Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs
Issue 6 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Tuesday, June 18, 1996
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs met this day at 11:00 a.m. with
a parliamentary delegation from Romania.
Senator John B. Stewart (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, this morning we have the great pleasure of
having with us Professor Oliviu Gherman, the president of the Senate of the
Parliament of Romania. He is accompanied in Canada by his wife, but here this
morning he has with him four senators and various other members of his
I will begin by introducing our Canadian senators, and then I will turn to the
president of the Romanian Senate and ask him to introduce those accompanying
him. Our members who are present today are: Senator Bacon from the Province of
Quebec, Senator Corbin from the Province of New Brunswick, Senator Ottenheimer
from Newfoundland and Labrador, and Senator Bolduc from the Province of Quebec.
Also with us is Mr. Serge Pelletier, our indispensable clerk. I am from Nova
Professor Oliviu Gherman, President of the Senate of Romania: I should like to
introduce my colleagues. Senator Gheorghe Secara is a member of the Party of
the Romanian Unity and a professor at the Polytechnic Institute in Brasov.
Senator Stefan Popa is more widely known in Romania by his literary pseudonym
of Augustin Doinas. As a published poet, he is a member of the Romanian
Academy. He is a member of the opposition party, the Civic Alliance Party. With
us also is Senator Constantin Sava, the Secretary General of the Senate. He is
President of the Council of National Salvation, the party which he also
represents. Senator Aristotel Adrian C<#00E3>ncescu is a member of the
Presidium of the Senate. As well as being a member of the Democratic Party, he
is also a member of a group of parties which is called the Social Democratic
Union Group of Parties. Madame Dumitrescu is a counsellor at the Department of
Foreign Affairs of the Senate. Mr. Fricosu is my personal secretary.
I think that the best way to proceed would be for us to answer your specific
questions so that you will not glean an image which I will describe to you of
The Chairman: Mr. President, during the last ten years or so, our committee has
been chiefly concerned with trade matters. We dealt with the trade agreement
with the United States of America, we dealt with the North American Free Trade
Agreement, NAFTA, as well as with the World Trade Organization Bill. We have
also completed a study of the future of our economic relations with Latin
America. Presently, we are working on a report on Canada's relations with
Europe. I would say the main part of report will deal with trade and economic
matters, but we also have been interested in security matters insofar as Canada
and Europe are concerned.
I know you will have issues that you will want to raise, but let me begin by
asking if it is part of the thinking in Romania that Romania should become a
member of the European Union. Is that something that is in the future, either
in the short-term or in the long-term?
Professor Gherman: I will try to answer to that question and, at the same time,
I will propose an answer to another question, that of joining NATO. These are
As you know, on February 1 last year, Romania became an associate member of the
European Union. On June 22, we presented our offer to become a full member of
the European Union. At the same time we submitted the strategy for transition
toward the moment when we will be received. That strategy has been elaborated
on by all the political forces in Parliament and also by some scientific
authorities, such as the Institute of Research for Economic Development. This
proposal for a strategy has been joined in by a statement, which has been
signed by all the political parties in the Parliament, expressing our will to
join the European Union.
In a poll which took place in December, 92 per cent of the Romanian population
expressed its will to join the European Union. What we want is the negotiation
to start with no discrimination. Obviously, the final decision will be made
when every country perceives that we have reached a sufficiently high standard.
We must be realistic. Joining the European Union is a question of economic
obligation, of economic behaviour, and of the level of democratic development in
If I may use a metaphor, I see the joining of one country to the European Union
like putting together two stones which are rotating at different speeds and
which have a different composition. If the rotation speed is quite different
and if the composition is quite different there is a real danger that the
insufficiently strong stone will be destroyed. Our rotation speed must be must
similar to the rotation speed of the stone representing the European Union. At
the same time, the qualities of the two stones must be similar.
This is a long process. In the case of Spain and Portugal the process took eight
years. However, we are already trying to adjust to the arrival of that moment.
We have a Department of European Integration in our government. Our legislative
court, which is responsible for future legislation, has in mind the need to
coordinate our legislation with that of the legislation of the European
Community. We have an explicit program in place in that regard. The subject has
been discussed in both chambers of Parliament and the expression of the huge
majority of the political forces was positive in this respect.
