DIPLOMACY - Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Friday arrived in Estonia, the first stop on his diplomatic tour of Central and Eastern Europe, which will also take him to Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. The Japanese official is trying to rally support for Tokyo’s firm stand against North Korea. This is the first such visit paid by a Japanese Premier to the region. The Japanese official is to be received by president Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest on Tuesday. The agenda of the talks includes the stage and prospects in the process of strengthening the very good relations under the Renewed Partnership between Romania and Japan at political, economic and cultural level as well as in terms of security and human relations, the Romanian presidency has announced. Other issues, such as the cooperation between the EU and Japan, regional developments with an emphasis to the North Korean file, as well as the Romanian-Japanese cooperation, are also to be tackled. Shinzo Abe is accompanied by a delegation of Japanese businesspeople from the trade and IT sectors, willing to expand business opportunities in Europe. This is the first visit to Romania by a Japanese Prime Minister and comes against the background of celebrating five years since the 2013 Renewed Partnership between Romania and Japan.
EXERCISE – The Romanian Naval Forces on Saturday continued drills on the Black Sea, jointly with NATO partners. The King Ferdinand battleship, carrying a Puma Naval helicopter on board, it out at sea together with the USS Carney destroyer and a Turkish submarine. The drills are aimed at developing underwater warfare capabilities. On Friday, during docking maneuvers in the port of Constanta, naval forces trained against possible terrorist rapid attacks. We recall that at the end of January and in early February, NATO’s permanent forces in the Mediterranean will come train with the Romanian Naval Forces in the Black Sea.
INVESTIGATION – Anti-corruption chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi will be subject to a disciplinary investigation by the Prosecutor Department of the Superior Council of Magistracy, after the Judicial Inspection Corps started criminal proceedings against her for disciplinary offences. The head of the National Anticorruption Directorate is accused, among other things, of having marred the image and professional ability of prosecutors, as well as the prestige of the justice system, as transpires from the audio recordings made public in June 2017. According to the Judicial Inspection Corps, Laura Codruta Kovesi addressed fellow prosecutors using a patronizing and aggressive tone, which was a blatant violation of the minimum standards of professional ethics. We recall that under Kovesi’s mandate, the National Anticorruption Directorate has been constantly praised by the European Commission for helping reform Romania’s justice system.
DEBRIS FLOWS – The death toll of January’s debris flows in Southern California has reached 18 dead. US officials admit hopes of finding further survivors are very low. Mass evacuations have been expanded to the region. Over 1,200 members of emergency rescue services continue to dig through the mudslide, which in some areas reaches 4.6 meters in height. Drones, military vehicles and K9 units are involved in search and rescue operations. The flow of mud and debris, including uprooted trees, electricity poles and boulders, was the result of the heavy rain that hit the mountainous area in the wake of the Thomas fire last month. The mudslide destroyed over 65 homes and damaged another 460 in the wildfire-ravaged areas.
ELECTIONS – The second day of the Czech Presidential election started on Saturday. Polls favor the acting president Milos Zeman to win a second term in office with less than half of the vote, which will require a second ballot to determine the country’s future president. Aged 73, Zeman focused his campaign on opposing migration and anti-European criticism. Of the other eight contenders, Jiri Drahos, a chemistry teacher and former president of the Czech Academy of Sciences has the highest chances of facing Zeman in the second round. In the Czech Republic the president holds reduced powers and has a limited influence, the exception of his constitutional prerogatives.
HANDBALL – The Romanian men’s handball team is today playing Ukraine in Bolzano, Italy, in Group 3 of the 2019 World Cup preliminaries. On Friday, Xavier Pascual’s trainees defeated the Faeroe Islands 28-20, while on Thursday it outperformed Italy, 34-24. With 4 points, Romania is ranked first in the group tables, followed by Ukraine with 2 points, Italy and the Faeroe Islands with zero points. The winners of the six preliminary groups will advance to the playoffs for the World Cup. A total of 13 teams will take part in the tournament, 3 having already qualified: France and the host teams, Germany and Denmark.
TENNIS – Romanian tennis player Mihaela Buzarnescu, 57 WTA, on Saturday lost 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to Elise Mertens of Belgium in the final of the WTA tournament in Australia, totaling 225 thousand dollars in prize money. The match was repeatedly interrupted due to heavy rain. For her remarkable run at Hobart, Buzarnescu on Monday will rank among the world’s top 50 players. Also on Monday the Australian Open is set to start, with Simona Halep seeded first in the competition. Halep will play Destanee Aiava of Australia in the first round. Another five Romanian tennis player will take part in the main draw: Sorana Cirstea, Irina Begu, Mihaela Buzarnescu, Monica Niculescu and Ana Bogdan. Marius Copil will also play in the men’s competition. (Translated by V. Palcu)