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Rumanian Emigration Policy Scored

June 16, 1978
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A spokesman for Eastern European Jewry charged Rumania today with engaging in “a cruel, comprehensive and calculated system to limit emigration to the absolute minimum” and urged that the United States not renew its waiver of the 1974 Foreign Trade Act restrictions with respect to trade with that country.

The accusation was made by Jacob Birnbaum, national director of the Center for Russian and East European Jewry, in testimony before the trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. The Committee is considering President Carter’s request to renew the waiver of the 1974 act which denies most-favored nation trade status to countries that curtail freedom of emigration.

According to Birnbaum, Rumania has, for years, been “in violation of the family reunion provisions” of the Helsinki Final Act but nevertheless enjoys “MFN status and other economic privileges under false pretenses.” He cited figures to the effect that total emigration from Rumania to the U.S. has dropped to a level of 1000 persons annually.


The case for renewal of the waiver was presented by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs William H. Luers who said there had been “considerable progress…in resolving the most long standing cases” of those who have sought to leave Rumania. He acknowledged, however, that “the present rate of emigration to Israel remains considerably below that of previous years.”

Luers’ position was supported by Reps. Lee Hamilton (D.Ind.) and Paul Findley (R.III.), who favored renewal of the waiver. Subcommittee chairman Charles Vanik (D.Ohio), co-author of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the 1974 Trade Act, noted that Rumanian emigration patterns behaved in a “cyclic” fashion, tending to increase at the time of Congressional review. He said the subcommittee would continue to monitor the situation.

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