MICHAEL I On Monday, Romania's Parliament will gather in solemn session to honour the last sovereign of Romania, King Michael I, who died on December 5th in Switzerland, aged 96. The coffin will arrive in Romania on December 13th, and on December 16th the former king will be buried in Curtea de Arges, the final resting place of the Romanian royal family. Michael I took the throne in September 1940, and for a long time his was a merely ceremonial role, with the pro-Germany strongman Ion Antonescu actually ruling the country. But on August 23, 1944, the King had Marshall Antonescu arrested, broke the country's ties with the Axis and had Romania join the anti-Nazi coalition. Historians agree that this decision shortened the war by months, saving tens of thousands of lives. He was forced by the communists to abdicate in 1947 and was able to return to the country only after the fall of the regime. He was one of the most important promoters of Romania's joining NATO and the EU.
BUDGET Next week, the 2018 budget and social security bill will reach the joint budget-finance committee of the Romanian parliament. The final vote on the 2018 budget is scheduled for December 21st. Representatives of the ruling coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Romania say that the budget is balanced and sustainable, but the opposition MPs say the time allocated for debate is too short and the bill needs improvement. Next year's budget is based on a estimated 5.5% economic growth rate, an annual inflation rate of 3.1% and a budget deficit below 3% of the GDP. The estimated monthly net salary is the equivalent of some 570 euro. According to the Romanian Government, health, education and investment are next year's priorities. On the other hand, the budget deficit might start decreasing as of 2019, to reach 1.45% of the GDP in 2021. These estimates were presented in the macroeconomic report drawn up by the Finance Ministry, a document which accompanies the 2018 budget bill.
EU FUNDS According to data provided by the European Commission, at the request of the AGERPRES news agency, Romania has spent only 1.1% of the European money allocated within the 2014-2020 financial framework, as compared to countries like Bulgaria and Poland, which have spent 7.5% and 6.5% respectively. The largest part of this amount, approximately 242 million Euro, has been spent through the Regional Development Fund. The countries that have spent less than Romania from the structural and investment funds are Austria, with 0.3%, and Ireland, with 0.9%. AGERPRES recalls that the Romanian Minister Delegate for European Funds Marius Nica has stated recently that in 2023 Romania will be presented as an example of European fund absorption and the percentage of 89% corresponding to the 2007-2013 time-frame is not bad. As regards the 2014-2020 framework, the Romanian minister has stated that 20 of the 27 EU countries have complained about bureaucracy and cumbersome procedures for the implementation of European funds.
ROMANIA 100 The president of the Romania 100 platform, the former technocrat Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, announced on Sunday that the platform, created by people wishing to change politics in Romania, will give birth to a party. The new party will be presented in the coming months and will be open for collaboration with the right-wing opposition. Dacian Ciolos headed a government of specialists from November 2015 until January 2017, when the reigns of power were taken over by the leftist coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. The Ciolos Cabinet was established after the resignation of the Social-Democrat Government headed by Victor Ponta, against the background of large-scale anti-corruption rallies triggered by the tragedy that occurred at the Colectiv club in Bucharest, where 64 young people died in a fire.
PROTESTS New street protests were staged on Sunday in Bucharest and other cities across the country against the ruling coalition. People are unhappy with the changes brought to the justice laws. Promoted by the left-wing coalition and virulently criticised by civil society and the heads of the main judicial institutions in Romania, the controversial bill is currently in Parliament for debate. According to the bill, the head of state cannot alter the nominations for the leadership of the High Court of Cassation and Justice, but will still be able to maintain previous responsibilities with regard to the appointment of the Prosecutor General and of the heads of the National Anticorruption Directorate and the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism. Also, a magistrate will no longer be suspended automatically when taken to court. Under the new laws, a special department will be set up to investigate the magistrates accused of crimes that are related to the justice field.
FAC The Romanian State Secretary George Ciamba will attend in Brussels on Monday the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC). The main topics on the agenda of talks are developments in the Middle East and Iraq. Also, there will be a joint session of the EU foreign ministers and development ministers, focusing on the implementation of the decisions made at the African Union - European Union summit, which was held in Abidjan on November 29-30. Also on Monday, on the sidelines of the Foreign Affairs Council, the European foreign ministers will take part in a working breakfast hosted by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission. The special guest will be the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
ISRAEL Before travelling to Brussels on Monday for talks with the EU foreign policy and security chief Federica Mogherini and EU foreign ministers, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday met in Paris with President Emmanuel Macron. Macron told Netanyahu that Paris disapproved of the White House's decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, but at the same time condemned any threat to Israel's security. He also told the Israeli Prime Minister that he ought to "give peace a chance" and "make gestures toward the Palestinians." Macron suggested that one such gesture would be the freezing of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved through a negotiated, two-state solution both parties agree on. Previously, Netanyahu had stated that Europe's reaction to US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel was hypocritical and said he would not accept a double standard from it. Federica Mogherini herself has criticised the White House's announcement, just like the US's European allies. Also, the Arab League Foreign Ministers have called on Washington, in a resolution made public after a meeting in Cairo on Sunday, to cancel the decision. They have urged the international community to recognize a Palestinian state having east Jerusalem as capital.
HANDBALL The first matches in the round of 16 of the World Women's Handball Championship are taking place in Germany. The Romanian national team, which has qualified from the first position in Group A, will take on the Czech squad on Monday. If it wins, Romanian will play against the winner of the game pitching the Netherlands against Japan. From the previous edition of the world championship, in 2015, Romania came home with bronze. Romania is the only side that has participated in all the 22 editions of the championship held so far.
(translated by Mihaela Ignatescu)