the country’s revenge for those EU members that did not open their doors to the free movement of Romanian workers.

Romanian leader urges NATO to embrace Ukraine and Georgia at alliance summit

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romania's president on Thursday urged NATO to embrace closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia — a move that Moscow bitterly opposes.

The alliance is planning summit next week in Bucharest, where Georgia and Ukraine are hoping to be offered a "membership action plan" — which sets out the path to full membership.

Romanian President Traian Basescu dismissed the idea that offering the pre-membership plan to the two former Soviet republics should irk Moscow.

"They are sovereign states which have opted for" their own solutions, Basescu told foreign journalists.

Basescu also called for NATO to develop cooperation with Russia, which he said plays a crucial role in regional security and in the global fight against terrorism.

"For us Russia is a partner that guarantees regional stability," he said, though Romania's ties with Moscow have chilled in recent years since Romania threw off communism in 1989. Romania has since become a staunch U.S. ally, and hosts a U.S. military base on the Black Sea.

NATO is split over the issue, with the United States, Canada and eastern European members backing Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia is staunchly opposed to NATO expanding to Ukraine and Georgia, which it sees as part of its sphere of influence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to aim nuclear weapons at Ukraine if it joins NATO and accepts the deployment of anti-missile defenses on its territory.

In a campaign to keep Georgia out of NATO, Russian's parliament urged the Kremlin last week to consider recognizing the independence of two separatist Georgian regions.

Germany is leading western European opposition to inviting Ukrainian and Georgian membership, warning that pursuing such a goal would damage efforts to improve relations with Russia.

Putin has been invited to attend the April 2-4 summit, but it was unclear if he would show in Bucharest. He planned on April 6 to meet U.S. President George W. Bush in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

The summit in Romania, strategically located on the Black Sea, will be the biggest in the alliance's history, as it prepares to expand from its current 26 members.

Votes were expected on whether NATO should invite Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to join the Western military alliance. An invitation requires a unanimous decision, and Greece said it would veto Macedonia's bid unless it can resolve a dispute over Macedonia's name.

U.S. President George W. Bush said in an interview with Romanian national television that he supported NATO's expansion to the three Balkan countries, saying the alliance was "a positive force ... that encourages reforms and modernization."

NATO membership also brings a "sense of security," and security "brings confidence and confidence brings hopeful societies," Bush said in the interview broadcast Thursday.

Meetings at the summit will focus on preparing a strategic plan for the alliance's 42,000-troop mission in Afghanistan.

Basescu said the summit would also be attended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and representatives of both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, who would help draw up social and economic plans for Afghanistan.

Romania to reiterate stance on Kosovo at NATO Summit

BUCHAREST, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Romania will reaffirm its stance on the non recognition of Kosovo's independence during the upcoming NATO Summit, Defense Minister Teodor Melescanu said on Thursday.

"We will reaffirm very clearly our stance saying that the required conditions are not fulfilled so that Romania may recognize the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo," Melescanu was quoted as saying by the official Rompres news agency.

"Romania's stance on the issue is based both on reasons related to the norms of the international law and on practical reasons, taking into account that the borders of the province are not recognized by some of its neighbors," he stressed.

Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Cioroianu said last week at a political level Romania backs up the preparations for the "future role the Alliance will play in the framework of a controlled management process of Kosovo's future", stressing that the involvement of the Romanian contingent in Kosovo will happen in a manner that should not lead to an implicit recognition by Romania of the province's independence.

The NATO Summit is to take place in Bucharest on April 2-4 with the enlargement, operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo as its main topics.

Romanian President Traian Basescu has repeatedly said Romania will not recognize the independence declared unilaterally by the Pristina-based ethnic Albanian authorities.

Romania cannot acknowledge Kosovo's independence in the absence of a UN resolution and in the absence of the observance of the international law, especially of the concept of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, Basescu said at the winter European council in Brussels in December.

"Romania is against a solution that is not accepted bilaterally both by Belgrade and Pristina," Cioroianu said soon after Kosovo's declaration of independence. "We have showed support, in principle, to a bilaterally accepted solution," he said.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, which was rejected by Serbia as illegal. The situation in Kosovo has remained tense since its declaration.

Romania mulls national ban on Monsanto maize

BUCHAREST, March 27 (Reuters) - Romania's environment ministry wants to impose a national cultivation ban on Monsanto (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) MON 810 genetically modified maize this year, minister Attila Korodi said on Thursday.

"We're in the process of forming a committee on biosecurity that can start (working) on April 15. Taking into account all the European studies which raised too many questions regarding this maize, we will ask it to give a verdict," minister Attila Korodi told Reuters by telephone.

"We will request the committee to consider a ban on the commercial cultivation of MON 810 because we are worried."

Korodi said Romania has put around 330 hectares under MON 810 last year.

Romania hikes interest rate to 9.5%

(MENAFN) Romania's central bank raised its main interest rate to a 31-month high and may choose to increase it again as inflation threatens to accelerate and the local currency weakens, AP reported.

The Banca Nationala a Romaniei increased its Monetary Policy Rate a half a percentage point to 9.5 percent, the Bucharest-based bank said in a statement. The move, the fourth consecutive increase, was predicted by most economists.

The bank has raised rates at every meeting since October to counter rising prices. Inflation in February was the fastest in two years as a drought boosted food prices and a weaker leu raised the cost of imports and services.

The inflation rate rose to 8 percent in February, the highest since March of 2006, from 7.3 percent in January and 6.6 percent in December, the National Statistics Institute said earlier this month.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

EU commission demands information from Romania on Nokia subsidies - report

FRANKFURT, Mar. 27, 2008 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- The EU commission is demanding information from Romania on subsidies granted to Nokia (NYSE:NOK) OYJ as part of the company's decision to build up a production plant in the country, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) reported, citing EU commissioner Danuta Huebner.

