74. Memorandum From Paula Dobriansky of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Allen)1


  • MFN Renewal with Romania

In assessing the renewal of Romania’s MFN waiver, both the state of Romania’s emigration policy and the broader policy considerations must be analyzed. (C)


State of Romanian Emigration: To the U.S.—more than 2,800 persons emigrated which is seven times the pre-MFN level. Jewish emigration to Israel—decreased from approximately 4,000 in 1974 to roughly 1,000 in 1980. (State/Jewish organizations concur on these figures.) (U)
Assessment of Romanian Emigration Procedures/Policy: There is considerable disagreement over how restrictive Romanian emigration policies are. This dispute stems from a lack of consensus on how many Jews there are in Romania and what percentage want to emigrate.
State estimates roughly 40,000 Romanian Jews; the Romanian census totals 25,000; the Center for Russian and East European Jewry maintains there are 60–70,000 Jews of whom only one half are officially registered as Jews.
The Romanian Government attributes the decrease in Jewish emigration to the decrease in the total number of Jews in Romania and to the large percentage of elder persons who do not desire to leave. State concurs with this assessment while the Center for Soviet and East European Jewry vehemently disagrees. The Center attributes the drop in emigration to Romanian repressive emigration procedures which intimidate potential emigrants.
All agree that Romania’s emigration practices are repressive. Applications for emigration are discouraged, applicants are harassed from the time they decide to emigrate, and emigration procedures are cumbersome and time consuming. Currently, there is a backlog of 1,800 pending emigration cases.
The Romanian Government has not lived up to the 1979 understanding it made with the American Jewish community (which was intended to formalize and expedite the registration process). (C)

Stances on MFN Renewal

Congressional Position: Jackson’s office supports MFN renewal. It appears that significant Congressional opposition is unlikely.
Jewish Community: There exists no unanimity. The Center for Soviet and East European Jewry supports conditional renewal (only if assurances or an arrangement is granted by the Romanians). However, the major Jewish organizations B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Council, and the Conference of Presidents of major American Jewish Organizations advocate MFN renewal; yet, they hope the President will seek firm assurances from the Romanians to comply with the terms of Jackson-Vanik and to increase Jewish emigration from Romania.
Agencies: Commerce/State support MFN renewal.
NSC Staff: Dobriansky, Lenz, Nau, Pipes, Poats—support MFN renewal. (U)

Broad Policy Considerations

Israel does not want the U.S. to exert direct pressure on Romania in regard to Jewish emigration since it values highly its constructive relationship with Romania.
The U.S. has been a frequent beneficiary of an independent Romanian foreign policy. Thus, it is clearly in the U.S.’s interest to continue maintaining a cordial relationship with Romania.
As the Administration has not yet announced its policy toward Eastern Europe, other East European countries could perceive MFN non-renewal as a harbinger of worsened U.S.-Romanian relations and strained overall U.S. relations with Eastern Europe.
Non-renewal could also send the wrong signals to Western Europe and thwart Alliance backing of our anti-Soviet policies. That is, by avoiding potential deterioration in our relations with Eastern Europe, we will be better enabled to secure West European support of our policies vis-a-vis the USSR. (C)

Proposed Recommendations

In light of the above considerations, I recommend that MFN with Romania be unconditionally renewed. However, given the lack of Romanian compliance with the 1979 understanding, I would suggest the President in his next letter to President Ceausescu or by other means indicate our concern with Romanian emigration [Page 239] practices without directly linking the issue of MFN. That is, concrete Romanian assurances to improve and streamline the emigration procedures which would essentially reduce harassment and establish a timeframe for emigration should be sought. Since Foreign Minister Andrei already gave Secretary of State Haig general assurances to improve Romanian emigration practices, the President would be in a good position to pursue this discussion of assurances in more concrete terms. (C)


That the President seek assurances from Romania for improved emigration procedures without explicit linkage to MFN.2 (C)

  1. Source: Reagan Library, William L. Stearman Files, Subject Files, Romania 06/02/1981–06/21/1981. Secret. Sent for action. “RVA has seen” is stamped at the top of the memorandum.
  2. Allen initialed the “Approve” line.