BUDGET BILL – The PM of Romania, Sorin Grindeanu, has announced that the 2017 budget bill will be finalised in Friday’s Government meeting and sent to Parliament for debate on the same day. The head of government says all the measures included in the governing programme of the leftist ruling alliance have been taken into account in drafting the bill. The largest amounts will be channelled into transportation, agriculture, healthcare and SMEs. Less money than in 2016 will go to education, energy, regional development, home affairs, foreign affairs, the Presidential Administration, the two chambers of Parliament and the Foreign Intelligence Service. The draft public budgets rely on an estimated 5.2% economic growth rate and a budget deficit put at 2.96% of the GDP. President Klaus Iohannis criticised the cuts in the national security budget. The head of state Thursday sent a letter to the PM, describing the budget cuts as not only unjustified, but also completely ill-timed.
JUSTICE – The Romanian Justice Ministry announced on Thursday that on January 30 it would organise a public debate on the government’s pardons bill and on the bill to amend the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure. On Wednesday, the Higher Council of Magistrates opposed the two bills. The Council’s approval is not required for the bills to be endorsed. The Government intends to grant full pardon for all sentences of up to 5 years in prison, and for all fines ordered by courts. Pardons would not apply to repeat offenders and individuals sentenced under special laws. As for the draft amendment to the Criminal Code, it makes abuse of office an offence only in case it has resulted in damages of around 44,000 euros, and lowers the maximum sentence from 7 to 3 years in prison. The two bills have been harshly criticised by the Opposition in Parliament and by tens of thousands of people who took to the streets last weekend. President Klaus Iohannis joined in the protests. The Justice Minister, Florin Iordache, says the amendments are needed to solve the penitentiary overcrowding problem and to bring legislation in line with Constitutional Court rulings.
BREXIT – The British Government Thursday made public the draft law it would send to Parliament in order to trigger the Brexit process. The draft law will be presented and discussed in Commons on January 31 and February 1, and then subject to vote on February 8, the Government said. The bill will be sent to the Lords, the upper body of the legislative, before being sent to the Queen. PM Theresa May promised to trigger Art. 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and initiate the process of Britain’s leaving the EU by the end of March.
BORDER WALL – The President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto announced on Thursday that he cancelled the following week’s planned visit to the USA, where he was scheduled to have a meeting with his US counterpart, Donald Trump. The decision was made after Trump signed an order on the building of a wall on the Mexican border, to counter illegal migration into the USA, with Mexico to pay for the works after it has been completed. After the Mexican President announced his country would not pay for the Trump wall, the US President wrote that Nieto should cancel his visit to the US.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)