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What the newspapers say: May 24, 2006

Miercuri, 24 mai 2006, 0:00

It’s above 36 degrees Celsius in Romania and the heat is affecting everything in the economy, especially the authorities’ efforts to tackle the bird flu crisis, newspapers suggest today.

Their reports describe a shockingly “funny” Romanian Intelligence Service, a dizzy European Union dealing with Romania’s accession and a confused opposition trying vainly to bring unity in its ranks.

Temperature rose to above 36 degrees Celsius across Romania over the past several days, 11 degrees more than the normal values for the period, Evenimentul Zilei reports. Warning that the coming weekend will be marked by heavy rain, it writes the existing temperatures are closing in to the records of the past 50 years.

Weather conditions might be the cause for a series of gaffes reported in the efforts of Romanian authorities to deal with the most recent bird flu crisis. A series that culminated with a report by the Romanian Intelligence Service – SRI, which accuses firms Slovakia and Hungary of exporting H5-infected poultry to Romania, but cannot make the difference between a turkey and a hen.

The same Evenimentul Zilei reports that the SRI accusations were demolished yesterday, as the intelligence document declassified yesterday does not link the imports from Hungary and Slovakia with the H5 outbreak in Romania directly.

Moreover, each of the technical and commercial information included in the report was challenged by Romanian or foreign officials and veterinary experts, according to the newspaper.

The Evenimentul Zilei report is complemented by Cotidianul, which points out that the SRI officials could not make a difference “between a dead turkey and a live hen”, which turns the Romanian intelligence “into the loughing stock of flu-affected turkeys”.

And Adevarul takes the bird flu issue to political level, reporting that the recent resignations at the helm of the Romanian veterinary body have renewed the confrontation between the Liberals and the Democrats, the senior members of the governing coalition, as none of the two parties seems ready to drop its claim for the job.

Agriculture is one of the few fields where the European Commission kept the “red flags” for Romania in its latest evaluation of the country’s progress towards accession – fields that need further and consistent reform this year.

According to Cotidianul, the number of Romania’s red flags – four – is about even or even lower than those received by the ten new EU members when they acceded the Union in 2004.

The ten received a total of 39 red flags at the time, and six of them received “yellow flags” in major fields such as the fight against corruption, fraud and money laundering. And they did not have to tackle a last moment re-examination before they joined, as the one Romania and Bulgaria face this autumn, the newspaper writes.

Gandul, meanwhile, questions the very readiness of the EU to ratify the Accession Treaty of Romania and Bulgaria in due time. While the document was ratified by 17 of the 25 EU members, the rest plan to wait for a European Commission verdict, which was due on May 16 but postponed for autumn this year.

The initial plan said the autumn report should be published in October, but Romanian sources quoted by Gandul say the EU is pressed to bring the date to September, so that European bureaucracy do not prevent the ratification process to conclude before the December EU summit and allow Romania and Bulgaria join on January 1, 2007.

This turns up the heat on the already pressed political stage in Bucharest. According to Cotidianul, trade unions plan a huge demonstration in the Romanian capital today, as they rejected an offer from PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu to sign a social deal on Monday.

Trade union representatives, calling for higher minimum and average salaries and pensions, say their protest will turn against the PM, the President and the political parties as it is the only way to make themselves heard.

While it may seem an opportune moment for the opposition to unify its ranks against the government, it is not, as Jurnalul National reports.

A recent effort by ex-President Ion Iliescu, a member of the Social Democrats (PSD) to create a Social Pole with an ex-prime minister who ruled Romania in the early nineties, Petre Roman, failed to produce any result as talks between the two failed yesterday.

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