'The commission has called on the Romanian authorities to deliver relevant information,' she was quoted as saying in a response to a parliamentary request, obtained by WAZ.

Accordingly, the EU is planning to examine whether the subsidies granted by Romania 'in connection with the activities of Nokia' conform to EU rules, the paper added.

In January, Nokia announced the closure of its German plant in Bochum, with 2,300 employees, and said it planned to build up a production site in Romania as it was too expensive to operate in Germany.

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), meanwhile, said it is demanding around 60 mln eur worth of subsidies and interest from Nokia in connection with the closure of its Bochum plant.

The Second Danube Bridge Between Bulgaria and Romania Will Be Completed by 2010

Balkan Travellers

26 March 2008 | The long-awaited bridge connecting the cities of Vidin in Bulgaria and Calafat in Romania will be completed by 2010, according to Bulgaria’s transport minister Petar Mutafchiev, quoted by national media.

During a recent meeting with Vidin’s mayor, Mutafchiev also stated that the Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, which won the bid for the bridge’s construction in January, will begin work in April.

Currently, Bulgaria and Romania are connected by one bridge only: the Danube Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Friendship. Linking the cities of Ruse and Giurgiu respectively, the bridge was constructed in the 1950s.

The remaining nine border crossing points between the two countries consist of seven ferries, including the Vidin-Calafat one, and two inland crossing points near the Black Sea. Despite the introduction of joint border control between Romania and Bulgaria since they joined the EU in January 2007, going across the river by ferry is usually time-consuming and costly.

The project, worth 236 million euro, envisions the construction of a 1,971-metre bridge, featuring two road lanes in each direction, an electric railway and a bicycle path. It would be part of the Pan-European corridor IV.

The idea to construct a second bridge seized the imagination of people on both sides of the border as early as the 1980s. In the 1990s, Bulgarians felt an even greater need for such a bridge, as the wars in former Yugoslavia cut off their way to Central and Western Europe.

The bridge’s construction has been a Bulgarian transport priority for over ten years, with symbolic first digs taking place every few years but numerous delays preventing the production of any concrete results.

It looks like the 2010 deadline may actually be realistic, as many of the important issues surrounding the bridge’s construction – such as the construction firm bid and the land disputes, have already been solved.

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Bulgaria and Romania

Romania raises rates 50 bps,more increases possible

By Radu Marinas
BUCHAREST, March 26 (Reuters) - The Romanian central bank (NBR) raised interest rates by 50 basis points to 9.5 percent on Wednesday, signalling further tightening may be on the cards if the inflation outlook deteriorates.

Inflation has become a big headache in the past year as rampant domestic demand, hefty rises in energy and food costs and a weaker leu currency have boosted the headline rate.

"This outlook ... requires tighter monetary policy," the bank said in a statement. "The adjusted monetary policy stance should ensure the firm and sustainable anchoring of inflationary expectations at low levels."

Central bankers reiterated their readiness to act again if inflation data continued to deteriorate. They also repeated calls for fiscal restraint to contain domestic demand:
"The NBR is restating that it will continue to closely monitor developments in macroeconomic indicators and to assess their outlook, standing ready to adjust its instrument settings to counteract inflationary pressures."

Analysts read this as a signal that further tightening is possible, but only if the inflation outlook worsens.

Romania's annual inflation rate hit 8 percent in February, its highest level in almost two years. Economists predict it will peak at 8.5 percent in March, compared with the central bank's end-year target of 2.8-4.8 percent. The central bank expects an 8.3 percent reading this month.
"The bank may be ready to hike rates if strong weakening pressure on the leu or new increases in administered prices emerge," said Ionut Dumitru, head of research at Raiffeisen Bank in Bucharest.

Other analysts thought the bank was more hawkish. "Their message today means further policy tightening is needed to bring down inflation," said ABN analyst Catalina Constantinescu. "It is clear the bank will pull forces to ensure it meets next year's target after it will likely miss this year's one."

The leu showed little reaction to the bank's decision, which was widely expected. Ten out of 14 analysts polled by Reuters this month had expected a 50 basis point rise.

At 1240 GMT it traded at 3.7100 per euro , within recent ranges.

The Romanian economy has grown robustly in recent years, powered by foreign investment and domestic demand as the country raced to modernise. The spending spree has bloated the current account deficit and helped to fan inflation, raising concerns about the long-term stability of the economy in light of global financial woes. (Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Radu Marinas; Editing by David Stamp)

Romania Court Delays Ruling On Legality Of Dacia Strike -AFP

Wednesday March 26th, 2008

BUCHAREST (AFP)--Thousands of workers at Renault-owned (13190.FR) Romanian automaker Dacia remained on strike for a third day Wednesday, while a local court delayed a decision on the strike's legality, a judicial source said.

Workers at the factory in Pitesti, northwest of Bucharest, are demanding higher wages and accuse the French company of failing to take care of its employees.

The court in Pitesti was asked on Monday by the factory's owners to declare the strike illegal. Dacia claims only 49% of workers have walked off the job, while the unions say 79% have gone on strike.

Management also accuses the unions of calling the strike "before exploring all other stages of negotiation".

The court will rule on the status of the strike on April 2, which coincides with the first day of a NATO summit in Bucharest, after a plea from the unions for more time to find a lawyer and examine the case.

A morning meeting between union and company officials led nowhere, union official Ion Iordache told AFP.

"The management put forward a new proposal, namely a monthly rise of 130 lei ($55) from January, followed by a second rise of ROL26 a month from September," he said.
"We didn't accept this ridiculous offer and will continue with the strike."

Workers are demanding monthly raises of ROL550, as well as Christmas and Easter bonuses.
The management, for its part, offered a pay increase "which would guarantee every employee a gross raise of at least ROL250 a month".

Workers have argued that Dacia's financial performance allows management to meet their demands.