At the same time, we discussed the prospect of joining NATO. In that regard, a
joint meeting of the two Houses was held on the June 5. In that meeting we
adopted a decision to send a call to all member states of NATO, asking them to
support our decision request membership in NATO. This decision of Parliament
was a unanimous one. All parliamentary forces decided to join in that call to
all the member states of NATO. We ask them to consider that, in the interest of
our country, as well as in the interest of European and trans-European
security, the joining of our country to NATO is essential from our point of
We have heard some specific arguments against our position. However, more than
two years of a partnership for peace, the results are positive. They were
appreciated by all the specialists in NATO at the headquarters in Brussels. On
the other side, they acknowledge our logistical advantage. As you know, before
1989, Romania had a military relationship with Federal Republic of Germany and
with Israel. We appreciate that the cost to us of joining NATO, as well as the
cost to NATO members of this joining, is proportionally smaller in the case of
I will conclude by saying that, in our opinion, we are not only a consumer of
security, we are a producer of security due to our military capacity and also
due to our geo-strategic position.
We are ready to answer any questions you may have.
Senator Ottenheimer: My question, sir, deals with the internal evolution of the
political situation in Romania. Would it be possible for you or one of your
colleagues to describe -- and I recognize that it must be in summary form --
the evolution of your government or power structure since the events of 1989?
Perhaps you could also indicate to what extent the present government or power
structure reflects a continuity with the National Salvation Front and to what
extent are there modifications. Is there continuity or not?
Professor Gherman: I will answer and if any of my colleagues want to complete my
answer I will accept their point of view.
As you know, immediately after the revolution the feeling was explosive. After
the last 10 to 15 years of dictatorship by Ceausescu, which involved an
extraordinary increase of political pressure and an increased feeling of
discomfort, the revolution was like an explosion, like a cylinder in which the
gas has been under extreme pressure and then the valve is opened. Everything
was viewed as being either "black" or "white". Everything
had to be changed completely. University professors were challenged by the
students, and there was no respect for even traffic laws. In many instances
democracy meant having no constraint.
As you know, in May 1990 we held the first election, when the first government,
which was the government of the National Salvation Front, was elected. Between
June 28 1990 and September 25, 1991 the government had to deal with two
specific incidents relating to minority rights. However, the atmosphere of
intolerance, which was specific for that period, has decreased step by step. At
that time dialogue was practically impossible even inside the same political
party. Having overcome many difficulties, the situation has improved. After two
years of being in a vacuum due to the fact that we missed extraordinary
opportunities, things have changed and there is a trend towards macro-economic
stabilization. We reduced inflation from more than 300 per cent per year in 1993
to 28 per cent or 29 per cent in 1995.
This trend towards stabilization also affects our political strategy. Government
and opposition cooperate in essential decisions. Of course, political rivalry
still exists, but when dealing with problems related to the destiny of our
country there is a very acceptable unanimity. The feeling of democracy has been
We succeeded in passing the Constitution by referendum on December 8, 1991.
There are three areas of achievement: The first, and most important area,
relates to the legislature and the creation of a democratic institution. The
second area relates to economic achievements. We started from a very difficult
point in 1989 when we were simply precluded from financial activity. The last
area has two aspects: one has to do with intolerance but, as I said, this is
demonstrating a positive trend, and the other relates to our incapacity to make
decisions. For 50 years decisions were taken by somebody who set himself above
others, so we lost the ability to make decisions and to be responsible for
them. Not only must we learn how to make decisions, we must learn how to
transfer the decisions-making power to local authorities. All the political
forces have agreed that the new law for local administration and for local
elections is a step forward in comparison with the former law.
Senator Bolduc: I had the privilege of going to Romania in May 1973, and I
appreciated very much my one-week stay.
I found tremendous agricultural prosperity and I was struck by the land use
planning. We took a bus tour from Bucarest to Timisoara and I was very
impressed. Subsequently, I understood that the agricultural problem had become
somewhat complicated and that it was less prosperous. What is the present
situation in comparison to 1973? How has agriculture evolved? Has the system
been privatized, as in other countries?
