Romania: Government To Push For Maintaining Adoption Ban

An appeals court in Romania has overturned a government ban on international adoptions of Romanian babies, following an appeal lodged by a non-governmental organization. Romanian authorities in June decided to ban the adoptions in response to accusations by international officials that the country was doing little to stop child trafficking. Now, the government is vowing to fight the court's decision and to maintain the ban.

Prague, 2 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Romania's government has vowed to fight a decision by an appeals court to lift a one-year ban on international adoptions of Romanian children.

The 28 September ruling came after a non-governmental foundation involved in international adoptions appealed to overturn the ban.

Romanian officials say it is unlikely that international adoptions will resume anytime soon in spite of the ruling by the Bucharest court of appeals.

The government issued the ban in June after Emma Nicholson, the European Parliament's rapporteur for Romania, criticized the country's treatment of institutionalized children and indicated that some officials may be involved in child trafficking. The EU warned Romania that its position as a prospective EU member might be reexamined if authorities failed to address what the EU called a child-care "crisis."

The government is using the ban to give it time to rewrite laws to improve the adoption process and the treatment of orphans.

The appeal was lodged by a private Romanian foundation called Children -- Hope of the World, which mediates international adoptions.

Marian Costache, the head of the foundation, says the ban is illegal since it contravenes a 1998 law regulating international adoptions. Costache says the Adoption Committee, the government body that introduced the ban in June, did not have the authority to decide on the interdiction.

"The Romanian Adoption Committee was not invested with the legal power to ban the adoptions, since it was regulated by law. The committee is a body with coordinating and consultative functions and cannot modify a law."

Costache, whose foundation works closely with adoption agencies in the United States, says that because of the ban more than 120 adoption requests have been blocked, although all the necessary fees have been paid.

He adds that his foundation last year contributed more than $600,000 from international adoptions to Romania's child-care system.

The government remains undeterred in its drive to keep the adoption ban in force and says it will pursue all legal means to achieve its goal.

Social Democrat Prime Minister Adrian Nastase last week said the issue had political implications -- an allusion to Romania's efforts to join the EU and NATO -- and warned that his government will use all of its power to block the ruling.

Nastase's statements triggered a vehement reaction from human-rights advocates, who accused him of disregarding the rule of law. Renate Weber, one of Romania's most prominent human rights activists, tells RFE/RL that Nastase's statements are alarming.

"I cannot believe it! I listened to the statement again and again -- and besides [Prime Minister Adrian Nastase's] tone, which was not appropriate for a prime minister -- the essence of his message is absolutely horrific."

Romanian officials defend the ban by saying the situation of institutionalized children has improved. The government has also announced plans to cut the number of children placed in institutions by almost half -- or 25,000 -- by 2004, and to give aid to impoverished families to prevent them from abandoning their children.

Government spokesman Claudiu Lucaci told RFE/RL that EU officials have welcomed measures adopted by Romania -- including the ban. Lucaci said work is under way to come up with a new adoption law.

"Our international partners -- the European Parliament and the European Commission -- have expressed their great appreciation for our government's policy in this field. We'll continue looking into legal and practical ways to establish a mechanism for international adoptions. We are not wasting our time."

Lucaci says that despite diverging opinions and criticism, the government is determined to maintain the ban in order to fulfil its plans to improve the lot of institutionalized children.

"There are many complaints, but Romania's government believes that its goals must be fulfilled and it is necessary to keep the moratorium in place."

Human rights activist Weber points out that not all international adoptions are dubious. She says the interdictions may already have caused deep trauma -- both to foreign families who were in the process of adopting and to the children themselves.