Press review (Sept 16)

President Traian Basescu delivered an address to Parliament on Tuesday in which he presented the results of his five-year tenure; the government called a confidence vote in the legislature on Tuesday for three key bills; the European Union decided to drop the enforcement of the safeguard clause for the Romanian justice; and the trend seen by the local labour spending – such are the main topics covered by the Romanian dailies on Wednesday.

Two months to go till the presidential elections, President Traian Basescu came before Parliament to unveil the results of his five-year tenure. While the report had been billed ‘honest’, it pretty much resembled a concealed announcement that he would run for a fresh term, the Jurnalul National comments.

Social Democrat chairman Mircea Geoana said Basescu’s address to Parliament had been long and boring and he reproached the head of state he had taken two hours ‘to justify himself’ with respect to what had happened during his tenure and ‘only a quarter of an hour’ to speak of the Romanians’ problems.

According to the Ziua, beyond the political, defence, social, demographic and judicial achievements that Basescu boasted to be his when unveiling his five-year tenure results, the president hailed the laws for which the government called a vote of confidence. The president spoke of the presidential commissions that had worked for Romania’s modernisation and also of the disproportionate public wages.

While not announcing his candidacy for a fresh term, the head of state has set the priorities of a future tenure, the Evenimentul zilei says in an item headlined ‘Basescu launches his electoral offer in Parliament’. ‘A candidate’s speech. Basescu unveiled the balance sheet of a tenure and the priorities for the next five years’, headlines the Gardianul.

The government called a vote of confidence in Parliament for the bills on education, unified public wages and the restructuring of agencies, despite the unions’ protests. While 380 of a total 471 MPs came to the sitting, their number dropped significantly when Prime Minister Emil Boc started to address the legislature, the Ziua reports.

Tuesday’s meetings of Parliament in which all the cabinet ministers attended were boycotted by parliamentarians of the opposition Liberals and Conservatives.

The moment the prime minister started to deliver his speech, all the Liberal MPs left the hall, with several Conservative and ruling Social Democrats joining them, the Bucharest-based papers report.

Boc began his argument by saying the three bills seek to reform the institutions of the current Romanian state that has inherited many of the communist-era bad habits. The Social Democrats announced they reserve the right to modify the three acts based on the talks with the unions, while the Liberals left the Parliament hall, the Evenimentul zilei writes. Headlines on this topic:

‘The Social Democrats choose the middle way’ (Jurnalul National); ‘Vote of confidence amid booing’ (Ziua); ‘The three laws that have frightened Romania’ (Romania libera); ‘The Democratic Liberals win the first major electoral battle with the Social Democrats’ (Gardianul).

The European Union foreign ministers have dropped the enforcement of the safeguard clause on the Romanian justice, but instead they asked for a political consensus to reform a system in which the positive changes are fragmented. For these reasons, the Brussels Council decided to keep the justice monitoring mechanisms.

The EU foreign ministers, at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, decided to continue the Mechanism of Cooperation and Verification for Bulgaria and Romania; they stressed in Romania ‘broad political consensus is necessary to allow the judicial system to function efficiently and independently and in order to strengthen the fight against corruption’, the Cotidianul reports.

Romania has a remarkable agricultural potential. Nevertheless, the Romanian farm production has not even managed to get close to the European Union standards. As such, what chances does Romania stand to get the European agriculture commissioner’s portfolio that it so much desires, the Evenimentul zilei asks.

The daily quotes experts as saying the traditionalists – those who do not want the Common Agricultural Policy to be reformed – are interested in giving this portfolio to an inexperienced person, that has no political influence, as such a person is unlikely to push for a radical reform in this area.

The recession has blocked investments worth 9.3 billion euros in Romania in the last year. Voestalpine, Pirelli, Immoeast, Mechel and Saint Gobain are but a few of the big international corporations that have frozen their investments. Other companies such as Coca Cola, Adesgo, Leoni and Kraft relocated their production facilities in Bulgaria or Poland.

Moreover, Romanian businessmen such as Radu Georgescu, who deals in the information technology industry and Radu Timis, in the food industry, have transferred their activities to Cyprus, since the Romanian legislation does not have a holding companies law, the Jurnalul National reports.

The Romanian labour cost climbed 11.7 percent in the second quarter from the same period a year ago, after neighbouring Bulgarians (plus 15.5 percent), while the European bloc average was just 3.7 percent, show figures released by Eurostat. Wages, that are included in the labour cost alongside the relevant taxes paid by the employers, have advanced at a similar pace in Romania, compared to 3.6 percent in the EU 27.

The rises relate to June 2008 – June 2009, which means, however, that they were amassed last year. In 2009, most firms decided to freeze or even diminish wages, given that the Romanian economy will shrink 8.5 percent by year-end and there will be more than 600,000 unemployed, according to official estimates cited by the Gandul.

Renowned Romanian comedian Nicu Constantin has died at age 70 on Tuesday, after having stayed for more than four months at Bucharest’s Military Clinic Hospital to treat a severe lung condition.

Nicu Constantin, who performed at the musical theatre for decades, is paid homage by the entire Romanian print media today. ‘He was one of the most charismatic actors, with a lot of qualities, whom God gave an extraordinary talent’, Bucharest Musical Theatre director Alexandru Arsinel said.

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