A review of the most important events of the week.
The anti-Covid vaccination campaign continues in Romania
In Romania, the anti-Covid vaccination campaign, that started on December 27, is under way. The third batch of 150,000 doses of vaccine, was delivered on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of healthcare staff in medical and social units have been vaccinated in the first stage of the campaign. According to the authorities, the second stage will start at the end of next week, to include people aged over 60 and people who suffer from chronic diseases while the third stage, addressing all those who want to get vaccinated, is expected to start in April. PM Florin Citu said in an online post that the vaccination capacity will increase daily in Romania. Also, the Health Ministry said it works on a simplified procedure of opening and authorizing new vaccination centers. Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu says Romania should soon have one thousand such centers, with a capacity of 150,000 shots per day. Meanwhile, the European Commission has authorized this week the second Covid-19 vaccine, namely the one produced by the US company Moderna. In fact, the EC has already ordered 160 million dozes of the vaccine, on behalf of the EU member countries. The vaccine is to be used for people over 18 and, just like the one produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, will be administered in two dozes. Since the start of the pandemic, over 660 thousand people have been infected with the novel coronavirus in Romania and the death toll exceeds 16,500.
When will Romanian schools reopen?
Romanian schools and kindergartens may open in Romania as of February 8, at the beginning of the 2nd semester, depending on the epidemiological situation, Education Minister Sorin Cimpeanu said after talks with representatives of the trade unions in education and of student and parents associations. He said the health of students and teachers is important and so is proper education, especially for students who have National Evaluation and Baccalaureate exams this year, which will be held in an in-person format. However, on January 11 Romanian students will resume online classes, as decided by the government though an emergency order.
The Government prepares national budget for 2021
The Bucharest Government has continued, this week, talks on the 2021 national budget. Liberal PM Florin Citu has announced that the draft budget will be ready this month so as to be submitted to Parliament on February 4. Until then, the projects that each ministry has for 2021 will be analyzed. PM Citu said he discussed with all ministers and asked them to present all normative acts that can be enforced. Also, he asked for all viable investment projects to be presented and decide whether they can or cannot be financed with European money, so as not to put more pressure on the national budget. According to the PM, the draft budget is built on a 7% deficit of the GDP, a figure that mirrors the firm commitment to fiscal consolidation, without affecting the economy. On Thursday, the Vice President of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, after a telephone conversation with the Romanian Minister of Finance, Alexandru Nazare, said that the EU expects from Romania a robust budget for 2021, after in 2020 expenditure was very high and revenues dropped drastically due to the pandemic. Minister Nazare promised that promoting investment remained a priority, just like the use of European funds. Minister Nazare also gave assurances that the Romanian authorities are considering a fiscal consolidation and a gradual reduction, starting this year, of the budget deficit, which in 2024 would get below the level of 3%.
The Costel Alexe file
The former Minister of Environment, Waters and Forests in the previous Liberal Government in Bucharest, Costel Alexe, currently head of the Iasi County Council, is being targeted by a corruption investigation. Anticorruption prosecutors claim that between March and April 2020, while a minister, he allegedly directly claimed from the director of a steel plant, products made of sheet metal, in connection with the performance of his duties; they concern the free allocation of greenhouse gas emission allowances to the plant and the monitoring of the measures taken by it to close a non-compliant landfill. The said benefits, in the amount of 22 tons and having a value of over 20,000 euros, were allegedly received, in two instalments, at the working point of a company managed by a relative of his. At the same time, the representative of the steel plant is investigated for bribe giving and embezzlement. Previously, the former minister stated that he trusted the act of justice and that he wanted to see the action finalised as soon as possible. He is denying all allegations.
Developments in Washington DC
The Romanian Foreign Ministry said the violence that took place on Capitol Hill is worrying and unacceptable and expressed confidence in American democracy, which it said should remain a model for the entire world. The January 6 meeting of the US Congress aimed to certify the victory of the president-elect, the Democrat Joe Biden, was meant to be a symbolic one. Things ran out of control when supporters of President Donald Trump, who tried to prevent the validation of the election result, which they believe was rigged, took the building by storm. Four civilians and one member of the police force were killed during the attack. Dozens of protesters have been arrested. The head of security resigned and numerous collaborators of Donald Trump are leaving his team. Leaders from around the world have condemned the violent events in Washington DC.Trump conceded publicly for the first time on Thursday that he will not serve a second term, vowing for an orderly transition of power. The Congress eventually ratified the victory of the president elect Joe Biden, the final stage before he takes the oath of office. The inauguration day, the formal ceremony that marks the start of a new presidency, was set for January 20. (Translated by E. Enache)