A roundup of domestic and international news.
EDP - The European Commission has warranted the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) for Romania. According to the government’s Fiscal Strategy, the headline general government deficit in 2019 is planned to have increased to 3.8% of GDP, above and not close to the 3% of GDP reference value. According to the European Commission’s report made public on Friday, the planned excess over the reference value is considered to be neither exceptional nor temporary. The Commission 2020 winter forecast projects a general government deficit of 4.0% of GDP in 2019, 4.9% in 2020 and 6.9% in 2021. The projected increase in the deficit is mostly driven by significant pension increases enacted in the summer 2019, in particular an increase in pensions of 40% scheduled for September 2020 and a further upward recalculation of pensions scheduled for September 2021. Romania’s acting Finance Minister Florin Citu says the opening of the procedure was inevitable and blames it on the Social Democratic Government’s expenditure last year. Minister Citu has also said that measures will be taken to decrease the deficit.
LAW - The Emergency Ordinance on holding early elections, passed by the Romanian government on February 5, was registered at the Senate and published in the Official Journal. The law also stipulates that Romanians in the Diaspora have three days to cast their ballot, provides for the doubling of the number of MPs for the Diaspora and and allows for the ballot to be cast at any polling station. The Senate’s interim Speaker, Titus Corlatean, says the emergency order modifies aspects regarding the election of Parliament only a few months ahead of the election, which is a violation of the Venice Commission’s rules.
BUDGET –Bucharest’s General Council of has adopted the City Hall’s general budget for this year, of over 2.1 billion euros. The City Mayor, the Social Democrat Gabriela Firea, believes this is a realistic budget, though not a generous one. Most of the money will go to projects aimed to ease traffic but also to healthcare, social assistance, building consolidation and culture. Also included in the budget is the hosting of four football matches as part of the 2020 European Championship. Representatives of the Save Romania Union and the Liberals say the budget is not realistic, because the estimated revenues are double their level last year.
CONFERENCE - Romania's acting prime minister Ludovic Orban has attended as a guest of honour the Munich Europe Conference in Germany where he spoke about his country's "solid European profile". According to a government statement, Orban underlined Romania's active involvement in efforts to consolidate the European Union and its major policies and to improve cohesion among member states. The Europe Conference, which is organized as part of the 56th edition of the Munich Security Conference, has been held for the last 15 years and brings together top level representatives of political and business circles. The prime minister, who is accompanied by foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu, is also due to meet in Munich counterparts from a number of states and representatives of the business community.
BREXIT - Almost 500,000 Romanians had applied, by the end of January, for residency in the UK as part of the settlement scheme made available by the UK government to European citizens wishing to continue to live in this country after 31st of December. The foreign ministry in Bucharest said in a statement that 63,000 people applied in January. The deadline for submitting applications is 30th June 2021 for the European citizens reaching UK territory by 31st December this year.
CORONAVIRUS - China's revised death toll of the new coronavirus on Friday neared 1,400. Some 64,000 cases of infection have been recorded so far in continental China, excluding Hong Kong and Macao, which marks a sharp rise over the last two days, as a result of a new benchmark to measure the outbreak. In Bucharest, the health minister has announced that no case of infection has been reported in Romania. The foreign ministry says a Romanian citizen from the Diamond Princess cruise vessel, found in the Japanese territorial waters, tested positive for the new pneumonia virus. He was transferred for isolation and treatment to a Japanese hospital specialising in such situations. Romania's diplomatic mission in Japan is in contact with the Romanian citizen in hospital and the other Romanian nationals on board the vessel. (Translated by E. Enache)