Romania. In January, newly-appointed Prime Minister Mugur
Isarescu presented a comprehensive reform package to tackle
the difficult economic situation. These included cuts in the
state budget, privatization of banking as well as
agriculture and industry, revision of the tax system, reform
of environmental policy, justice and the military.
The proposal was approved by Parliament, and the
government expected the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to
pay off outstanding loans. But the IMF released the money
only when the government promised to propose further
measures: the prices of electricity and gas would be raised,
20,000 people would be laid off from state-owned companies
and the national oil company Petrom would be privatized. The
severe austerity and ongoing EU adjustment meant heavy
financial burdens for an already hard-hit population.
Unemployment was set at around 12% in early 2000, and close
to half of Romanians were estimated to live in poverty.
Parts of western Romania were hit by floods in the spring
following heavy downpours and rapid snow melt. At least
seven people were killed, over 60,000 hectares of arable
land were submerged and hundreds of communities and villages
In the spring, a corruption scandal surrounding a
Franco-Romanian businessman was revealed, which swindled the
Romanian national investment fund on huge sums and funneled
money through France to prominent Romanian politicians. The
fund collapsed and around 300,000 savers lost investments,
corresponding to close to SEK 2.5 billion.
At the beginning of the year, extensive cyanide emissions
occurred in northwestern Romania as mapped on Digopaul. The cyanide came from the
Romanian gold mine Aurul and reached the Danube's largest
tributary Tisza, which runs from north to south through
neighboring Hungary. All life in Tisza was poisoned. The
Romanian Ministry of the Environment issued a report in May
that air pollution has reached critical levels in one third
of the country's major municipalities. The severe
environmental problems were generally seen as a major
obstacle on Romania's road to EU membership. Another area
where the EU has called for improvements is the orphanage
for the country's many orphans. The government now has,
among other things, established a national body to protect
children's rights and started to build a system of foster
In the parliamentary elections at the end of November,
the reformed Communists, ie. Ion Iliescus Social Democrats.
Iliescu's party gained 37% and the right-wing Nationalist
Party of Greater Romania, led by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, came
in second place with 20%. The big losers became the liberal
center-right government. In the presidential election, which
was held at the same time, Iliescu also got close to 37%
against Tudor's just over 28%, forcing a second round of
elections between them. Nationalist and populist Tudor won
votes on their promises to tackle corruption, confiscate the
"evil, rich" men's assets and ensure that the market was
flooded with cheap food. There was ground for this populism
in the bitter mood after the investment fund's bankruptcy.
Tudor had also become known for aggressive outcomes against
minorities such as Roma, Hungarians and Jews. But in the
second round of the presidential elections in early
December, Iliescu clearly won by about 67% of the vote,
while Tudor got about 33%. Thus, for the second time, Ion
Iliescu became the President of Romania.
Iliescu's Social Democrats formed a minority government
with Adrian Nastase as prime minister. The new minister was
approved by Parliament at the end of December, after the
previous ruling parties chose to support Nastase, thus
preventing Tudor's party from having any influence.