Thursday, July 28, 2011

AP: 1,300 jobs to be cut at Romanian energy companies

BUCHAREST, Romania—Romania's government says it will cut 1,300 jobs at three state-owned energy companies this year as it seeks to fulfill conditions it made to secure loans from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

In a statement, the government said 900 coal miners will lose their jobs in western Romania in September, and 300 people will be dismissed from a Bucharest heating plant. A further 100 employees will have their jobs axed at an electric plant in the western city of Deva.

In 2009, Romania took a two-year, euro20 billion ($28.9 billion) loan from the IMF, the EU and the World Bank, as its economy shrank by 7.1 percent. Romania imposed harsh austerity measures, including cutting wages and jobs, under the agreement.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Romania does not need to sell assets at low prices

BUCHAREST, July 25 (Reuters) - Romania's attempt to sell a near 10 percent stake in oil and gas group Petrom was a failure, but the country does not have to sell its assets cheaply "out of desperation," President Traian Basescu said.

Earlier in July, Romania failed to sell a minority stake in the company after bids fell below its minimum price, raising doubts over a privatisation drive promised under a 5 billion euros aid deal led by the International Monetary Fund.

"For us it was the right decision (not to sell), not what we would have wanted," President Traian Basescu told state television TVR on Monday evening.

"Romania must not be confused with countries that need to sell assets to pay wages and pensions. We are not in a situation to sell at whatever price and the government did well (not to)."

Basescu also said the government could not resume this year the listing process of its stake in Petrom, which is majority-controlled by Austria's OMV .

The sale, through which the government had hoped to raise $840 million, was a key test of commitment to sell stakes in more companies in the energy and transport sectors.

The planned sales include 15 percent stakes in power and gas grid operators Transelectrica and Transgaz later this year, and an initial public offering of gas producer Romgaz in 2012.

"This was a lesson for all of us," Basescu said. "We must get the right price for Romgaz, Transelectrica."

Most of the sale plans have been around for years, but successive governments have put privatisation on hold due to labour and political pressure.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Romania to resume Petrom sale next year-agency

BUCHAREST, July 25 (Reuters) - Romania will resume its failed attempt to sell a 9.8 percent stake in oil and gas group Petrom in the first quarter of 2012 at the earliest, the economy minister was quoted as saying by news agency Mediafax.

The sale of the government's stake in the company failed on Friday after it did not receive enough bids at its minimum price, raising doubts over a privatisation drive promised in return for international aid.

"We will look for the best market conditions to resume the transaction. We want to sell at a fair price," Economy Minister Ion Ariton said.

The government plans to 15 percent stakes in two more energy companies, Transelectrica and Transgaz , later this year and a stake in gas producer Romgaz in 2012, under its 5 billion euros ($7.2 billion) IMF-led aid deal.

The Petrom stake was the first of the privatisations Romania agreed to with the IMF. Ariton said the deal with the lender would not have to be reviewed after the failed sale. (Reporting by Ioana Patran; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.6933 EURO)

Romania Delays Petrom Sale Plan as Euro-Debt Crisis Makes Investors Wary

Romania delayed selling a minority stake in OMV Petrom SA (SNP) as the euro-debt crisis made investors wary of bidding during a two-week offer period that ended today.

The country, which wants at least 2.07 billion lei ($701 million) from the sale of 9.8 percent of the country’s largest oil company, will set a new timetable because valid subscriptions didn’t reach at least 80 percent of the offer, the Economy Ministry said in an e-mail today. The government will choose a new time for the sale depending on market conditions, it said.

“The transaction was difficult to achieve in these challenging market conditions, which deteriorated further during the marketing period,” said John Porter, a managing director atRenaissance Capital, one of the sale managers, said in an e- mailed statement. “We continue to work with the government and we remain confident that a Petrom offer can be completed as soon as the market conditions will stabilize.”

Companies around east Europe, including Romania to Ukraine, are backing away from planned share sales as demand shrinks during Europe’s widening debt crisis. Euro-area leaders announced 159 billion euros ($229 billion) in new aid for Greece and cajoled bondholders to foot part of the bill. They also empowered their 440-billion euro rescue fund to buy debt across stressed euro nations after a market rout last week sparked concern the crisis was spreading.

“Romania is not desperate to sell the Petrom stake at any price and in any conditions,” Prime Minister Emil Boc said, according to local media before the sales results were made public.
Risky Region

Southeast Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, is most at risk, because of its proximity to Greece, and an escalation of the crisis would hurt more western European banks, Erik Berglof, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said on July 14.

Almost a third of Bulgaria’s banks and 17 percent of Romania’s are owned by Greek parents including Piraeus Bank SA, Alpha Bank SA and EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA. Greek lenders own 15 percent to 25 percent of the banks in the non-EU states of Macedonia, Serbia and Albania.

The cost of insuring Romania’s bonds against non-payment stood at 247 basis points yesterday, below higher-rated Italy’s 252 basis points, Spain’s 308 and Hungary’s 295 basis points, according to data from CMA. CDS prices rise as investor perceptions of the borrower’s creditworthiness deteriorate.

“Investors’ risk appetite towards an equity market they are not familiar with is limited,” according to Porter.
Minimum Price

The government set a minimum price of 0.3708 lei per share on the Petrom offering and a maximum price of 0.46 lei per share.

Petrom shares fell 1.9 percent to 0.3762 lei per share at 3:17 p.m., before they were suspended from trading on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. Shares in Austrian oil company OMV AV, which has majority control of Petrom, lost 1.75 percent by 3:52 p.m. in Vienna.

The leu fell 0.05 percent to 4.2419 per euro in Bucharest today, after gaining 0.5 percent before the sale announcement. Romania’s benchmark BET stock index rose 1.1 percent to close at 5415.43, as Romanian Property Fund SA and Banca Transilvania advanced.
‘Extremely Volatile’

“The capital markets were extremely volatile,” said Rares Nilas, the chief executive officer at BT Securities SA, part of the sale management consortium. “This fact was visible on the Romanian capital market too. Despite the interest for Petrom secondary public offering, the reminded context has made investors more prudent, has reduced their exposures on the capital market as well as the level of investment.”

EFG Securities Romania SA and Romcapital SA helped manage the sale.

Petrom is majority owned by OMV AG (OMV) of Austria. The Romanian government holds 20.6 percent. Fondul Proprietatea SA, Romania’s 4 billion-euro ($5.8 billion) property-restitution fund, owns 20.1 percent.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net; Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez in Prague atjagomez@bloomberg.net

AP: Hundreds in Romania slam minister over gold mine

Hundreds of Romanians have condemned the country's culture minister for bringing the country one step closer to building of a long-disputed gold mine in the historically important Transylvania region.

In a letter to Culture Minister Kelemen Hunor published Thursday, protesters wrote: "We consider you responsible for an attack on our history ... We will defend our houses and properties until our last breath."