Dacia Chief Executive Francois Fourmont has reportedly warned that the unions' demands would threaten the factory's future, as Renault plans to open sites in Morocco, India and Russia in the coming years.

Union representatives for Renault workers in all countries where the company is present have expressed their support for Dacia employees.

Renault acquired a controlling stake in Dacia, formerly state-owned, 1999.

Romania warns against April Fool's pranks at NATO summit

BUCHAREST (AFP) — Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Cioroianu warned Wednesday that his government will "hit hard" anyone who plays April Fool's jokes on the eve of a major NATO summit.

"It is my earnest advice to young people that they refrain from bad jokes on April Fool's Day," he told Realitatea TV.

"It has to be stressed that such an important event calls for tougher penalties" in the event of disruptions, he added, indicating that Romania could ill-afford hoax bomb threats aimed at the April 2-4 summit.

Bucharest is putting unprecedented security in place for the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that will bring together about 50 heads of state and government

Romanian lessons for Macedonian justice reform

Measures should be in place and made irreversible before, not after, a candidate country joins the EU. says former Romanian Justice minister Monica Macovei, currently an advisor for the Macedonian government.

By Valentina Pop for Southeast European Times -- 24/03/08

The main lesson both the EU and Macedonia are learning from Romania's accession is that reforms and anti-corruption measures have to be made irreversible before joining the EU -- not afterwards, when the political will decreases, former Romanian Justice minister Monica Macovei said in an interview for Southeast European Times.

Macovei was broadly acclaimed by the EU for her bold reforms in the judiciary and fight against corruption, the main problem Romania faced before becoming a member state in 2007. Though not politically affiliated, Macovei was forced out of office during a government reshuffle in the spring of 2007. She is currently advising the government in Skopje in the field of justice reform.

Asked if she sees any consequences for candidate countries like Macedonia, after the EU's experience with Romania, Macovei answered: "Definitely, yes."

"The major consequence for the EU should be to take into account only fulfillments and well-established good practices rather then promises or pieces of legislation, little or not enforced. All of this is connected to political will, which proved to decrease dramatically after EU accession," she said.

"Looking back, I think we should have expected this, as a direct effect of fighting high-level corruption in countries where there are corrupt politicians. They are the decision makers and they fight back whenever their 'immunity' from criminal investigations is endangered or when they risk losing assets and privileges gained during a foggy transition," she said. "This is why for the next accession wave, the EU must ensure that reforms, in particular reforming the political class through anticorruption measures, are being seriously fulfilled and the process is truly irreversible."

For EU candidate countries, Macovei expects that the lesson learned is "to promote politicians and professional personnel willing and capable to initiate, support and push for deep, painful and real reforms, even if political sacrifices are required. Irreversible, real changes are what people in the candidate countries want and must be given. When this happens, EU accession comes naturally."

The most stringent steps the Macedonian government should take, in Macovei's view, are to set up a consolidated database system for law enforcement agencies and to fully enforce the special investigative measures in criminal cases, while also guaranteeing civil rights. Further amendments to the law on political funding and campaigns are also needed, in order to ensure full transparency, control and sanctions.

Macedonia also needs to enforce the law regarding conflicts of interests and to ensure transparency in the administration, the former justice minister added. "In general, efforts are needed for a full and proper enforcement of the already existing provisions in the fight against corruption. The domestic efforts have been supported by the European Commission and other international actors present in Macedonia, and I am convinced that this support will increase in the next future," she said.

Regarding Romanian measures that could be adopted by Macedonia or other candidate countries, Macovei highlighted the Anti-corruption Directorate, whose prosecutors investigate high level corruption and fraud. "The selection of prosecutors working in such a unit is vital," she said. "They must possess strong individual independence and professionalism. In addition, special investigative means, funds and financial specialists must be at the full disposal of such a unit. Macedonia has a unit of prosecutors in charge of organised crime and corruption, which investigated important cases within the last year and whose prosecutors are being trained intensively."

"However, further steps are needed, in particular regarding the use of special investigative means and secret surveillance measures. Organised crime and corruption cannot be tackled with the old means of investigations. In Macedonia, I am currently working with the domestic authorities and international actors on strengthening the enforcement of the current legislation on surveillance measures an on expanding its application," Macovei explained.

Another useful measure aimed at tackling and preventing corruption is to define conflict of interest as a crime, as well as to do "integrity testing" when civil servants are suspected of corruption. Macovei said she is proposing in Macedonia the crime of "illicit enrichment", as provided by the UN Convention Against Corruption.

"I would also like to point out that some provisions of the Macedonian taxation law are more advanced than in Romania. There is a 70% taxation measure for those assets which cannot be legally justified. A consistent enforcement of this measure started at the beginning of 2008," said the former Romanian justice minister.

In respect to the immovability of judges and prosecutors, Macovei said Macedonia has recently solved this problem by setting up a Judicial Council for judges, while a Council for Prosecutors will be set up during 2008. Both judges and prosecutors in Macedonia currently have so-called life mandates (until the retirement age).

However, both Romania and Macedonia, as well as other post-communist countries, skipped the first step necessary to reform the judicial system -- a nationwide test of the professional capacity and integrity of the existing judges and prosecutors, Macovei said.

"Unfortunately, both Romania and Macedonia hurried to provide all members of the judicial system with independence and immovability without a simple verification as to who were these individuals who would be receiving such guarantees," she said. "The expectation, shared by many, was that once given independence and immovability by law, members of the communist judiciary would become fully independent professionals." This expectation, Macovei said, proved to be wrong.

"We now have many judges and prosecutors feeling 'independent' enough to be corrupt, unprofessional and incompetent and claim 'independence' whenever there is criticism," she said. "The cleaning of the system, now entrusted to the judicial councils, does not take place. These councils, which are not accountable -- and I have in view mainly the Romanian example -- operate like a co-operative, protecting the wrongs in the system."

