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What the newspapers say: May 21, 2008

de Radu Rizea
Miercuri, 21 mai 2008, 9:10 English | Press Review

A new political scandal seems to be about to burst, with president Traian Basescu once again claiming that he was called to influence Justice in several cases. Except for this and the peak of the electoral campaign, the news is much like everyday: Romania is a paradise for counterfeit products, the Arab embezzlers are suspect if involvement in financing terrorist networks and the natural gas waits for the elections results before growing almost 20%.

In the middle of the electoral campaign, Romania president Traian Basescu is once again about to fuel a huge scandal, claiming in a TV show that he was asked by politicians to influence Justice in several occasions. Basescu offered no names to support his statements but, as many recall, in a similar situation some two years ago, he launched a scandal involving prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, Evenimentul Zilei and most other newspapers note.

Also in Evenimentul Zilei, the European Commission found that the counterfeit products are found more and more often. Authorities confiscated 264% more cosmetics and hygiene products than one year ago, 51% more drugs and 62% more IT equipment and food products. In Romania, some 40% of the "brands" are counterfeit, Romania being the country that receives the unlabeled clothing in order to add "famous", still illegal, labels.

Gandul quotes another European Commission document: one in five Romanian youngsters has only 8 grades in school and 53% of the pupils under 15 have a low competence in readings. The figures are about double, compared to other EU states. Except for Bulgaria (51%), all other former Communist countries have better results - the Czech republic - 24%, Hungary - 20% and Poland - only 16%.

In other news, the price for natural gas is about to increase 20% after the elections. The main operators, Distrigaz Sud and E.On, claim that this is due to the refuse of authorities to accept the 12% price growth in March. The companies claim 55 million euro losses since the beginning of the year, Evenimentul Zilei reads.

The problem of Romanian gypsies in Italy is once again an issue: Silvio Berlusconi was harshly criticized in the European Commission for his position in handling the immigration-related scandals and the xenophobic attacks against gypsy camps. A formal statement was read in the Commission yesterday, demanding investigations against those who attacked the immigrants, Gandul informs.

With an usual bad timing, Romanian Economy Minister Varujan Vosganian made an official statement on Tuesday, saying that the international rating agencies - namely Standard & Poor's and Fitch - are too severe with Romania and that the realities do not confirm the vulnerabilities pointed at by the agencies, Cotidianul notes.

Last, but far from least, the group that recently stole 2.2 million euro from the BRD Craiova bank seems to include a man, Farid Jahani, who could have used some of the money to finance Hamas, prosecutors investigating the theft say, according to Romania Libera. Still, confirmations are expected in the scandal.

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