Hunor issued a permit last week saying there were no archaeological grounds to prevent Canada's Rosia Montana Gold Corp. mining company to go ahead with plans for the mine.

Signatories protest that a mountain will be leveled to build the mine, a mining area since Roman times.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hundreds in Romania slam minister over gold mine

Associated Press
BUCHAREST, Romania -- Hundreds of Romanians have condemned the country's culture minister for bringing the country one step closer to building of a long-disputed gold mine in the historically important Transylvania region.

In a letter to Culture Minister Kelemen Hunor published Thursday, protesters wrote: "We consider you responsible for an attack on our history ... We will defend our houses and properties until our last breath."

Hunor issued a permit last week saying there were no archaeological grounds to prevent Canada's Rosia Montana Gold Corp. mining company to go ahead with plans for the mine.

Signatories protest that a mountain will be leveled to build the mine, a mining area since Roman times.

EBRD May Be Interested in Acquiring Stakes in Romanian Companies

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development may consider buying stakes in Romanian state- owned companies after the government provides details of its sales program, according to Claudia Pendred, the EBRD’s local director.

The EBRD probably will clarify plans for the possible acquisition of equity stakes in Romanian companies, including in utilitiesTranselectrica SA (TEL) and Transgaz SA, after Prime Minister Emil Boc’s government decides on the size of the stakes it wants to sell and on the sales methods, Pendred said.

“It’s not quite clear what’s going to be privatized, so we have to wait and see,” Pendred said in an interview in Bucharest. “Certainly, if it makes sense, we will do them, but until the plans are cleared, it’s very difficult to comment.” She added that the bank and government will continue to discuss the program.

The International Monetary Fund and the European Union, which gave Romania two bailouts since 2009, have urged the government to sell minority or majority stakes in state-owned companies and improve management to help cut the budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product by next year from 6.5 percent in 2010.

The Balkan country is trying to attract investors to help spark economic growth after a two-year recession. The government plans to sell minority stakes in the utilities, in OMV Petrom SA (SNP), the largest oil company, and in the nuclear power company Nuclearelectrica SA and the hydropower generator Hidroelectrica SA, as well as a majority stake in PVC-maker Oltchim SA.

“Now that the IMF’s second review mission is in town, they will probably decide with the government what’s going to be privatized, how it is going to be privatized, and we can clear our plans afterwards,” Pendred said. “We wouldn’t start buying shares unless there is a reason for it, we would have to feel that we can add value.”

EBRD, which has invested 300 million euros ($425 million) in Romania so far this year, also wants to finance more renewable energy projects and acquire shares in private companies, Pendred said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez in Prague atjagomez@bloomberg.net

NYT: Amid Unemployment, Spain Aims to Limit Romanian Influx

MADRID — The Spanish government was moving on Thursday toward endorsing tough restrictions on Romanians seeking to enter the country at a time of enormous unemployment in Spain.

A decision on the restrictions is expected Friday. They would require Romanians to have a work contract before settling in Spain, reversing a previous commitment to give Romanians unrestricted access as fellow members of the 27-nation European Union. The number of Romanians in Spain has quadrupled in the past five years, making them the country’s biggest foreign community.

Support for such a decision comes amid evidence that Europe’s economic crisis, coupled with the rise of xenophobic sentiment in some countries, is straining the commitment by many European countries to the principle of border-free travel.

In May, Denmark, one of the signatories to a pact known as the Schengen Agreement, which took effect in 1995 and abolished internal border checks, said that it would re-impose them for people coming from Germany and Sweden, bowing to the demands of the right-wing Danish People’s Party, which has been campaigning against illegalimmigration and organized crime.

The Schengen Agreement has also come under pressure because of the recent influx of refugees escaping the turmoil in North Africa. Both President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy called for a revision of the Schengen Agreement after France stopped migrants crossing over from Italy by train.

Still, the Spanish government emphasized that its decision was in line with the terms the European Union set for Romania to join the union, as well as earlier restrictions on Romanians imposed by other countries like France and Italy.

Anna Terrón, the Spanish secretary of state for immigration, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the decision was “completely different” from efforts by some of Spain’s fellow European Union members to alter the Schengen Agreement.

“We are and will continue to be a country fighting against any reform of Schengen,” she said. At the same time, she said, “We now have to recognize that we are not creating any employment here, and something has to be done to respond to this difficult labor situation.”

Spain’s population of 46 million includes 864,000 Romanians. Last year they became the biggest foreign community here, eclipsing Moroccans and Ecuadoreans, and their number has continued to swell even as Spain’s construction industry and other sectors of the economy have crumbled. Ms. Terrón said this “countertrend” was surprising since Romania had a jobless rate of 7 percent, about a third of that of Spain.

Furthermore, many of the Romanians who have already acquired residency in Spain, and will not be affected by the new restrictions, have been among the hardest hit by Spain’s downturn, with the jobless rate among Romanians now around 35 percent.

“We are not just talking about temporarily protecting the jobs of Spaniards, but also about preventing new arrivals from Romania from having a negative impact on the Romanians that are already here,” Ms. Terrón said.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NYT: E.U. Warns Bulgaria and Romania on Reforms

By STEPHEN CASTLE

BRUSSELS — Bulgaria on Wednesday was warned of serious deficiencies in its judicial system, urged to get more convictions from its fight against organized crime and told that its battle against corruption had yet to lead to convincing results.

The warning, in a formal assessment from the European Commission, highlighted continuing worries about law and order in Bulgaria and Romania, four years after they joined the bloc.

Both nations are subject to a European monitoring mechanism intended to ensure that reforms take place and will continue for another year when the five-year period will be assessed; the final findings could have an effect on the level aid sent to the two countries, and could also limit prospects for their citizens’ passport-free travel in the European Union.

This year’s report on Bulgaria was more critical than that of 2010, which appeared to give the benefit of the doubt to government. It is led by Prime Minister Boiko M. Borisov, who was elected in 2009 on a pledge to improve law and order. The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said in its report that the number of acquittals in cases involving high-level corruption, fraud and organized crime “have exposed serious deficiencies in judicial practice in Bulgaria.”

Though the commission praised Bulgarian police efforts to tackle crime gangs, it said the results needed significant improvement. “The fight against high-level corruption has not yet led to convincing results,” it said.

Mark Gray, a commission spokesman, said in Brussels: “Both Romania and Bulgaria have made some progress. The laws are largely in place if not totally concrete. We are not yet seeing those laws turned into concrete actions, whether in the case of corruption and organized crime in Bulgaria and whether in prosecution and convictions in Romania.”

Mr. Gray said that in Bulgaria, the issue of “private and public donations to police have raised concerns” but that its government had “shown determination and commitment in driving the reform process.”