Mr. Gherman: I recognize that you visited us at a very favourable time, because
1973 was an acceptable time in our country's economy. We can say that in the
late 1960s and during the 1970s the Romanian economy was very prosperous. But
after the Ceaucescu family's tour of China and North Korea, they decided to
import the cultural revolution. Things were totally transformed into an
absolutely ghastly dictatorship.
We came to have a feeling of fear, not only toward people but toward objects.
When I saw a flower, I always wondered if there was a microphone in that
flower. The most common feeling in our life was the feeling of fear.
From the agricultural standpoint, the centralization continued until the end of
the Ceaucescu era, with increasingly poor results year after year. Immediately
after the revolution, the first natural reaction was to privatize agricultural
lands. The privatization law was drawn up in 1991.
This law, which came in response to an absolutely natural demand, resulted in
the privatization of more than 85 percent of the agricultural land. We have
overcome two major problems. In the first place, privatization resulted in the
division of farmlands into millions of small parcels; as a result of this
division into excessively small parcels, it was impossible to work the land
scientifically. Secondly, the agricultural mechanization was in a state of
incredible decline. In the final year of the Ceaucescu regime, the major
mechanized farm institutions did not purchase any tractors; everything was sold
to pay their debts. We ended up with an incredible situation of declining
agricultural production as a result of which we moved from being exporters of
agricultural products to becoming importers of agricultural products. This also
happened after the First World War, because of this "excessive division"
of agricultural lands.
Now there is a natural economic tendency, without the use of force by anyone, to
reassemble the agricultural land into large holdings, large agricultural
expanses. Members of the same family and friends will associate with each
other. This indicates a positive trend in agriculture. However, we have extreme
difficulty from the technical standpoint, because agricultural technique is in a
very difficult situation.
The other problem is the problem of the chemical substances that are being used
because, of course, there is a disproportion between the possibility of selling
abroad, at a good price, chemical substances that are at a uniform quality
level, as is electrical power, and selling domestically to peasants who are
unable to purchase them.
Last year was an excellent crop year, but unfortunately this year will be a very
poor one in terms of grain, because the land was covered with snow for more
than five months. This was a unique situation in the history of our country.
Whatever was sown in the fall was destroyed by a layer of ice that smothered
the seedlings. We hope to cover domestic needs, even with the production that
was decimated this year, and to have improved production in other agricultural
I don't want to hide anything from you. I am not here to present some imaginary
things to you.
Senator Bacon: I, too, Mr. President, had the pleasure of visiting your country
last fall, at the time of the IPU conference. And, obviously, I did not get to
the land of Dracula, because they kept us primarily in Bucarest. But I did
manage, nonetheless, to tour the Romanian countryside a bit and to get a few
kilometres out of Bucarest just the same. With the good offices of our
ambassador, we learned more about your country.
As a former Energy minister in my province, of course, I am always interested in
this energy aspect. You spoke earlier about electrical energy in relation to
agriculture. Are you nevertheless going to place greater reliance on nuclear
energy now, or are you going to maintain a substantial portion of your energy
in thermal power? We know that the pollution is not the same. However, with
nuclear energy, it is still necessary to have some places for the nuclear
wastes, to store the nuclear wastes, or do you also have some possibilities in
Mr. Gherman: I will begin with the last part of your question. Hydraulic power
is very limited.
Senator Bacon: Yes.
Mr. Gherman: Very limited. We cannot expect more than one tenth, perhaps, of our
electrical power consumption to come from hydraulic power. And, as you know
very well, the prime minister of your country participated at the start-up of
our nuclear power plant, the first CANDU nuclear power plant, which was built
with Canada's assistance. The atomic power plant has a production of 650
megawatts. At the plant it is a marvellous development, beyond the hopes of our
specialists, and we have already reached 5 per cent of the plant's rated
capacity, and even more than 5 per cent.
We are now completing the second nuclear plant because, as you know very well,
in Cernavoda, there are five nuclear units. The second one has been 65 percent
completed and we anticipate some assistance from your country in order to
continue, about 35 million dollars in assistance to finish the second plant.
