PROTEST - Dozens of thousands of people protested again in Bucharest and other cities across Romania on Saturday evening against the changes brought to the justice laws and the recent fiscal measures adopted by the government formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. The protest in Bucharest was attended by people from all over the country. The traffic in the area was disturbed and incidents were reported involving protesters and gendarmes. The protesters are accusing the ruling coalition in Romania of trying to subordinate the judiciary, by amending the legislation in the field. In December, several NGOs called on the Government to inform the Venice Commission about the justice laws and the changes in the criminal codes. Recently, the embassies in Bucharest of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland and Sweden have called, in a joint letter, on all the parties involved in the reform of the judiciary to avoid any action that would weaken the independence of the justice system and the fight against corruption.
AJC- Romania's President Klaus Iohannis has received in Bucharest a delegation of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), headed by President David Harris, on which occasion he stated that Bucharest authorities will continue to be extremely open to the Jewish community. In turn, David Harris has appreciated the way in which Romania acted while holding the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, between March 2016 and March 2017, stressing in particular the remarkable results obtained in the field of Holocaust education and research. During the meeting, the two parties also discussed the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the US and the privileged ties between Romania and Israel, to the strengthening of which AJC would like to keep contributing. David Harris has also met with the Romanian interim prime-minister Mihai Fifor, who has stressed Romania's strategic role in the Black Sea area and the country's firm commitment as a NATO member. Established in 1906, the American Jewish Committee is one of the oldest Jewish organisations in the USA, fighting against antisemitism at global level and promoting the observance of human rights.
AIR POLLUTION- The European Commission has announced that on January 30th it will hold a ministerial meeting, involving the participation of nine member states, including Romania. The meeting will focus on the infringement procedure regarding failure to observe the agreed air pollution limits. The other member states, besides Romania, facing infringement are the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and the UK. In 2008, a directive was issued establishing the air quality limits that cannot be exceeded anywhere in the EU, obliging the Member States to limit the exposure of citizens to harmful air pollutants. According to the Commission, despite this directive, these limits are still being exceeded in more than 130 cities across Europe.
BULGARIA - The German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to Sofia on Saturday, for talks with her Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borisov on the priorities of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU. The talks focused on Bulgaria's joining the Schengen agreement, the EU accession of the countries in the Western Balkans, the migration crisis and the relations with Turkey. Merkel hailed the way in which Bulgaria ensured the security of the EU borders, in particular the one with Turkey. She also appreciated the Bulgarian Prime Minister's initiative to organize an EU-Turkey summit, which would openly address all the important issues. The German chancellor has announced that Bulgaria's accession to the Schengen area might start soon with air transportation.
FARMING - Romania owns 33% of the total number of farms in the EU, but, as regards the area of land used in agriculture, the country is outranked by countries such as France or Spain, according to data made public by the National Statistics Institute. According to the institute, Romania's main problem is the fragmentation of agricultural land, which does not help farmers capitalize enough on their production. The study made by the NSI has also revealed that, in 2016, the number of farms dropped by 6% as compared to 2013, when the previous study was conducted.
ATTACK - On Saturday, the Turkish army confirmed it launched a ground and air offensive against the YPG Kurdish militia in the Afrin region in northern Syria. To Ankara, YPG, People's Protection Units, is a terrorist organisation. The operation is regarded with concern by Washington, given that YPG is an ally to the US in the fight against the Islamic State. Ankara accuses YPG of being the Syrian branch of the PKK, which has been carrying out a rebellion in south-eastern Turkey for more than 30 years and is considered by Ankara and its western allies a terrorist organisation.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN- The Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, number one in the WTA rankings, has today qualified for the next round of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, after defeating the American Lauren Davis. The match against Davis was the most dramatic in her career and also the longest, as it lasted three hours and 45 minutes. In the fourth round, Simona Halep will take on the Japanese Naomi Osaka, no. 72 in the WTA classification. Also today, the pair made up of the Romanian Sorana Carstea and the Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia has qualified for the last 16 of the women's doubles. Next they will play against the fourth seed Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, of the Czech Republic. In the men's doubles, the Romanian Horia Tecau and the Dutch Jean-Julien Rojer were defeated by the Australian Sam Groth/ Lleyton Hewitt. Another Romanian player, Ana Bogdan, was eliminated in the third round by the American Madison Keys.
(translated by Mihaela Ignatescu)