SCHENGEN - Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday stated, at the annual meeting with the heads of the diplomatic missions accredited to Bucharest, that Romania’s joining the Schengen area is essential. He has also stated that the logistics needed for Romania’s holding the presidency of the EU Council in 2019 must be properly prepared. The head of state has given assurances that Romania will keep taking part in the debates on strengthening the economic and monetary union and has added that unless it joins the Schengen area, Romania will not enjoy all the benefits ensured by its EU integration. The president has also stated that Romania’s foreign policy pillars are the strategic partnership with the US and its membership to the EU and NATO. Klaus Iohannis has also stated that Bucharest firmly pleads for strengthening trans-Atlantic ties.
OPPOSITION - The National Liberal Party, the main opposition party in Romania, on Tuesday presented the so-called “black book of the ruling coalition”. The president of the party Ludovic Orban has stated that 2017 was a lost year for Romania and the country is heading in the wrong direction from a democratic, economic and social point of view. According to the analysis made by the Liberals, out of the 724 measures that the government formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats committed to implementing, only 33 were implemented, and as regards major fields such as education, health and the economy, less than 5% of the promised measures were taken. Also, budget expenditure exceeded revenues and the money was not used for development, it was mainly spent on personnel expenditure. The National Liberal Party also claims that when the coalition started ruling, the inflation rate was 0.2%, to then reach 3.3% in 2017. Previously, Orban had announced that the Liberals would establish the way in which they were going to act in Parliament, to prevent the validation of the new governmental team, headed by the Social Democrat MEP Viorica Dancila.
JUSTICE LAWS - The Constitutional Court on Tuesday delayed a decision on the challenges lodged by the High Court of Cassation and Justice and the National Liberal Party and Save Romania Union in opposition for January 30. The Court did announce that the law referring to the setup of a special Prosecutor’s Office responsible for investigating judges and prosecutors is constitutional. Magistrates believe that this breaks the principle of equality before the law, as they would become the only professional category in Romania to have a special office for their own prosecution. In turn, the Liberals say that the changes brought to the justice laws break several constitutional principles, including the senators’ and deputies’ right to have legislative initiatives. On Saturday, dozens of thousands of people protested again against the ruling coalition in Romania, whom they blame for trying to subordinate magistrates and to put an end to the fight against corruption. The changes in the justice laws have also been criticized by president Klaus Iohannis, the media and some of Romania’s western partners.
IMF - In an update on its bi-annual “World Economic Outlook”, the International Monetary Fund estimates that world economy will increase its growth rate to 4% in 2018 and 2019. Also, the report reads that last year, economic activity in Europe and Asia was surprisingly better than estimated, so the fund has revised upwards its estimates for the Eurozone, in particular for Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. According to the IMF, the US economy would register an economic growth rate of 2.7% in 2018, but that would slow down to 2.5% in 2019. The Chinese economy would register a rate of 6.6% this year, and 6.4% in 2019. As regards Romania, in its “World Economic Outlook”, published in October 2017, the IMF revised the growth rate estimated for Romania in 2018, from 3.4% to 4.4%.
FLU - A 40-year old woman has died in Botosani, north-eastern Romania, of complications triggered by the flu. This is the third death caused by flu viruses this year in Romania, after a 69 year old woman in Bucharest and a 15-year old boy in Salaj, north-western Romania. The Health Minister Florian Bodog has called on family doctors to continue the anti-flu vaccination campaign this month too, especially of people who are at risk. According to the National Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control, the total number of cases of acute respiratory infections has reached 75,000. Specialists say that, as compared to the same period last season, the total number of ill people is smaller by some 25%.
PACE – Senator Titus Corlatean, the head of Romania’s Parliamentary delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, was elected vice-president of the Assembly in 2018 for the second time in a row. The election was made on the sidelines of a PACE session in Strasbourg. Titus Corlatean was also designated PACE rapporteur for the emergency debate “The Peacemaking Process in the Middle East: the contribution of the Council of Europe”. Scheduled for Thursday, the debate will also occasion a report presented by Corlatean, who will also submit a resolution on this topic to the Assembly for approval.
TENNIS - The pair made up of the Romanian tennis players Irina Begu and Monica Niculescu has qualified for the semifinals of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, after a 3 set victory against the US couple Jennifer Brady/Vania King. Next, Begu and Niculescu will take on the Russians Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina, who won the title in Melbourne back in 2014. On Wednesday, Romania’s only representatives in the singles, Simona Halep, takes on Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Halep is the world’s number one player and also first-seed at the Australian Open. (Translated by M. Ignatescu & V. Palcu)