But, in addition, we are making a domestic effort to complete the things needed
to build the plant, the second nuclear plant, and we hope that with your
assistance we will be able to complete it by the year 2000, 2001, and get it
operating. This is essential because our policy is focussing on nuclear plants,
which are essential to the Romanian energy industry because of the fact that, in
the first place, natural gas is extremely limited, and petroleum is in very
limited supply for use in the thermal plants.
At the same time, the coal has a very low, very poor heating power, which causes
some problems in eliminating the ash from these enormous quantities of very low
quality coal. We are very interested in pollution because, as you know very
well, the thermal power plants, especially those built to use coal, have free
radical products and no one knows what this free radical is composed of for
several generations. Initially, there was a fear of radioactivity, but it seems
to me that the free radicals present the same dangers as radioactivity and when
the atomic power plant operates in proper conditions there is no radioactivity
as a byproduct. Because of this, our policy is very clearly directed -- this is
independent of any particular political affiliation, and is accepted by all
politicians in Romania -- toward nuclear energy and, because of that, we are
very interested in developing the second plant and, after that, the three other
plants which will be set up at Cernavoda.
Senator Bacon: Thank you.
Senator Corbin: Mr. President, I have not had the pleasure of leaving and
travelling to your country.
Mr. Gherman: It is not too late, we are expecting you.
Senator Corbin: I make a special point of getting some information before
meeting with eminent persons such as you. This morning, browsing through the
few pages devoted to Romania in the Quid, which is a sort of encyclopaedic
reference manual produced by France, I noted that you have a constitutional
provision that is extremely interesting, in my opinion. In Canada we have the
composition, if I may so put it, the following ethnic composition, with at the
bottom the aboriginal people, the so-called founding peoples, the French, the
English, and all those who have arrived here as immigrants.
I note that you have a provision that automatically guarantees, if I read
rightly, 13 seats to the national minorities.
Mr. Gherman: To stable national minorities.
Senator Corbin: Stable? Can you explain this situation to me? Are these seats
guaranteed in the Assembly and the Senate or only in the Assembly?
Mr. Gherman: No, only in the Assembly. It is a guarantee because, when we drew
up the Constitution, we felt that some ethnic groups might be placed at a
disadvantage by the fact that they do not have the power to elect a
representative in the Chamber of Deputies themselves.
We have, for example, the Turks, the Tatars, the Italians, the Czechs, the
Slovaks, the Serbs, who are minorities who are very well connected to the
social life, the economic life of our country. We felt, when drawing up the
Constitution, that these minorities might not be able to participate in
parliamentary activity. And for that reason, we provided that article in our
Constitution, and it is adhered to.
In the Chamber of Deputies, there is a minorities parliamentary group, which is
different from the Hungarian minority, which itself has a parliamentary group
in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. This national minorities group is of
great importance because when we discuss, for example, the budget, it always
presents its views on encouraging minority schools and we have some schools of
different degrees that depend on the number of the respective minority.
We have, for example, the elementary school. We also have secondary schools for
some minorities and, for the Hungarian minority, we have some sections in the
university in all subjects that guarantee the preservation of the culture,
language and traditions. We have an Hungarian section in the Conservatory. We
have an Hungarian opera at Cluj, we have German theatres, Hungarian theatres.
And this is guaranteed by the Constitution, that's true!
Senator Corbin: Thank you very much, Mr. President, and please excuse me, as the
Chairman, Senator Stewart was saying, I have to chair another meeting.
Mr. Gherman: We are very pleased to have had this opportunity, and to invite you
to see what is happening.
Senator Corbin: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Perhaps there are questions members of your group would wish to
direct to us.
Professor Gherman: Although our group is representative of both the government
party and the opposition parties, we appear before you as a cohesive group.
Mr. Stefan Popa, Senator: I visited Canada almost 20 years ago. I was invited to
Montreal, to a national writers' symposium. At that time I made the
acquaintance of many Quebecers. I knew that at that time the separatist
movement was beginning. I know the result, we noted the defeat of the
separatists, but, some time ago now, a new consultation was held and the result,
from what I know, was very close. The separatists and intégristes are
virtually tied in so far as their options are concerned. If you will allow me,
I would like to know now what the situation is from this standpoint.
