ROYALTY – Romania was on Friday in its second day of three days of national mourning for its last sovereign, King Mihai I. He passed away on December 5 in Switzerland, at the age of 96. Thousands of Romanians stood in huge lines to attend the laying in state ceremony. King Mihai will be interred on Saturday in Curtea de Arges, the final resting place of his wife, Queen Anne, and the other three kings of Romania who preceded him. The funeral will be attended by European monarchy and numerous other officials.
BREXIT – EU leaders on Friday in Brussels agreed to start the next phase of Brexit negotiations. Participants in the summit said sufficient progress has been made in the three key areas: the financial settlement, the future rights of EU citizens and the Irish border. At the summit, President Klaus Iohannis said that he was pleased with results so far, which he said grant him hope that a clear understanding will be reached by the end of next year. The first stage of the accord, according to Iohannis, settles issues facing Romanians working in the UK. British PM Theresa May had called on the 27 member countries to go to the next stage of discussions as soon as possible, and said she wished the EU remain a special and reliable partner. Also on Friday, an extended Euro summit took place, allowing discussions between European leaders on the process of consolidating the economic and monetary union. President Klaus Iohannis reiterated Romania's commitment to joining the Eurozone as an important move both for Romania’s economy and for its position within the EU.
BUDGET – In Parliament in Bucharest, the joint budget and finance committees are trying to finalize their debates and draw up the final report for the 2018 draft budget. On Thursday, the Finance Minister warned that the proposal to supplement funds for the Ministry of Romanians Abroad is a no go for lack of funding. In addition, Minister Ionut Misa said that the budget for the ministry of diaspora went up 45% compared to 2017. The draft budget is supposed to be submitted for debate in plenary session this coming Monday, while the final vote on it and on the social insurance draft is scheduled for December 21. The budget assumes an economic growth of 5.5%, with supplementary income supposed to be shared between health, education and investment. The executive also expects to provide resources for raising the minimum wage and pensions. The budget is contested by the opposition, which claims expected income is over-evaluated.
SCHENGEN – Romanian and Bulgarian Euro MPs committed to work together towards their countries joining the European Union and the Schengen area, passing a common statement to this extent at an informal meeting in Strasbourg. They recalled the fact that European Union members in the free travel area admitted that legal conditions have been met by the two countries to join, which was initially scheduled for 2011. Euro MPs Victor Boştinaru and Andrey Kovatchev, leading the proceedings, said that Romanian and Bulgarian Euro MPs of all political leanings committed to work together to ensure that Bulgaria in 2018 and Romania in 2019 will hold successful presidencies of the European Council rotating presidencies.
DANUBE – Romania will be holding the presidency of the European Union Strategy for the Danube Region between November 2018 and November 2019, following the decision of the 14 member states of the organization. This allows Romania to promote at a European and regional level topics and initiatives of interest to Danube region states. This organization is a joint initiative by Romania and Austria, launched in 2011, meant to encourage economic and social development of the area and of the fourteen member states.
MOLDOVA – The Parliament of Moldova on Friday voted the EU Memorandum on the €100-million aid package, to be disbursed in three installments over the course of 2018. To access the funds, Moldova has to fulfill a set of 28 prerequisites regarding progress in implementing its agreement with the IMF. The requirements forwarded by the Commission are part of the Government’s agenda and part of them, required to disburse the first installment, have already been met, Parliament Speaker Andrian Candu has said. One of the requirements provides for the adopting of a new law on the activity of the Court of Accounts and setting up an agency for processing notifications in the field of public procurement. (Translated by V. Palcu)