PM designate Orban has talks today with parliamentary parties, tries to rally support for early elections
ELECTIONS In Bucharest, the PM designate Ludovic Orban has talks today with parliamentary party officials, in an attempt to garner support for the organisation of early elections. Snap elections may only be called if 2 Cabinet nominations are rejected by Parliament within 2 months. Orban, whose Liberal Cabinet was recently dismissed under a no-confidence motion, Monday sent to Parliament a list of ministers, with no changes whatsoever from the previous team, and a slightly updated government programme. The main party in Parliament, the Social Democrats, announced they will not take part in the talks with the Liberals. The Social Democratic Party filed a challenge with the Constitutional Court, arguing that the President designating a prime minister who has already been dismissed comes against the will of Parliament. On the other hand, the Social Democrats announced they would not hinder the procedures and announced a meeting of Parliament leaders to set a calendar for the hearings of the ministers designate. The idea of early elections is mainly supported by the National Liberal Party and Save Romania Union. Without a parliamentary majority, the Orban Cabinet has resorted more than once to pushing legislation through by requesting Parliament’s confidence. Regular general elections are scheduled for this autumn.
JUDICIARY The incumbent Justice Minister Cătălin Predoiu today in Bucharest presented European Commission experts with a bill on dismantling the special division investigating magistrate offences as well as the progress of debates on this topic. In its latest Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report the Commission criticised the establishment and the activity of this division, which it said was an instrument of political pressure. The latest report under the Mechanism was released in October 2019, and suggested the extension of verification on the Romanian judiciary, on grounds that in 2019 Romania backslid in terms of the fight against corruption and the independence of the justice system. A team of EC experts are in Bucharest until tomorrow, on an assessment mission. They are also scheduled to have talks today with leaders of the Higher Council of Magistrates and members of the judicial committees in Parliament.
INFLATION The central bank has lowered Romania’s 2020 inflation forecast from 3.1% to 3%, Governor Mugur Isărescu announced on Tuesday. For next year the National Bank expects a 3.2% inflation rate. A number of elements have been taken into account, which might lead to a decrease of the inflation rate from the forecast value. These elements include developments in the Eurozone economy, including geopolitical tensions and weaknesses in emerging markets, a possible escalation of trade conflicts, the completion of Brexit, as well as the accommodating monetary policies of the European Central Bank and the Fed. On the other hand, liberalisation of the electricity and natural gas markets may push inflation higher than expected, as do the problems in the labour market, such as the shortage of labour and the mismatch between demand and supply in this respect.
112 February 11 is the European 112 Day, to celebrate the introduction of the Europe-wide emergency number 112. In Romania, the national emergency call system, run by the Special Telecommunications Service, was introduced in 2004. Last year STS operators managed over 11 million calls to this number.
CORONAVIRUS China announced that the novel coronavirus has already killed more than 1,000 people, and the number of cases exceeds 42,000. In the last 24 hours alone, over 100 deaths have been reported, which is the largest number of victims in just one day since the epidemic broke out. Most deaths were reported in the Hubei province. A team of doctors with the World Health Organisation has arrived in China to help in the research. Meanwhile, the WHO organises a 2-day meeting in Geneva, with renowned physicians, public healthcare experts and scientists, in an attempt to encourage a better response of the international community to the new coronavirus outbreak. On opening the meeting, the WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the coronavirus epidemic was ”a major threat,” and called on scientists to work together to develop vaccines or medication to fight the virus. In Romania, several people, including Chinese nationals, are under house monitoring, and the authorities continue to take measures to prepare for possible infection cases. A special unit was set up in Bucharest for the Romanians who return from China and have to be quarantined for 14 days.
AFGHANISTAN Reconstruction and stabilisation missions in Afghanistan had resulted by the end of 2018 in over 2,200 dead and 2,900 wounded, according to an official American report released on Tuesday with regard to the “human costs” of these civilian and humanitarian missions. This is the first report focusing on reconstruction and stabilisation operations alone, including construction of infrastructure, hospitals and schools, military and civilian training, rather than on combat operations against the Taliban or other jihadist groups in the country. The report does not cover attacks on American military bases or on civilian targets either. Romania, which has been taking part in missions in Afghanistan ever since 2002, has lost 30 troops so far. In 2020, Romania has over 700 military deployed to Afghanistan under the Resolute Support mission.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)