Monday, October 31, 2011

NYT: In Romania, Start-Ups Gain Strength

By PALKO KARASZ

PARIS — With a sparkling start-up scene and a wealth of young talent, Romanian entrepreneurs, especially in the information technologies sector, are aiming for the global market.

“I am very optimistic about what start-ups can do in Romania,” Jan Muehlfeit, chairman of Microsoft Europe, said in a telephone interview. The local pool of technology talent, he said, is one of the main reasons Microsoft has invested in the country.

“In the cloud, you can become a global company in a very fast way,” Mr. Muehlfeit said, referring to the services and applications that are now being provided to businesses through the Internet, by companies like Microsoft, as well as by start-ups. Shared software, data storage and other forms of cloud computing present an opportunity to outsource information technology.

Microsoft has been present in Romania since 1996. Five years ago, it opened a technical center there that it says is the largest of its kind in Europe. It now acts as a partner for small businesses like software developers, sitting at the center of an array of more than 4,000 information technology companies, Mr. Muehlfeit said.

As part of its Romanian operations, Microsoft provides free technology, helps companies connect with investors and supports marketing efforts through its BizSpark program for start-ups. In exchange, the partner companies have developed new applications for the Microsoft platform.

Private enterprise, despised and banned by the former communist regime, emerged only two decades ago in Romania with the onset of democratic change. The country, like its neighbors, has relied heavily on foreign investment to rebuild itself from the ruins of the formerly centralized state economy.

In efforts to catch up with Western competitors, a new generation of entrepreneurs still has to cope with a business culture that lags behind.

Still, Romania has a number of advantages over its Western neighbors. Information technology professionals cite its large talent pool and advanced broadband infrastructure, together with low wages and an appetite for enterprise. Companies including Intel and Oracle as well as Microsoft have set up shop there, investing in call centers, software development and support services.

Romanian start-ups have recently figured among the most promising in Europe. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, worked with the technology start-up blog TechCrunch to compile a 2011 ranking of the top 100 emerging technology businesses in Europe. The list included three companies from Romania.

UberVU, a social media monitoring and aggregation platform, was one of the start-ups selected by the Telegraph panel. Founded in 2008, it now has offices in both Britain and Romania, with international clients and investors.

Dragos Ilinca, co-founder of uberVU, said the initial financing had come from Britain.

“What was difficult to do in Romania was to find the capital necessary to develop a product and take it to the market. This was in early 2008, when everyone was investing in real estate, which was generating crazy returns,” he said.

When the property bubble burst, seed funds and angel investors turned their attention elsewhere and investment became more easily accessible, he said. That was too late for uberVU, which had already raised its first round of venture capital in Britain, but it presented opportunities for entrepreneurs back home.

Mr. Ilinca said that for digital service start-ups seeking a larger market and more financing options, Western Europe still offered an easier environment. Still, he sees a role for companies like uberVU in Romania. “If we want to help Romania be better off economically and socially, entrepreneurship and creating high-value Romanian products and services is the way to do it,” he said.

Marius Ghenea, a pioneering serial entrepreneur, has been running businesses in Romania since the early 1990s. A speaker at School for Startups, a privately run training program, he said that one of Romania’s problems was a lack of business role models.

“When prompted, a lot of young people today indicate international entrepreneurial models such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, rather than a local model,” he said. “Entrepreneurial success is still not celebrated in Romania as it should be, for cultural reasons that will only be completely surpassed by the younger generation, born and raised after 1989.”

Based on a British curriculum, School for Startups had 200 students this year in the capital, Bucharest, and the western city of Cluj. For next year, it has started to accept students from neighboring countries. Its founders hope Romania can emerge as a regional hub for entrepreneurial development.

Karen E. Wilson, a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, visited Romania in the fall. Kauffman, a U.S. organization, sponsors global initiatives like Startup Weekend and Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is host to events locally.

“I was amazed at how much is happening right now in this area,” Ms. Wilson said in a telephone interview. “People realize that there are a lot of opportunities through entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event, is scheduled to take place Nov. 11 to Nov. 13 in Bucharest. Participants will come together for a weekend of brainstorming and networking to help get their start-up ideas off the ground. Similar events are planned in at least 65 cities worldwide through November.

Two days earlier, on Nov. 9 and Nov. 10, How to Web, another conference in Bucharest, will bring together leading entrepreneurs and specialists for talks on innovation, Web trends, business analysis and advanced technologies.

At both conferences, a core focus will be how to bridge the cultural gap between innovation and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship classes are compulsory in Romanian high schools and a growing trend at universities, said Lucian Gramescu, operations manager at Junior Achievement Romania, a nonprofit organization that teaches entrepreneurial skills to young people. But classes concentrate on theory, rather than providing a hands-on approach to starting a business, he said.

“Entrepreneurship classes are not fun, not attractive to students,” Mr. Gramescu said. “For many of them it is just another topic in school and not an invitation to start an enterprise.”

Technical universities have been surprisingly ready to include entrepreneurship programs in coursework, but technology students have tended to be less receptive, he said.

Another issue is teaching people to communicate with investors, he added. “There is money out there, you just need to educate people on how to ask for it.”

Romania launches sale of its largest copper mine



* Mine boasts 60 pct of Romania's copper resources

* Romania plans to hold autcion on Jan. 18, 2012

* Ten letters of intent submitted so far

BUCHAREST, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Romania launched the sale of its biggest copper mine Cupru Min SA Abrud via a tender, the government's industry privatisation office (OPSPI) said on its website. [here ]

OPSPI, which set a Jan. 17 deadline to submit bids, said it aimed to sell 100 percent in the mine which sits on about 60 percent of the European Union member's copper reserves, some 900,000 tonnes.

It said the auction will be held on Jan. 18.

Deputy economy minister Claudiu Stafie had said last month he hoped the privatisation would be wrapped up by the end of this year and that the ministry has received 10 letters of intent from investors willing to participate. [ID:nL5E7KL5FF}

Finance ministry data showed the company recorded a profit of 18.8 million lei ($6.2 million) last year. It has overall debts of around 72 million lei.

A government strategy paper showed earlier this year that Bucharest aimed originally to sell a stake in Cupru Min on the Bucharest stock exchange.

Romania's flat corporate profit tax at 16 percent, its skilled labour force and the presence of western explorers already active, are likely to encourage mining investment.

In addition, the government has recently unveiled plans to ease expropriation proceedings to make way for drilling sites. ($1 = 3.047 Romanian Lei) (Reporting by Radu Marinas; editing by Ron Askew)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

WWF urges Romania to protect its virgin forests

(AFP)

BUCHAREST — Environmental group WWF on Wednesday urged Romania to protect its virgin forests in the Carpathians, threatened by economic and social pressures.

In a letter to the Ministry of Environment, WWF asked for "urgent measures for the effective protection of the country?s remaining virgin forests" covering some 250,000 hectares.

"Virgin forests have survived because of their inaccessibility and the low economic value of the wood coming from old trees," the group said.

"However, today virgin forests are more vulnerable than ever because of socio-economic pressures in Romania. These include the ever increasing demand for wood and the challenges of managing small patches of forests" for profit.

According to Romanian environmental group Agent Green, the Ministry of Environment has recently okayed the felling of some 5,000 cubic metres of wood from the Retezat national park, claiming it had been damaged by insects.

Some of the wood has been delivered to a lumber factory owned by Austrian company Schweighofer, the group said.

"The firm felling the trees has been fined, but the destruction continues."

Agent Green added that trees have also been downed in a "barbarian way" in the national park of Domogled.

"We urge the ministry to ban felling in national parks and call on the Austrian company to stop using wood from virgin forests."

Bulgaria, Romania And Greece Initiate EU Strategy For Balkans

By Tzvetina Borisova

The top diplomats of Bulgaria, Romania and Greece have joined hands to enhance the EU prospects of their neighbours from the Western Balkans, at a time when the bloc is facing the most serious crisis in its history.

“As member states of the EU and neighbouring countries, we are firmly attached to the fulfilment of our common objectives of increased prosperity, stability and security in the area and the whole of Europe,” Bulgaria’s Nikolai Mladenov, Romania’s Teodor Baconschi and Greece’s Stavros Lambrinidis stated in a joint letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule and EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn on October 10th.

“It is of crucial importance that the EU is not distracted by other pressing issues,” the ministers warned, referring to the financial woes that member states have been experiencing amid the ongoing eurozone crisis.

“A steady progress in the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkan countries is key for avoiding potential prolonged instabilities and uncertainties,” they added.

The three countries suggested a strategy focused on three major objectives: adoption of European standards, facilitating the development of European economic projects in the region and genuine regional co-operation.

“What seems particularly important at the time being is how the region could better benefit from the structural and cohesion funds within the EU’s new budget,” Vesela Cherneva, spokesperson of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, told SETimes.

“It is important that countries from the region maintain their enlargement perspective. In a situation of crisis, this can only be achieved if they observe EU rules and criteria, including the financial ones,” she said. “What we can do and have been trying to do for the past year-and-a-half is work for the resolving of the small and specific hurdles to the Western Balkans’ EU accession.”