The main challenges for the Macedonian government are the same as for the Romanian one, Macovei said. These include maintaining political will of the government, reaching a political consensus and gathering support for reforms, taking steps towards reforming the political class, and ensuring that anticorruption measures are actually enforced and made irreversible.

Romania: Temporary Setback 25 March 2008

Oxford Business Group Latest Briefing

The Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB) announced excellent 2007 results last week, and could be looking at another year of comfortable growth, with a series of important listings in the pipeline. These, combined with Romania's high growth rate, could offset the negative impact of a global shift away from capital markets, and off-putting comments from Romanian tycoon Dinu Patriciu.

On March 19, the BVB reported an 87% year-on-year increase in its preliminary net profit in 2007, hitting $12.3m. The exchange's total revenue was $22.2m, an increase of 55%.

The major factors behind the strong performance "were the rise in the number of investors, the diversification of their investment behaviour and the more active presence of non-resident investors," according to Stere Farmache, the BVB general manager and CEO. Non-resident investors accounted for 40% of all transactions in 2007, a seven-year record.

The bourse has already made further impressive gains this year, with market capitalisation reaching $55.35bn on March 19, up from $43.62bn at the end of 2007. However, on March 20, the market took a big hit, after comments by Dinu Patriciu raised doubt about the BVB, deepening the effects of a global retreat from capital markets.

The blue chip BET index lost 7.29% on March 20, while the composite BET-C index dropped 6.72% and the BET-FI, which covers Special Investment Funds (SIFs), organisations that own stocks in privatised companies, fell 4.1%.

Perhaps most strikingly, the ROTX, an index of Romania's 11 most liquid stocks, which is listed both on the BVB and the Vienna Stock Exchange, lost 7.83%. Major stocks such as BRD- Société Générale, the second bank in Romania in terms of assets, and energy firm Petrom, lost almost 10% each.

Patriciu, the richest man in Romania, is chairman and CEO of Rompetrol Group, a Romanian company headquartered in Amsterdam, which owns the BVB-listed refining firm Rompetrol Rafinare. On March 19, he was reported as saying that he had little faith in Romanian capital markets and did not invest in them himself.

"I do not invest on the Romanian capital market. (...) When the fifth-largest bank in the States [Bear Stearns] collapses, you want me to have faith in the Romanian market?," Patriciu was quoted as saying. He allegedly added that he thought the BVB is overvalued, and only worth half current capitalisation.

The BVB authorities will be hoping that Patriciu's comments do not tarnish the bourse's reputation in the long run. They have certainly come at an unhelpful time, with investors across the world increasingly wary in the wake of the global credit crunch. Stocks on major European and North American bourses have dropped significantly over the past week, as money flies to safer assets, such as commodities and the strengthening euro.

Over the past couple of years, the BVB has developed into one of the strongest performing bourses in the region, after a quiet start. It was originally launched as a mechanism for privatising state-owned companies, but more initial public offerings (IPOs) in recent years have broadened the scope of the exchange and increased liquidity. However, the development is still work in progress, and the BVB can ill afford a serious blow to investor confidence. Last year, a major ratings agency lowered its credit rating for Romania due to fears of political instability.

Reassuringly, the exchange is expected to make most of the losses back fairly quickly over the next week, as the drop was "too big and ungrounded" according to one broker quoted in the national press. Patriciu is known as something of an outspoken commentator. Romania's growth rate, expected to hit 6% this year, after a similar figure in 2007, should reassure investors that the country is a safe bet, at least in the medium term.

The BVB should also receive a welcome liquidity boost from the IPO of restitution investment fund Fondul Proprietatea (Property Fund), which aims to give shares in state firms to Romanians who lost properties during Communism. The fund, which will list 20% to 30% of its stock by year-end, holds shares worth an estimated total of $6.22bn in a wide range of Romanian companies, and therefore would boost liquidity, capitalisation and the number of people participating in the exchange considerably. While the recent fluctuations of Romanian stocks may add to criticism that the fund is providing compensation in assets with uncertain value, the fund and the BVB should find the listing mutually beneficial if the expected recovery occurs.

A further boost should come from the offering of four airports and four port operating companies, all currently in public hands, announced on March 13 and expected by the end of the year. The airports include Henri Coanda and Baneasa- Aurel Vlaicu, both in Bucharest and undergoing expansion, as well as the thriving regional airport in Timisoara. The fourth is Constanta, on the Black Sea coast, which is likely to become an increasingly popular destination for business travellers as well as tourists who have long flocked to surrounding beaches. The ports being privatised, on the Black Sea and Danube, are also ripe for development as Romania builds its reputation as a logistics and transportation centre. Nuclear power operator Nuclearelectrica is also expected to launch a major IPO this year.

Romanian construction prices to increase by 15% in H1 '08 -construction entrepreneurs

BUDAPEST. MARCH 26. INTERFAX CENTRAL EUROPE - Construction prices are expected to increase by 15% in the first half of the year (H1) in Romania, due to the increase of electricity and main construction material prices, according to representatives of the Association of Construction Entrepreneurs in Romania (ARACO), Romanian news site business-review.ro reported.

"It is hard to evaluate the increase in construction prices by the end of the year, but if the price per sqm was EUR 600 to EUR 700 in the first half of 2007, now the construction price per built sqm exceeds EUR 800," Laurentiu Plosceanu, president of ARACO was quoted as saying.

According to ARACO, the price of cement rose by 12% since the beginning of the year, while the association expects the price of steel and concrete to increase by 10% by the end of 2008. Gas prices increased by 8.5% in February this year, with the outlook for an 8-to-12% increase in the second trimester of the year.

Romania raises national terrorist alert level before NATO Summit

Romania's Supreme Defense Council (CSAT) raised the national terrorist alert level on Tuesday, a week before the NATO Summit in its capital Bucharest.

