- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2008

FRIEND TO FRIEND

In a farewell speech Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Nicholas F. Taubman faulted Romania for failing to control corruption, enforce the rule of law, promote the health of its citizens and create a prosperous economy to prevent talented young professionals from leaving the country for better jobs.

However, he insisted that he was speaking as a friend and praised Romania for its achievements since overthrowing the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, in 1989.

“My words were from the heart, friend to friend,” Mr. Taubman told an audience at the American Cultural Center in the capital, Bucharest. “Good friends don’t tell you what to do, but they will tell you what they think.”

He called corruption “the antithesis of democracy and the rule of law.”

“Corruption unpunished corrodes belief and credibility in a democracy and stifles economic growth and investment,” Mr. Taubman said.

The remedy is an independent judiciary that will dispense “equal and swift justice for all under the law,” he said.

Mr. Taubman criticized Romania for “low life expectancy and high rates of disease” compared with the average for the European Union, which Romania joined last year.

In Romania, the life expectancy is 68 for men and 75 for women, while in the EU average is 75 for men and 81 for women. On health issues, heart disease, for example, is the cause of 62 percent of the deaths in Romania, but the EU average is only 42 percent.

Mr. Taubman laid the blame for the health problems partially on Romania’s national health service, “which fails to deliver the quality of care Romanians need and deserve.”

A businessman and political fundraiser for President Bush before becoming an ambassador, Mr. Taubman urged Romania to create “incentives and opportunities for private doctors and clinics to offer better quality care at reasonable rates.”

The ambassador also cited the “devastating” statistics on the migration of young professionals to other countries in search of good-paying jobs. Romanian doctors, engineers and computer specialists are in high demand. The brain drain is part of the reason that Romania, a country with 21 million people, is expected to lose about 5 million people by 2025.

“In short,” he said, “Romania is giving its human capital to the rest of the developed world,” he said.

He also called on Romania to expand its highways.

“Transportation should be your number-one priority,” Mr. Taubman said. “Romania, you will not be competitive with either your neighbors or Western European trading partners until the road to Europe is finished.”

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