A roundup of domestic and international news.
DEFICIT - Last year, Romania's budget deficit stood at 4.6% of the GDP, 0.2 % above the level estimated during November's adjustment, finance minister Florin Citu has announced. In 2018, the budget deficit was 2.88% of the GDP. The increase was triggered by a 0.1% drop in total revenues and a 1.7% increase in spending. According to experts, the budget deficit in 2019 was the highest in the past nine years. Citu has also announced that on January 21st, Romania borrowed 3 billion Euros from the foreign market, by means of two bond issues with 12 and 30 years maturity respectively.
PENSION BILL - The Romanian Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday passed the bill on the elimination of special pensions with 247 votes in favor, no vote against and 21 abstentions. The bill, drafted by the governing National Liberal Party, was debated in plenary session in the form adopted last year by the MPs members of the Labour Committee and eliminates all special pensions, with the exception of those for military, special intelligence service and police staff. Annuities for athletes, artists and scientists have not been eliminated. In the meantime, across Romania, magistrates and clerks have been protesting against the Government's intention to eliminate service pensions.
ARMY - The Romanian Defense Minister Nicolae Ciuca has established in Portugal the main stages in the process of strengthening Romanian army's F-16 multirole fighter squadron. Besides the 12 fighters that have already been purchased, military aviation will purchase from Portugal four multirole planes this year, and another one next year. Minister Ciuca has met with his counterpart Joao Gomes Cravinho, who has stated that Portugal and Romania share the same vision on challenges and threats within NATO.
BLACK VIPERS - The first detachment of the Romanian Army's "Black Vipers" 21st battalion arrived in Afghanistan, the Romanian Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday. Over February - August 2020, the 21st battalion will participate in the 'Resolute Support' mission in Kandahar. Last year, Romania's Supreme Defense Council approved the deployment of 2,100 military and civilian staff to take part in missions abroad this year.
FLU - Eight people have died from the flu in Romania this winter, according to the National Center for Control of Infectious Diseases. The latest victims are a 65 year-old woman and a 46 year-old man, both suffering from other diseases and who had not been vaccinated against the flu virus. Specialists say that Romania is not faced with an epidemic, but the number of cases might grow in the coming weeks. More Romanians got the flu shot this year as compared to 2019, when some 200 people died from the flu. Several schools have already been closed for fear of viral infections.
CORONAVIRUS – The European Commission is working at all levels to monitor the situation regarding the spread of the Coronavirus, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday, adding that it had activated a “rapid alert system” to share information constantly within its departments. The EC also said it could help finance the repatriation of Europeans affected by the coronavirus, which is spreading quickly in China, through a so-called EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Countries around the world are planning to evacuate diplomatic staff and private citizens from Chinese areas hit by the new coronavirus. An EU Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) is also discussing with member states potential actions, including the use of the civil protection mechanism if requested, she said. According to the World Health Organization, the risk posed by the new coronavirus is "very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level." The number of deaths caused by the new virus has increased significantly since it was first identified in the city of Wuhan, in December. Some 100 people have died and the increase rate on the last day of reporting stood at 25%. 4,500 cases have been reported in China. The coronavirus has spread in Asia, the US, Australia and Europe. One first case has been confirmed in Germany, which thus becomes the second European country affected by the infection, after France, where three cases have been reported. No such case has been reported in Romania.
PEACE PLAN - U.S. President Donald Trump is today presenting his Middle east peace plan at the White House, outlining the proposal in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both Netanyahu and his political rival, Benny Gantz, are on a visit to Washington. President Trump said the plan “makes a lot of sense for everybody.” Palestinian leaders, however, have already rejected Trump’s plan, for fear it will make their push for an independent state to include the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem impossible.
(Translated by Elena Enache)