In its 2011 strategy paper adopted earlier this month, the European Commission outlined a number of challenges facing the European future of the region. Among them are the rule of law, including the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as freedom of expression, reconciliation, regional co-operation and economic growth.

“It is also important that outstanding bilateral issues between Western Balkan countries and neighbouring member states be addressed constructively and solved by the parties concerned,” Ana Paduraru, Fule spokesperson, told SETimes.

“Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, as well as other member states neighbouring the Western Balkans are well placed to assist their Balkan peers that aspire to join the EU. They know well the countries and the region and their own experience in joining the EU is particularly relevant,” Paduraru said.

According to Romanian European Parliament Member Victor Bostinaru, vice-chairman of the delegation for relations with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, “the perspective of joining the EU, as in the case of previous enlargements, plays a key role in speeding up the reform process in all countries concerned.”

“The only possibility to win stability, co-operation, and to avoid new crises in the Western Balkans, is to integrate those countries. Otherwise, instability or disputes of any kind could arise, calling the EU to play a difficult role and to pay a high price,” he told SETimes.
About the author:

SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

Liviu Ciulei, a Daring Theater Director, Dies at 88

Liviu Ciulei, who was voted best director at the Cannes Film Festivalin 1965 and who led the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in the 1980s, when it won a Tony Award, died on Tuesday in Munich. He was 88.

Bob Glass/The New York Times

The cause was multiple organ failure, his stepson, Thomas, said. Mr. Ciulei had homes in Munich and in Bucharest, Romania.

Mr. Ciulei (whose name was pronounced LEEV-you CHEW-lay) made films in his native Romania, but in the United States he was best known for his provocative interpretations of classic plays. “Contemporary art,” he once said, “is one that brings all the conflicts of the world into the poem, into the theater, into the painting.” And the world’s enduring turmoil often rumbled, at least subliminally, through his presentations.

He made his American debut in 1974 at Arena Stage in Washington with Georg B├╝chner’s “Leonce and Lena,” a 19th-century German absurdist political satire. The New York Times theater critic Clive Barnes called the production “electric” and “eclectic,” describing it as “a sort of time capsule of world theater right up to the foolish epics of Brecht and the epic follies of Ionesco.” Mr. Ciulei, Mr. Barnes wrote, “is one of the most imaginative directors in the world.”

Among his other notable productions were a “Hamlet” at Arena Stage in 1978, set in Bismarck-era Germany, which Richard Eder in The Times called “not the triumph just of a season but of a decade”; “The Inspector General,” Gogol’s skewering of bureaucracy, which appeared on Broadway at Circle in the Square, also in 1978; and a second “Hamlet,” less well received, at the Public Theater in New York, starring Kevin Kline, in 1986. Among many other productions at Arena, he directed “The Lower Depths,” “Don Juan” and “Six Characters in Search of an Author.”

His first production at the Guthrie, in 1981, was a “Tempest” that depicted Prospero’s kingdom as an island surrounded by a bloody moat with cultural artifacts — the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa among them — floating in it. His “Midsummer Night’s Dream” underscored a psychological savagery and sadism in the play’s romantic roundelay, depicting Bottom, the leader of the jesterlike players, as humiliated to the core by the indifference of his royal audience, a comment, some felt, on Mr. Ciulei’s own lack of recognition by American audiences.

“I think there is, in this country, a certain prudence or refusal to be troubled, much encouraged by TV,” he said. “Many people still want the theater to be like cool lemonade when it’s hot.”

Trained as an architect, Mr. Ciulei was a set designer and an actor as well as a director, and his work was characterized by a precise visual sense. He believed that physical form suggested meaning, not just in design but in performance, and rather than having actors create actions to suggest the emotions of a moment, he encouraged them to begin with the actions and seek their psychological underpinnings.

“With Liviu, every moment was born out of a form, a shape,” said Zelda Fichandler, a founder and former artistic director of Arena Stage. “He would say, ‘Now she puts her head down, so her hair falls over her face,’ and he taught actors to find what generated the cause of that action.”

Liviu Ioan Ciulei was born in Bucharest on July 7, 1923. His father ran a large construction company, and though he preferred that his son become an architect rather than an actor, he gave young Liviu a Bucharest theater, where he made his acting debut as Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1946. In the 1950s Mr. Ciulei joined the Bulandra Theater, a leading Bucharest troupe, and became its artistic director in 1963. The American director Alan Schneider saw his work there and recommended him to Ms. Fichandler at Arena as the finest theater director in Europe.

“Liviu was the first, and maybe the only, director I ever hired without seeing his work,” Ms. Fichandler said.

Mr. Ciulei’s first two marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his stepson, he is survived by his wife, the former Helga Reiter, whom he married in 1979. Mr. Ciulei was artistic director of the Guthrie for five seasons in the early 1980s, during which he redesigned the main stage and added challenging productions by himself and directors like Andrei Serban and Peter Sellars to the schedule and was generally credited with bringing increased national attention to the theater. In 1982 the Guthrie won the Tony given annually to an outstanding regional theater. He later taught at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts and at Columbia.

In Romania Mr. Ciulei was also known as a filmmaker. His films included “Padurea Spanzuratilor” (“Forest of the Hanged”), about a soldier who takes part in the execution of a deserter during World War I and is overcome by guilt. Shown at Cannes, the film earned Mr. Ciulei the festival’s best-director award and he considered it, at least in part, to be his finest work.

“The most beautiful scene I have ever directed in my career is the last scene of ‘Padurea Spanzuratilor,’ ” he said. “We see a young peasant woman preparing the last meal for the man she loves who is sentenced to death by hanging — a man, a woman, bread, salt and wine, love, life and death.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Romania needs to open energy markets, say investors



* Investors, officials say Romania needs to stop capping prices

* Outdated power sector urgently needs more money

Oct 26 (Reuters) - Romania needs to open up its gas and electricity markets and stop capping prices if it wants to attract badly needed investment to its power generation sector, foreign officials and investors said on Wednesday.

Energy investors and the European Commission, which requires member states to align its energy prices with EU levels over a number of years, have repeatedly criticised Romania for capping prices, saying it hurts competition and deters investment.

"Steps have been taken that show trust can be regained for investors to do business in Romania, but we need further signs," Frank Hajdinjak, the head of the Romanian unit of German utility group E.ON (EONGn.DE), told an energy seminar.

Under a 5 billion euro ($6.9 billion) aid package led by the International Monetary Fund, Romania has pledged to liberalise its gas and electricity markets in stages by 2015.

The government must now produce a timetable of electricity and gas price hikes for industrial consumers from this year to 2013 and for households from 2013 to 2015.

Its energy price regulator, ANRE, has already raised gas tariffs for industrial consumers twice this year, a move energy investors in Romania welcomed.

E.ON, which owns local gas and power distributors, has repeatedly complained about Romania's policy to cap tariffs.

"We (energy investors) are not poker players, but we have to have a reasonable return on our investment," Hajdinjak said.

Luca D'Agnese, the country manager for Enel , said Romania needed to ensure competition and transparency in the power generation market to attract investment.

"Market prices are below their investment level," D'Agnese said. "Everyone could get a price set by the regulator, but on the other hand these prices are not cost-reflective."

A draft energy strategy by the economy ministry estimated Romania needs 30-40 billion euros of investment in new electricity generation, while it is forced to close a third of its outdated power capacity by 2020 and more than half by 2035.

"(American investors) are obviously going to be interested in a liberalised market," U.S. ambassador Mark Gitenstein said at the same seminar. "You cannot attract the investment needed here without it, absolutely not." ($1 = 0.719 Euros) (Reporting by Luiza Ilie, editing by Jane Baird)

EU lawmakers want job markets open to Bulgaria, Romania



* Call for full labour market access for Romanians and Bulgarians

* Call for investigation of infringements of labour market

* Foreign workers generated 1 pct of EU growth

By Christopher Le Coq

BRUSSELS, Oct 25 (Reuters) - European lawmakers called on Tuesday for Bulgarian and Romanian job-seekers to be granted unrestricted access to all European Union member states' labour markets by the end of this year.

Citizens of both countries currently face labour market restrictions in 10 of the 27 EU member states, which will only be lifted after 2013.

Members of the European Parliament also called on the European Commission to investigate whether labour market restrictions imposed on foreign EU workers infringed EU laws.

"Official figures ... proved that workers from Eastern Europe did not generate unemployment and did not put pressure on the social welfare systems," said Romanian EU lawmaker Traian Ungureanu, a member of the European People's Party, the largest political grouping in the European Parliament.

"On the contrary, the influx brought economic growth in the destination countries evaluated at around 1 percent of the GDP," added Ungureanu, who led discussions in the parliament on the issue.

About 2.3 percent of EU citizens currently reside in another member state, and roughly 10 percent have lived and worked in another country at some stage in the past, according to an EU Commission survey.

Work permits are still required for Bulgarians and Romanians in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Britain.

