Fine Gael leader lobbied for Romanian adoption

23 February 2004

Fine Gael leader lobbied for Romanian adoption

Mon, Feb 23, 2004, 00:00

The leader of Fine Gael, Mr Enda Kenny, lobbied for a Romanian adoption for an Irish couple despite a ban on foreign adoptions demanded by the EU in accession negotiations.

Mr Kenny's name appears on a list of politicians who lobbied for Romanian adoptions, despite a two-year moratorium on the practice, alongside the European Commission President, Mr Romano Prodi, and US Senator Mr John Kerry, the Democratic presidential hopeful.

"As far as I recall it was for two couples in Castlebar that I wrote a reference saying that they were people of good standing," said Mr Kenny. "I can't recall anyone saying 'Please write me a letter because with the moratorium we cannot get a child unless you do."

He said he did not lobby the Romanian authorities directly and that he was not aware of any moratorium when the letters were written. However, he said the letters were written "sometime after 2001 in my capacity as a public representative".

Romania halted foreign adoptions in December 2001 after EU officials said it could jeopardise its EU accession, planned for 2007. The publication of the list of EU and US politicians lobbying behind the scenes to continue adoptions has caused outrage in Romania.

"Romania is caught in the middle, it is being pulled in all directions by politicians," said Mr Robert Veress, a commentator with the leading Adevarul newspaper. "Before the 2001 moratorium we basically had human trafficking, an export trade in children. But this is a different situation, it's not about money but about influence and favours. The Romanian government used adoptions for gaining support from western European countries like Italy, Spain, France and the U.S."

Couples seeking to adopt babies flocked to Romania after the collapse of the communist regime in 1989 revealed squalid homes filled with over 150,000 children, the legacy of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's prohibition on abortion and birth control.

Since then, over 30,000 children have left the country with new adoptive parents. From the beginning, however, the process was riven with corruption with babies being sold for thousands of euro through adoption agencies.

A moratorium was imposed in December 2001 in advance of a new adoption law, currently working its way through the Romanian parliament. The moratorium allowed adoption only in limited cases, yet 1,115 adoptions have been processed since 2001.

Some 187 cases were approved last December - 105 of them from Italian couples. Italian politicians have made the strongest lobbying effort, according to the list, with nearly 60 interventions in total logged from Italian politicians.

The most prolific lobbyist, with 29 cases, was Mr Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission. His predecessor, Mr Jacques Santer, lobbied twice. Other well-known names on the list include U.S. Senators Mr Joseph Lieberman, Mr Edward Kennedy and Mr Jesse Helms.

The foreign adoptions question has thrown into doubt Romania's EU accession, scheduled for 2007. Mr G√ľnther Verheugen, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, has warned that accession will not be possible unless Romania halts all foreign adoptions.

"Member-states of the European Union do not allow their children to be exported to other countries, and if Romania is serious about EU membership she should follow this example," said Baroness Emma Nicholson, a British MEP and rapporteur for Romania. She said she was "shocked and appalled" by what she called an "ugly phenomenon" of lobbying for children.

"The bulk of the lobbyists have been misled, like would-be parents, into believing they are rescuing orphans," she said.

"These children are often taken from settled environments with foster families or being kept away from Romanian families who would gladly adopt them." The list of foreign lobbyists featuring Mr Kenny's name was compiled by the state adoption agency but leaked by Mr Traian Basescu, the mayor of Bucharest and the leader of the opposition Democratic Party. He accused EU politicians of pretending to play by the rules "while they want us to bend the rules to their own ends". A spokesperson for the government adoption agency said the deciding factor in all cases remained the child's best interests and lobbying did not alter the outcome of cases.