Books on Romania
Update No: 163 -
The Romanians used to live under a glacial
dictatorship, that of Nicolai Ceausescu.
Ever since his demise on Christmas Day,
1989, they have been ringing the changes
like crazy, as if to prove to themselves
they are now free.
Politics in Romania were turned upside
down, for example, exactly two years ago,
after the surprise resignation of the
candidate for Prime Minister. The centrist
Democrat Liberal Party narrowly won the
December 2008 election, just beating the
leftist Social Democrats, with whom they
agreed to form a coalition.
Party leader Emil Boc proposed the
economist Thodor Stolojan as Prime
Minister, but Stolojan decided not to
pursue the idea. Stolojan gave no reason
for declining the post, saying simply that
more guarantees were needed about the
make-up of the new government.
He was replaced as candidate for premier
by Emil Boc. Romanian President Traian
Basescu has the legal right to appoint the
prime minister, but his close ties to Boc
suggested that it would be a formality.
Dire economic situation
Romania has been mired in recession and
the government has slashed public sector
wages by a quarter and hiked sales tax
from 19 to 24 percent on July 1 to reduce
the budget deficit - measures derided by
Romanians, but requested by the
International Monetary Fund.
The cutbacks were aimed at meeting
conditions for a €20 billion ($26 billion)
loan from the IMF, the European Union and
the World Bank to bail the country out of
serious financial difficulty it
encountered since 2007, when its economy
contracted by 7.1 percent. Some of the
money was used to pay pensions and wages.
Yet another political upheaval
In February 2009 Prime Minister Emil Boc
fired the finance minister, labour
minister, agriculture minister,
transportation and communications
minister, saying it was necessary to
continue economic reforms. Economy
Minister Adriean Videana told Boc he
wanted to quit the government to return to
party business. Boc said he chose the new
Cabinet based on professional merit, but
critics accused him of firing the
ministers to strengthen his own hand.
Boc named six replacements, relieving some
of the immediate political instability.
But there were concerns that the new
economy and finance ministers are little
known names in Romania. Boc did not fire
any of the ethnic Hungarian ministers,
likely because he counts on the support of
their party in Parliament.
Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu
criticized his firing saying it was
politically motivated. Earlier, he was
chastened by Boc for saying that Romania
would scrap the flat personal income tax
in favour of a progressive tax system that
taxes top earners at a higher rate.
Vladescu had played a key role in IMF
David Oxley, an emerging market economist
for Capital Economics in London said: “The
question is whether there is the political
will to make the cutbacks. Will (the
firings) affect the political will?” he
told the Associated Press.
Several key members of the governing
Democratic Liberal Party called for Boc to
resign. The government’s popularity has
plummeted in recent months because of
spending cuts, but also due to a growing
dissatisfaction with President Traian
Basescu, who is seen as playing a key
though informal role in government
The leu, Romania’s currency, dipped by 0.3
per cent following the news.
The IMF predicted that Romania’s economy
would shrink by 1.9 percent that year, in
2009, before returning to growth in 2011.
The opposition Social Democrats said they
would file a motion of no-confidence, but
it is not clear whether it can succeed
because Boc’s Democratic Liberal Party has
the support of minority ethnic Hungarians
whose party is also in government.
Political instability has plagued Romania
in the last year before presidential
elections that Basescu won. Boc’s previous
government collapsed last year which led
to the temporary suspension of Romania’s
Danube summit on EU strategy for the
Romania is of course a vital country on
the Danube. It is logical place for a
conference on the subject.
Participants in a Danube summit that
started in Bucharest on November 8th
adopted a declaration on the EU Strategy
for the Danube Region. Austria, Bulgaria,
the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary,
Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia reiterated
in the document their commitment to
implementing the strategy and its
importance to navigation and energy
protection, water resources preservation
and risk management. They urged all EU
member states to support implementation.
Attending the summit were delegations from
a total of 14 Danube River countries:
those mentioned above plus Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Moldova,
Serbia and Ukraine, along with officials
European institutions. Among them is
European Commission President Jose Manuel
Joining the Schengen Zone
As the most recent countries to join the
EU, Bulgaria and Romania do not yet belong
to all its institutions.
On the sidelines of the summit, Bulgarian
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Romanian
counterpart Emil Boc asked their European
partners to help their countries join the
EU's border-free Schengen Zone by the