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Romania: President-Elect Promises Campaign Against Corruption

Munich, 27 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Romania's President-elect, Emil Constantinescu, says the coalition government being formed after this month's elections will target corruption and tax evaders in its campaign for economic recovery.

Constantinescu told the German newspaper "Suddeutsche Zeitung" that recovering taxes from what he called the "black economy" is an important element in the government's plan to improve living standards.

"All taxes must be paid," he said. "The recovery of these unpaid taxes from the black economy will help the government improve the situation of the impoverished population."

Constantinescu also promised a "determined" campaign against corruption.

Constantinescu defeated the former Communist Ion Iliescu.Iliescu had been in power since the overthrow of the Ceaucescu regime in December 1989. The new Government will be formed by a Parliament coalition made up of the Democratic Convention, of which Constantinescu is a leader, the Social Democratic Union and the political party of the ethnic Hungarian minority.

Constantinescu said the 1989 revolution against the Communists, led by Nicolae Ceausescu, "was stolen from us by the Party bureaucracy of the old system. The real new epoch in Romania begins now," he said. He acknowledged that democratic institutions and some forms of market economy had been developed since Ceausescus's downfall, but said they must be made to work. He conceded that this would not be an easy task.

The newspaper expressed doubt whether some of Constantinescu's electoral promises could be maintained. He has promised radical economic reforms including an opening of the capital market, attractive conditions for foreign investors and lower inflation (now around 30 percent). At the same time he has promised more state welfare programs.

Constantinescu said he believes the economy is open to rapid improvement.

"We will begin our reforms with two separate government programs," he said. "For the first five months we will focus on social problems for the benefit of the pensioners and families with several children. Afterward, we will make a start on structural reform. That will require high social costs but the trade unions will accept these in the framework of a Social Pact."

Constantinescu said: "Unemployment will grow through the privatization program, but we will provide retraining programs for workers. There will also be money for social-assistance programs, when we find the money. It is well-known the 'black economy' costs the Romanian state the half of its total budget".

Constantinescu said membership in both NATO and the European Union is important for his government.

"The future of our country will be in question if we fail to achieve the economic and social standards for entry into the European Union by the year 2001," he said. "The situation is better with regard to NATO, because the Romanian army is ready for membership."

He said that around 85 percent of Romanians are in favor of NATO membership.

In answer to a question, Constantinescu said there was no alternative to integration in NATO. "Romania has an important geo-political position and can meet all NATO's requirements," he said. He noted that Romania's internal ethnic problems were sometimes cited as a problem for NATO membership, but pointed out that the ethnic Hungarian political party is a member of the new coalition government being formed.

Answering another question, he confirmed the new government had no territorial demands on any other country.