The Chairman: We have here today two senators from Quebec; Senator Bolduc, who
is a member of the opposition party in the Senate, and Senator Bacon who
supports the government in the Senate. I will turn to both of them in the event
that they will express somewhat different viewpoints on this. Senator Bacon,
perhaps you would lead off.
Senator Bacon: My comment will no doubt be coloured somewhat by partisanship,
one cannot leave that behind, I think. It is true that the Parti Québécois
government has been in office since September 1994. There was of course the
referendum, which resulted in this close outcome, as you well know. Except that
it does not appear that the present government, the Parti Québécois
government, is respecting this nonetheless democratic result. The people
expressed themselves. The result was close, but there was nevertheless an
expression of opinions.
So it was decided, on behalf of the Parti Québécois, to again
prepare for another referendum. There has been, I don't know if you are aware,
a change in premiers. Mr. Parizeau, who was the Parti Québécois
premier, left, and Mr. Bouchard, who was leader of the Bloc Québécois
party in Ottawa, went to Québec to take up the position of premier. He
said in New York, recently, that there would not be a referendum for three
years. But he often changes his mind, in front of business people it helps to
say there will not be a referendum for three years. He is a fairly emotional man
who often, as a matter of fact, changes his way of seeing things.
Previously, he had said he would have quick elections, a few weeks earlier. So
everyone is somewhat on tenterhooks. Obviously, for the other provinces of
Canada, this creates a rather unpleasant situation. And you have to understand
them, they've been hearing about separation for 20 years. It doesn't happen,
people express themselves and it doesn't happen, because the people don't
express a firm desire to do it. And we will have to continue explaining to the
people that a federal government is important, that a federal government can
even protect this same people in many fields, and that is what we intend to do.
Mr. Chrétien, Canada's prime minister, said recently that he would try to
settle the problems one-at-a-time. There is a federal-provincial conference, on
the weekend, with the various provincial premiers and the Canadian prime
minister. Mr. Bouchard will be there. He had said earlier that he would not go
and now he says he will be present. He does not want to discuss the
Constitution, he wants to discuss mainly the economy or a transfer of powers
from the federal government. The federal government is taking some huge steps
in favour of the provinces, which can help strengthen the Canadian federation.
But this creates a climate that is not easy to experience for someone who
rejects Quebec's separation. And I am one of those. Obviously, if someone from
the Parti Québécois were to come and tell you that it will be
paradise after separation, I will not believe him. When you think about the
increasing integration the Europeans want to bring about, this is not a time for
separating countries or breaking up a country. My adherence to Canada is very
strong as a Quebecer, and that does not make me any less a Quebecer. So I
think, if I may be very personal, that many Quebecers think as I do.
Mr. Gherman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Bacon: I was Minister of Culture. I appreciate your talents as a writer,
which we described earlier.
Senator Bolduc: The vote was close. That's true, but the polls have consistently
indicated that at least 65 to 70 percent of Quebecers are basically moderate
federalists, that is, relatively moderate nationalists. They are therefore
federalists and they want to stay in Canada. The question that was put to the
Quebecers is the following: do you want to be sovereign, but at the same time
have an economic union with Canada? Of course, if you put the question to
people in that way, the people will vote for the ideal. Many people were
saying: we're going to vote for sovereignty, but, basically, it will be just
for the sake of arguing with Ottawa. It will provide a basis for negotiations or
There are many moderate nationalists who are federalists and who voted
That is why, at first glance, I hope the federal government will present the
provinces with proposals that can win the support of this group of people,
which is sizeable, because in my opinion, perhaps 25 percent, not more, are
Mr. Popa: Not more.
Senator Bolduc: There is another group that represents 30 or 40 percent of the
people who want a bit more decentralization than there is in the present system
in Canada. It should be understand that in Quebec, while we want more
decentralization, as in Alberta or British Columbia, while the people in the
Maritimes do not want it so much, this also leads to a sort of equilibrium. The
federal government cannot only take account of Québec. It has to take
account of the others. This is a fact.
