WASHINGTON (Nov. 9)
The Reagan Administration today called the education tax the Rumanian government has imposed on would-be emigrants a “Draconian measure” and warned that it will jeopardize Rumania’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status with the U.S.
State Department spokesman John Hughes said the tax “will make it much more difficult for the President to continue to recommend waiver of prohibition on extending trade concessions to a country that restricts emigration.”
Congress this fall extended MFN to Rumania for another year while warning that it will watch closely whether Rumania eliminates prohibitions that are hampering the emigration of Jews and other. In that connection, Hughes said on October 19 that the President will decide next spring whether to recommend MFN for Rumania “not on Rumanian pledges but Rumanian performance on human rights issues.”
As part of the effort to get Rumania to loosen emigration restrictions, Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, visited Bucharest October 6-7 to discuss human rights procedures. On his return, Abrams said President Reagan would base his decision on continued MFN for Rumania on whether Rumanian eases its restrictions.
STERN WARNING ISSUED
But Hughes warned today that the education tax which the Rumanian press published last Saturday “is not the ‘nominal sum'” referred to in the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Foreign Trade Act which links U.S. trade benefits to emigration procedures.
“Rather, the Rumanian education tax appears to be a burden that will run into the tens of thousands of dollars in hard currency for those Rumanian citizens who have received free education through the secondary, university and graduate school levels,” Hughes said reading from a prepared statement.
“We view the imposition of this tax as contrary to the UN Declaration of Human Rights which provides for the right to leave one’s country of birth,” the State Department spokesman continued. “By imposing this Draconian measure, beyond the average citizen’s ability to pay, the Rumanian government appears to be closing the emigration door to most citizens. If that is the case, the Rumanian government has gravely jeopardized its ability to maintain its MFN status.”
Hughes said in reply to a question: “Our Embassy in Bucharest will be discussing the education law with officials of the Rumanian government. Once we have further information from our Embassy, we should be in a position to decide how to respond to to the Rumanian government action.”
In New York, meanwhile, Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, charged that the education tax comes as “shocking repudiation of pledges by Rumanian leaders that they would ease the flow of Jews seeking to emigrate.” Berman praised the State Department’s criticism of the Rumanian action as a clear violation of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
He recalled that a Presidents Conference spokesman had testified in Congress in support of MFN for Rumania “on the basis of assurances given to us that no impediments would be placed in the way of Jews wishing to emigrate.” Berman added:
“While the pace of that emigration has been disappointingly slow, we were satisfied that sufficient progress had been made in facilitating Jewish emigration to warrant our continued support of MFN for Rumania. The report of the onerous education tax means that severe hardship will be imposed on Jews seeking to emigrate, sharply reducing the numbers able to leave. The effects of the tax on the Rumanian economy, by imperiling MFN trade status, would cause severe hardship on all the Rumanian people.”