The CSAT decided to raise the alert level from blue (cautious) to yellow (moderate), at the proposal of the Romanian Intelligence Service.

The yellow level implies some special measures of cooperation among the state institutions being activated.

The CSAT, Romania's top-most executive body on security and defense issues, analyzed in the Tuesday session, the last before the NATO Summit, the stage of the last security measures taken for the organization of NATO Summit.

The NATO Summit is to take place in Bucharest on April 2-4, with the enlargement, operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo as its main topics. As many as 24 presidents, 26 prime ministers and 86 ministers will attend the summit.

Source:Xinhua

Daewoo Seeks Asian Workers for Shipyard in Romania

Lack of local labor and Asian wages are 20%-30% lower than Romanian wages

By Agence France-Presse

March 25, 2008 -- A shipyard in Romania owned by South Korean conglomerate Daewoo plans to employ about 300 workers from Asia before the end of the year to overcome a labor shortage, the company said March 24. "We have two reasons for taking on foreign citizens," the head of human resources for the company, Gemal Memetcea, said. "Firstly because of a lack of labor locally and after a number of qualified workers emigrated in the last few years, and secondly because of the cost of taking on Asians, which are 20% to 30% lower than Romanians."

He said 57 Vietnamese workers and 48 Chinese employees have already started at the shipyard in Mangalia, on Romania's Black Sea coast. Eleven more Vietnamese are expected next week and another 125 are in the process of applying for visas and work permits. The process of bring 20 Sri Lankans to Romania has already begun and another 50 from the South Asian island country are to follow before the end of the year, he added. The shipyard employs 3,600 people with the gross monthly salary on average about 700 euros ($1,000). Romania -- an EU member state since January last year -- is suffering from a serious shortage of workers for the construction and textile industries and plans to turn to foreign labor to plug the gaps.

Polish-listed developers increasingly interested in Romania, consultantJones Lang LaSalle says

WARSAW. MARCH 25. INTERFAX CENTRAL EUROPE - Romania is becoming an
attractive investment location for Polish-listed developers active on the central and eastern European markets, according to international real-estate consultant Jones Lang LaSalle.

"Romania is seeing quite a lot of new availability," Jones Lang LaSalle
analysts told a press conference. "Investors are getting quite comfortable on the market. Developers such as [Globe Trade Center] GTC or Plaza Centers are quite active on that market, especially in retail." Romania noted an overall investment volume of EUR 2.2 bln in 2007, up 144% on the previous year. Some 15% of this volume was invested in real-estate.

GTC owns some 48,000 [square meters] sqm of office space in Romania, 136,000 sqm in retail space and 283,000 sqm in residential space. Some 40% of GTC's activity centers on the Romanian, Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian markets. Plaza Centers is currently running seven commercial projects in Romania with a total floor space of 750,000 sqm. Jones Lang LaSalle attributed the interest in Romania mainly due to its entry into the EU.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Companies Eye Romania Aircraft Plant

BalkanInsight.com

24 March 2008
Bucharest _ Fifteen Romanian and foreign companies have already obtained the presentation file of Avioane Craiova ahead of the April 17 deadline.

The companies interested in the southern Romania plant are Sweden’s Saab, Grampet Bucharest, the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody, Lord Expert Consult Romania, INAV Bucharest, IMA Metav Bucharest, Jafco Holding Romania, Pro Faur Invest Romania, Italy’s Alenia, MBL Computers Bucharest, Belgium’s Sabca, Somaca-Gosselies also from Belgium, SIF Oltenia, Safrom Trading Bucharest and Luxembourg’s International Railways Systems.

The winner will be chosen through negotiations based on irrevocable final bids.

Avioane Craiova had losses of 7.06 million lei (€ 2 million) in 2007, six times more than in 2006, while revenues declined by 7.5% to 24.24 million lei (€ 6.87 million).

The new owner will be obliged to maintain the activity of the company.

Avioane Craiova SA was set up in 1972 and started to produce aircrafts in cooperation with the former Yugoslavia.

Presently, Avioane Craiova produces the IAR-99 Soim advanced jet trainer, along with structural subassemblies for civil aircraft and fire-fighting equipment.

Renault's Dacia workers in Romania start indefinite strike

BUCHAREST (Thomson Financial) - Workers at Renault SA's low-cost Dacia unit's plant in Pitesti, Romania, started an indefinite strike this morning to demand rises in wages and bonuses.

Union leader Nicolae Pavelescu said: 'The strike was started this morning and more than 80 pct of workers are taking part', cited by news agency Newsin.

The unions are demanding a fixed sum of 550 lei (about 148 eur) in two payments, and an increase in Christmas and Easter bonuses.

Another union leader, Ion Iordache, said the average gross salary at Dacia is 1,064 lei (about 285 eur), but 'for 2,500 employees without seniority, it does not exceed 780 lei gross'.

An official at the factory, Liviu Ion, said the bonus increases demanded by the workers were 'unacceptable', and the management was proposing a rise of 144 lei in various bonuses, which would lead to a rise of 12 pct in the average gross salary and an 18 pct rise in the minimum salary.

While the employees say their demands are justified by the profits the factory has made over recent years, Ion said that the profits of 302 mln eur between 2005-2007, have still not made up for the losses of 363 mln eur incurred between 2000-2004.

Ion also said that Renault (other-otc: RNSDY.PK - news - people ) has invested 800 mln eur in the factory since taking over Dacia in 1999 and would continue to invest about 200 mln eur per year in it.

He said management was still 'open to negotiations' with the unions, but that no date has been set to resume the talks.

Almost 4,000 Dacia workers held a warning strike lasting two hours on March 14, after their negotiations with management broke down.

Dacia, Romania's biggest carmaker, had record sales in 2007 of 230,000 vehicles sold in Romania and abroad, up 17.4 pct from the previous year.

