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Romania: Prime Minister Says Danube Renavigation A Priority

By Nestor Ratesh

Prague, 9 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- These are excerpts from an interview (Nov. 5) by RFE/RL Romanian BD head Nestor Ratesh with Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile.

Q: What was the CEI meeting's most remarkable moment from a Romanian point of view.

A: Apart from the bilateral meetings, which were quite numerous, and during which we discussed specific problems concerning relations between Romania and the countries concerned, was the fact that there has been accepted a point of view which in fact is Romanian, and that is now even in the final document, concerning the Stability Pact, stating that reopening the Danube for navigation is a priority, a special priority for ensuring the stability of the region. And the second element, also about the Stability Pact: the fact that one has to find and present as soon as possible the financial means to implement this Pact, or else we'll continue to have wishes, more than facts. It seems that financing will come from a cluster of sources: the European Union and even institutions like the World Bank or Investment Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It is certain that these mechanisms must be made public as soon as possible, because there are a lot of offers and wishes to become involved in the process outlined by the Pact.

My opinion is that the concrete implementation of the economic elements in the Stability Pact might be initiated in the beginning of next year, that is after the EU announces that it will begin admission talks with all the countries, and after March, when the negotiations actually begin.

Q: Why didn't the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Romania discuss in Prague the location of a new bridge over the Danube, even if this is now the most debated issue in bilateral ties?

A: I was even asked about the bridge by the Polish deputy PM Balcerowicz. It seems that everybody is familiar with this bridge, which has become a kind of disputed claim between Romania and Bulgaria. I have to confess that I had expected the topic (at the talks with Ivan Kostov), I didn't want to be the one to raise it, so I waited for the Bulgarians to bring it up. Instead, they chose to stress defense cooperation issues -- a point of view that was entirely new to me.

From an economic perspective, the construction of the bridge is not justified. If the Bulgarians pay for the whole project, maybe with help from the European Union, then in principle we're ready to talk, even if the Romanian project, a combination of bridge and hydroelectric facilities, in the context of the closure of the Kozloduy power plant (in Bulgaria), looks much more attractive, and in any case cheaper and more efficient.

Q: Why was Romania's neighbor and kin Moldova given so much attention at the Prague summit -- because of the long standing conflict in Trans-dnestr or because of Moldova's current political turmoil?

A: I think both elements played a role. The attention cast on Moldova is also due to the fact that it has been a target of concrete action by the CEI, but from my private conversations I realized that another matter of concern is that Moldova might be facing a change of government that in my opinion is inappropriate in the present context. I don't necessarily want to evaluate the Moldovan government's record, but I have to say that in general it has had a realistic and efficient approach, and it would be a pity, also for Moldova's future integration in the European Union, or for attracting foreign financing. Both these elements were mentioned in the final document (of the Prague reunion), but the Russian troops withdrawal from Trans-dnestr was given priority, also due to the fact that it has been a constant and specific concern for the CEI. (Translation by M. Ticudean, Romanian BD)