Spain, which has been hit hard by unemployment and an economic downturn, imposed work restrictions on Romanians in August, arguing it needed to protect its citizens from foreign competition on the local job market. Those curbs will be in place until end-2012.

Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, have run into other obstacles in their aim to more fully integrate into the bloc.

In September, both countries failed to persuade other EU member countries to allow them to join the Schengen passport-free travel zone, with opponents citing concerns over corruption and organised crime. (Reporting by Christopher Le Coq; editing by Rex Merrifield and Belinda Goldsmith)

Romania king's speech highlights historical split

(Reuters) - Romania's aged former King Michael delivered his first speech to parliament Tuesday since Soviet-backed communists forced him to abdicate more than 60 years ago, highlighting deep divisions over the country's past.

While opinion polls show most Romanians do not want the monarchy back, post-communist leaders have tried to limit Michael's influence, fearing he could erode their own power if given a platform.

"We cannot have a future without respecting the past," Michael, 90 and looking sprightly in a suit and striped tie, told a packed parliament on his birthday.

"The royal crown is not a symbol of the past but a unique representation of our independence, sovereignty and unity," said Michael, Europe's oldest former monarch and one of the last surviving World War Two-era heads of state.

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum gave the king, who was forced to quit the throne in 1947, a standing ovation before and after his speech and some even took pictures on mobile phones.

Michael's speech was proposed by the opposition Liberals but opposed by the ruling Democrat-Liberals (PDL).

"Once he was anointed king of Romania by God through the church, he is our king for life, no matter what happens in political life," said Andrei Dinca, 31, a monarchist who took the day off work to watch the speech and mark the occasion.

"I don't think that the return of the monarchy will happen, but that does not stop me from hoping. It's in our nature to keep hoping even against all odds."

President Traian Basescu, who has close links to the PDL, has criticized the former king for leaving the throne, saying he was "Russia's servant," and did not attend the speech in parliament. Many PDL deputies did attend, however.

"This is a gesture of normality," said Mircea Geoana, speaker of Romania's upper house of parliament. "His Majesty's presence 64 years after his last speech in parliament is proof that the communist era is a closed bracket."

Romania is now a member of the European Union

EXILE AND RETURN

But its record in World War Two and its aftermath still stir heated debate.

The country fought alongside Nazi Germany and was occupied by the Soviet Union, which engineered the removal of the monarchy, fearing it could be a rallying point for opponents.

Michael played a central role in a 1944 coup to overthrow fascist wartime leader Marshal Ion Antonescu, after which Romania broke with Nazi Germany and switched to the Allied side.

After communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown and executed in a violent revolution in 1989, Romania blocked the first few visits Michael tried to make after decades of exile in Switzerland, Britain and the United States.

He finally returned to Romania in 1992 and only managed to regain his citizenship in 1997 after reformist President Emil Constantinescu took over from former communist Ion Iliescu.

Michael made several appeals for a restoration of the monarchy in the early 1990s. Iliescu deported him on several occasions and even once deployed tanks to prevent him from touring the eastern Balkan country.

Born in 1921 in his family's Peles castle in the Carpathian mountains, Michael is a descendant of the German Hohenzollern dynasty and a cousin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

The king still has many supporters -- thousands wished him happy birthday on his website -- and some gathered Tuesday outside parliament, a huge marble palace built in central Bucharest by Ceausescu.

Michael is to attend a concert Tuesday evening at Bucharest's opera with several other European royals and is expected to greet supporters, who will be able to watch on a big screen outside.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Romania's ex-King Michael I defends his wartime record

By Nick Thorpe
BBC News

The former King of Romania won a standing ovation as he addressed the country's parliament for the first time since 1947, to mark his 90th birthday. But the last few months have not been easy, with accusations flying that he betrayed Romania to the Soviet Union and allowed the deportation of the Jews.

Asked to react to recent criticism of him in his own country, King Michael of Romania laughs gruffly.

Ninety years old, and much admired in Romania, the occasional barbs which come his way bounce off a skin hardened by both the battles of history, and the bitterness of exile.

I spoke to him at his home in Aubonne, a peaceful Swiss hamlet perched above Lake Geneva, just before he travelled to Bucharest for his birthday celebrations.

In a television chat show this summer, President Traian Basescu blamed the King for "betraying the national interest" by delivering Romania into the hands of the Soviets, when he was forced to abdicate in December 1947.

"It's not even worth reacting to a thing like that, because it's so small, you know. And that's the type. The small insults from him, the bigger he thinks he is. I couldn't care less!" the former monarch says.

President Basescu, the prime minister, and several ministers stayed away from the king's address to both houses of parliament in Bucharest on 25 October.

The aged king, his back as straight as a ramrod, sits forward in his chair to recall his abdication.

"It was the end of the year [30 December]. My secretary called up from Bucharest and said, Groza would like to see you as quick as possible... because they wanted to talk about a 'family problem'. We had just come back from Switzerland, and my future wife and I had just got engaged, so I thought they wanted to talk about that," he says.

Petru Groza was the communist prime minister, known as the "red bourgeois" because of his own, upper middle-class background.

"Well the family question was, to put it to me that I have to abdicate. That the times have changed, monarchies don't count any more, and all sorts of nonsense of that sort."

A glance out of the window confirmed that troops had taken up positions around the royal palace. Groza then threatened him, that if he did not sign the paper of abdication lying on the desk, then he would order the execution of about 1,000 pro-monarchy supporters, most of them students, who had been arrested at earlier rallies.

"What are you supposed to do in a situation like that?" he asks, rhetorically. To back up his threat, Groza even grabbed the king's hand, and forced him to touch a pistol in his jacket pocket.Moment of glory

He bowed to the inevitable, and signed the paper. There was an impromptu meeting of parliament the same day, and the republic was proclaimed by a handful of deputies, in a session which only lasted 45 minutes. It was the end of a Romanian monarchy which had begun just 66 years earlier, after Romania's emergence as an independent country, and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War.

Another criticism of the king which occasionally surfaces, as it did in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung this summer, is that he did not do enough to stop the deportation of the Jews.

Again, the former king says there is no case to answer.

Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romania's wartime leader, excluded the young monarch (Michael was just 18 at the outbreak of World War II) from all key decisions. Antonescu's rule was marked by anti-Semitic atrocities, including racially discriminatory laws, deportations and pogroms.

The chief rabbi of Romania, Alexandru Shafran, kept the king and above all his mother Queen Helen informed about the next actions planned against the Jews. The queen then sought urgent meetings with Antonescu, and managed to have many anti-Jewish measures and orders rescinded. Her role in saving many thousand Jewish lives was later recognised by the Yad Vashem organisation in Israel.

"It was extraordinary, how much Antonescu respected my mother," King Michael recalls now. "Even though he didn't like what she was telling him, he listened to her."

The king's moment of glory came in August 1944, when he requested a meeting with Marshal Antonescu, and demanded his resignation.

"What - and leave the country in the hands of a child?" Antonescu retorted.

The king uttered a coded phrase, and three soldiers and a captain, listening in the next room, entered and arrested the furious marshal. A provisional government was formed, and an armistice announced - an end to hostilities with Soviet troops who were already pressing towards Romania's borders.

Within hours, German planes bombed the royal palace. Romania joined the Allied side, became a victor in the war, and the country was spared the devastation and loss of life of a Soviet military conquest.

Antonescu was executed by the Communist authorities after the war, and Romanian nationalists today still accuse the king of responsibility for the death of their hero.'Bad habits'

King Michael is one of the few men alive who can claim to have had lunch with Hitler. Once with his father in Bavaria in 1937, and with his mother in Berlin in 1941.

He cannot remember what they had to eat, but does remember Hitler praising the performance of Romanian troops on the eastern front - at that time, still fighting the Soviet army.

But what was Hitler actually like? He says he doesn't remember much of what was said - on one of the occasions, there was no translator to help him understand the German conversation.

"He would sometimes screw up his face..." says the king, grimacing for my benefit.

The festivities to honour his birthday in Bucharest include a royal gala performance at the opera, a dinner at the National Bank, and a presentation of awards.

In his first speech to parliament for 64 years, he offered a little criticism of his own.

"The time has come... to finally break with the bad habits of the past", Michael told a packed house.

There should be an end, he said, to "demagogy, selfishness and attempts to cling to power".

CEE MONEY-Who wants to buy a Romanian company?

* Nearly a third of employees in state sector

* State companies owe equivalent of 4 pct/GDP

* Inflexibility, tough markets undermine privatisation drive

* Transelectrica, Transgaz sales will be tough to push through

By Sam Cage

BUCHAREST, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Markets have made a tough call on the value of Romanian state assets and the government will have to scale down its ambitious price targets if it wants to keep its privatisation programme on track.

When Romania completed a 20 billion euro International Monetary Fund-led bailout and struck a new deal earlier this year, it committed to sell stakes in a host of companies to improve efficiency and bring down its budget gap.