Romania received a less critical report, though it was told that “progress in the fight against corruption still needs to be pursued” and that “urgent action is needed to accelerate a number of important high-level corruption trials.”

“The effectiveness of the fight against corruption is hindered by serious weaknesses in recovering the proceeds of crime,” the commission’s report said.

The assessment was released two months before European ministers are expected to debate whether to admit Romania and Bulgaria, the two newest E.U. members, to the Schengen zone, which allows travelers to cross frontiers without showing passports. Though the report is not technically connected to that application, it is unlikely to placate France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries that have called for a delay over the countries’ admission.

The Romanian president, Traian Basescu, said his government had the “determination and commitment” to continue fighting crime and corruption.

“The report is correct and shows the progress made to achieve the objectives,” Mr. Basescu said in a speech on state television, Bloomberg News reported. It “also pinpoints the perpetual problems of the judiciary which affect the credibility of the system as a whole and Romania’s credibility as well.”

Mr. Borisov, who has himself criticized Bulgaria’s judges, said he welcomed the findings and pledged to act on them, according to novinite.com, a news agency Web site in Sofia.

“Personally, I am glad that this report exists, and that this mechanism is in place,” he said. “It was introduced for a purpose several years ago, because imagine what it would be like if we had to evaluate the work of our own Parliament and our own government. That is why this report is friendly indeed; it is a matter of partnership, and it is extremely important with its conclusions and precise recommendations and an actual work schedule that it provides for us by the next summer.”

Romanian Gypsies seek dictionary definition change

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — What's in a name? An insult, according to Romania's Gypsies who are pushing for the nation's leading dictionary to add "pejorative" to its definition of the word "Gypsy" as "people with bad habits."

Roma, or Gypsy, rights groups have pressured the editors of the DEX dictionary to change that particular definition. Romanians use "Gypsy" to describe someone who is uncouth or dishonest.

Dictionary editor Eugen Simion told the Romania Libera daily Wednesday the change would be made, but warned it would not wipe out use of the word's pejorative meaning among Romanian speakers.

Romania's estimated 1.5 million Gypsies have lobbied to be called Roma, to avoid the negative connotations connected to the word "Gypsy." The group suffers widespread discrimination.

AP: Romania has its own Chinatown

Romania now has its very own Chinatown.

Investors and officials, including Prime Minister Emil Boc, have opened a euro100-million ($140-million) complex near the Romanian capital. It has more than 3,000 stands and 1,300 offices for wholesale business built on 40 hectares (99 acres) of land in a village just east of Bucharest.

Some 19 Turkish and Chinese businessmen invested in the complex, saying they hope to attract thousands of tourists annually.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Romania seeks to ease Petrom sale with discount

By Ioana Patran

BUCHAREST, July 19 (Reuters) - Romania set a minimum price for the sale of a stake in its top oil and gas group Petrom at a 2.7 percent discount to the market, which may make it easier to sell the whole offering.

The sale of 9.8 percent of Petrom is the largest ever transaction on Romanian capital markets and a key indicator of the government's commitment to privatisations under a 5 billion euros ($7 billion) International Monetary Fund-led deal.

The lowest sale price of 0.3708 lei per share, versus 0.381 at Monday's close, would bring in a total 2.07 billion lei ($684 million). It compares with an initial target of 0.46 per share, which analysts and bankers had said was unrealistic.

"We consider it is a realistic and feasible price to start with," said Economy Minister Ion Ariton. "We expect the final transaction will bring in more than this value per share."

Led by Poland and Russia, emerging Europe is seeking to sell state assets to boost public finances, attract investment and inject foreign expertise into moribund local industries.

Romania has been slow to act for fear of causing job losses, leaving it with inefficient assets draining hundreds of millions of euros a year, and raising questions over whether it will stick the course with its latest sale plans.

A murkier global economic outlook also means buyers are starting to balk at asking prices. Romania's leu hit a seven-month low earlier this month and concern over Europe's debt crisis has also knocked Bucharest stocks.

Nevertheless, Ariton said the government planned to sell 15 percent stakes in energy groups Transelectrica in October followed by Transgaz in December.

"The chances for the (Petrom) sale to take place are pretty high," said Wood & Co analyst Ovidiu Fer.

"It is very positive that they came up with a much smaller price compared to the maximum price, which shows they are really eager to sell."

Austria's OMV holds a majority in Petrom and the government has 21 percent. The sale is managed by Renaissance Capital, EFG Securities, BT Securities and Romcapital.

Trading in Petrom was suspended on Tuesday due to the announcement. The offering closes at 0900 GMT on Friday. ($1=3.027 Lei=0.713 Euros) (Additional reporting by Radu Marinas and Sam Cage; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

Protest over Canadian gold mine project in Romania

AFP

BUCHAREST — Dozens of Romanians protested Tuesday against a Canadian company's plans to open a gold mine in Transylvania and called on the culture minister to resign over his support to this project.

The protest in front of the culture ministry in Bucharest came days after a local department of the ministry issued an archaeological discharge certificate which opponents allege will destroy ancient Roman vestiges at the site.

"How can anyone pretend the Roman mines will be protected when the Canadian company plans to blow up the mountain where they are" in order to extract gold and silver, Stefania Simion of Alburnus Maior association said. The association gathers villagers opposed to the project.

"The permit issued by the ministry is illegal," she added, stressing that a similar document delivered in 2004 was nullified by a local court.

"We cannot let the culture minister Hunor Kelemen destroy this country," an architecture student, Ioana Banica, said.

The protesters also claimed the open-cast mine project will pose serious environmental risks as cyanide will be used in the extraction process.

"Kelemen, you take the cyanide and leave us the culture," they chanted.

Canadian company Gabriel Resources, which holds an 80 percent stake in Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, obtained a concession license to exploit the local gold in 1999. More than a decade later, the firm has still not been granted all the required permits.

Rompetrol Refuses NIS Offer for Romania Stations, Mediafax Says

Oil refiner Rompetrol Group NV declined an offer by Serbia’s Naftna Industrija Srbije AD to buy its Romanian gas station network, Mediafax reported.

OAO Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russia’s state-controlled gas producer that owns 51 percent of NIS, sent an offer two months ago to acquire Rompetrol’s network of 450 gas stations, the Bucharest-basednews service reported, citing Rompetrol Chief Executive Officer Saduokhas Meraliyev.

Meraliyev declined to disclose the value of the offer, the news service said. Rompetrol’s network is valued at 500 million euros ($709 million) to 600 million euros, Mediafax said, citing Titov Buzescu, the group’s vice-president for retail.

