BUDGET The government of Romania passed the state budget and social security budget bills for this year, and the fiscal-budgetary strategy for 2021-2023. The budget is based on a 7.16% of GDP deficit target, a 2.4% annual inflation rate and on roughly 680-euro net average salaries. The Liberal PM Florin Cîţu said the budget pushes for the restructuring of state-owned companies this year, and voiced hopes that Parliament will endorse the bills as soon as possible. He also mentioned that the amendments to be tabled by MPs should not exceed the targeted budget deficit and must make clear where the funds would come from. The Supreme Defence Council approved the draft budgets of public institutions in the national defence and security field.
VACCINE The national COVID-19 vaccination programme continues in Romania. According to the Vaccination Coordination Committee, more than 1.3 million doses have been used on close to 800,000 people since the start of the programme on December 27. Most people received the Pfizer vaccine, and some others doses produced by Moderna. As of this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine is also available in Romania. Meanwhile, over 2,700 new SARS-CoV-2 cases were reported in the country in the past 24 hours, the Strategic Communication Group said on Saturday. Of a total of at least 7,000 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalised, some 960 are in intensive care. The total number of cases reported so far in Romania is nearly 777,000, 90% of whom have recovered. The death toll stands at nearly 19,800.
ROMA The president of Romania Klaus Iohannis emphasised on Saturday, in a special message on Roma Emancipation Day, the importance of eliminating prejudice and discrimination, which he said are “much too common” in respect of Roma access to education. He mentioned that the emancipation of Roma slaves 165 years ago, had a major role in the evolution of the profile and values of Romanian society in mid-19th Century, paving the way for the country to embrace European modernity. The head of state also said that for the Roma, the hundreds of years of slavery left “deep and hard to heal scars.” He explained that the 1856 emancipation was a major challenge for the Romanian society as a whole. The president also called for discouraging and punishing hate speech and all racist, anti-Semitic, chauvinistic behaviours.
PROTESTS Pupils and students protested in Bucharest on Saturday the scrapping of full subsidies for railway transport. They say these austerity measures hit the most vulnerable, and the right-of-centre government sacrifices students’ mobility for political purposes. Also on Saturday, nearly 80 workers in Lupeni mine, in Romania’s coal-rich Jiu Valley region, carried on their week-long protests over delays in wage payments. On Friday, after meetings in Bucharest with PM Florin Cîţu and with Energy and Finance Ministry officials, the miners were promised their salaries will be paid next week. Meanwhile, the protest led to the shut-down of the Mintia thermal power plant, which runs on coal. Some 5,000 households are now left without heating, and 11 schools in Deva will resort to online teaching as of Monday, because children cannot study in unheated classrooms.
PANDEMIC The EU is stepping up procurement of coronavirus vaccines, after large-scale criticism for the slow start of the vaccine rollout. The EC president Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted the agreements signed with vaccine producers to give the EU access to serums tailored to fight the new variants. She added the EU antifraud agency is helping member states to identify counterfeits sold in the black market. According to worldometers updates, over 111 million people have caught the virus and at least 86 million have recovered. The global death toll stands at over 2.4 million.
TENNIS The Romanian Simona Halep goes down to 3rd place in the WTA standings on Monday, and will be replaced by Japan’s Naomi Osaka, who won the Australian Open on Saturday. Osaka beat the American Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 in the final, to win her 4th Grand Slam. Simona Halep was defeated this year in the Australian Open quarter-finals by the American Serena Williams. Meanwhile, the Romanian women’s handball side HC Dunărea Brăila qualified in the quarter-finals of the EHF European League, after on Saturday they won a decisive Group D match against the Russian team Kuban Krasnodar, 36-32. Dunărea will take on another Romanian team, the group winners Minaur Baia Mare. The 2 legs of the EHF European League quarterfinals are scheduled for March 27-28 and April 3-4. (tr. A.M. Popescu)