The government did not put a specific target on how much it wanted to raise and has been knocked off course by concerns about job losses and opposition accusations that selling off the family silver could damage the government's popularity before a 2012 general election.

Companies like oil and gas group Petrom , power grid operator Transelectrica or gas grid operator Transgaz may offer good returns -- analysts' average target price for Petrom, for example, is a third higher than its current price.

However, investors, bankers and analysts say the big problem is the image of the Romanian state -- inflexible, inefficient and reluctant to accept unpalatable verdicts from markets and advisors.

"If the situation stays as it is now, nothing significant is going to happen -- it's just a lot of paper shuffling," said Matei Paun, managing director at investment bank BAC.

The government did try to sell a stake in Petrom, probably its top asset, in July. But its timing could not have been worse as Europe's debt crisis sent markets sliding and it set a price that was far too high, at 0.46 lei per share when Petrom shares were trading at just 0.38 lei.

The government nonetheless made positive noises until the last moment before the sale fell through, which did little for its credibility.

Romania has lagged countries like Poland and Russia in selling state assets to boost public finances, attract investment and inject foreign expertise into moribund local industries. Even Bulgaria -- long criticised for holding on to state assets -- finally managed to offload cigarette maker Bulgartabak last month, to a unit of Russia's VTB Bank , after years of false starts.

Rusting hulks of factories litter the edges of Bucharest and other cities, some operating part-time, others shut down. The state sector is a millstone on public finances with 1.2 million workers, nearly a third of total employees.

The IMF says state-owned companies owe some 20 billion lei($6.4 billion), or 4 percent of GDP, to private firms and to the state, a serious obstacle to the government's aim of cutting the budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product in 2012, from a targeted 4.4 percent this year.

"I think it's important that everyone recognises that the key to sustainable growth in the medium and long term in Romania is to fix the problems in these companies," the IMF's Romania mission chief Jeffrey Franks told Reuters.

"There is no room for slacking off just because the macroeconomic situation is more difficult or because there are elections coming up."





BAD TIMING

Prime Minister Emil Boc's fiscal track record, cutting the budget deficit with harsh austerity measures and spending controls, suggested he would bite the bullet.

Bucharest insists it is pushing ahead with deals, but it still has no sale to prove its intent and received just one bid from local brokers this month to advise on the sale of a stake in Transelectrica.

Valentin Ionescu, head of the Bucharest stock exchange, admitted last week there is too little time to conclude a deal for a Transgaz stake this year and there will be problems with other sales.

Offloading unlisted companies such as airline Tarom and railway freight carrier CFR Marfa will be more difficult as they do not have the same exposure and transparency.

"One of the risks is that the general perception of getting stuff away in Romania is difficult," said Guy Burrow, a partner at consultancy Candole. "There is never a good time, only the right price. How long do you keep waiting?"



SHUNNING ADVICE

Bankers said the government could have netted 1.9 billion lei from the Petrom sale but it refused to sell for less than 2.1 billion.

Petrom shares have since lost more than 20 percent and it is unlikely to fetch the same price if and when it goes on the block again in 2012.

"I think the lesson from this one is that they really have to listen to the advisers they choose," Grzegorz Konieczny, who runs Fondul Proprietatea , which has a 20 percent stake in Petrom, told Reuters after the sale fell through.

"The bigger the banks that will participate the better, with a proper track record in the region," said Konieczny. His fund, set up to compensate Romanians whose assets were seized under communism and with assets of 3.4 billion euros, holds stakes in dozens of other Romanian companies including major energy firms.

Konieczny's boss Mark Mobius, one of the world's best-known emerging market investors, weighed in this month to criticise a 400 million lei donation by state-owned Romgaz -- in which Fondul owns 15 percent -- to the state budget.

"Romania cannot afford to fall behind, as it has a lot of competition from other emerging countries that are truly committed to attracting foreign investment," Mobius said. ($1 = 3.113 Romanian lei) (Additional reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Romania king's speech highlights historical split

(Reuters) - Romania's aged former King Michael delivered his first speech to parliament Tuesday since Soviet-backed communists forced him to abdicate more than 60 years ago, highlighting deep divisions over the country's past.

While opinion polls show most Romanians do not want the monarchy back, post-communist leaders have tried to limit Michael's influence, fearing he could erode their own power if given a platform.

"We cannot have a future without respecting the past," Michael, 90 and looking sprightly in a suit and striped tie, told a packed parliament on his birthday.

"The royal crown is not a symbol of the past but a unique representation of our independence, sovereignty and unity," said Michael, Europe's oldest former monarch and one of the last surviving World War Two-era heads of state.

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum gave the king, who was forced to quit the throne in 1947, a standing ovation before and after his speech and some even took pictures on mobile phones.

Michael's speech was proposed by the opposition Liberals but opposed by the ruling Democrat-Liberals (PDL).

President Traian Basescu, who has close links to the PDL, has criticized the former king for leaving the throne, saying he was "Russia's servant," and did not attend the speech in parliament. Many PDL deputies did attend, however.

"This is a gesture of normality," said Mircea Geoana, speaker of Romania's upper house of parliament. "His Majesty's presence 64 years after his last speech in parliament is proof that the communist era is a closed bracket."

Romania is now a member of the European Union.

EXILE AND RETURN

But its record in World War Two and its aftermath still stir heated debate. The country fought alongside Nazi Germany and was occupied by Soviet Union, which engineered the removal of the monarchy, fearing it could be a rallying point for opponents.

Michael played a central role in a 1944 coup to overthrow fascist wartime leader Marshal Ion Antonescu, after which Romania broke with Nazi Germany and switched to the Allied side.

After communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown and executed in a violent revolution in 1989, Romania blocked the first few visits Michael tried to make after decades of exile in Switzerland, Britain and the United States.

He finally returned to Romania in 1992 and only managed to regain his citizenship in 1997 after reformist President Emil Constantinescu took over from former communist Ion Iliescu.

Michael made several appeals for a restoration of the monarchy in the early 1990s. Iliescu deported him on several occasions and even deployed tanks on one occasion to prevent him from touring the eastern Balkan country.

Born in 1921 in his family's Peles castle in the Carpathian mountains, Michael is a descendant of the German Hohenzollern dynasty and a cousin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

The king still has many supporters -- thousands wished him happy birthday on his website -- and some gathered Tuesday outside parliament, a huge marble palace built in central Bucharest by Ceausescu.

Michael is to attend a concert Tuesday evening at Bucharest's opera with several other European royals and is expected to greet supporters, who will be able to watch on a big screen outside.

(Additional reporting by Sam Cage; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Cannes-winning Romanian film director Ciulei dies

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian film and theater director Liviu Ciulei, whose career spanned 50 years and included winning a top award at the Cannes Film Festival, has died at 88.

Romanian actor Ion Caramitru said Ciulei died Monday in a hospital in Munich, Germany, where he lived. Caramitru said "An era has died! A genius had died!"

Ciulei, as an actor, director and set designer, was the most influential figure of Romanian theater and film in a generation. He won the Palme d'Or award at Cannes in 1965 for the "The Forest of the Hanged," and made more than 20 films, both as an actor and director.

Caramitru, who heads the UNITER Romanian theater union, said Tuesday "without Liviu Ciulei, there would be no Romanian theater."

BBC News: Romania's former King Michael I to address parliament

The former king of Romania is due to address parliament in Bucharest for the first time since he was forced to abdicate in 1947.

King Michael I - who will reportedly be sitting on a special throne-like chair - will be speaking ahead of ceremonies marking his 90th birthday.

Members of Europe's royal families will join him at a gala concert at the Romanian Opera before a private dinner.

But officials say there are no plans for Romania to revert to a monarchy.

"We want to honour and to celebrate an important person of our history and of contemporary history," Romania's Liberal Party leader Crin Antonescu - whose party invited the former monarch to speak - was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"It is a symbolic gesture that has no connection to the idea of changing Romania's status as a republic," Mr Antonescu added.Test pilot

King Michael I reigned from 1927 to 1930, and again from 1940 to 1947.

In December 1947, Romania's new Communist leaders threatened to carry out mass executions if he refused to abdicate.

In an interview with the BBC's Nick Thorpe, the former monarch described how the authorities had blackmailed him: "If you don't sign this thing now, we're going to have to shoot or kill 1,000 people that are already in prison."

"What do you do in a case like that?"

The king was then banned from returning to Romania for nearly half a century.

The Romanian royal family settled near Geneva in Switzerland, and the former king had to find work.

He said one of his favourite jobs was as a test pilot on private aeroplanes in Europe and the United States.

He met his future wife, Anne of Bourbon-Palma, at the wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in London in 1947.

King Michael's Romanian citizenship was restored in 1997.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Corruption in Romania: Endless graft

The Economist
Ex-communist Europe
Eastern approaches

Oct 22nd 2011

TAKING on corrupt judges is never easy. But under pressure from the European Union, Romania has launched a fresh series of investigations into magistrates and other public officials.

