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"The Orphans of our discontent" stirs high-level reactions

Bucharest Daily News - 03-feb-06 - Denisa Maruntoiu

EP Member Baroness Emma Nicholson demanded coverage space from Bucharest Daily News to give her opinion on the international adoption issue, during a press conference yesterday.

Several high ranking European and Romanian officials, as well as representatives of international NGOs gathered in Bucharest yesterday for the first day of the International Conference on Child Rights, organized under the auspices of the Council of Europe's Ministers' Committee.
In the opening statements of the conference, which aims to find solutions to solve the difficulties over care provision for children in informal or formal fostering, European Parliament Member and former rapporteur for Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, tackled the international adoption issue among other topics. Nicholson pointed out that "countries in transition that provide a market for international adoption would better serve the interests of their children by developing adequate community support".
In addition, during the press conference organized after the opening statements, Nicholson commented on the article on international adoption "The Orphans of our Discontent", published in yesterday's edition of Bucharest Daily News.
Nicholson called on Bucharest Daily News to provide her coverage space to present her opinion on international adoption. "I hope Bucharest Daily News considers I am entitled to an interview of the same length and position as the article published today (The Orphans of our Discontent). I demand the newspaper's editor to inform me if my view on international adoptions deserves the same length, position and big title," said Nicholson.
After the press conference, we approached Nicholson to find out more about her intention to tackle the international adoption issue with the help of Bucharest Daily News.
However, Nicholson said she will give us more details only after receiving an official letter from the editor, promising her a story with the same length and position in the newspaper.
"Please talk with Paul Emmett (Nicholson's head of office) about this," Nicholson added.
Nevertheless, right before the press conference, we had an informal discussion with Emmet, who only said that the Baroness had read the article in the morning and that he is confident she is now willing to give us an interview on the international adoption issue.
Nicholson's reaction to the article published in Bucharest Daily News came after she was asked by a journalist why some of her colleagues in the European Parliament are lobbying for the resumption of international adoptions. Nicholson said that the EP has a problem when it comes to lobbying, as the activity is very well paid.
"There are only 727 MEPs and over 4,700 lobby companies. Some MEPs might simply be subjected to pressures from the lobby companies," said Nicholson.

Government aims to decentralize social welfare system

The conference was also attended by Labor Minister Gheorghe Barbu, European Integration Minister Anca Boagiu, the head of the European Commission Delegation in Romania Jonathan Scheele, and the head of the National Authority for the Protection of Children's Rights, State Secretary Bogdan Adrian Panait, who were invited to talk about Romania's strategy on child protection and reform of the social services.
Scheele congratulated the authorities for the progress achieved in the field of social care and child rights. "Romania has proved in a very short period that through political commitment, professionalism and responsibility, a very serious problem affecting human rights can be transformed into a success story. Romania's current laws totally comply with the UN Convention on Human Rights and Romania now has all the experts needed to apply the laws properly. I hope other countries will follow Romania's example," Scheele said.
Barbu thanked the officials and experts at the conference for attending the event and said he is confident that the exchange of ideas and best practices in the child protection field "will support all countries in the shared effort towards further progress".
Barbu also said the Labor Minister intends to focus on decentralization in the social welfare system from the county level to local level. "The decentralization will be accompanied by ensuring the necessary financial resources," added Barbu.
The situation of institutionalized children was also taken into discussion. "This year, about 6,400 teenagers are to leave state institutions. We will focus on helping them find proper work places and we will cooperate with the Labor Minister to also create special accommodation centers," said Panait.
The Integration Minister also thanked the Council of Europe and EU representatives for the support offered to Romania and said every Romanian should be proud that children are now very well taken care of. "We must show everyone how much we have worked to offer our children a better life. Our real progress in the child protection and rights area is of high importance for the EU accession process," said Boagiu.
During yesterday's session, the officials also awarded three teenagers who had competed in the Romanian Students' Essay Competition. The competition, which aimed to encourage the children to express their opinions on the issue of child protection, was organized by the National Authority for the Protection of Children's Rights and the Education Minister and targeted all Romanian pupils aged between 14 and 18.
The winners received books and computers, and were offered the opportunity to make a study tour to Strasbourg.

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