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Romania: President Says Country Committed To Reforms

Prague, July 4 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton says the West and Central Prague, 11 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Romanian President Emil Constantinescu today reaffirmed his support for tough economic reforms and said foreign investment is vital to the success of those reforms. Speaking at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters, Constantinescu reiterated Bucharest's commitment to market reform regardless of immediate hardships. He said the alternative is "social chaos."

Constantinescu cited four key areas where laws must be changed. He said Romania's currency, the leu, must be freely convertible with the U.S. dollar, and he called for a more disciplined banking sector. He also said energy prices must be brought to parity with Western levels, and that speedy privatization must attract foreign investment.

The changes also are being urged by the International Monetary Fund. Constantinescu warned that positive effects won't be felt for a year to 18 months, while social hardships can already be felt.

Earlier this month, Bucharest pledged to privatize up to 50 companies per week in the initial stages. The government also says 80 laws should be changed this month to attract investment and stimulate growth.

On the issue of NATO integration, Constantinescu says that Romania has no security alternative. He said the biggest obstacle to membership is his country's capacity to support the costs of modernizing its military forces. In this way, he said, economic reform is vital to Romania's aspirations to join NATO as well as the European Union.

In remarks aimed at Russia's opposition to NATO's planned eastward expansion, Constantinescu said Romania does not feel threatened by any other country and that Bucharest would not threaten other countries. But Constantinescu insisted on Bucharest's right to independently form its own policies.