EARLY ELECTIONS - The investiture vote for the new Cabinet will be held in Parliament on February 24. Ministers will appear before the specialist committees starting next week. Prime Minister designate Ludovic Orban said he wants to trigger early elections, by enabling citizens to elect a new Parliament, which should be fairer, more honest and more representative. Ludovic Orban is holding talks with parliamentary party officials, in an attempt to garner support for the organization 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. The idea of early elections is mainly supported by the National Liberal Party and Save Romania Union. Regular general elections are scheduled for this autumn.
JUDICIARY - The incumbent Justice Minister Cătălin Predoiu on Tuesday 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 criticized 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 European Commission experts met in Bucharest with members of Parliament's judicial committees. According to the chairman of the judicial committee in the Chamber of Deputies, talks focused on identifying the best solutions regarding the criminal and criminal procedure codes and appointing chief prosecutors.
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, liberalization of the electricity and natural gas markets may push inflation higher than expected, as do the problems in the labor market, such as the shortage of labor and the mismatch between demand and supply in this respect.
COVID-19 - 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 physicians with the World Health Organization has arrived in China to help in the research. Meanwhile, the WHO organizes 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. The official code name for the virus is Covid-19. 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.
TENNIS - Romania's Fed Cup team will take on Italy in a playoff match that will decide which team remains in the World Group, according to Tuesday's draw held in London. The match will be played in Romania over April 17-18. Romania last weekend lost 3-2 to Russia at home, counting towards the final tournament. Simona Halep, world no. 2, did not represent Romania. Italy currently leads 2-1 in matches against Romania.
(translated by V. Palcu)