Don't expect quick results. Last week prosecutors raided a villa belonging to Corneliu Birsan, Romania's envoy to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They were interested not in him but in his wife, Gabriela, who sits on Romania's supreme court. Ms Birsan stands accused of receiving jewellery, a trip to Indonesia and free housing for her son in Paris.

Her supposed benefactor is Gabriel Chiriac, a businessman, who, say prosecutors, was seeking positive verdicts in several court cases, including one for tax evasion. Prosecutors say Ms Birsan did not act alone: one of her deputies is also being investigated. Mr Chiriac has been reported as saying the gifts were given out of "friendship".

In a letter Ms Birsan accused her fellow magistrates of lacking "humanity" in approving the house search. She had invited women judges over for coffee, she said, and her husband had written recommendation letters for young magistrates. All this had been forgotten for the sake of a "media lynching". (She maintains her innocence.)

The case may well go nowhere. Mr Birsan has invoked the diplomatic immunity to which he says he and his family are entitled under his position at the ECHR. (The court hasexpressed its concerns about the Romanian prosecutors' actions.) Separately, Ms Birsan has appealed against the case on procedural grounds—as has every other high or mid-level politician facing corruption charges in Romania.

Most big corruption cases in the country are delayed for years, often on irrelevant grounds. Decebal Traian Remes, a former agriculture minister, was sent for trial in 2009 in the famous "sausage-and-brandy" case (details here). But the case is grinding along at snail's pace, after two years of procedural wrangling. The same is true for Adrian Nastase, a former prime minister, who faces several corruption charges.

Many Romanians believe that justice is only for those with money and influence. "Anti-corruption seems a lost battle", writes Andreea Pora, a well-known commentator. She sees no difference between Ms Birsan, clinging to the diplomatic immunity of her husband, and Adrian Severin, one of three MEPs caught up in a cash-for-amendments scandal uncovered by the Sunday Times earlier this year. (He also maintains his innocence.)

A few weeks ago Romania's failure to tackle corruption cost the country membership of the EU's border-free Schengen area. Nothing will move on that front, say officials from sceptical countries like Finland and the Netherlands, until Romania—and its fellow 2007 EU entrant, Bulgaria—get their house in order.

A culture of graft makes life difficult for businesspeople across Romania. Last week Steven van Groningen, head of Raiffeisen Bank Romania, complained that the business environment was "too corrupt", hurting investments as well as the country's international reputation.

Growth forecasts for next year have recently been slashed to 1%. More austerity measures are looming. Time, surely, for Romania to get a grip on its endless corruption problems.

Reuters: Romania debt yield demand too high

BUCHAREST: Investors in Romanian treasuries are seeking yields that are too high given the country's improving economic fundamentals and falling inflation, a deputy finance minister said on Friday.

Romanian debt managers have been struggling to sell debt at costs they deemed acceptable since August, when yields rose across maturities, reflecting market concerns over the euro zone's debt woes and tension on the local money market.

But the country's financial buffer remained intact, deputy Finance Minister Bogdan Dragoi told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"The buffer has not even fallen," he said. "We are trying to consolidate the yield curve at certain levels. Our interest is to issue debt, but not at any cost."

The finance ministry has scaled down issuance, even rejecting all bids at tenders for maturities ranging from six months to five years. It has sold 7.1 billion lei ($2.24 billion) worth of leu currency bills and bonds since August, compared with plans of just under 13 billion lei.

"I understand banks are asking for higher costs given the international context, but on the other hand I am also looking at economic fundamentals and falling inflation," he said.

The average yield for three-year bonds has risen by 40 basis points from 7.09 percent in early July to 7.49 percent on Oct. 20.

The euro zone's debt crisis is weighing on emerging European currencies and their debt due to the region's proximity to, and close trade links with, their western European Union peers.

Romania has set up a financing buffer under an International Monetary Fund-led aid deal which is designed to cover four months' borrowing needs. The finance ministry has not given specific details on the size of the buffer.

Steep fall in food prices on a better than expected harvest led inflation down sharply to 3.5 percent in September, within the central bank's 2-4 percent target.

But uncertainty over potential domestic energy price hikes and the euro zone's ongoing debt crisis have so far kept the central bank's benchmark interest rate at 6.25 percent, a record low but the highest among emerging EU states.

So far this year, Romania has sold just over 42 billion lei ($13.3 billion) in bonds and bills on the domestic market. Dragoi said longer dated issues will be cut back due to lack of interest.

"There is not enough interest for ten-year bonds so we will issue them less frequently, quarterly instead of monthly," Dragoi said.

Romania plans to tap foreign markets for the second time this year in November it has sold 1.5 billion euros earlier this year either in euros or dollars. Dragoi said the ministry will have the paperwork needed for dollar issues completed by mid-November.

Romanian Central Bank May Adjust Conditions Prudently, Popa Says

By Katya Andrusz and Irina Savu

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Romania’s central bank may adjust monetary conditions “gradually and prudently” on slowing inflation, Deputy Governor Cristian Popa said.

Policy makers have room “to adjust broad monetary conditions,” including the monetary policy rate, reserve- requirement ratios and variations in the exchange rate, as inflation slows to about 3 percent next year, within the bank’s target band of 2 percent to 4 percent, Popa said in an interview in Warsaw today. It’s “likely that we’ll want to adjust monetary conditions gradually and prudently.”

Eastern European central banks have kept rates on hold on expectations inflation will slow and economies will weaken because of slowing economic growth in western Europe, the region’s main importer of goods. The Banca Nationala a Romaniei kept the European Union’s main rate at 6.25 percent for an 11th meeting on Sept. 29, refraining from a cut that would spur capital outflows and weaken the leu.

“With inflation broadly in line with our forecast and looking at the balance of risks, which is still skewed upwards but appears more moderate than in previous forecasting rounds, there is some space for gradually adjusting broad real monetary conditions,” Popa said. The central bank’s next rate-setting meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Slowing Inflation

Romania’s inflation rate fell more than expected in September to the lowest level in two decades, giving policy makers scope to cut the EU’s highest borrowing costs. Annual consumer-price growth slowed to 3.45 percent from 4.25 percent in August, the National Statistics Institute said on Oct. 11.

“Inflation will continue to decline from its present level into the first half of 2012, but it will thereafter pick up to some extent because the base effect will reverse,” Popa said.

The central bank may intervene to stem excess exchange-rate volatility, which “would not be desirable,” because a stronger currency would harm exporters, while a weaker leu won’t help offset weaker demand for the country’s goods, he said.

“The exchange rate has undergone some depreciation, but to a far smaller extent than other regional currencies,” Popa said. “We retain the capacity to intervene if it’s deemed necessary and appropriate, in line with our managed float regime, and we have tended to react in the exchange-rate market when there has been excess volatility.”

--Editors: Simone Meier, Jeffrey Donovan

To contact the reporters on this story: Katya Andrusz in Warsaw at kandrusz@bloomberg.net; Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net

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

Friday, October 21, 2011

Strasbourg backs Romanian judge in jewellery-for-verdicts case

http://euobserver.com
BY VALENTINA POP

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has thrown its weight behind one of its judges who claimed diplomatic immunity for his wife, a Romanian top-judge investigated for corruption.

"The Court is concerned that in carrying out a search in the home of the Romanian judge as part of an inquiry concerning allegations about his wife the rules on immunity may not have been respected," the Strasbourg-based court said in a press release on Wednesday (19 October).

Bucharest should have asked the ECHR to lift the immunity of its Romanian member, Corneliu Birsan, before raiding his and his wife's house located in a Romanian mountain resort, it explained.

"At the present time no request for a waiver of the immunity has been presented to the Court," the statement added.

Romanian prosecutors responded on Thursday by saying that the investigation is not targeting the ECHR judge or his activities - for which he is granted diplomatic immunity - but his wife, Gabriela Birsan, a judge in Romania's highest appeals court suspected of having issued favourable verdicts to a businessman who allegedly offered her jewellery and expensive trips abroad.

The Birsans' claim for immunity was rejected on Tuesday by Romania's top magistrate council, who had also granted prosecutors permission to raid the house. But if the ECHR is proven right, the whole case may be dropped.

"What anti-corruption prosecutors want is to continue the investigation, in line with all legal and ECHR rules, especially since these are suspicions of corruption at a highest level - a judge sitting in Romania's highest court," Livia Saplacan, spokeswoman for the anti-corruption prosecutor's office told this website.

The case is just one in a series of high-level corruption files which were opened in Romania in the past five years, few of which have targeted judges so far.

Procedural appeals and a reluctance to hand down tough sentences have prevented courts from sending most of these suspects behind bars. This is one of the main issues in the yearly EU commission reports on Romania and Bulgaria's justice reform.

OMV Petrom Gas, Oil Production Declined 1.6% in Third Quarter

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- OMV Petrom SA, Romania’s largest oil company, said third-quarter oil and natural-gas production declined 1.6 percent from the previous three months.

Output fell to 184,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day from 187,000 in the second quarter as “new wells could not fully compensate outages caused by bad weather,” the Bucharest-based company’s majority owner, OMV AG, said today in a statement.