'My second life'

Source: eagletribune.com

By J.J. Huggins
Staff writer

Ioan Tomsa started hiding his face when he was 7.

It was at that age that doctors took out his right eye and the surrounding cheek bone during surgery to remove a benign tumor pressing against his brain. The Romanian boy was left with a face that appeared caved in on the right side, with a dark hole where his eye had been.

People gawked at him. He began to hold his right hand over his face and turn away from people. Tomsa describes the way he felt in one word: "Ashamed."

"This was the only thing they could do," said Rodica Lupu, a Romanian pediatrician. "They didn't think of the look and the aesthetic outcome."

Lupu did consider "the look," and she worked to bring Tomsa (pronounced TOM-sha) to the United States for surgery to reconstruct his face.

She needed to find highly skilled experts willing to work without pay and hosts able to take in a young Romanian who spoke little English. The cost of the surgery and a trip to the United States was far beyond the reach of Tomsa's poor farming family in Rozavlea, a village in northern Romania near the Ukraine border.

Lupu found what she was looking for here in the Merrimack Valley. In January, a "dream team" of medical specialists came together to perform seven hours of surgery at Caritas Holy Family Hospital in Methuen. Two families in Windham welcomed the young Romanian into their homes for several weeks as he prepared for the operation and recovered.

Tomsa, who turned 20 while here, no longer has to hide his face. He feels reborn.

"I am feeling excellent," he said in Romanian, with Lupu translating. "I live my second life."

From Romania to Valley

Tomsa's road to the operating table was long. It began six years ago when his family saw an advertisement for a free health clinic run by a group of American doctors in another Romanian town.

Tomsa and his father, also named Ioan Tomsa, rode a train for 12 hours to reach the clinic. The doctors could do nothing for Tomsa — he would need to go to the United States for facial reconstruction.

But it was at the clinic that Tomsa met Lupu, a doctor at a Bucharest hospital who was working with the Americans.

She made it her mission to get help for Tomsa. A contact in the United States eventually put her in touch with Healing the Children, an aid group based in Spokane, Wash.

Faye Barry, program director for the group's Connecticut-based Northeast chapter, contacted North Andover plastic surgeon George Chatson, who had been to Romania on a medical mission for Healing the Children.

"Then everything just kind of fell into place," Barry said.

Chatson assembled what he called a "dream team" to perform the surgery. All the members of the team volunteered their time and services free of charge.

"One thing I have observed in the course of doing this project — that people are very willing to help," Chatson said. "I asked my own dentist to help."

The dentist, Jonathan Schrader of North Andover, accepted, along with Ian Glick, another North Andover dentist. Gary Rogers, a craniofacial specialist at Children's Hospital in Boston, also stepped forward. So did Richard Mirra, an oral-maxillofacial surgeon, and Erin Donaldson, a clinical anaplastologist — a specialist who creates prosthetic devices to restore malformed or missing parts of the body.

Caritas Holy Family donated the use of an operating room.

Sacrifice and surgery

Meanwhile, Tomsa's father sold one of the family's two cows, raising $300 to pay for a trip from their village to Bucharest to obtain a visa for Tomsa. It was a significant sacrifice.

In rural Romania, many families rely on their own cows for milk. Tomsa's family — which also includes his mother, Maria, sister Maria, 16, and brother Nicolae, 10 — lives on a farm with one horse and two cows, growing apples, hay, potatoes and other vegetables they sell.

Tomsa said there are "about 1,000 chimneys" in his village, meaning 1,000 homes. There is one tractor and eight computers.

Tomsa arrived in the United States in January, accompanied by a doctor from Romania, Cristina Patru, who served as his translator and supporter. Lupu remained in Romania but was able to visit Tomsa when she came to the United States in February for the wedding of her daughter, who lives in Abington.

Before the surgery, Tomsa needed dental work. He had never had any done because he could barely open his mouth as a result of his facial deformity.

"A portion of the bony tumor could have involved that part of his cheek," Chatson explained, "or just the pain and recover from surgery (to remove the tumor) could have caused him not to move his jaw and his jaw got stiff."

Tomsa had such difficulty chewing that he ate mostly pureed and soft foods, like mashed potatoes.

When Chatson and Tomsa stopped at McDonald's before the operation, Chatson was amazed at his struggle to eat.

"It took him about 15 minutes to eat an Egg McMuffin," Chatson said.

The dentists recruited by Chatson cleaned Tomsa's teeth, did a root canal and removed a decayed tooth.

The surgery to rebuild the right side of Tomsa's face took place Jan. 25.

Over seven hours, doctors made an incision in Tomsa's scalp and reconstructed his eye socket and cheek bone, using a material called Medpor that was secured to his skull with small titanium screws. Medpor is a porous, high-density polyethylene that can be shaped into a variety of implants. It is commonly used in cosmetic plastic surgery to augment chins or cheekbones.

Porex, the company that manufactures Medpor donated the material, worth about $2,500.

Doctors then stretched the skin of Tomsa's face to cover the Medpor, leaving a scar across the top of Tomsa's head that is partially masked by his hair. His face now has an even contour and bears no sign of deformity, except for the missing eye.

But with his eye socket reconstructed, Tomsa can be fitted with a glass eye (actually molded plastic), donated by Jahrling Ocular Prosthetics of Boston. The eye is expected to be implanted next month.

Tomsa visited Chatson's Turnpike Street office recently for a follow-up.

He has picked up enough English to say "Thank you very much" to Chatson, though he mostly communicated his appreciation with a wide grin.

Chatson handed the young man a green envelope, which Chatson said contained money from Chatson's mother for Tomsa's family.

The staff at Caritas Holy Family is also raising money for the family, Chatson said.

"They wanted to take up a collection to pay for a new cow," he said.

Recovery

Two Windham families have taken turns hosting Tomsa during his stay — Elaine and Edward Yourtee and their next-door neighbors, Richard and Beth Straub.

