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FORECAST – The European Commission on Monday upgraded its economic growth forecast for Romania in 2017 to 4.4%, with an estimated slowdown in 2018 to 3.7%. Last autumn, the Commission estimated economic growth to stand at 3.9% in 2017 and at 3.6% in 2018. On the other hand, the Commission expects all EU economic to grow over the next two years for the first time in nine years, although has warned against the high level of uncertainty underlying the forecast, also tied to the new administration in the United States, the upcoming elections in some EU states and Brexit.
REFERENDUM – Parliament on Monday greenlighted the President’s request to hold a referendum on the fight against corruption. The vote was unanimous. On January 24, President Iohannis launched proceedings to hold a referendum, leaving Parliament 20 days to issue a consultative opinion. If the deadline was not met, the President could set a referendum anyways. Under the law, the president must set a date and decide on the question the people will be summoned to answer.
MEETING – President Klaus Iohannis has sent a letter to Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu calling a meeting on Tuesday with respect to the draft budget for 2017 and the draft social security budget. Talks will also be attended by Finance Minister Viorel Stefan. The president is expected to sign the two bills voted by Parliament into law. Prior to the vote in Parliament, the president had voiced concern that the budget deficit might exceed the limit of 3% imposed by the EU, saying that the economic growth forecast underlying the budget is much too optimistic. Also, the president wants 2% of the GDP to be allotted to defence, in line with Romania’s commitments at NATO level.
ENERGY – Romania will have to rely on imports to secure its power consumption, reads a release of Romania’s main electricity supplier Transelectrica. The biting cold this month has got up energy consumption to historic highs, both in terms of electricity and natural gas. On Monday morning Romania’s electricity output of 8,600 was lower than the 9,100-megawat demand. The difference was covered by imports from Ukraine, Hungary and Serbia. In turn, the Energy Ministry claims Romania has no trouble in covering the demand from internal production, while Monday’s imports were to the benefit of the end user.
INVESTIGATION – Romania’s Prosecutor General’s Office on Monday called on the National Integrity Agency to check the financial statements of Romania’s former president Traian Basescu. The request comes as the money laundering investigation involving Traian Basescu was closed. The decision was taken as there was no evidence attesting to a criminal offence that led to the money laundering. Still, prosecutors have launched another investigation regarding forgery of official statements and has called on the Agency to check the former president’s financial statements filed in 2000.
STATISTICS – Romania has one of the lowest national minimum wages at EU level, standing at 322 euros after the salary increase operated as of February 1, second-last ahead of Bulgaria, where the national minimum wage stands at 235 euros. In January 2017, ten EU member states from Eastern Europe had minimum wages below 500 euros – Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, Poland and Estonia. According to Eurostat, the national minimum wage exceeds 1,000 euros in Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg.
MOLDOVA – Ukraine might resume its electricity exports to Moldova, while new border crossing points might be opened on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. The decision was taken during talks held in Kiev between Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip, his Ukrainian counterpart Volodimir Groisman and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The agenda for talks included the Transdniestr issue, defining borders and the mutual recognition of properties. The two Prime Ministers also signed a roadmap for developing Moldovan-Ukrainian cooperation in 2017. (Translated by V. Palcu)