Third-quarter gas sales volumes dropped 20 percent to 840 million cubic meters from 1.05 billion cubic meters in the previous quarter as higher import prices weakened margins in Romania, according to the statement.

--Editor: James M. Gomez

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 Carries Out Census

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) Romania has begun a census that is expected to show a decline in its population because many people have left the country since it joined the EU.

Officials began questioning citizens Thursday in the nationwide survey, which is scheduled to take 12 days and cost €45 million ($62 million), the government said.

It is considered the poor East European nation's most accurate census since communism was overthrown in 1989.

The last census in 2002 put Romania's population at 21 million. But government officials have said that about 2 million Romanians searching for better jobs are believed to have migrated to European Union countries such as Spain and Italy since their nation joined the bloc in 2007.

In the new census, Romanians will be asked about issues such as housing and migration. They also will be given the option of answering questions about ethnicity, religion and disabilities.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

EFG Plans to Inject $28 Million Into Romanian Unit by Year End

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA plans to inject about 20 million euros ($28 million) of capital into its Romanian unit Bancpost SA by the end of this year, the unit’s chairman Mihai Bogza said.

The shareholders of Bancpost are scheduled to vote on the increase on Nov. 7 to raise the bank’s solvency ratio from the current levels of 13.6 percent, under Romanian accounting standards, Bogza said in an interview in Bucharest today.

“Romania’s economy is still in a very difficult period and we want to be prepared to face this, we want to be well capitalized,” Bogza said. “We are a self-sustained bank and we have a very good coverage of loans with deposits, so we don’t depend too much on the financing from our Greek parent.”

International banks operating in Romania have brought 850 million lei ($272 million) into Romania this year as they grapple with rising bad loans, low demand for new credits and high market volatility.

Erste Group Bank AG plans to boost capital at its Banca Comerciala Romana SA by as much as 618 million lei, pending shareholders’ approval on Nov. 14, while Oesterreichische Volksbanken AG will inject as much as 200 million euros in the Romanian unit.

--Editors: Peter Branton, Tim Farrand

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 at jagomez@bloomberg.net

Romania, China Guangdong discuss new nuclear units

Wed Oct 19, 2011

BUCHAREST Oct 19 (Reuters) - China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group may invest in a project to add two more reactors at Romania's sole nuclear power plant in Cernavoda on the Danube river, Romania's economy ministry said on Wednesday.

Romanian state-owned nuclear power plant operator Nuclearelectrica and the Chinese firm signed a confidentiality agreement in Beijing on Wednesday that allows China Guangdong to seek details about the future reactors.

The European Union state, which already has two 706 megawatt reactors at the Cernavoda plant accounting for a fifth of its power output, plans to build two more units by 2019 and is seeking private partners to help finance the project.

"The confidentiality agreement signed today will allow the Chinese company access to relevant information about ways to invest in the third and fourth nuclear reactors project," the ministry said in a statement.

"The agreement is part of the procedure to select new investors in the project to build the reactors."

The economy ministry has increasingly looked to Asian companies this year after European power groups GDF Suez , Iberdrola , RWE and CEZ (CEZPsp.PR: Quote) withdrew from the partnership.

In May the economy ministry, which aims to sell some 40 percent of its shares in the project, said Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) was interested in the reactors, which are estimated to cost 4 billion euros.

Last month a South Korean consortium led by BKB Co. visited Romania to discuss the reactors with officials.

Nuclearelectrica still has two of the six initial foreign partners, Italy's Enel and a local unit of ArcelorMittal , which together hold a little over 15 percent in the project. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by James Jukwey)

Romanian president wins lawsuit over film that allegedly shows him hitting a child

By Associated Press, Published: October 19

BUCHAREST, Romania — A court has ruled in favor of Romanian President Traian Basescu in a lawsuit that accuses a wealthy businessman of distributing a film that apparently shows Basescu hitting a boy.

The film was broadcast a week before the 2009 presidential runoff, which Basescu won. Basescu has not denied hitting the boy but says the film was digitally altered.

The president accused Dinu Patriciu of damaging his image by circulating the film, which supposedly is of an incident from the 2004 election campaign. Basescu has demanded damages of one leu (23 eurocents). But Patriciu denies he circulated the footage and has sued Basescu for libel.

The Bucharest court’s decision Wednesday can be appealed.

Romania govt approves LUKOIL Black Sea deal

BUCHAREST Oct 19 (Reuters) - Romania's centrist coalition government approved on Wednesday a concession agreement for the oil exploration and development of two offshore blocks in the Black Sea with Russia's second-largest oil company LUKOIL .

LUKOIL, which owns 80 percent of the consortium that won the concession to develop the Est Rapsodia and Trident blocks, first signed the deal -- subject to government approval -- with Romania's Mineral Resources Agency in February.

The firm's minority partner, with a 20 percent stake, is US-based Vanco International.

The two blocks cover a total area of 2,000 square kilometres and the value of the investment for the first three years totals $75 million, the government said in a statement. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

AP: Romanian leader cautioned for derogatory comments

October 18, 2011

BUCHAREST, Romania—Romania's anti-discrimination council has voted to caution President Traian Basescu for making discriminatory remarks about Gypsies and disabled people.

The government council voted 5-2 to caution Basescu for the remarks, with the two officials who voted no saying such comments are protected by freedom of expression.

Arguing that a republic is a better system than a monarchy, Basescu recently said: "If you end up with (an heir) who has disabilities, what do you do? You let him be the head of state?" He also said that Romanian Gypsies in Finland "have started to steal on the buses."

In the past, Basescu was criticized for calling a journalist "a stinking Gypsy."

Romania is believed to have 1.5 million Gypsies, but many do not declare their ethnicity because of widespread discrimination against the minority.

Romania’s SIF1 May Sign Erste Agreement in November, CEO Says

Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- SIF Banat-Crisana SA shareholders probably will approve on Nov. 4 an agreement to sell a minority stake in Banca Comerciala Romana SA, Romania’s largest bank, to Erste Group Bank AG, Chief Executive Officer Ioan Cuzman said.

The fund, also known as SIF1, is one of four Romanian investment funds known as SIFs that agreed to sell their 24.1 percent stake in BCR to Erste for cash and shares worth 435 million euros ($596 million). SIF1 plans to sign the agreement “immediately after shareholders’ approval,” Cuzman said in an interview in Bucharest today.

“I am very confident that we’ll receive the positive vote of our shareholders to sign this agreement,” Cuzman said. “Probably all the SIFs will get a bonus from Erste, on top of the announced amount, because the bank didn’t pay dividends.”

Erste, eastern Europe’s second-biggest lender, would increase its holding in BCR to 93.5 percent and would pay 453.9 million lei ($143 million) in cash for the SIF-held stake. The funds will also get stakes in Erste of as much as 1 percent each through a share swap.

Another fund, SIF Muntenia SA, said last week it already agreed to sell its BCR stake and will get about 70 million lei in cash, 13 million lei more than initially stated, and 2.5 million shares in Vienna-based Erste.

The other SIFs will probably agree individually on the sale by Nov. 14, when a shareholders’ meeting is scheduled to vote on a BCR capital increase worth as much as 618 million lei, according to Cuzman.

Capital Increase

Erste Chief Financial Officer Manfred Wimmer said on Sept. 16 that the Austrian lender can support the capital increase at its Romanian unit on its own.

“We’ll have to talk to Erste about this capital hike because its purpose has to be clear,” Cuzman said. “I know that the capital-adequacy ratio is not an issue, so probably they want to have an over-financing for their operations.”

The four SIFs that signed the agreement in principle are SIF Banat-Crisana SA, SIF Transilvania SA, SIF Muntenia and SIF Oltenia SA. SIF Moldova SA, which was left out of the accord, may also consider selling its stake in BCR, following shareholder approval.

--Editors: James M. Gomez, Douglas Lytle

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 at jagomez@bloomberg.net

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Romania Seeks Investor in Posta Romana, Ziarul Financiar Reports

Romania is trying to attract an investor in Compania Nationala Posta Romana SA, the monopoly postal service, to boost its capital, Ziarul Financiar reported today, citing a government document.

The investor would get a 34 percent stake in the unprofitable company in exchange for the capital increase and designate managers for at least 10 years, Ziarul Financiar said, citing the document. The government would retain 51 percent of Posta Romana, with the remainder held by property restitution fund Fondul Proprietatea SA, according to the newspaper.

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, October 17, 2011

Romanian judge claims European immunity in jewels-for-verdicts case

BY VALENTINA POP
http://euobserver.com

Romania's judge at the European Court of Human Rights on Friday (14 October) claimed diplomatic immunity for his wife, a judge under investigation for allegedly receiving jewellery, holiday tickets and expensive restaurant meals for favourable verdicts in the country's highest appeals court.

ECHR judge Corneliu Barsan said prosecutors who searched his home and confiscated his wife's computer and documents violated the Vienna Convention, which covers both him and his spouse, Gabriela.