The issue is whether we are going to create conditions sufficiently attractive
to Quebecers that they will remain in the confederation, which in my opinion
would be ideal from every point of view, both economically and politically.
I think Canada is a country that has been an extraordinary success for 125
years. There are no good objective arguments against or for separation. There
are none, except that Quebecers, when they are speaking extremely emotionally,
will say, "Well, we're a people, we French-Canadians -- because it's not
certain when we say a people whom we are referring to -- but we are a people, so
we want a country."
There is a sort of latent and even disquieting ethnocentrism underneath this,
such that there are many Quebecers who do not speak out and will not say what I
am saying, but who will feel it. I think there is lots of room for the federal
government to make some reasonable proposals.
We already have a system with five or six sectors in the Canadian federation, in
which the powers are not the same pretty well everywhere in Canada.
Take security, for example. Security is handled by the RCMP, but in the province
of Quebec and Ontario, it is the provincial police who handle most of the
things. The RCMP intervenes only on questions involving drugs and terrorism and
things like that.
In the western provinces, there is an old tradition in which the police, which
we call the "mounted police", the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,
played a very important role in the development of the country, so they act not
only as a federal police but also as a provincial police and even a municipal
police force in some cases. That is one situation.
In the area of loans and bursaries for university students, this is a situation
in which Quebec has its own program. The other provinces decided there would be
a Canadian program for them. There is no problem with that. It works very well.
In immigration, we also have some special powers in the province of Quebec. We
exercise them in our own way, perhaps well, perhaps poorly, but in any case it
works. There is no dispute between the federal and the provincial governments,
so it is possible for these things to exist while having a country that, for
the most part, is kept together. In the area of the economic union and in some
forms of the social union, it is possible to do that. A federation is supposed
to be relatively flexible in order to adapt to such problems, which are, when
all is said and done, minor.
If we were in China or Indonesia, people would not see any problems in our
arrangement. With us, it is something of a national sport; it is almost
cultural among Quebecers to feel sorry for themselves.
Mr. Popa: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Gherman: Owing to the fact that we are very pressed for time, I would like
to inform you of two things that are perhaps important to you. Concerning the
bilateral treaty with Hungary, the situation is well on its way. Next week, I
hope the group can reach a consensus because things are well on their way, with
the exception of one very small item. How can one introduce or not introduce a
recommendation of the Council of Europe? All the other items have already been
accepted on both sides.
The negotiations with Ukraine are coming along well. There are two issues,
including the more or less historical issue of making a certain reference in
the treaty to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, of course. There is some reservation
on the part of Ukraine about making a certain historical reference to that pact
and some other very ad hoc legal issues concerning the territories aspects. We
hope to arrive at an acceptable situation. Thank you for this very brief
The Chairman: How many people who would be called Hungarians live in Romania?
Perhaps you could assist me by reference to the map attached to your brief.
Professor Gherman: The area in the centre of Transylvania is the area most
populated by Hungarians. Official statistics show about 500,000 to 600,000
Hungarians in a population of 23 million, that is, 7 per cent.
We also have a substantial population of Gypsies, stable Gypsies, who originally
lived near villages or towns, who declare themselves to be either Hungarians or
Romanians depending on the majority in that village or town. Only about 400,000
people declare themselves to be Gypsies. There are those who, before 1980, were
nomads and who were forced to establish their domicile by decree of Ceausescu.
Those people never integrated themselves into their local communities. They
retain their nomadic style and attitude towards living. The greatest conflicts
which occur between them and the rest of the population is not between them and
Romanian, or them and Hungarian, but between them and the more stable Gypsies
who consider themselves Romanian or Hungarian.
The Chairman: We certainly have enjoyed every minute of our meeting. We have had
a good exchange. We do appreciate your appearance before our committee, and we
hope that the relationship between your country and ours will continue to
flourish and prosper.
Professor Gherman: I think that after your next visit to Romania you will change
your opinion about the realities of our country.
It is a great honour for me to present you with anniversary medal of our Senate.
On December 6, 1994 our Senate celebrated its one 110th anniversary. It is a
great honour for me to present that medal to you.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. Your Senate is three years older than our
Senate in that we date from 1887. You are our seniors.