Parliament endorses state budget for 2021
After fiery debates, with allegations and retorts flung back and forth between Power and Opposition, the state budget and social security budget bills for this year were endorsed by Parliament as drafted by the government. The MPs dismissed the thousands of amendments tabled by the Social Democrats and AUR party in opposition, which in turn accused the Government of discriminating in favour of the agencies run by their own people and of failing to implement previous legislation increasing pensions and child allowances.
This is a novelty, PM Florin Cîţu said in turn, arguing that the dismissal of all of the Opposition’s amendments was among other things a test of the unity of the ruling coalition. According to the PM, the budget focuses on investments, economic recovery, and the restructuring of public institutions.
High-profile cases on trial
The former Minister for Development, Elena Udrea, and the daughter of Romania’s ex-president Traian Băsescu, Ioana Băsescu, were sentenced this week to 8 and 5 years behind bars, respectively, for money laundering and inciting bribe-taking. They had been indicted in a case that looked into the funding of the election campaign of the former president back in 2009. The ruling is not final.
Another case tried this week concerned the anti-governmental protests of August 10, 2018. Under a final ruling, the Bucharest Court dismissed prosecutors’ request to reopen the criminal case against the heads of gendarme forces, accused of a disproportionately brutal response to the rally. Shortly after the court decision was made public, the closing of the “August 10” case turned into a dispute between magistrates and some politicians, discontent with the ruling. President Klaus Iohannis himself urged the Justice Minister Stelian Ion to provide explanations for this course of events. “Things cannot end here,” the head of state argued.
The Higher Council of Magistrates declined taking a public stand on the issue, as the justice minister had requested, but instructed the Judicial Inspection Corps to check all public statements concerning the investigation, in order to safeguard the independence, impartiality and professional reputation of judges and prosecutors.
In a first stage, last June, the Directorate Investing Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) had closed the case on the August 10 protest, including the investigation against the gendarme chiefs, and the allegations of attempted coup. Later on, the former head of DIICOT ordered the reopening of criminal investigations into the gendarme chiefs.
Romanian Police in action
Over the past few days, the work of Romanian Police officers has once again come under scrutiny, after previous inefficient interventions and less-than-honourable conduct. Two workers redecorating a flat in the town of Onești, Bacău County (east), were murdered on Monday by the former owner of the apartment, angry for being evicted a few years before. The police opened fire in order to get into the flat where the man was keeping the 2 hostages, after negotiations between the perpetrator and the officers failed. The Interior Ministry promised a comprehensive report on the case, amid suspicions of police breach of duty. The chiefs of the county and local police forces were replaced, and the Prosecutor’s Office was requested to probe into suspected negligence.
Also this week, workers from a police unit in Bucharest were detained under the charge of having tortured 2 young men last year who had reprimanded them for not wearing face masks and for issuing illegal fines.
Not least, investigations are under way with respect to a search conducted by Transport Police on Wednesday near Bucharest at a different address than the one stipulated in the warrant. The police went to the wrong address and threatened to kill the innocent landlady and her daughter.
The third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is gaining strength in Romania, where the number of infections in 24 hours is on the rise. The vaccine rollout pace on the other hand is also increasing. The number of people having received at least one dose of the vaccine has gone over 1 million this week.
Romanian film wins Golden Bear
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, the most recent film of Romanian director Radu Jude, has won the Golden Bear at the 71st edition of Berlin International Film Festival - Berlinale, held in an online format. The film looks into the relations between the individual and society when the leaked sex video of a school teacher goes viral on the Internet, turning her life upside down. "It is an elaborated film as well as a wild one, clever and childish, geometrical and vibrant, imprecise in the best way. It attacks the spectator, evokes disagreement, but leaves no one with a safety distance," the jury said about Jude's film. The win comes six years after the director won the Silver Bear for his film Aferim!.(tr. A.M. Popescu)