French PM backs Romania’s EU bid and wins contracts
BUCHAREST, Oct 18 (AFP) - French Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday gave strong backing to Romania's bid to join the European Union, at the end of a two-day visit that sealed a strategic partnership with the francophile east European country and yielded major contracts for French firms.
“France is on Romania’s side… We believe it is possible to secure the end of (EU) accession negotiations in December and the signing of the membership treaty in early 2005,” he said at a joint press conference with his Romanian counterpart, Adrian Nastase.
The European Commission – the EU’s executive arm – confirmed on October 6, that Romania was on track to join the 25-nation bloc in 2007, although Bucharest still has to complete some areas of its entry dossier, notably in environmental, competition and legal fields.
Raffarin’s visit sealed a “strategic partnership” with a country with which Paris has strong historic cultural ties – one Romanian in four speaks French as a second language. It also led to the signing of a raft of contracts with French firms.
French telecom giant Alcatel and construction group Vinci said on Monday they had won contracts from the Romanian government to improve the country’s transport infrastructure in anticipation of its bid to join the EU.
During the visit, Raffarin also discussed the issue of immigration and secured agreement for the creation of a commission to review international adoptions of Romanian children.
Hundreds of couples, including around 50 from France, saw their adoption files frozen in 2001 when Bucharest imposed a moratorium on the practice.
Under pressure from Brussels, Romania voted in June to severely restrict the possibility for foreigners to adopt Romanian children.
Raffarin and Nastase also inaugurated the first Franco-Romanian intergovernmental seminar, during which Paris pledged to help Romania modernise its administration – one of the conditions set for Romania to join the EU.
Paris has already sent advisors to reform this country’s justice system.
The French premier also held talks with President Ion Iliescu, the speakers of both houses of parliament and opposition leaders.
On the business front, Vinci signed a 30-year contract with the Romanian government for the construction of a 37-kilometre (23-mile) section of motorway between Bucharest and Brasov, the company’s chief executive Antoine Zacharias said.
Zacharias told reporters the contract for the public-private partnership deal was worth EUR 480 million (USD 600 million), “excluding financing and operation”.
The construction site on the Bucharest-Brasov mountainous motorway is located between Comarnic and Predeal, where Vinci is to build 37 bridges and four tunnels, one of them 2.7 kilometres long.
Construction is to begin in late 2005 and last four years. Vinci, one of the world’s largest construction companies, will manage the new highway section for 25 years.
Also Monday, Alcatel said it had signed a contract worth EUR 60 million to provide network modernisation equipment to the Romanian national railway.
The French telecommunications equipment maker said it would equip railways in the southern region of Romania with its electronic interlocking technology, replacing the old relay-based interlocking systems.
The contract, awarded by the Compania Nationala Caile Ferate Romane (CN CFR), represents one of the most important railway projects in Eastern Europe, Alcatel said.
During the next four years, Alcatel will modernise 11 stations, mainly located in the Pan-European Transport Corridor IV – crossing the country in the south and linking the cities of Constanta and Lugoj.
Raffarin, who led a delegation including Transport Minister Gille de Robien and Foreign Trade Minister Francois Loos, flew back to Paris later in the day.
Subject: French News