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

Romania to sell more energy stakes in 2011

(Reuters) - Romania's centrist government plans to sell stakes of 15 percent in state energy firms Transelectrica (ROTEL.BX) and Transgaz (ROTGN.BX) this year, Economy Minister Ion Ariton was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The stake in Transelectrica will be sold on the Bucharest stock exchange in October while Transgaz shares will be offered in December, followed by an initial public offering of gas producer Romgaz in 2012, Ariton was quoted as saying by state news agency Agerpres.

Romania is selling 9.8 percent of Petrom (ROSNP.BX) in the largest ever transaction on its capital markets and the offering began on July 11 and will close at 0900 GMT on July 22. [ID:nLDE76I0DC] (Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Sam Cage)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Romania backtracking over Palestinian statehood vote

(AFP)

BUCHAREST — Romania said Friday it had yet to decide on its vote on a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood in September, two days after telling Israeli's Benjamin Netanyahu it opposed any unilateral solution.

"We are analyzing the forms and implications of the planned Palestinian bid," the foreign ministry said.

"As this bid has not been submitted yet, all speculations about Romania's vote are premature."

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc stressed on Wednesday that Romania was against a unilateral solution and pleaded for the resumption of talks between the two parties.

"A negotiated solution alone can lead to lasting peace in the Middle East," Boc said during a joint news conference with Netanyahu.

His remarks were interpreted by the media as clear support for Israel, described by Boc as a "key partner".

On Thursday, as Netanyahu went to Sofia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boïko Borissov remained noncommittal on the issue.

"You will see when the vote comes," Borisov said, when asked how Bulgaria would vote on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN's General Assembly.

"There's still time," he added, noting the Palestinians had not yet submitted the statehood bid.

Following the collapse of direct peace talks with Israel in September last year, the Palestinians have adopted a diplomatic strategy of looking to secure UN recognition when the General Assembly meets in New York in September for a state along the frontiers which existed before the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel is adamantly opposed to such a move.

Analysis: Romania seen overcoming renewable energy cuts

(Reuters) - Romania's plan to change generous subsidies for renewable energy is unlikely to deter investors in wind energy, despite heightened uncertainty over project financing.

The plan to tone down green energy support -- key to attracting billions of euros to wind -- is still pending approval from the European Commission, which says it may overcompensate developers.

The proposed changes include the possibility of cutting support if a green project becomes too profitable, causing market jitters that the unpredictability will scare away financial backers.

But industry participants say the changes are still a long way off and the promise of high returns still holds, unlike in Bulgaria, where the government has changed its obligatory purchase of green electricity at high, fixed prices.

"There will be cases of investors abandoning projects in Bulgaria and moving elsewhere in the region, but right now interest remains in developing wind energy in Romania," said Joanna Kozak of brokers Greenmax Capital Advisors.

"Of course, an unpredictable legal framework does not help. Investors are interested, but the availability of the financing is now the key question."

Other changes in Romania's subsidies scheme cut the number of green certificates for technologies like biomass and make renewables' access to the power grid guaranteed but no longer a first priority.

"For wind energy the number of green certificates remains unchanged," Adrian Borotea, a director at CEZ in Romania told local television. "We think that all the other problems are things we can overcome."

Czech power group CEZ has halfway finished building Europe's largest onshore wind park in the dusty Dobrogea region in southeastern Romania, a 1.1 billion euros projects.

Other power firms are developing wind energy projects in Romania, including Italy's Enel, Spain's Iberdrola and Energias de Portugal.

Dozens of Austrian, Spanish, U.S. and German firms have also rushed to build new wind and solar energy plants in Bulgaria, threatening to overwhelm its outdated grid.

UNSUSTAINABLE

In addition to good, steady wind, analysts said Romania has other advantages, including a potentially lucrative market of some 22 million people and expected power price increases as the government needs to liberalize its energy markets by 2015.

Once approved by the EU, Romania's support scheme would give wind power developers two green certificates for every megawatt hour of electricity they produce until 2017, while suppliers must get an increasing percentage of the power they sell from renewable energy and buy certificates to meet these targets.

Wind power developers gain once by selling the certificates, worth between 27 and 55 euros each to power providers, and again when they sell the electricity produced -- something experts say may not be sustainable.

"I am not sure to which extent Romania will be financially able to maintain this," said Aleksandar Kovacevic of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. "Romania should still be attractive without it because it has very good winds."

Elsewhere in Europe, the Czech Republic, Spain and Italy have cut support sharply to protect tight budgets and consumers worried over price hikes.

Romania's energy regulator ANRE estimates the overall renewable support scheme will cost 10.5 billion euros over 10 years and add up to 33 euros per megawatt to prices by 2017.

Romania jumped from 14 megawatts of installed wind energy at the end of 2009 to 462 megawatts at the end of last year, overtaking Bulgaria but still behind regional leader Poland, and should have some 4,000 megawatts by 2020.

"It's possible that later we won't need this support scheme," said Maria Manicuta, a director at energy regulator ANRE. "But for now I don't think we could have attracted investment without it."

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by William Hardy)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Romanian Industrial Output Accelerates First Time in 3 Months

Romanian industrial output growth accelerated for the first time in three months in May as demand for the country’s manufactured and mining products spurs an economic recovery after a two-year recession.

Production grew a seasonally adjusted 8 percent from a year earlier after a 6.3 percent rise in April, the Bucharest-based National Statistics Institute said in an e-mailed statement today. Output advanced 1.6 percent on the month.

Romania’s industry, which grew 10 percent in the first quarter and 4.1 percent in 2010, and surging exports boosted by western European demand for products including Dacia SA cars, will probably help the economy grow 1.5 percent this year, according to International Monetary Fund and government forecasts. The economy contracted 1.3 percent in 2010.

Production of manufactured goods rose 7.8 percent in May on the year, while output of mined and drilled goods jumped 16 percent. Production of electricity and thermal energy increased 6.2 percent, the institute said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

OMV Petrom Jumps After Reporting Gas Field Discovery in Romania

OMV Petrom SA (SNP) rose for a second day, heading for its best week in more than three months, after Romania’s biggest oil company said yesterday it discovered a natural-gas field in the southwest of the country.

The stock advanced as much as 3 percent and was trading up 1.5 percent to 0.411 lei as of 10:41 a.m. in Bucharest. Petrom extended this week’s advance to 7.3 percent, its biggest rally since the five days ended March 25.

To contact the reporter on this story: Krystof Chamonikolas in Prague at kchamonikola@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gavin Serkin at gserkin@bloomberg.net

Romania, Bulgaria demand full access to EU's labour market

Published on EurActiv (http://www.euractiv.com)
Source URL: http://www.euractiv.com/en/socialeurope/romania-bulgaria-demand-full-access-eus-labour-market-news-506385

Published: 08 July 2011


The Bulgarian and Romanian governments have asked the European Commission to help them fully open the EU labour market to their nationals from 2012, Bulgarian news website Mediapool announced.
Background

Starting in January 2014 – seven years after their EU accession – there will be complete freedom of movement for workers from Bulgaria and Romania.

