By Sally Low
BRATISLAVA — Romanian Securitate secret police are still active in his country, President Petre Roman admitted in Washington on April 16.The Securitate were the backbone of the former Ceausescu Communist Party regime.
Released to coincide with Roman's visit, a report by the US human rights organisation Helsinki Watch highlights limits on freedom of speech and assembly, persecution of demonstrators and violence against ethnic minorities in Romania.
Students, who have been in the forefront of anti-government protests, are generally regarded as dangerous people, according to a young Romanian, Katarina (not her real name), who spoke to Green Left. Activists opposed to the ruling National Salvation Front have been targeted by the Securitate and labelled "hooligans and fascists" by the government, she said. This was particularly the case after demonstrations last June were brutally attacked by miners loyal to the government.
Katarina, an ecology student at a newly established private university in Bucharest, was a delegate to the Central European Environmental Seminar in Bratislava, April 14-20. She is a member of the Green Youth Party, founded in December after a fusion between the youth organisation of the Romanian Ecologist Party and the Romanian Ecological Youth Movement.
A similar process of unity between the half dozen green parties in Romania could arise from a meeting in Bucharest on April 20-21, she said. Last May, six or seven greens were elected to the parliament, the Grand National Assembly.
Under Ceausescu, "we couldn't speak about the environment because they didn't want to hear about it. Now we can act, and there's lots to be done. Pollution is a terrible problem, for example in places like Copsamica, where there is a carbon black factory.
"Ceausescu wanted to turn the Danube delta into an agricultural region, but fortunately he was ousted in time to stop this. Now the region is a national park and we are working to protect it."
Over the next two years, the Green Youth Party, which has members all over the country, plans to cooperate with international conservationists to preserve the delta region and other national parks.
A public reconciliation between students and other oppositionists and the miners who attacked them in June occurred at a meeting of representatives of the two sides in September. Now, says Katarina, after price rises in November and April, "the workers are with us".
When food subsidies were abolished on April 1, the price of bread and eggs rose by around 150%, while alcohol and cigarettes cost about twice as much as they did in October last year. The government's economic "shock treatment" has alienated its working-class supporters. Average wages are only US$25 per month. Since November, workers have demonstrated and struck against the price rises and the meagre social protection afforded them by a government desperate to meet International Monetary Fund conditions for loans. On April 12, more than 60,000 people around the country demonstrated against the price rises and for new elections.