STATE BUDGET The President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, said on Tuesday that the 2019 state budget bill drafted by the left-of-centre Power is “rushed and based on unrealistic economic estimates”. The head of state warned that this is not the budget of the Social Democratic Party, but of Romania, and that stability and prosperity in the years to come depend on this, reads a news release issued by the Presidency. Iohannis is particularly critical of the funding cuts affecting national security institutions, which he sees as an irresponsible decision. Similar comments had been made previously by the right-wing Opposition as well. In Parliament, debates on the budget bill continued in the specialised committees, with the final vote scheduled for Friday. The budget is based on an estimated economic growth rate of 5.5%, a budget deficit of 2.5% of GDP and a GDP of over 200 billion euros.
BANKING The Governor of the National Bank of Romania, Mugur Isarescu, Tuesday assured Parliament that there is no deviation of the ROBOR index from the true market level. In a hearing at the Senate’s committees on budget-finances and the economy, Isarescu explained that the current level of ROBOR, the index used in calculating floating interest rates for national currency loans, can only fluctuate within the 1.5% to 3.5% range, because this is the only way the central bank can attract deposits from and provide loans to commercial banks. On the other hand, the chair of the Senate’s economic committee Daniel Zamfir (ALDE, a junior party in the ruling coalition), said the Romanian banking sector had the lowest financial intermediation rate in the EU, and profit rates twice the EU average. The dispute between Zamfir and Isarescu deepened after in January the local currency, the leu, dropped to all-time lows against the euro for several consecutive days. During the same period, ROBOR came close to 3%, pushing up the interests for national currency loans.
EU The EU member states committed on Tuesday to consolidate the legal framework for the supervision of financial institutions, in order to find the best means to fight money laundering. The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union was invited to initiate as soon as possible negotiations with the European Parliament on the relevant legislative package. According to the Radio Romania correspondent in Brussels, the Romanian Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici, who chaired the ECOFIN meeting, emphasised that the rules for combating money laundering will be fully implemented in all EU member countries.
DEFENCE The Romanian defence minister Gabriel Leş is taking part on Wednesday and Thursday in a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels. According to a news release, topics of major interest are on the agenda, concerning the implementation of the decisions made in the latest NATO summit last year. On the sidelines of the meeting, the Romanian official will also have bilateral talks with his counterparts from the UK, Canada, and other NATO member and partner countries, including Georgia and Ukraine.
FRAUD Bucharest’s “Carol Davila” Medical and Pharmacy University announced that a woman working as a volunteer physician in a public hospital in Bucharest does not appear in its records as a graduate of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The Healthcare Minister, Sorina Pintea, says the documents presented by the individual, who had been practicing gynaecology for 10 years, are forged, and that a criminal investigation will be initiated in this case. Prompted by a media investigation, the new case follows the one involving an Italian citizen who worked unlawfully as a plastic surgeon in private clinics in Romania. A secondary school graduate working as a parking valet in Italy, he already had a 1.5-years suspended sentence in his own country, for claiming to be a physician for a long time.
DIPLOMACY The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Tuesday travelled to Slovakia as part of his on-going European tour. In Bratislava, he reiterated the statements made previously in Hungary, concerning the importance of supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity, and said that Western Allies must not allow Russia to create division between NATO member states. Moscow is not the only power intent on eroding freedom in the region, Pompeo also warned, hinting at China. The US official’s tour also includes Warsaw and Brussels, where he will have talks with the EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini.
TENNIS Romania’s women’s tennis team went up 3 places and is currently ranked 5th with 8,912.5 points, in the Fed Cup standings released by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The increase is owing to the away win against trophy holder the Czech Republic on Sunday. Romania’s next opponent in the Fed Cup semis is France, ranking 4th with 12,995 points, after defeating Belgium (3-1), in Liege. Romania outplayed the Czech Republic, 3-2, thanks to Simona Halep’s 2 wins and to Irina Begu and Monica Niculescu’s victory in the doubles. Romania will take on France away from home on April 20th and 21st, in its first presence in the Fed Cup semi-finals since 1973.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)