COUNCIL OF THE EU - Romania's holding for the first time the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union is a good opportunity for Bucharest to reassert its commitment to strengthening the European project, said in Bucharest on Friday Romania's president Klaus Iohannis, during a meeting with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and members of the College of Commissioners. Also, Johannis said, the Romanian presidency will highlight Romania's desire to have a successful term, targeting concrete results, which would help advance the European agenda, taking into consideration, however, the complex background of the next six months. In turn, Jean-Claude Juncker voiced his conviction that Romania stands very good changes of having a successful presidency, but also stressed that domestic conflicts should not be exported to Europe. The Romanian presidency of the Council of the EU must provide hope, at a difficult time for the EU, so it will go through several stages, Jean-Claude Juncker also said. The EC president also met with the Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, who said that the EC's initiatives aimed at strengthening the EU and thus benefiting all citizens, are completely in line with the vision and objectives that Romania wants to promote during its term at the helm of the Council of the EU. The members of the EC attended the official take-over ceremony, held on Thursday night a the Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest.
PROTEST - Romanian carriers protested on Friday in front of the European Commission Representation in Bucharest against the latest European regulations in the field. The protest was organized by the National Union of Road Carriers, according to which the medium and long-term effect of such measures would be a division in Europe between the West and the East. According to the protesters, operating costs will grow and taxes and fees will be paid on the territories of the countries that the carriers travel to. The protest coincided with the visit to Bucharest of the EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and members of the College of Commissioners, as protesters wanted to draw European and Romanian officials' attention to the danger posed by the new set of regulations. A similar protest staged by carriers from Eastern Europe was held in Brussels on Thursday. As a result, the Transport Committee of the European Parliament has dropped a number of proposals described as discriminatory.
VISIT - Over May 31st - June 2nd, Pope Francis will pay an apostolic visit to Romania, a country with a predominantly Christian Orthodox population, the Vatican and the Romanian presidential administration announced on Friday. The pope will visit Bucharest, the cities of Iasi and Blaj and the Marian sanctuary in Sumuleu Ciuc. A press release issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Romania reads that the visit will be mainly pastoral, but it will also carry a significant ecumenical message, under the motto 'Let's Walk Together!'. Catholic bishops in Romania hope that the Pope's visit will inspire Romania into gathering together everything that is good and valuable, for the benefit of the country and the common good, and will encourage dialogue between the Christian churches, based on the principle of otherness.
EUROPE CARES - 'Europe CARES' was launched on Friday, an initiative by means of which parents of children with disabilities from 7 member countries, including Romania, have decided to have their voices heard and their children's right to inclusive education observed. Currently, the EU does not have any specific legislation on education for people with disabilities, which causes problems, such as exclusion and segregation. Also lacking are measures to help disabled students integrate into the mainstream education system. In Romania, in the past eight years, the European Centre for the Rights of Children with Disabilities has helped more than 1,000 children have access to education. Currently, in Europe there are more than 70 million persons with disabilities.
BAD WEATHER - Over the past few days, Europe has been hit by massive snow falls and severe frost. Bulgarian authorities have announced that two snowboarders died on Friday in an avalanche in the Pirin Mountains, in the south-west of the country. Albania, too, has reported a fatality, caused by snow. 20 people have died in the past week because of bad weather. Emergency measures have been taken in Serbia, after heavy gusts of wind gathered huge piles of snow on several roads and blocked access to several towns and villages. Montenegrin meteorologists have stated that the first ten days of January were the coldest in decades. In Bosnia, snow storms cut off electricity and telecommunications. In Germany and Austria, heavy snowfalls caused avalanches, blocked roads and isolated villages, and several flights had to be postponed or even cancelled.
(translated by Mihaela Ignatescu)