Elaine Yourtee is executive director of Nobody's Children, an international children's relief agency she and her husband founded after adopting a Romanian orphan.

Yourtee said Tomsa exudes newfound confidence since the surgery.

He looks in the mirror and says in English, "Total normal."

"He just kind of took his head and turned it a little bit like, 'I have nothing to hide,'" she said. "And then he's always touching his face and touching around the right eye orbit, which is new to him. He cannot wait to get home for his whole village to see his new face."

Thanks to the surgery, Tomsa can also eat normally again.

"He loves apples," Yourtee said.

They were too hard to chew until doctors cut scar tissue to allow Tomsa to open his mouth freely.

This is Tomsa's first time away from home. He had been dating a young woman back home and is eager to show her how he looks after the surgery. He could return home by the middle of next month.

Tomsa realizes how lucky he is — "What a big chance I had," he said — and how a new life awaits him in his native Romania.

He never finished high school because his school was in the next village — so far away that he would have had to stay overnight. His family couldn't afford room and board. But now that he's no longer ashamed of his appearance, he is considering resuming his studies and getting a car to become a taxi driver.

And when he returns, Lupu said, "he will keep his head up."


How to help

Nobody's Children is seeking donations to help others like Ioan Tomsa. They can be sent to:

Nobody's Children

P.O. Box 1076

Windham, N.H. 03087

Romania expels six Germans ahead of NATO summit

Published: 22 Mar 08 11:16 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.de/10841/

Romanian police said on Friday they briefly detained and then expelled six German "anarchists" allegedly planning to join anti-NATO protests during an upcoming summit of the transatlantic alliance.

The four men and two women, aged 21 to 35, were arrested by border police at the southern border crossing of Calafat and deported to Bulgaria in the afternoon, a police spokesman said.

Police "found CDs, magazines, posters and badges with anti-NATO and anti-globalization contents" in a search of the groups' two cars.

Officials said Romania - an EU member since last year - may expel EU nationals if they "threaten public order or national security."

But human rights groups, including the Romanian branch of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, criticized the decision to deport the six, saying Romania was "violating fundamental rights of European nationals."

Romania, which will host the NATO summit from April 2-4, has imposed stringent security measures tightening border controls and mobilizing a total 23,000 police officers, firefighters and special police forces.

Foreign Minister Adrian Cioroianu said Thursday that Romania and its NATO allies "will monitor anti-NATO or anti-globalization groups, well before they enter Romanian territory."

AFP (news@thelocal.de)

Evangelist team to start anti-drugs work in Romania

The Luis Palau Association (LPA) has been given the green light by the Romanian government to start anti-drugs work in that country. The work is part of BucharestFest, a major festival in the Romanian capital, which will take place at the end of May.

A team including Andrew Palau and Vasile Oniga (Chairman of the Christian Police Association) met with General Pavel Abraham, President of the Agentia Nationala Anti-Drog (ANA), part of the Romanian Ministry of Interior. General Abraham accepted Christ at a previous Palau NGA mission event for police officers.

The intention was merely to get the ANA’s endorsement for the team’s programme of visits to 40 High Schools in late May, prior to the start of the Festival. The nature of the event was fully explained and the team stressed that they were not from the Orthodox part of the Christian Family, and that there would be many calls to Christian commitment.

The meeting ended up with the team not only getting the full endorsement of ANA for all its activities, but for a series of other key initiatives. These were:

  • Full partnership status with ANA
  • Encouragement that other organisations, such as the Child Protection Agency, would support the Festival
  • Media support from the ANA prior to the festival, including a joint press conference and press release – and promotion of the Festival on MTV!
  • Encourage drug counsellors and selected volunteers to work with the Festival team in the Parcul Izvor “Addiction Area”

Nigel Gordon of LPA said: “It is quite clear that God had gone ahead of us and that our prayers have been answered in the most wonderful way. We now look forward to a great festival in May when many thousands of Romanians, young and old, make decisions for Jesus Christ.”

Windham woman has a big heart for children

Source: eagletribune.com

By Terry Date
Staff writer

WINDHAM — In 1991, Elaine Yourtee and her husband traveled to Romania to adopt a child. It was in the wake of the fall of communism in the country, and the couple were appalled and sickened by the conditions they witnessed.

Out of this was born Nobody's Children, a humanitarian group based in Windham. Over the past 17 years, the agency has helped thousands of children. Most of those helped, whether stimulation-deprived orphans in state-run institutions, or children in need of surgery to restore use of arms, legs or other body parts, are from Romania or war-torn Bosnia.

Right now, the Yourtees' house guest is 20-year-old Ioan Tomsa, a soft-spoken man from a rural Romanian farming town who for the last 13 years lived with the right side of his face caved in, unable to open his mouth more than the width of a thumb.

Nobody's Children recently helped arrange the remarkable reconstructive surgery that lets him open his mouth to smile. He is awaiting additional surgery to have a glass eye implanted.

"Finally, finally, he will have his face," said Elaine Yourtee, the executive director for Nobody's Children.

Tomsa speaks little English, but when asked to describe Yourtee, his voice sails forth in Romanian that translates to: She has a big heart for children.

Yourtee doesn't doubt that there is a connection between her commitment to providing children medical and other care and her life experiences, especially her childhood.

Her namesake was an aunt from her hometown who had diabetes and lost her sight to the disease. Her father died young from heart disease, while Yourtee was studying nursing in Berlin, N.H.

But one of the most formative of her childhood experiences was when Yourtee was 13.

At that age, she traveled from home in Summerside, a small community of 10,000 in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, to the United States for surgery to remove a diseased kidney. The operation was a major one in 1957, and she awoke with a large scar from an enormous incision.

"I was about cut in half," Yourtee said.

But she felt better almost immediately, being rid of a nonfunctioning kidney.

