DIPLOMACY - President Klaus Iohannis has said, at a meeting with the heads of diplomatic missions in Bucharest, that he will do everything in his power to ensure that the values of the rule of law, of liberal democracy and of an independent and efficient judiciary are not affected. The president vowed that, regardless of the very dynamic domestic political situation, all decision makers will join efforts to ensure the proper fulfilment of Romania’s role as holder of the presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2019. He reiterated that Schengen accession remains a priority for Romania. Also, according to the head of state, Bucharest’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council is quite strong. As for strengthening the strategic partnership with the US, Klaus Iohannis said this remains a foreign policy priority for Romania.
EUROPEAN AFFAIRS – The Romanian Foreign Minister, Teodor Meleşcanu, said in an interview with the France Press News Agency made public on Tuesday that there shouldn’t be any relation between European funds and the rule of law. Whereas Brussels and Washington have criticized the legislative overhaul in the Romanian justice system over the past two years, which- in their opinion – poses a threat on democratic institutions, Teodor Meleşcanu has referred to a reform carried out transparently. The Romanian Foreign Minister also gave assurances that Romania is a stable and solid democracy. On January 16, the European Parliament debated and voted on rules to reduce pre-financing or suspend EU budget payments to member states which interfere with courts or which do not tackle fraud and corruption. This proposal, launched by the European Commission will be a point on the agenda of negotiations with the Council of the European Union. Romania is currently holding the rotating presidency of this Council.
BREXIT – Romanian PM Viorica Dăncilă and the British ambassador to Bucharest, Andrew Noble, held talks in Bucharest on Tuesday on Great Britain’s leaving the EU, against the backdrop of Romania’s holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Viorica Dăncilă and Andrew Noble underlined the very good stage of bilateral relations, the common role in securing and defending Europe, as well as the tighter economic and social ties between the two countries. The Romanian Prime Minister reiterated that Romania pays special heed to the need to protect the rights of the Romanian citizens living in the UK, and, in her turn, she gave assurances that Bucharest will make everything necessary at domestic level for the protection of the rights of British citizens in Romania.
CORRUPTION -Transparency International Tuesday presented its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries by their public sector corruption levels as decided by consulting experts and business communities. According to the 2018 report, Romania ranks 61st in the world, with 47 points, down 2 places since 2017. Transparency International’s index uses a 0 to 100 scale, with 0 standing for extremely high corruption and 100 for no corruption at all. Out of the 28 EU member states, Romania is 24th. The top positions in the global ranking are held by Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland.
FINANCIAL – The Governor of the National Bank of Romania, Mugur Isărescu, on Tuesday declined the invitation for hearings in the Economic Committee of the Romanian Senate on the way in which the “Romanian Interbank Offer Rate” ROBOR is set and on the severe depreciation of the Romanian national currency, the leu, in recent times. The invitation to answer some questions in Parliament has been extended to Mugur Isărescu against the backdrop of accusations levelled very more and more often by the ruling parties as well as by some experts and journalists, according to whom the ROBOR index is allegedly set following an illegal understanding between the commercial banks, which the National Bank knows of, without intervening on the market. The central bank is also accused of doing nothing to defend the national currency. The Spokesperson for the National Bank of Romania, Dan Suciu, has said it is important that talks in the Economic Committee of the Senate do not to start from ungrounded, fake news.
EURO 2020 – The City Hall of Bucharest on Tuesday marked the countdown to EURO 2020 which kicks off in 500 days time, by mounting an exhibition with the T-shirts worn by prominent Romanian footballers such as Gheorghe Popescu, Gheorghe Hagi, Ioan Andone, Dudu Georgescu, Helmuth Dukadam, Miodrag Belodedici and Bogdan Stelea. Romania has been chosen to organise four matches on the National Arena in Bucharest. The capital city will host three Group C matches and a match in the eighth finals. Consequently, the National Arena will venue these matches on June 14, 18, 22 and 29, 2020. (Translated by AM Popescu and D. Vijeu)