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Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 17:37 GMT
Romanians' snub to history

The former King of Romania welcomed by well-wishers

By Ray Furlong in Bucharest

The Romanian President, Emil Constantinescu, has marked the 10th anniversary of the overthrow of the communist regime with a call to press ahead with free market reforms.

A number of small ceremonies were held around the Romanian capital, Bucharest, but there has been almost no public interest in the anniversary, as the country battles with a severe economic crisis.

President Constantinescu urges support for pro-western reforms
President Constantinescu urged Romanians to take heart from the spirit of those who fought for the revolution. He used the 10th anniversary to exhort citizens not to lose faith in pro-western reforms.

He was speaking during a ceremony in which he awarded state decorations to several Romanian cities which saw bloodshed during the revolution, such as the northern town of Timisoara where the uprising began early in December 1989.

Over 1,000 people were killed attempting to overthrow Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in the only violent revolution to take place in eastern Europe that year.

Mr Constantinescu said they should serve his countrymen as an example of courage and perseverance.

The president's words came as events marking the anniversary met with almost total lack of interest from the public.

At one ceremony there were just a handful of spectators. Elsewhere, a crowd of about a hundred gathered to watch King Michael, deposed by the Communists, lay a wreath in memory of the revolution's victims.

Apathy related to poverty

The public apathy is largely due to the economic crisis that has put a million people out of work and caused widespread poverty.

Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu shortly before their execution

There's a feeling that things will continue getting worse, and support is growing for the former communists.

President Constantinescu also had a message for the four-party ruling coalition which he is allied with. He said that hope must not be drowned in sterile disputes - a clear warning to a coalition so riven by divisions that Mr Constantinescu today officially swore in its third cabinet since 1996.

The political infighting has only added to the public sense of frustration. This 10th anniversary of the fall of the communist regime has been no occasion for celebrations here in Romania.

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See also:
22 Dec 99 |  Europe
Romania's bloody revolution
16 Jul 99 |  Europe
Romanian generals sentenced for killing protesters
13 Dec 99 |  Europe
Crisis after Romanian premier sacked
14 Dec 99 |  Europe
Romanian PM gives up fight

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