But legal advice from the country's top magistrate council said the search was legal as immunity is not granted to judges for their own benefit or to hamper the course of justice. A final vote on the legality of the move will be taken by the magistrates' council on Tuesday.

The vote is set to be closely watched by the European Commission, which has repeatedly criticised the council for being too lenient with misbehaving judges. Romania, as well as Bulgaria, are still being monitored by the EU executive on how they deal with corruption and organised crime. This is also the reason why entry into the border-free Schengen area was delayed indefinitely by the Netherlands and Finland last month.

Gabriela Barsan, who heads the administrative and fiscal litigation department in Romania's top appeals court, is accused - together with a subordinate - of having received jewellery, plane tickets and expensive restaurant dinners in exchange for favourable verdicts. The businessman who allegedly paid the bribes, Gabriel Chiriac, has claimed that he gave them jewellery "out of friendship", Romania Libera newspaper reported.

Chiriac was involved in real estate deals of over €600 million in the past few years, including the privatisation of electricity and textile industries. The transactions, involving US hedge funds and Cyprus off-shore companies, are under investigation by the country's anti-money laundry unit.

In a separate case, the head of the national employment agency, Silviu Bian, was arrested over the weekend for having received over €50,000 in bribes. According to prosecutors, he ordered that 25 percent of money from EU-funded projects be channelled to his own accounts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Romanians protest discrimination in French media

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — About 100 people have protested outside France's embassy in Bucharest against alleged cases of discrimination against Romanians in the French media.

Thursday's protest comes after Romanian media rebroadcast several items in the French media, which have been considered insulting to Romania.

Last week, commentators on French radio Europe 1 suggested that Romanians learned French so that they could beg in France. During a recent Romania-France soccer match, there were jokes on Canal + about Romanians being beggars and thieves.

Protester Diana Olar said: "We don't want to be labeled as a nation of robbers, rapists, criminals due to a few isolated cases."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Romania approves much awaited green energy support

(Reuters) - Romania's centrist coalition government late on Wednesday approved a much awaited support scheme for renewable energy producers which would lead to a 2.5 percent rise in electricity tariffs for household consumers next year, it said in a statement.

The support scheme, which is based on green certificates and has been key to attracting billions of euros to wind energy, has been revised after the European Commission expressed concern it may overcompensate developers.

The promise of a generous support scheme, good steady winds and a potentially lucrative market of some 22 million people have attracted scores of wind energy developers to Romania in recent years.

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

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

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

In the case of wind energy, the support scheme gives developers two green certificates for every megawatt hour of electricity they produce, 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.

Romania jumped from 14 megawatts of installed wind energy at the end of 2009 to 462 megawatts at the end of last year, and should have some 4,000 megawatts by 2020.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by Keiron Henderson)

Foreign Banks in Romania Must Add Capital, Central Bank Says

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- International banks operating in Romania will need to inject more capital into their units to weather market turmoil as the local industry heads for a second consecutive year of losses, said Nicolae Cinteza, the central bank’s supervision chief.

Foreign banks have brought 850 million lei ($271 million) into Romania this year as they grapple with rising bad-loans, low demand for new credits and high market volatility.

“All the banks, especially the Greek ones, must be prepared to face contagion, even though they are well capitalized right now. It’s a matter of credibility,” Cinteza said in an interview. “If one of the parent banks has problems, the Romanian units can be affected, that’s why we advise them to have strong cash reserves.”

Romania’s banking industry posted a combined loss of 516 million lei last year as 22 of the 42 banks in the country were unprofitable, central bank data show. Bad-loans accounted for 13.6 percent of total lending at the end of August, central bank Deputy Governor Cristian Popa said on Oct. 5.

The central bank has asked Greek banks’ local units to maintain “adequate liquidity” as protection against a possible sovereign Greek default, while some Greek-owned lenders in the country also needed capital hikes, according to Cinteza.

“We have our scenario regarding the impact of a Greek default on the Romanian banking system, but we cannot disclose it,” Cinteza said. There haven’t been any “significant capital outflows” from the country this year, he said.

Inflows Peaked

The amount of money being brought into the country to strengthen the banks is down from about $786 million last year as bad loans accelerated.

Romania’s banking industry is dominated by Austrian lenders, which control about 39 percent of the market, followed by Greek banks with 15.5 percent and French lenders with more than 10 percent, according to central bank data. Erste’s BCR is the country’s largest lender by assets, followed by BRD-Groupe Societe Generale SA.

Alpha Bank AE has to date injected about 50 million euros ($69 million) into its Romanian subsidiary, the unit’s Chief Executive Officer, Sergiu Oprescu said in an interview.

“We just completed a significant capital increase and we don’t think we will need another one anytime soon,” Oprescu said. “The situation in Greece has had no impact on our business so far. Still, growing non-performing loans are the biggest problem in Romania right now.”

‘Strong Liquidity’

Alpha Bank Romania SA has a “strong liquidity position” and doesn’t need to borrow money from the central bank, according to Oprescu.

Erste Group Bank AG said yesterday it plans to boost capital at its Banca Comerciala Romana SA by as much as 618 million lei, pending shareholders approval on Nov. 14, while Oesterreichische Volksbanken AG will inject as much as 200 million euros in the Romanian unit.

As an industry, Romanian banks remain adequately capitalized and passed the latest stress test against loan losses carried out by the central bank in the first half of the year, according to a central bank report.

The Financial Stability Report showed the lenders’ solvency ratios would remain above the minimum requirements of 10 percent in a worst-case scenario.

The banks’ solvency ratios and the core Tier-1 capital ratios would drop 3.5 percentage points at most in a worst-case scenario from 14.2 percent at the end of June and a Tier-1 ratio of 13.6 percent, the Bucharest-based central bank said in its 2011 Financial Stability Report.

Policy makers expanded the list of assets they accept as collateral in open-market operations, and said in September they will accept euro-denominated bonds issued by Romania on international markets and leu-denominated bonds issued by global financial institutions, starting this month.

--Editors: Douglas Lytle, James M. Gomez

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 at jagomez@bloomberg.net

Romanian Government Approves 3 Black-Sea Concession Agreements

Romania’s government approved three oil and gas concession agreements with Dutch and Romanian companies that committed to invest at least $140 million in the eastern European country in the next three years.

The companies can cancel the three concession agreements, which target oil and gas blocks in the Black Sea, after three years or continue work and invest between $70 million and $180 million for another three years, government spokeswoman Ioana Muntean said late yesterday in an e-mailed statement, without naming the companies.

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, Bulgaria to Build Natural-Gas Connection Pipe by 2013

Romania and Bulgaria plan to complete the construction of a 23.8 million-euro ($33 million) natural-gas pipeline to connect their two national grids by 2013.

The 25-kilometer (15.5 miles) link with planned capacity of 1.5 billion cubic meters will help Bulgaria diversify gas sources, as it now fully relies on Russian natural gas imports, Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Ministry in Sofia said in an e- mail today.

Bulgartransgaz AD, the state-run company that operates the national grid, opened a tender to commission a feasibility study for the 15.4-kilometer Bulgarian section of the pipeline, according to the ministry. Romania’s natural-gas grid operator Transgaz SA is currently evaluating design and construction bids for the 2.1-kilometer section under the Danube and the Romanian section of the link, the ministry said.

The two Black Sea countries held a bilateral governments meeting in Bucharest today to discuss regional projects. The two countries also discussed future joint exploration of shale gas deposits on both sides of the Danube river, the ministry said.

The European Union will contribute 9 million euros of the connection’s total cost. Bulgaria is building similar natural gas connections with grids in Greece and Serbia.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Elizabeth Konstantinova atekonstantino@bloomberg.net

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

AP: Romanian court scraps law taxing journalists

BUCHAREST, Romania—A lawyer in Romania says a Bucharest court has ruled to scrap a law obliging journalists and actors to pay hefty taxes on royalties and penalties dating back five years.

Lawyer Gheorghe Pipera who acted on behalf of 25 journalists and artists said Wednesday that the Bucharest Appeals' Court ruled Tuesday to immediately suspend the measure.
Critics said the law was designed to intimidate journalists who had criticized tax authorities.

Pipera told The Associated Press the law was "abusive" and contravened European norms.

Under the law made public in June, writers and others whose yearly royalties amount to more than euro35,000 ($50,000) were supposed to pay 24 percent sales tax dating back five years.

Romanian health ministry: Doctors negligent in treating US basketball player Chauncey Hardy

By Associated Press, Published: October 12

BUCHAREST, Romania — Two doctors were negligent in their treatment of American basketball player Chauncey Hardy after he suffered fatal injuries, Romania’s health ministry said Wednesday.

Hardy died Sunday after he was punched in a bar in Giurgiu, where he played for a Romanian club. The 23-year-old Hardy, who played at Sacred Heart in Connecticut from 2006-2010, sustained severe head injuries and died after surgery in a Bucharest hospital.

Health ministry official Raed Arafat said Hardy should have been transferred to Bucharest immediately, instead of 4 1/2 hours after he arrived in a coma at the Giurgiu hospital.

