FLU – Romania has officially declared a flu epidemic after the number of deaths caused by this disease reached 57. Health Minister Sorina Pintea has urged people not to panic and has made it clear that a drop in the number of infections in the month of February is not to be expected. Among the immediate measures announced is restricting visitors’ access to hospitals, increasing the vaccine stocks, the prophylactic treatment of people who have contact with patients with flu symptoms and the immunization of all medical personnel. Minister Pintea has pointed out that immunization is the only solution to prevent the disease. The most common flu symptoms are high fever, muscle aches and fatigue. At least two of the people who died from the flu had no underlying medical conditions and they resorted to self-medication with antibiotics, which are contraindicated in this case.
EUROSTAT - Malta, Ireland and Romania are the EU countries with the smaller organic surface area, of less than 2% of the total area used in agriculture, a Eurostat report has shown. Among the EU Member States, the countries with the largest shares of organic area in 2017 were Austria (23.4%) Estonia (19.6%) and Sweden (19.2%), followed by Italy (14.9%), the Czech Republic (14.1%), Latvia (13.9%) and Finland (11.4%). The total organic area in the European Union was 12.6 million hectares in 2017, covering 7% of the total agricultural area, which is an increase by 25% as compared with 2012. The total organic area includes both the "area under conversion" and the "certified area". Before an area can be certified as "organic", it must undergo a conversion process, which may take 2 to 3 years, depending on the crop.
BUDGET – The 2019 draft budget is being launched in public debate today after representatives of the Bucharest Government analyze the mayors’ proposals in terms of funds distribution to local authorities. The mayors of Romania’s biggest cities on Tuesday, at a meeting with Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici, asked for at least one third of the funds from the national budget to be allotted to local administration. Minister Teodorovici has announced that the draft budget was built on a deficit of around 2.55% and an economic growth of 5.5%. He has also said that large amounts will be earmarked for key sectors such as health, education and defense.
BREXIT – Two months ahead of Brexit, British PM Theresa May has said she wants to reopen negotiations with the EU in order to reach a withdrawal accord that should be supported by most British MPs. On Tuesday, the House of Commons voted on a series of amendments on the Prime Minister's withdrawal deal. MPs approved an amendment seeking "alternative arrangements" to replace the Irish backstop. An amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit was also passed, although the vote is not binding on the government. On the other hand, EU leaders have insisted that negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened.
MEETING – A two-day informal meeting of the EU defense ministers has started today in Bucharest. The event is taking place against the background of Romania’s holding the presidency of the Council of the EU, and is chaired by the High EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. A working dinner is being held today on “Women, Peace and Security”. Also approached will be stage and perspectives for the implementation of the EU’s global strategy for foreign and security policy. Attending the meeting will be NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg and the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix. (Translated by Elena Enache)