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Foreign Exchange

Romania looks to EU membership

The lure of EU membership is encouraging Romania's recently elected government to tackle corruption and rationalize the currency and taxation regimes. If foreign investment is any indication, the reforms are working.

Boom belies narrow market

PRESIDENT TRAIAN BASESCU is getting annoyed about the constant lambasting his country gets as the most corrupt in Europe. He lashed out last month at a German politician who called for Romania's EU bid to be frozen. "Any European politicians will be taken seriously only if he mentions the specific problem of corruption he means," Basescu said. Romania has been little more than a kleptocracy for a long time, though it is starting to change. Rampant corruption is still a big problem and might yet scupper a bid to join the EU by January 1 2007. Transparency International, the Berlin-based corruption watchdog, lists Romania as the most corrupt country in the region and a recent study by the European Central Bank warned that it had the region's weakest institutions.

The EU has specifically linked Romania's qualification for entry to progress in battling corruption. EU expansion affairs commissioner Olli Rehn made sure he fired a warning shot across Bucharest's bows during his first inspection trip at the end of February.

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