Arafat said the Giurgiu hospital lacked the equipment needed to determine whether Hardy had a serious skull injury — which meant the doctors on duty should have immediately requested his transfer to Bucharest. Arafat also said Hardy was not properly monitored while in Giurgiu.

Prosecutors said Hardy was punched in the face by the boyfriend of a woman Hardy was with in a bar. A suspect, Ionut Tanasoaia, was arrested Monday and will be in custody for 29 days while he awaits trial.

Arafat also said the ministry recommended that local health authorities fine the two doctors $960 each and the hospital $11,200. The ambulance service and an ambulance doctor should also be fined, Arafat said.

Hardy’s death brought Romania’s health system under scrutiny in a country where doctors are badly paid, hospitals lack equipment and procedures are not always followed.

Hardy came to Romania to play for CSS Giurgiu in August.

The Romanian basketball federation said Wednesday that Hardy’s body would be repatriated to the U.S. The process is being arranged by the U.S. Embassy and Hardy’s family.

Coach Theo Matthew Evans and colleague Justin Neal Eller will accompany the body to the U.S.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Romanian CPI Falls to 21-Year Low, Makes Room for Rate Cut

Romania’s inflation rate fell more than expected in September to the lowest level in two decades as a bumper harvest lowered food prices, giving policy makers scope to cut the European Union’s highest borrowing costs.

Inflation slowed to 3.45 percent, within the central bank’s target, from 4.25 percent in August, the National Statistics Institute in Bucharest said today in an e-mailed statement. The decline exceeded the median forecast of 4 percent by 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Prices fell 0.2 percent on the month.

Central banks in eastern Europe including Romania have kept rates on hold in past months on expectations inflation will slow and economies will weaken because of a deceleration of growth in western Europe, the main importer of goods from the region.

“Even if the food price dynamic proves to be transitory, inflation is coming back to target sooner than expected, which opens the door for rate cuts in the near term,” said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Raffaella Tenconi, who sees rates unchanged in 2011 and 2012. “Our rate call was based on a slower disinflation path and the contagion risks from the” EU- sovereign debt crisis. If both issues improve, then there is the opportunity for a rate cut sooner than thought.’’

Romania probably will cut interest rates after an accord is reached on the 2012 budget with theInternational Monetary Fund and the European Union and inflation slows to within the target, central bank Chief Economist Valentin Lazea told Hotnews.ro yesterday.
November Policy Meeting

The Banca Nationala a Romaniei kept the EU’s main rate at 6.25 percent for an 11th meeting on Sept. 29, refraining from a cut that would spur capital outflows and weaken the leu. The next rate-setting meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2.

The leu, the sixth-best performer among more than 20 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg so far this year, weakened 0.3 percent to 4.3290 per euro as of 11:08 a.m. in Bucharest trading.

Today’s data confirms a prediction by central bank Governor Mugur Isarescu who said on Oct. 5 that the inflation rate would fall this year within the central bank’s target of 3 percent, plus or minus 1 percentage point, for 2011 and 2012 on lower food costs and as the effects of a government tax increase dissipate.

Food-price growth slowed to 1.7 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with 3.8 percent in August, on plunging potato, vegetable and fruit prices, according to the institute.

Non-food costs dropped to 4.8 percent in the last month from 4.9 percent in August, while service prices were unchanged at 3.5 percent from the previous month, the institute said.

“We expect the inflation to remain at low levels until mid-2012 and start rising again when a new harvest, probably worse than this year, is in place,” ING Bank Romania SA economist Nicolaie Alexandru-Chidesciuc said today. “The central bank probably won’t hurry to cut rates this year because of leu depreciation pressures and we expect a first cut to happen as early as February because of slower-than-expected economic growth next year.”

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

AP: Romanian Anti-Communist Symbol Diaconescu Dies

Ion Diaconescu, one of Romania's anti-communist symbols who was imprisoned for 17 years by the communists for his political beliefs, has died. He was 94.

Former prime minister Victor Ciorbea said Diaconescu died late Tuesday. He had been recently treated for heart problems.


Diaconescu was released under an amnesty for political prisoners in 1964 and helped re-establish the center-right Peasants' Party after communism ended in 1989.

Diaconescu was speaker of parliament's chamber of deputies from 1996 to 2000 and was widely respected even by his political rivals.

Former President Ion Iliescu and current President Traian Basescu paid tribute to him Wednesday. Basescu said he would remain "a symbol of the fight against communism."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Romanian September Inflation Slows to Lowest Since Communism

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Romania’s inflation rate fell more than expected in September to the lowest level since the country abandoned communism 21 years ago as a bumper harvest and weak domestic demand lowered food prices.

The annual rate fell to 3.45 percent, within the central bank’s target, from 4.25 percent in August, the National Statistics Institute in Bucharest said today in an e-mailed statement. The decline exceeded the median forecast of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg of 4 percent. Prices fell 0.2 percent on the month.

Central banks in eastern Europe including Romania have kept rates on hold in the past month on expectations inflation will slow and the economy will weaken because of slower growth in western Europe, the main importer of goods from the region.

“The near-term inflation outlook continues to improve, thanks to good crop yields domestically and softer commodity prices,” Citigroup Inc. economists Ilker Domac and Gultekin Isiklar wrote in a note to clients before the inflation announcement. “Looking ahead, administrative price adjustments and the risks ahead of the 2012 elections, however, continue to overshadow the outlook.”

The rate will “very likely” fall this year within the central bank’s target of 3 percent, plus or minus 1 percentage point, for 2011 and 2012 on lower food costs and as the effects of a government tax increase dissipate, Deputy Governor Cristian Popa said on Sept. 29.

Food-price growth slowed to 1.7 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with 3.8 percent in August, on plunging potato, vegetable and fruit prices, according to the institute.

Non-food costs dropped to 4.8 percent in last month from 4.9 percent in August, while services prices were unchanged at 3.5 percent the previous month, the institute said.

--With assistance from Barbara Sladkowska in Warsaw. Editor: James M. Gomez

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 Likely to Cut Rates After Budget Accord, Slow Inflation

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Romania probably will cut interest rates after an accord is reached on the 2012 budget with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and inflation slows to within target, a central bank economist said.

The Banca Nationala a Romaniei kept the EU’s main rate at 6.25 percent for an 11th meeting on Sept. 29, refraining from a cut that would spur capital outflows and weaken the leu. The next rate-setting meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2.

“This reduction couldn’t have been done in a rush,” said central bank Chief Economist Valentin Lazea told Hotnews.ro. It can’t “be done before the 2012 budget parameters are agreed with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in early November.”

Central banks across the region are seeking to balance the risks of slower growth in western Europe, the main importer of goods from their eastern neighbors, and weaker currencies as investors cut their exposure to emerging-market assets.

The leu, the seventh-best performer among more than 20 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg so far this year, weakened 0.1 percent to 4.3126 per euro as of 2:47 p.m. in Bucharest trading. It rebounded from its weakest in 15 months against the euro reached last week.

Romanian policy makers are targeting an inflation rate of between 2 percent and 4 percent for this year and next. They have kept interest rates stable since June 2010 as they assess the impact of the global slowdown and fading effect of a tax increase on prices.

Rate Target

The inflation rate probably fell to between 3 percent and 4 percent in September, entering the central bank’s target, after dropping to the lowest in 17 months in August, central bank Governor Mugur Isarescu said on Oct. 5. The rate declined to 4.25 percent in August from 4.85 percent in July, the lowest since March 2010.

An IMF-led mission will visit Romania between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7 to conduct the third review under a 5 billion-euro ($6.8 billion) precautionary loan, the Washington-based lender said on Oct. 7.

The IMF will probably lower Romania’s 2012 economic growth forecast, a key parameter for next year’s budget, to as low as 2 percent from the current 3.5 percent, IMF Mission Chief Jeffrey Franks said in an interview on Sept. 29.

--Editors: James M. Gomez, Alan Crosby

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

Friday, October 7, 2011

First SlutWalk in Romania against sexual violence

(AFP)

BUCHAREST — Some two hundred persons, young women for the most part, joined Romania's first SlutWalk on Thursday, calling for an end to sexual violence.

"We are here on behalf of all women who are afraid to report sexual assaults," Anna Popescu, 43, told AFP, stressing she was herself a rape victim.

The marchers, some of them wearing mini skirts, others concealing their bodies in large bags, carried banners reading "No always means no" or "Blame the assailant not the victim".

"We are living in a society where authorities tell women they should protect themselves," a young girl said.

"The assailants most often get away scot-free while the victims are humiliated by the police," said another.

The participants marched along one of Bucharest's main boulevards chanting "We are not flattered when we are assaulted".

"This is the first march of this kind in Romania. We have received a lot of support and plan to do more to raise public awareness," one of the organizers, Mihaela Chiribuc, said.

SlutWalks have so far been held in dozens of cities around the world, including Toronto, Canada; Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand; New Delhi, Philadelphia, Seoul, Sydney, Washington, Paris and Berlin.