AT a recent human-rights conference in Paris, the Romanian team found itself isolated. Delegates from the West, as well as those from the East bloc and Soviet Union, joined the criticism. Bucharest's only supporters were Czechoslovakia and East Germany.
In an angry speech, Hungarian delegate Andre Erdos equated Romania with South Africa, charging Bucharest with constructing a new ``Berlin Wall,'' and rounding up its ethnic minorities into bantustans, (the South African term for so-called black ``homelands.'')
The international isolation, analysts say, hurts President Nicolae Ceausescu, who, has long helped justify his rule by pointing to his high international standing. After Mr. Ceausescu bucked Soviet demands to cut diplomatic relations with Israel and send troops to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968, the West rewarded him with high-level visits and trade preferences.
``President Ceausescu always listed his country's policy of independence within the Warsaw Pact as his personal achievement,'' says Jonathan Eyal of the Royal Institute in London. ``The implication of this claim was that, regardless of present economic hardships, only the continuation of Mr. Ceausescu's policies could safeguard Romania's national self-esteem and prevent interference from the Soviet Union.''
But now, no Western leader is willing to meet with Ceausescu. And several West European nations, including France, have withdrawn their ambassadors from Bucharest. Given these moves, Romanian dissidents this spring stressed that Ceausescu was shaming their country.
``How are you going to improve Romania's external relations when all the leaders of the non-communist nations of Europe refuse to meet with you?,'' the signers asked in a letter of protest.
Romanian exile groups hope to add to the pressure. They have begun ``twinning'' West European villages with Romanian villages scheduled to be razed by the government. The West Europeans then send visitors and ``care'' packages to their Romanian counterparts.