Workers from Bulgaria and Romania currently enjoy full rights to free movement pursuant to EU law in 15 member countries – Denmark, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic.

But restrictions remain in place in 10 member states (Belgium, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, the UK and Malta) and typically require Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to have a work permit.

In the context of the expulsions of Roma by the French authorities last summer, it became evident that Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are more vulnerable to expulsion than other EU citizens in that country, as they are still obliged to seek work permits before they are allowed to take up residency.


In a joint letter, Bulgarian Labour Minister Totiu Mladenov and his Romanian counterpart Sebastian Lazaroiu asked Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner László Andor to make sure that all limitations on the right of their nationals to work in other EU countries should be lifted by 2012.

According to Bulgaria and Romania's accession treaty, EU countries have the right to impose caps on their job markets for up to seven years after accession, meaning that all limits would be lifted on 1 January 2014. Bulgarian and Romanian workers already enjoy full access to the job markets of 15 EU countries, while restrictions remain in ten more (see 'Background').

The accession treaty foresees a review of the restrictions by 31 December 2011, when the countries that are still imposing limits must notify the Commission of whether or not they intend to keep them until the end of the seven-year period.

In this context, the authorities of the EU's two latest newcomers have asked the Commission to issue a report on the free movement of workers from their countries, which could serve as a basis for decision-making.

"We strongly believe that such a report would help member states which still uphold restrictions on their labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals to take a positive decision for the restrictions to be lifted," the letter is quoted as saying.

However, it remains highly uncertain whether Sofia and Bucharest's efforts will bear fruit.

Just recently, the Netherlands restricted access to its labour market for all foreigners, including Bulgarians and Romanians. The Commission launched an enquiry into the legality of including the nationals of two EU countries in such restrictions, but later considered the measures to be in conformity with the EU treaties.

Moreover, upcoming elections in France and Germany make it highly unlikely that those countries' authorities will liberalise their job markets as Sofia and Bucharest demand. Experts say that no matter what the impact would be on the labour market, nationalist and anti-immigration political forces would gladly exploit such a hypothetical move, to the detriment of the ruling parties and coalitions in older EU members.

AP: New law would give Romanian government right to obtain illegally earned wealth

BUCHAREST, Romania - A spokeswoman says Romania's government has approved a draft law that would allow the confiscation of the illegally obtained money from people who have been convicted of crimes and imprisoned.

Government spokeswoman Ioana Muntean said Thursday that the law will be forwarded to Parliament where it will be debated and voted on.

The draft, which the government passed Wednesday, would apply to people who are serving prison sentences of at least five years for crimes involving illegally obtained money. The government says such funds will be added to government budgets.

Currently Romania's Constitution does not allow the government to do that.

AP: Romanian prince and actor dead at 70

Serban Cantacuzino, a Romanian prince and actor who starred in films, musicals and children's serials, has died. He was 70.

The Uniter theater union says Cantacuzino died in Paris on Monday where he had lived since 1990. No cause of death was given in Thursday's statement.

Cantacuzino was the descendent of Serban Cantacuzino, a 17th century prince who battled with the Turks, introduced Romanians to corn and published the Cantacuzino bible. The family legacy and his aristocratic air added to his popularity.

Cantacuzino made his debut at 11 in Mark Twain's "the Prince and the Pauper." He acted in a dozen films, musicals and television series in Romania.

He will be buried in Bucharest on Saturday.

Petrom says makes gas discovery in Romania

Thu Jul 7, 2011

BUCHAREST, July 7 (Reuters) - Romania's top oil and gas firm Petrom controlled by Austria's OMV said on Thursday it made a potentially significant gas discovery in south western Romania.

In a statement on the Bucharest bourse's website here, Petrom said its exploration well 4539 Totea was tested at a maximum rate of 3,100 boe/day gas and associated condensate from a single zone.

It said further appraisal drilling was planned to assess what may be the most important onshore gas discovery in Romania in the last six years. (Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by William Hardy)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SETimes: Romania, Russia Exchange Strident Messages

By Paul Ciocoiu

Russia’s foreign ministry reacted with indignation on its website to Romanian President Traian Basescu’s WWII-related comments.

In a televised interview, Basescu said he agreed with Marshal Ion Antonescu, who declared war on the Soviet Union in 1941. The president added that he would have done the same.

“Russia is outraged by Romanian President Traian Basescu’s recent remarks that ‘in place of Marshal Ion Antonescu in 1941, he too would have ordered Romanian soldiers to cross the Prut River,’ to participate in the aggression of Hitler’s Germany against the USSR,” Moscow responded.

“Such a statement, made all the more so on the sad day of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Great Patriotic War, during which our people lost 27 million lives, is impossible to explain,” it said in an official statement.

“It is absolutely obvious that such shameless bravado, justifying the fascist aggression and desecrating the memory of the millions of Nazi victims, is intolerable and should get an adequate assessment from civilised Europe,” it concluded.

Bucharest reacted quickly, issuing a statement of its own, saying the Romanian Foreign Ministry considered Moscow’s language “absolutely inappropriate”.

It decried “the use of commentaries about events 70 years ago that were tragic for both the Romanian and Russian people; their being assigned political significance for the present”.

“We consider as regrettable and groundless such a public response, launched in an unacceptably violent language and without thorough information and minimal prior interaction on a diplomatic level,” the statement read.

Basescu defended his remarks, saying that “some get touchy when it comes to history” and adding that the Soviet Union “doesn’t exist anymore”.

He argued that his position is in line with the country’s official one, since the Romanian parliament condemned the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. That was the treaty of non-aggression signed between the USSR and Germany in August of 1939. Nearly two years later, Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

According to analysts, the flap demonstrations ongoing tension in Russian-Romanian relations.

“President Basescu has stood out over the past years with an overtly hostile rhetoric against Russia which also ignores the difference in proportions between the two actors,” Marius Fratila, political editor with the newswire Agerpres, told SETimes.

“Furthermore, the two countries confront each other on the Republic of Moldova’s terrain, which has become a complicated crossroads of Romania’s national and historical claims and Russia’s interests,” Fratila added.

He said that regardless of these tensions, Moscow’s reaction “exceeded the usual diplomatic framework”.

“The Russian reaction to President Basescu’s statements is overblown if we take into consideration the historical facts, the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement and the 1939 USSR ultimatum which addressed Romania to cede Bessarabia,” Victor Lupu, deputy chief editor with the English language daily Nine o’clock , told SETimes.

He also found the president’s remarks perplexing.

“Traian Basescu’s statements are far from embracing the realpolitik criteria. Why dig up issues over 70 years old? One answer could be … because he wants to prove his patriotic feelings while his popularity is dropping day by day,” Lupu said.

