Thursday 17 February 2000

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

The Romanian government has formally withdrawn the controversial bill on
the General Status of Religious Cults, although the decision has not yet been
published officially. Reports have been circulating that such withdrawal was
imminent (see KNS 9 February 2000).

`Today, 10 February, the government voted unanimously to withdraw the draft
law on religious denominations,' GABRIEL ANDREESCU, chair of the Centre
for Human Rights within the Romanian Helsinki Committee, told Keston News
Service from Bucharest on 10 February. `This is a clear, formal, recognised
decision. And a very significant one.'

Andreescu told Keston on 17 February: `Yesterday, 16 February, the Standing
Commission of the Chamber of Deputies received the demand of the Romanian
government regarding the withdrawal of the draft law on religious

The news of the government's withdrawal of the bill was confirmed by
MONICA LOTREANU, a counsellor to the head of the State Secretariat for
Religious Cults Minister NICOLAE BRANZEA. `The meeting of the
government on 10 February decided to withdraw the bill on religion,' she told
Keston by telephone from Bucharest on 17 February, `but we haven't yet
received written notification of this from the government.' Asked what the
reaction of Romania's religious communities was to the withdrawal, Lotreanu
declared: `There has been no reaction so far from religious groups. Everyone
expected this to happen, so there will be no surprise reactions.'

Many religious groups had opposed the draft and the restrictions on minority
communities that would have followed its adoption and seem set to welcome
its withdrawal. `If adopted, the draft would have been very detrimental,' the
President of the Adventist Church in Romania ADRIAN BOCANEANU told
Keston on 10 February. His Church had been among those urging the
withdrawal of the draft.

What happens now, Keston asked Lotreanu at the State Secretariat for
Religious Cults. `I guess we will start again with the whole process. Our
institution will have to negotiate with the Churches and so on,' she told Keston.
`We'll follow the same procedure.' Andreescu of the Romanian Helsinki
Committee is prepared for the next round of the process. `Now, the fight for a
new draft law has been launched,' he declared. (END)

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(c) Keston Institute 2000