Minister quits after failing to reform

February 18, 2000

Andrei Marga has resigned as Romania's education minister after criticism from MPs that the country's education system faces collapse.

In an open letter, the three leading opposition representatives on the parliamentary education commission stated that the education sector was being underfunded "in deliberate violation of the education act" and legislation on salaried employees in the state sector. According to government spokesman Ionut Popescu, the reason for Professor Marga's decision was that "in an impoverished economy, with a small budget, reforms are very difficult".

Professor Marga is to return to his job as rector of the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca.

A major factor in his resignation was a general strike of school teachers in January. Teachers claimed that a protocol, signed in October 1998 by Professor Marga, the then prime minister, Radu Vasile, and the finance minister, Decebal Traian Remes, promising that education would be "given priority" in the 1999 state budget, had not been implemented.

The leaders of Romania's education trade unions stressed that the strike has "no political meaning".

Romania's difficulties in emerging from the bankrupt economy of the communist era have been compounded by the Kosovo conflict - the Romanian economy is estimated to have lost $900 million as a result of the hostilities. Recently, Romania has been hit by a wave of strikes and strike threats, not only from traditionally militant professions such as coal miners and rail workers, but even from lawyers.

Milan Ftacnik, Slovakia's education minister, has come under parliamentary criticism for having allegedly "led the education sector into a deep crisis". But he has survived a vote of no confidence.

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