With bilateral ties cooling in recent years, “after this recent episode we might say they are almost frozen. Moscow is extremely sensitive to WWII issues and does not forget easily,” he concluded.

Israel's prime minister gets backing from Romania

By ALINA WOLFE MURRAY

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Israel's hardline foreign minister warned Wednesday of a tough response if Palestinians declare independence at the U.N. this fall, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to cement Romanian opposition to the plan.

With peace talks deadlocked for more than two years, the Palestinians plan to ask the U.N. to recognize their independence in September and both sides have been lobbying hard around the world for support. The move would be largely symbolic but the Palestinians hope it will pressure Israel to withdraw from captured territories they claim for a future state.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters in Israel on Wednesday that "unilateral steps will force us to take unilateral steps."

"It's important for us to convey the message that any unilateral step can only harm the process, can only harm the chances of reaching a reasonable accord in the Middle East," Lieberman said after briefing Israeli lawmakers at a closed parliamentary hearing.

According to a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity because the parliamentary hearing was closed, Lieberman said that Israel could freeze the transfer of tax revenues, cancel the free passage of Palestinian leaders into Israel and apply pressure through the United States.

The same source said that Lieberman expressed concern that Palestinians would use a U.N. platform to initiate moves against Israelis at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Netanyahu was in Romania as part of ongoing efforts to drum up opposition to the Palestinian plan, and appeared to confirm the support of Prime Minister Emil Boc.

"We reaffirmed our country's position that a negotiated solution between the parties, with no unilateral solution, is the only way to ensure real and solid grounds for a lasting peace," Boc said. Netanyahu did not touch on the issue during a press conference after his meeting with Boc.

Netanyahu has already visited Britain and France, among other countries, and continues on to Bulgaria on Thursday. Lieberman said that Israel had already garnered the support of the U.S., Canada, Italy and Germany and was working on convincing other like-minded nations to side with it in September.

Most of the developing world, including Arab and Muslim countries, can be counted on to back the Palestinians — leaving very few countries that might still go either way at the U.N.

"Israel is currently busy trying to get the moral majority in the United Nations," Lieberman said, but considering the bloc of Muslim and unaligned nations was between 125-130 countries, "we don't have any illusions."

The Palestinians aim to win two-thirds support in the 192-member General Assembly at the United Nations — or 129 countries — and are now about 13 countries short of their target.

The assembly's decisions aren't legally binding. That would require approval by the powerful Security Council, where the United States has indicated it will veto any Palestinian move in the absence of a negotiated peace deal.

The European Union is working to forge a common position on the issue even as EU countries are split over Palestinian statehood.

Aron Heller reported from Jerusalem.

Romania Favors Two-State Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

VOA News

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc has told his visiting Israeli counterpart that Bucharest opposes unilateral solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said Romania supports a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than unilateral steps, a position backed by Netanyahu.

Boc spoke at a joint news conference Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Romanian capital. Netanyahu has been visiting European capitals in recent weeks to urge European leaders to oppose a Palestinian plan to seek U.N. membership as an independent state in September.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' government has said it plans to apply for full U.N. membership because Israel has refused to freeze settlement activity on occupied land in the West Bank. Abbas has said he will not renew peace talks with Israel unless it agrees to such a freeze.

Abbas also has visited foreign capitals in recent months to try to build support for a Palestinian state comprising the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to visit Romania in two decades. He praised the EU member's transition to democracy from the 1989 overthrow of a dictatorship as a model for Arab countries undergoing pro-democracy uprisings.

The Israeli prime minister is due to visit Sofia on Thursday for talks with Bulgarian leaders before returning to Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Netanyahu to make rare visits to Romania, Bulgaria

By HERB KEINON
07/05/2011
http://www.jpost.com

Diplomatic officials say visits not just about Palestinian statehood bid, but rather a chance to promote relations and cultivate friendship.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to leave Wednesday morning for a trip to Romania and Bulgaria, marking the first prime ministerial visit to either of those countries in some 20 years.

While the visit has taken on increased importance in the run-up to the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September, diplomatic officials said the visits to Roman and Bulgaria – considered among the most friendly countries toward Israel in the EU – are not only about the PA’s statehood move.

“These are countries where Israeli prime ministers don’t generally travel,” one official said. “It is important to promote relations with these countries. We find there is a lot of support and sympathy in Eastern Europe, and that we have natural friends there whom we want to cultivate. We want to show them we appreciate their friendship.” Netanyahu will be meeting Wednesday in Romania with his counterpart Emil Boc, as well as President Traian Basescu.

The next day he will fly to Sofia for meetings with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and President Georgi Parvanov. Netanyahu will be accompanied on the trip to Bulgaria by some eight ministers who will take part in a joint government meeting. He is slated to return to Israel Thursday evening.

Israel’s relations with Romania and Bulgaria benefitted from the deterioration in Israel’s ties with Turkey, as Israel sought to spruce up its ties with Turkey’s historic rivals in the region: Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria. Israel also was forced, as a result of the breakdown of relations with Ankara, to look elsewhere for places for the air force totrain, since Turkey – which once allowed such training – closed its skies to Israeli military aircraft.

Last July an IAF helicopter on a joint training mission in Romania crashed, killing one Romanian and six IDF soldiers.

While one government official said that the purpose of the Netanyahu visit was to strengthen bilateral ties, he said that multilateral issues – such as the UN vote in September – would definitely be on the agenda.

While Romania and Bulgaria both recognized a Palestinian state in 1988 when they were under Soviet domination, Israel is trying to get them not to support the Palestinian move in September.

According to Israeli officials, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nicolay Malenkov, during a meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem two weeks ago, left the impression that Bulgaria would not support the Palestinian move.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Romania upgraded despite Greek risk

The Financial Times
July 5, 2011
by Stefan Wagstyl

While nothing can be taken for granted, a credit upgrade for Romania that comes just as Greece may be moving towards default shows how well eastern Europe is weathering the eurozone crisis.

Fitch Ratings has raised Romania’s sovereign rating to investment level in the same week as it has indicated that it is likely to call Greece’s French debt rollover plan a default and Standard & Poor’s said the proposal would be a “selective default”.

Romania’s recovery from recession is slow, but its public finances seem secure, thanks to the sort of radical public sector cuts that Greece now needs.

Fitch’s upgrade from BBB- to BB+, announced on Monday, means two of the top three agencies now rate Romania as investment grade, with Moody’s putting it at Baa3, just above the line, and Standard & Poor’s at BB+, but below investment grade.

Ed Parker, Fitch’s head of EMEA Sovereigns, said: “Overall, there has been a material easing in Romania’s downside risks, commensurate with a return to an investment grade rating.”

