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Romanian president to visit United Kingdom

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Traian Băsescu, the president of Romania

Tuesday, January 18, 2005Romania's president Traian Băsescu has accepted an invitation by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, to engage in his first bilateral visit to the UK.

Băsescu was elected president of Romania in December 12, 2004, in the country's most hotly-contested election since the downfall of the Communist Party in 1989.

The president met with Quinton Quayle, the UK's ambassador in Bucharest, Romania, where he received Mr Blair's invitation. In London, Băsescu will discuss the strong cooperation between the UK and Romania in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the British support that Romania receives in its fight against corruption and its preparation for EU accession. Romania is expected to join the European Union in 2007.

Băsescu is also expected to discuss regional security in the Black Sea area, an important issue of his presidency, as well as to meet British businessmen interested in investing in Romania. The United Kingdom has been one of the largest foreign investors in Romania and continues to invest significantly in the country, which is attractive due to its low labour costs, which are lower than those in the new Central European member states. Foreign investment is expected to increase significantly this year due to Romania's new fiscal policy, which introduced a flat tax rate of 16%, the lowest among EU member states and candidates.

After winning the presidential elections, Băsescu was criticised by many for his outspoken support for his plan to create a Bucharest-London-New York axis, a partnership between Romania, the UK and the USA. Băsescu later backed down on his claims, though he said that the UK and the US remain of great interest to Romania for reasons of security. Romania remains a staunch supporter of the US- and UK-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

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