The Romanian president, Traian Basescu, has provoked controversy by telling women they should have more children. “The birthrate is the mission that women must uphold. How on earth can Roma women have five to six children and Romanian women cannot?” asked the president during a conference for successful women that took place last week. One of his arguments was the fact that the population is shrinking; Romania is projected to have only 15 million inhabitants by 2030. Moreover, the ethnic make-up of the population will change, owing to the high fertility rates of the Roma minority, he added.
The presidential speech continued along the same lines, describing giving birth as a patriotic act, emphasizing maternity as a fundamental mission of woman, and citing the example of his elder daughter, who is expecting a baby.
After one of his interlocutors argued that welfare for pregnant women decreased during the Emil Boc government, both through maternity leave and child allowance, the president replied that Romania has some of the most favorable maternity provision in the EU, pointing out that Belgium allows only 30 days of parental leave with no maternity leave. He added that before child allowance was cut under the Boc government, the birthrate was still in decline.
This was the second presidential input regarding women last week. Earlier in the conference, Traian Basescu declared, “The time has come for a woman candidate to run for Romania’s presidency”, as several female politicians have attracted press and won votes. He mentioned former tourism minister Elena Udrea of the Democratic Liberal Party PDL, whom he had supported in the race for the PDL presidency, Sulfina Barbu and Anca Boagiu. “I would be happy to support a woman for president or for prime minister,” Basescu added. He concluded by saying women are more honest and more trustworthy than men in politics.