Simon Quijano-Evans, the regional economist at ING, said in a note on Tuesday:

A nice surprise from Fitch’s Romania upgrade to investment grade. Although Romanian fiscal dynamics are being hurt by the very soft growth picture, Emerging Europe’s fiscal picture does continue to look better than that of peers in Western Europe, something CDS markets have been pricing in for some time. …That is clearly helping shield the region from Eurozone periphery spillover.

ING’s chart makes the point very clearly:



The striking thing, of course, is that Greece is off the scale in both directions. Otherwise, it is interesting to see that CEE states generally are rated lower by Moody’s and S&P than by the market as measured by the CDS spreads.

This suggests that the likes of Poland and the Czech Republic and even Russia should soon be upgraded by the agencies – or derated by the markets. Or that some west European states – Spain, for example – face a potential agency downgrade.

All that said, Romania is still not out of the economic woods, long-term. Deep differences persist in investors’ views of southern versus northern CEE – with the north’s economic status regarded as superior to a sometimes wayward south.

Take for example the three EU members that required European Union/International Monetary Fund assistance during the global crisis – Romania, Hungary and Latvia.

Reuters points out that while Romania’s five-year paper carried a yield of 7.34 percent last month and Budapest last week sold five-year debt at 7.11 percent on June 30, Latvia sold 10-year paper, also last week, at 5.7 percent on June 29.

The discount largely reflects the more rapid and more succcessful post-Communist economic transformation carried out in the north compared to the south of CEE. But it is likely that Greece too is having some effect, with Greek banks big investors in Romania.

So if a Greek default actually materialises there could still be some serious impact in the Balkans, the Fitch rerating notwithstanding.

Romania to start Petrom offer next week

BUCHAREST, July 5 (Reuters) - Romania will start to accept bids for a 9.8 percent stake in Petrom , the country's top oil and gas firm, from July 11 or 12, a source told Reuters.

The sale is part of a government plan to raise 2.9 billion lei ($998 million) this year on the Bucharest bourse, according to the terms of agreements with the International Monetary Fund and other lenders. .

Analysts had questioned the timescale, given previous delays in state sell-offs, and the Petrom process will be closely eyed for signs of the government's commitment to other sales.

"The offer is scheduled to start on (July) 11 or 12, the National Securities Commission will give an OK this week," said the source, who has direct knowledge of the process.

Romania owns a 21 percent stake in Petrom, in which Austrian group OMV holds a majority. Fondul Proprietatea , an investment fund set up to compensate Romanians whose assets were seized under communism, owns another 20 percent.

Officials have previously said the sale was expected to raise more than 500 million euros ($728 million). Romania's economy minister said in June the government planned to sell the stake by the end of this month.

Other planned sales include 15 percent stakes in state-owned power and gas utilities Transelectrica and Transgaz and in unlisted gas producer Romgaz.

The government has also pledged to sell minority stakes in major energy and transport companies by the end of this year under its new IMF-led aid deal. (Reporting by Ioana Patran; Editing by Sam Cage and Dan Lalor) ($1 = 2.905 lei = 0.6872 euro)

Romania’s Credit Rating Raised to Investment Grade by Fitch

By Irina Savu and Andra Timu

July 4 (Bloomberg) -- Romania had its credit rating raised to investment grade by Fitch Ratings for the first time in almost three years after the government sought to cut the budget deficit and the economy exited a two-year recession.

The country’s sovereign rating was raised one step to BBB-, the lowest investment grade, with a stable outlook, Fitch said today in a statement from London. Moody’s Investors Service also gives Romania comparable Baa3, while Standard & Poor’s rates the country’s debt BB+, its highest speculative grade.

“The upgrade reflects Romania’s progress in recovering from the effects of the financial crisis,” including a return to economic growth, narrowing the current-account deficit and reducing the budget deficit, said Ed Parker, a director in Fitch’s emerging-market sovereign group. “There’s been a material easing in Romania’s downside risks.”

Romania’s gross domestic product rose 1.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, ending a two-year contraction, as demand for exports increased. The country, which has received two international bailouts since 2009, plans to trim its budget deficit to less than 3 percent of GDP in 2012 from 6.5 percent in 2010 and may borrow on global markets later this year.

The leu rose 1.1 percent to 4.1970 per euro in Bucharest today, the best performer among 25 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. Romania’s benchmark BET stock index rose 0.8 percent to 5532.18, as utilities Transgaz SA and Transelectrica SA advanced.

Sentiment Boost

“It will help improve sentiment toward Romania, which has underperformed the countries in the region,” said Gyula Toth, an emerging-market strategist at Unicredit SpA in Vienna. “I think that after this decision, Romania will catch up, the leu will appreciate and financing costs will drop.”

Fitch’s decision comes after Standard & Poor’s maintained Hungary’s credit grade at the lowest investment level on March 24. S&P raised Serbia’s sovereign rating for the first time in five years that month, while Fitch upgraded Latvia to investment grade from junk status.

The move is an “acknowledgment of the country’s improved fundamentals,” central bank Deputy Governor Cristian Popa said in a phone interview. While there are reasons for the leu to strengthen, the currency may suffer if the Greek debt crisis worsens, he added.

Moderate Leu Appreciation

“That’s why I don’t see a clear trend for the leu for the moment,” Popa said. “In the medium to long term, the trend is clearly toward appreciation. We hope it will be moderate.”

After cutting public wages and increasing value-added tax by 5 percentage points, Romania is on track to meet its budget deficit target of 4.4 percent this year, as agreed with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, Fitch said. It will need to take “further policy measures” to narrow the deficit meet the 2012 target, the ratings company added.

“The rating upgrade will mean lower financing costs for the Finance Ministry and also for the banks operating in the country,” Deputy Finance Minister Bogdan Dragoi said by phone. “The decision shows increased Romanian credibility for foreign investors, and I hope it will make it easier to attract foreign direct investment.”

--Editors: Willy Morris, Andrew Langley

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

Monday, July 4, 2011

AP: Bulk of Romanian high school students don't qualify for university entrance

BUCHAREST, Romania - Authorities say only 40 per cent of Romania's high school students have passed the final exams that would allow them to go to university — the country's worst result in two decades.

Education Minister Daniel Funeriu said Monday that outcome is a "mirror of our society" and it's time "to change attitudes and mentalities."

The result triggered a wave of indignation in Romania, where successive governments have failed to reform an education system entrenched in learning by rote.

Critics say students don't get to develop skills preparing them for life and are not encouraged to think independently. Many pupils in Romania complain that education is boring and old-fashioned. Romanian teachers also are poorly paid.

Holocaust forum raises awareness on mass graves

By: ALINA WOLFE MURRAY | Associated Press | 07/01/11

Dozens of scholars and historians from across Europe and the U.S. attended a symposium Friday on Holocaust mass graves in Eastern Europe to raise awareness in countries where little information on the subject was available under communism.

