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What the newspapers say: May 23, 2006

Marţi, 23 mai 2006, 0:00

The campaign against the latest bird flu outbreak is in full swing and Romanian newspapers tackle it with its good and bad. They also focus on shady deals around the Romanian presidency, while from Brussels the media receives signs the European Commission favors Justice minister Monica Macovei as a future commissioner.

Romania’s anti-bird flu strategy lies in a hospital, Cotidianul reports, warning that the Health Ministry in Bucharest is rather late in considering the hypothesis of a bird-to-human epidemic.

According to the newspaper, there is only one hospital in Romania where the virus can be fought medically – the Matei Bals Institute in the capital.

And experts quoted by Cotidianul warn that the H5N1 virus has suffered mutations in Romania, as it passed to some species of birds to others, but it still to be seen if it can pass to humans.

Meanwhile, Gandul reports that the Animal Health and Diagnosis Institute – IDSA has been encouraging a “criminal” trade with diagnosis products, in breach with state laws and extremely profitable for a group controlled by the IDSA, which opted to buy anti-bird flu Elisa kits at the highest possible prices on the market.

Evenimentul Zilei also identifies irregularities in the way the authorities deal with the bird flu outbreak in Bucharest, where two hotbeds have been identified so far.

According to the newspaper, the Romanian capital – the only one in Europe affected by the H5 virus - makes a good host for bird flu, with its dusty, even dirty streets and the large number of poultry and pigs in local households, as well the over 100,000 stray dogs that can become hosts for the virus.

And the same Evenimentul Zilei reports on the conspiracy theories born from the latest outbreak – including one that says the Americans introduced the virus artificially in Romania so that Romanians buy their products.

Or even “official” ones, such as that of far-right Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who claimed the outbreak helps turn the attention of the population from President Traian Basescu’s health condition.

Speaking of Basescu, who is stuck in a Bucharest hospital following a surgical intervention for hernia, his absence from the Presidential Palace seems to favor a series of revelations in his "garden".

One is quite literally like that, as Cotidianul reports a real estate blackmail affair related to some 900 square meters of land within the boundaries of the presidential residence Vila Lac 3, which has become the possession of Bartolomeu Finis – a crony of a group of business interests led by former PM Adrian Nastase and his crony Alexandru Bittner.

And another bad news for the president comes from British newspaper The Times, which accuses that the Bucharest government has paid a ransom for the recovery of three Romanian journalists kidnapped in Iraq last year.

The newspaper, quoted by Evenimentul Zilei, reads documents belonging to security officials in Baghdad, according to which French, German, Italian, Swedish and Turkish officials have done the same thing to recover kidnapped people in the Gulf state.

The same Evenimentul Zilei reports that Romania is no longer a leader in terms of people working elsewhere in Europe, according to a new EBRD report trying to evaluate the impact of money send by those workers back home on the economy of their countries.

While money transfers from abroad accounted for 2% of the GDP in Romania’s case back in 2004, the figure stands much higher in the case of ex-Soviet states such as Moldova.

In terms of European affairs, Cotidianul turns its eye on whom the officials in Brussels seem to favor most as a representative of Romania in the European Commission, once the country joins the EU.

While several high-profile officials have suggested their readiness for the job, Justice minister seems to be the best placed to get a EC seat, according to statements by unidentified officials in Brussels.

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