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Romanian report Romanian report
by Euro Reporter
2010-10-15 08:13:45
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Humour tempers horror of Romania’s ‘Golden Age’

At the conclusion of writer/director Cristian Mungiu’s five-part opus, Tales from the Golden Age, television images of the Romanian Communist Party in its seedy glory, and of its doomed leaders wallowing in the phony approbation of their acolytes, are sobering reminders of the deep-seated hatred that underscores this movie’s otherwise good-natured yarns about how ordinary citizens rationalized their miserable existence in the final years of their nation’s agony. Billed as “urban myths,” the stories have the authentic feel of localized parables, but they’re tinged with corrosive irony worthy of Brecht, as their principals, starving, isolated and bewildered, proclaim the benefits of the political machinery that enslaves them. They don’t complain. They don’t blame. They love their Party, accept the appalling conditions imposed on them, and get on with their lives.

That means making adjustments that, in the real world, are patently absurd and dehumanizing. But to these characters, their misadventures are merely amusing distractions in their grinding routines. In the opening story, village officials, having lightened their spirits with drink after a Party apparatchik’s visit is suddenly cancelled, pile onto a carousel in their quickly erected — and now deserted — fairground. After a few giddy circuits, they realize no one can reach the “off” switch, and they’re left spinning interminably, or at least until the recently filled fuel tank is emptied. It’s a simultaneously comic and brutal metaphor that sets the tone for what follows:

A photo editor for the official Party newspaper finds himself at deadline pressured both by his superiors and his realist assistant over efforts to “fix” — prior to the advent of digital tools — a front-page image of the diminutive leader Nicolae Ceausescu, making him appears as tall as his official guest.
A truck driver hauling chickens across the food-deprived country gets waylaid at a highway roadhouse, where his unspoken affection for the owner/chef compels him to steal eggs for black-market trade — with dire consequences.
A hungry cop accepts a live pig from a relative and decides to gas it silently in the tiny kitchen of his overcrowded city apartment, rather than risk the fury of his starving neighbours by slaughtering the animal in the regular way and drawing attention with its dying squeals. Despite all his precautions, the consequences are again bleakly hilarious and not at all tidy.
A young female student, the daughter of impoverished but upstanding parents, falls in with a local teenage con artist to dupe neighbours out of their refundable jars and bottles. Her attempts to improve his game for greater profit invite disaster. Or maybe not.


Romanian tax employees end strike

Thousands of Romanian tax employees who went on strike Thursday over government imposed pay cuts have put an end to their protest after the finance minister promised to restore their bonuses. "We have reached a common conclusion with the trade unions on paying bonuses to civil servants on the basis of an analysis conducted by a joint commission," Finance Minister Gheorghe Ialomitianu told several hundred employees blocking his ministry's corridors.

"I told the minister I trusted him for once," Sed Lex trade union leader Vasile Marica said. "But if he does not keep his promise, we'll be back on strike." Tax officers in major cities including Cluj in the northwest, Constanta in the south, Iasi (northeast) and Timisoara (west) had joined a protest launched Wednesday by finance ministry employees.

"People cannot take it anymore. The cuts are too big. There are employees who receive a third of the payment they used to get," Razvan Bordeianu, vice president of Sed Lex, told AFP. According to Bordeianu, the average monthly salary in the sector is now 1,000 lei (240 Euros) with salaries cut by up to a quarter and bonuses axed under a government austerity plan aimed at reducing Romania's bloated budget deficit to 6.8 percent of gross domestic product.


Romania closer to formal South Stream role

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom signed a memorandum of intent to study the feasibility of the South Stream project in Romania, the company announced. Moscow aims to diversify its natural gas transit options through the South Stream pipeline to Europe. Eighty percent of all Russia's for Europe runs through the Ukrainian gas transit system.

Alexei Miller, the chief executive at Gazprom, met with Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc and Economic Minister Ion Ariton to discuss bilateral energy affairs. Miller, during his meetings in Bucharest, signed a memorandum of intent to prepare feasibility studies for South Stream in Romania, the Russian energy company said in a statement.

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