Paul Shapiro from the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said well over 1 million Jews were murdered in Eastern Europe before the Nazi concentration camps were operational.

He said the mass graves "lay forgotten, unmarked and unstudied for decades" because of Communist rule and Holocaust denial.

The event in Romania's capital — the first of its kind in a former communist country — coincided with the commemoration of 70 years since about 12,000 Jews were killed in northeastern Romania under the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu.

Participants at the symposium came from France, Germany, Ukraine, the U.S. and Romania.

Last year, researchers in Romania discovered a mass grave in a forest near the town of Popricani, close to the northeastern city of Iasi where the 1941 pogrom took place. The grave contained the bodies of 36 people, including women and 12 children.

Shapiro said "at Iasi, thousands of Jews were murdered on the streets of the city by Romanian authorities and civilian collaborators, with some German participation, within sight of the non-Jewish population of the city." He added that "the killings elicited no negative reaction by the population."

Shapiro believes that the Iasi pogrom could be seen as "the signal that mass murder of Jews on the streets, in plain sight, in public, was possible, and that all Jews, not just men who might bear arms to resist, should be killed and simply thrown into mass graves, to be forgotten forever."

"Is it by chance that just three to four weeks later official Nazi policy changed to call for the murder of all Jews - men, women, children and the old?" he said.

The discovery near Iasi last year offered evidence of pogroms against Jews in the region, where official history taught that Germans were the sole perpetrators of the Holocaust.

About 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was Romania's prime minister from 1940 to 1944 and was executed by the communists in 1946. About 6,000 Jews live in Romania today.

During communist times, the country largely ignored the involvement of Romania's leaders in wartime crimes.

The country's role in the Holocaust and the deportation of Jews were minimized by subsequent governments after communism collapsed in 1989.

In 2004, after a dispute with Israel over comments about the Holocaust, then-President Ion Iliescu assembled an international panel led by Nobel-prize winner Elie Wiesel to investigate the Holocaust in Romania.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/news/world/2011/07/holocaust-forum-raises-awareness-mass-graves#ixzz1R7OLhnQq

Romanian town erects wall by Roma neighborhood

(Reuters) - The erection of a concrete wall between a Roma gypsy neighborhood and a main road in northern Romania has led a human rights group to accuse the town of trying to set up a ghetto.

Catalin Chereches, the 32-year-old mayor of Baia Mare, told Reuters Friday the plan was not discriminatory and the wall's height of 1.8 meters (six feet) was designed to prevent traffic accidents.

"It's only aimed at protecting our citizens against car crashes," Chereches said by telephone. "It's made of coated concrete instead of wood to stop people using it to make a fire."

The vast majority of Romania's Roma gypsy population live on the margins of society in abject poverty and pro-democracy organizations say the state does not do enough to prevent discrimination.

"Such initiatives belong to the Nazi era," rights group Center for Legal Resources said in a letter demanding the mayor halt work on the wall and resign.

"The idea to separate a community with severe social problems ... amounts to institutionalized racism."

Romania's Roma gypsy population is about 550,000, according to official estimates. But rights groups put it as high as 2.5 million, making it the largest such community in Europe.

Since Romania joined the European Union in 2007, hundreds of thousands of Roma have flooded European cities, complaining of racism and poverty at home.

France's repatriation of Roma last year prompted one European Union official to recall the Nazis' persecution, overshadowed an EU summit and sparked a row between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel.

Roma have a long history of being persecuted and during World War Two they were targeted by the Nazis. Although estimates vary, it is thought several hundred thousand died in concentration camps alongside millions of Jews.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas; editing by Robert Woodward)

China, Romania pledge closer military ties

BEIJING, July 1 (Xinhua) -- China and Romania pledged Friday to boost their bilateral ties as military officials met in Beijing.

"China and Romania enjoy a long history of friendship, tested by time and the ever-changing international situation," State Councilor and Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said as he met with a delegation headed by Romanian Naval Chief Aurel Popa.

"We regard Romania as our good friend and partner," Liang said, adding that China is willing to make joint efforts with the Romanian side to deepen military relations and advance the comprehensive, friendly and cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Popa congratulated China on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

"During this visit to China, we've had fruitful talks with leaders of the Chinese navy," Popa said through an interpreter. "I believe cooperation between our two navies will become even closer in the future."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Enel Green Power Connects 10 New Wind Turbines to Romania Grid

Enel Green Power SpA (EGPW)’s Romanian unit connected 10 wind turbines with a total capacity of 40 megawatts to the local electricity grid, the company said in an e-mailed statement today.

The new turbines brought the capacity of Enel’s Salbatica Wind Park, in Dobrogea region, to 70 megawatts, according to the statement. The park will generate 200 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, supplying as many as 66,000 homes, Enel said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez in Prague atjagomez@bloomberg.net

AP: Russia 'outraged' by Romania leader's comments that he too would have attacked Soviets in 1941

MOSCOW - Russia on Thursday expressed outrage at Romanian President Traian Basescu's recent remarks in support of a 1941 wartime attack on Soviet troops — an assault that was co-ordinated with the Nazis.

Basescu said in an interview last week that Romania's war against the Soviet Union was justified because it wanted to regain a territory — Moldova — taken by the Soviets in 1940. He said: "I probably would have done the same."

The order to attack Soviet troops was given by the pro-fascist dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu and led to the slaughter of thousands.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement it is "outraged" at Basescu's comments.

"Such shameless bravado, justifying the fascist aggression and desecrating the memory of millions of Nazi victims, is unacceptable and should get an appropriate appraisal from civilized Europe," the statement said.

Basescu was talking in an interview with B1 television on the 70th anniversary of Antonescu's order that the Romanian army cross the River Prut into Moldova.

"We had an ally and we had to retake a territory," he said, referring to the German army. "If I had the conditions of that time, I probably would have done it."

Romanian officials took exception to Russia's condemnation, and accused Moscow of "inappropriate" language in a responding Foreign Ministry statement. The ministry lamented that Basescu's comments on "tragic events, both for the Romanian people and the Russian people," were being used politically.

"We consider the expression of such public reactions to be regrettable and groundless, with unacceptable violence in the language used." The statement said Romania was disappointed there was no diplomatic correspondence before Russia went public, but said it hoped the episode would not affect relations.

Antonescu was Romania's prime minister from 1940 to 1944 and is considered responsible for the death of about 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Gypsies.

Critics accused Basescu of trying to soften the image of Antonescu as a war criminal in statements made last week, but in Wednesday's interview Basescu firmly accused Antonescu of having a hand in the Holocaust.

He added that if Antonescu had stopped at the Dniester — the river that was Moldova's border with the Soviet Union before the war — "it would have been perfect." Instead, Romania joined the Germans in attacking the Soviet Union beyond Moldova.

___

Alina Wolfe Murray contributed from Bucharest, Romania.