Her recognition of the importance of medical care led her to study nursing. Her studies led her to the larger world.

Yourtee, an energetic woman, said she is trying to do her part in relieving suffering.

"This world is filled with need," she said.

There is something everyone can do, no matter how small, to help fill that need, she said.

But ultimately, it takes action, she said.

"You know how in the spring if you want a vegetable garden you have to plant seeds?" she said, bringing her hands down flat on her dining table. "If you don't plant the seeds, you won't have any vegetables."

Romania to build second nuclear plant

21st March 2008

Romania is planning to build a second nuclear power plant to meet rising demand and secure its energy independence, reports Thomson Financial.

Thomson Financial noted that the Cernovada nuclear plant supplies approximately 17% of Romania's electricity needs. The plant has two nuclear reactors in operation. With another two reactors expected to come on line in 2014-15, Romania is seeking participation in their construction with an international tender for around E2.2 billion, reported the news source.

Thomson Financial said that, in view of the project, Romanian state-owned nuclear power generator Nuclearelectrica, the operator of the Cernovada power station, has initiated a joint venture with Arcelor-Mittal, CEZ, Electrabel, Enel, Iberdrola and RWE. These investors will reportedly each pick up a 10-15% stake in the project.

Judicial Reform in Romania Threatens to Peter Out

Deutsche-Welle

Thanks to its new justice minister, Romania has fewer anti-corruption tools now than before joining the European Union. A new law has made it easier for the political elite to avoid investigation.

Upon taking office two weeks ago, Romania's new Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu was quick to announce that reform was his top priority.

"I'm aware that eliminating the deficits has precedence in the reform process," he said, "particularly because these deficits were mentioned in the EU Commission's Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. I would like to commit our full openness and cooperation with the European Commission to realize these goals."

Yet one of the justice minister's first acts in office casts doubts on his readiness for reform. Predoiu welcomed a change made to a law on the establishment of an agency that monitors the assets of politicians that will likely weaken the country's anti-corruption fight.

Parliamentary approval required

With the approval of Romania's highest court, the anti-corruption authority may only prosecute current or former ministers, who are also parliamentarians or senators, with the permission of the parliament.

Previously, the president had to approve the prosecution of a (former) minister based on the recommendation of the public prosecutor's office.

As a result of the new law, ongoing corruption cases against prominent politicians, like former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase or current Labor Minister Paul Pacuraru, will have to be re-examined.

The change was approved by Romania's senate and Predoiu said it was met EU Commission requirements, but some politicians see it differently.

The chairman of the senate's judiciary committee, Peter Eckstein-Kovacs, resigned out of protest over the change in law. He said he sees it as a dilution of the original legislation, which had been introduced by former Justice Minister Monica Macovei despite considerable resistance.

Open door to amnesty for corrupt politicians

Most of Romania's politicians have refrained from commenting on the change.

Representatives from civil society, on the other hand, see in the change a lifeboat for politicians suspected of corruption. They say what was once an effective corruption-fighting tool has been turned into a mechanism to protect the powerful elite.

"For those who acquired through dishonest means after the fall of communism, the law is comparable to amnesty," said Romanian journalist Horatiu Pepine.

Today, there are fewer mechanisms in Romania today to fight corruption than there were before the country's accession to the EU.

Because Romania has put its reform drive on hold, the European Commission as early as this summer could activate the security clause in the EU accession treaty. This would mean cuts in EU financial aid to the country.

Ford Takes Over Romanian Carmaker

Friday March 21


Ford Officially Takes Over Romanian Carmaker Automobile Craiova

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. formally took over the Romanian plant Automobile Craiova from the Romanian government on Friday.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu handed the factory's key to Ford of Europe President John Fleming, saying that Ford's investment of about $1 billion would allow Romania to become the biggest car producer in southeastern Europe.

Last year, Ford bought a 72.4 percent stake in the state-owned company, paying about $88 million and vowing to invest $1 billion to upgrade and expand car production. Ford said it would increase the number of employees from 3,900 to between 7,000 and 9,000.

"I believe that the presence of two carmakers on our market will encourage interest in others," Tariceanu said.

The Renault-owned Dacia plant in Romania already produces the popular Logan make and a new brand, Sandero.

Fleming said that the first vehicles -- which will be Transit Connect vans -- will come out of the factory in 2009. From 2010 the plant will manufacture a small, spacious and cheap car that will only be made in Romania. Fleming declined to give more details about the new model.

From a production of 16,000 cars in 2009, the company expects to reach 300,000 cars in four years.

The takeover was delayed when the European Union launched an investigation into the sale. The EU's executive arm said the stake was worth $132 million and the Romanian state had lost $42 million. Regulators ordered the government to demand Automobile Craiova pay the state the lost revenue from the sale. Ford agreed to pay the sum.

The Romanian government took over the debt-laden factory in 2006 after the previous owner, South Korea's Daewoo Motor Co., went bankrupt in 2000

Friday, March 21, 2008

Renault’s Romania Workers To Strike

BalkanInsight.com

20 March 2008
Bucharest _ Thousands of workers at Romania’s Renault-owned Dacia car maker, will go strike demanding a 50% pay rise, a union said Thursday.

Trade unionists say wages are low given the productivity of the workforce and the profit that each employee generates.

"Negotiations with the management have failed, our strike involving more than 80 percent of the 13,000 workers will begin on March 24. Production will stop," Ion Iordache, a leader at the Dacia trade union told the Reuters news agency.

He said Dacia workers earn around 1,070 lei (€ 286) as basic salary on average a month, before tax. They are demanding a pay rise of 550 lei a month in 2008.

Dacia officials were not immediately available to comment.

Average net wages in Romania jumped 30.7 percent year-on-year in nominal terms in January to 1,200 lei.

The country is an attractive location for carmakers attracted by cheap labour, relatively low taxes and prospects for fast productivity growth.