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Council of Europe Rejects Romania, Citing Violence

THE Council of Europe has rejected Romania's application for special guest status. The decision came only hours after neighboring Hungary was admitted as its 24th member. ``We had so much information about Romania, we simply couldn't grant guest status,'' said Peter Sager, chairman of the parliamentary assembly's committee on relations with nonmember states.

Though it noted Romania's ``declared objective of drawing closer to the values of the Council of Europe,'' the committee report expressed concern about outbreaks of political violence. Violations of the rights of minorities and reports that the Securitate (secret police) is being rebuilt also contributed to the tough line, council officials say.

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But Socialists in the Parliamentary Assembly said the committee applied a double standard to Romania. They argued that including Romanian delegates in deliberations would ``contribute to the restoration of democracy in Europe.''

Though the council is little known outside Europe, special guest status is valued by East European governments as a symbol of acceptance in a democratic Europe. Since 1989, the parliaments of Hungary, Poland, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Bulgaria have received such status.

Alexander Barladeaunu, head of the Romanian delegation and president of the Romanian Senate, described the decision as unjust. ``Many European governments got along well with Ceausescu. Now why are they so severe against us?''

Council officials said that contacts with the Romanian opposition prompted their tough stance.

Even some members of the official Romanian delegation, while maintaining solidarity before the vote on Romania, expressed private concerns after the debate.

``My candid assessment is that we don't qualify at this moment,'' Ion Ratiu, leader of the National Peasant Party, told the Monitor. ``Not granting Romania's request will bring strong moral pressure on this government to reform faster.'' When asked about his own safety, he added, ``I'm under constant threat.''

Mihail Balanescu, leader of the tiny Ecologist Party, added that Romania ``has a long way to go before meeting council standards. Most serious, is that the Securitate still exists. My phone is bugged ... reforms are being blocked by Communist bureaucrats in power.''

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