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A look at the main headline-making events this past week
Aid for energy bills
Cards aimed to help disadvantages categories of citizens pay their energy bills started being printed in Romania this week. Then, as of February 1st, employees of the Romanian Post will distribute the cards to the approximately 2.8 million families that need them to pay their electricity and heat bills, starting February 20th. The cards will have 700 RON on them (140 Euro), the first installment of the total aid worth 1400 Ron for the year 2023. We recall that electricity and gas prices have rocketed, creating problems especially for people with low incomes. That is why, a price capping and compensations system is used for all domestic customers in Romania.
Economic growth and Romanians' trust
More than half of the Romanians declare themselves very affected by the increase in prices. In fact, 28% identified prices, inflation and utilities as the main problems that the current leadership of the country should solve, then the standard of living, salaries and pensions. A recent opinion poll also shows that 75% of Romanians are of the opinion that the country is rather going in the wrong direction and only 12% believe that the direction is good. As if to contradict them, the National Commission for Strategy and Prognosis estimated that last year, Romania had a record increase in the Gross Domestic Product compared to 2021 - from approximately 240 to almost 290 billion euros. However, the Commission foresees a slowdown in economic growth to 2.8% for 2023, from 4.9% in the previous year. The inflation rate will decrease significantly by the end of the year to 8%, from 16.4 percent in 2022.
Less respiratory infections in Romania
After an increase in the first part of this year, the number of respiratory infections has decreased substantially in Romania. The Minister of Health, Alexandru Rafila, said that he hopes that, next year, there will be another approach to the flu vaccination, which will lead to the protection of as many people as possible against the flu, because of which many people get seriously ill and even die. He also said that for vaccine coverage to control a seasonal flu epidemic, more than 3.5 million people in the risk categories should be vaccinated. Minister Rafila is of the opinion that Romania will soon take a downward trend and will pass well over the current flu season, which this year came much faster than in previous years
An incident with a strong social impact
A tragic incident in the capital, where a woman was killed by a pack of dogs, brought back to the attention of the Romanian public opinion the situation of stray animals. During the week, announcements regarding investigations and controls have multiplied, but no culprit has been identified. The blame was passed from the animal control authority with City Hall to the local police of the sector in which the incident occurred, accusing them of not doing their duty to slap fines on people who abandon their dogs or fail to sterilize them.
The GRECO group of states standing against corruption (with the Council of Europe) believes that Romania has implemented or treated properly most recommendations on preventing corruption among MPs or magistrates. In a report issued this week, the European body, however, thinks that Bucharest needs to do more regarding conflicts of interest and rules for the interaction between lobbyists and Parliament. GRECO also stated that passing the new laws on the justice system is an important step, but that they have to be followed through effectively.
Romania and the war in Ukraine
US officials quoted by the New York Times said that the Pentagon would keep thousands of troops for 9 more months at the Romanian NATO airbase at Mihail Kogalniceanu, close to the conflict in Ukraine. About 4,000 members of the 101 Airborne Division have been stationed there since last summer. Even though most of the foreign troops reinforcing the eastern flank are American, there are also soldiers from France, Canada, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal. The French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, and the Dutch foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra, were invited on Friday to visit the troops stationed at the base in Cincu.
164 years since the union of the Romanian Principalities
164 years ago, on January 24, the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia united under the leadership of a single ruler - Alexandru Ioan Cuza. Historically, this is political move is considered the first step in the creation of the modern and united Romanian state, a process that ended in 1918. As every year, January 24 is the occasion for celebration all across Romania. Military ceremonies were held in all garrisons with monuments dedicated to the union, while Orthodox churches held Te Deum masses. The epicenter of manifestations was the city of Iasi, once capital of Moldavia, then one of the twin capitals of the United Principalities.
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