Romania Denies Severe Food Shortages, Shrugs Off Emergency Aid Offers
Dec. 15, 1987
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Communist officials on Tuesday angrily dismissed emergency food aid from West Germany as unnecessary and they denied the nation of 23 million people is facing severe food shortages.
About 5,000 carefully selected delegates to a Communist Party conference met for a second day for closed-door meetings on Romania's mounting economic problems.
In central Bucharest on Tuesday, more than 100 people formed in minutes at a market when it began selling potatoes, which have been in short supply since September.
Besides the potato shortage, quality meat and milk are almost impossible for the average Romanian to obtain, and there are severe shortages of major staples.
Top-ranking Foreign Ministry officials told foreign journalists, however, that Western reports of food shortages in this Balkan nation were exaggerated.
They rejected West German proposals to send emergency shipments of food assistance to Romania's ethnic German minority.
''We have never asked for food help from anyone, and we do not need such aid,'' said the deputy foreign minister, Traian Pop.
''We are not in such a terrible situation. We are not in a situation where we need to call for assistance.''
Western diplomats report a slight increase in supplies to Bucharest food stores recently.
On Nov. 15, 10,000 workers took to the streets of the industrial city of Brasov in a rare public protest of work conditions and food and energy shortages.
The West German parliament recently debated making offers of food assistance for the approximately 250,000 ethnic Germans in Romania. It asked Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to raise the issue in his visit to Romania this week.
Genscher is to arrive in Bucharest on Wednesday. The West German Embassy in Bucharest declined to comment in advance on the agenda for his talks.
Emigration of the ethnic German minority may be one issue.
Romanian officials were clearly not happy about this topic playing a role in any talks.
''This is a marginal issue, and we do not believe it should be given priority,'' Pop said.
The official news agency Agerpres said conference delegates elected a special committee Tuesday to name new members to the Communist Party's powerful Central Committee, an indication that some new blood may be brought into the top ranks.
Senior party and government officials addressed a full session of the conference before it broke into eight groups for economic talks, Agerpres reported.
Security was tight outside the conference site at central Bucharest's Palace of Congresses, adorned for the occasion with 10-foot-high portraits of the nation's president and party leader, Nicolae Ceausescu.
Ceausescu is to deliver a second major speech on Wednesday to close the party conference, and may announce some minor personnel changes, Western analysts in Bucharest said Tuesday.
They spoke on condition they not be further identified.
In a speech Monday, Ceausescu rejected economic reform for Romania and urged workers to produce more while consuming less raw materials.
A harsh decree rationing gas and electrcity for the fourth straight winter took effect early in November, leaving many Bucharest homes cold and darkening city streets at night.