American Problems in Dealing With a Soviet Bloc Friend With PM-Shultz-Germany Bjt
Dec. 14, 1985
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Secretary of State George P. Shultz is expected to bring up the issue of human rights here when he and President Nicolae Ceausescu meet Sunday.
Shultz is now on a tour of Europe.
Some members of Congress, chafing over Romanian restrictions on religion and other rights, want to cut off trade advantages which are vital to Ceasescu's regime. If they succeed, the burden will fall on Romania's 22 million people.
Consumers here already cope with the worst food and power shortages in Europe.
The State Department wants to keep Romania on the list of more than 100 countries which get preferential tariff treatment under the most-favored-nat ion trading status.
Romania is the only Soviet bloc country that recognizes Israel, and the only one that does not allow Soviet troops on its soil. Unlike other Soviet bloc leaders, Ceausescu criticizes Moscow as well as Washington over the arms race. The U.S. administration wants to encourage that relative independence.
According to a U.S. government estimate, Romania would lose $500 million a year over five years if most-favored-nation status is revoked.
As it is, drivers here line up before dawn to buy gasoline. Sometimes it's midafternoon before they reach the pump.
Lines stretch in front of food shops. No line often means the shelves are empty.
Gasoline, white flour, bread, meat and other commodities often are rationed in a country so rich in natural resources it used to be known as the breadbasket of the Balkans.
Lights go out for up to four hours a day in parts of Bucharest - and longer outside the capital. In the city of Iasi, households which exceed their electricity quota face a cutoff for the rest of the month.
Romanians are told to avoid using vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and light bulbs of more than 60 watts.
Last winter, the use of private cars was forbidden for 75 days nationwide. Gasoline is a major export in Romanian-U.S. trade, which amounted to $1.2 billion in 1984, overwhelmingly in Romania's favor.
U.S. imports comprised about one quarter. The biggest single U.S. item - worth $106 million - was steam turbines for the Cernavoda nuclear power plant.
Street banners and broadcast slogans proclaim Ceausescu's 20-year rule as ''the golden epoch of Romania's history.''
But local residents, insisting on anonymity, say living conditions have deteriorated steadily since Romania began a crash program in 1981 to pay off its foreign debt of about $11 billion.
The debt is expected to be down to $6 billion by year's end, mostly because the regime exports whatever it can to earn Western currency.
Mircea Raceanu, a Foreign Ministry counselor, argues that most-favored- nation treatment ''should be viewed as an instrument of cooperation, not as an instrument of pressure.'' He said in an interview that a cutoff of trade favors would work against U.S. interests.
American diplomats here say loss of favored trade status would leave them without leverage in dealing with human rights cases.
Romania and Hungary are the only Soviet bloc countries granted most- favored-n ation status, on condition they meet U.S. requirements on allowing emigration. Last year, 21,200 Romanians were allowed to leave, more than from all other Warsaw Pact countries combined.
But bills in Congress would tie the trade status to improving religious freedom and other areas, or eliminate it outright.
Romania's Department of Cults recognizes 14 religious denominations, allowing Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, Moslems, and Baptists, Lutherans and other Protestants to practice their faiths.
But Jehovah's Witnesses and many of fundamentalist Protestant groups are banned. International organizations complain that even members of the recognized denominations suffer persecution and imprisonment for offenses such as smuggling Bibles and speaking against the regime.
The government also was criticized abroad for bulldozing monasteries and churches in Bucharest to make way for Victory of Socialism Boulevard, a pet project of Ceausescu.
Raceanu said, ''Those who say there is no freedom of religion in Romania - it's very strange. It's not correct ... Just because one priest here or there may be unhappy, it's absurd to generalize that there is no freedom of religion in Romania.''
Ceausescu, 67, is widely rumored to be suffering from prostate cancer, but neither Western nor Romanian contacts could confirm that he was ill.
In recent public appearances, he looked thinner and more tired than usual, but he has kept a busy schedule of travel to factories and farms. He stood for more than an hour to deliver his last major public speech on Nov. 28.