CHIEF OF STAFF - The decree signed by Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis on a one year extension of general Nicolae Ciucă’s mandate as chief of staff was published in the Official Gazette on Saturday. On Friday, the president announced, fresh from the meeting of Romania’s Supreme Defense Council, that he had rejected the proposals made by the defense minister Gabriel Leş, on general Ciucă’s successor, because they did not abide by the law. Iohannis said he signed a decree granting a one year extension of the mandate held by general Nicolae Ciucă, whose tenure comes to a close on December 31. Minister Leş believes the president’s decision to extend General Ciucă’s mandate isn’t legally grounded. According to Gabriel Leş such a decision cannot be made without a proposal from the Defense Minister, endorsed by the Prime Minister.
EU – The agenda of the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union will include several difficult files such as the multi-annual budget post 2020 and enhancing the EU’s global role, the Romanian foreign minister, Teodor Meleşcanu, has said. In an exclusive interview on Radio Romania’s News Channel, RRA, minister Meleşcanu has underlined that Romania wants to give more weight, at European level, to the development of the Black Sea area, so that it becomes a priority area for the EU, too, as it is for NATO. In another move, the official website of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union was officially launched on Friday. Romania will take over the half-yearly rotating presidency on January 1, 2019. The website available in Romanian, English and French at romania2019.eu contains useful information for journalists, experts on European affairs and the public at large. The timetable of the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union will be posted on the website on January 15.
INAUGURATION – The ceremony of inaugurating the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be held in Bucharest on January 10, with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and the members of the College of Commissioners in attendance, according to the website www.romania2019.eu, devoted to the Romanian presidency, a website which was officially launched on Friday. According to the same source, on January 10, the Romanian Athenaeum will host an inaugural concert of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Performing will be the EU Orchestra, made up of musicians from all the 28 Member States, internationally acclaimed Romanian musicians such as Adela Zaharia, Ruxandra Donose, Michael König and Sorin Coliban as well as the Choir of the “George Enescu” Philharmonics. Ion Marin and Ion Iosif Prunner will be conducting the orchestra and choir, respectively. Another inaugural concert of the Romanian presidency will be given at the “Bozar” Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, on January 24. The Romanian Youth Orchestra conducted by Cristian Mandeal will be performing pieces by prominent Romanian composers such as George Enescu, Theodor Rogalski, Grigoraş Dinicu, George Grigoriu and Eugen Doga.
REACTIONS – The EC President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said he has doubts that the left-of-centre Government in Bucharest is fully understanding what it means to lead the community bloc for six months. In an interview to the German media, Juncker said that technically, Romania is very well prepared for the mission. He has added however that the domestic political dispute in Romania might leave the impression that the country is not a united entity on the European scene. The right-of-centre Opposition in Romania says that by these declarations, the EC President is actually denouncing the incompetence of the Romanian Government. In exchange, voices from the majority made up of the Social-Democratic Party-the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats say , in exchange, that Juncker, who is a member of the EPP, would actually like to help the opposition ahead of the European Parliamentary elections due in May 2019. Foreign minister Teodor Meleşcanu and the minister delegate for European Affairs, George Ciamba, have issued a joint declaration saying that Romania’s holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union is not a domestic political fighting instrument, but a major country and European project.
GOVERNMENT - Romanian PM Viorica Dăncilă said on Friday, during the last government meeting of the year, that the Regional Development Ministry has attracted 876 million Euros worth of European funds to carry out projects in the fields of education, healthcare, historical monuments, county roads and urban mobility. The ministers decided that the unused money allocated to the National Plan for Local Development should further be used by 2020, for the program which finances local public authorities for ongoing projects. The cabinet also set the methodological norms to grant meal, holiday and other such vouchers.
HISTORY – On Sunday, it’s 71 years since monarchy was abolished in Romania and the country was turned into a so-called people’s republic. On December 30, 1947, when the country was actually under Soviet military occupation and was led by a puppet communist government, king Michael I was forced to abdicate and live in exile, in the West. Earlier, on August 23, 1944, during WWII, it was upon his order that the de facto leader of the country, Marshal Ion Antonescu, got arrested, Romania withdrew from the alliance with Hitler’s Germany and returned alongside its traditional allies, the US and Great Britain. According to historians, this decision shortened the war by at least six months and spared hundreds of thousands of lives. The sovereign was allowed to return to the country only after the Anti-Communist Revolution of 1989, regained some of his properties and the Romanian citizenship that he had been stripped of by the communists. King Michael I was a strong advocate of Romania’s NATO accession in 2004 and EU accession in 2007. He passed away on December 5, 2017, at the age of 96. His first born daughter, Princess Margareta, is his successor as Head of the Royal House and she is also Custodian of the Crown.