PARLIAMENT The Social Democratic Party, in opposition, has today tabled its first motion of censure against the Liberal Government of Romania. The move was triggered by the Orban Cabinet's decision to take responsibility for a bill reintroducing the 2-round voting system for the election of mayors, half a year ahead of local elections. The text of the motion entitled 'The Orban/Liberal Government – the privatisation of Romania’s democracy’ reads that the Government must go not only because attempting to change the voting system right before the election comes against European standards, but also because these changes were operated unilaterally, without parliamentary consultation and debate. According to the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and interim leader of the Social Democrats, Marcel Ciolacu, this is the most serious case of abuse of power. For the motion to pass, the Social Democrats need 233 votes. The party has 198 seats in Parliament, and their allies, the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians, another 30. With 5 or 6 votes short, Marcel Ciolacu said the Social Democrats are negotiating with fellow MPs. PM Ludovic Orban said he was unconcerned with the motion, and that he does not believe it has any chances to pass.
PENSIONS The president of Romania Klaus Iohannis has a meeting today with top officials for the Higher Council of Magistrates, at their request. The meeting focuses on the scrapping of special pensions for magistrates, following the vote in Parliament on January 28th. Magistrates have initiated protests against the decision. Initiated by the Liberal Government, the bill passed by Parliament scraps all pensions that are calculated under a special procedure, except for those paid to military, police and intelligence service personnel. The benefits paid to retired artists, athletes and journalists also went untouched.
FLU Ten people died in Romania from seasonal flu so far, according to the National Centre for Infectious Disease Monitoring and Control. The last death was reported in Sibiu (centre), where a 90-year old woman was infected with the AH1N1 flu virus. Several schools in Bucharest and elsewhere in the country were also closed because of flu cases. The Education Ministry announced that full or partial suspension of classes because of the flu affects over 4,000 students, but that this is not the number of cases among children.
CORONAVIRUS The head of the World Health Organisation has called a new meeting today of the committee on the new coronavirus, to decide whether to label the situation as an international public health emergency. Airlines around the world have decided to suspend or restrict flights to continental China, as the virus spread, killing over 170 people so far. The total number of confirmed cases is nearly 8,000. A growing number of countries are evacuating their citizens from Wuhan, where the epidemic first started. A Romanian citizen also requested to be repatriated from the region. Although some experts say the virus is not as dangerous as SARS was, its quick spreading raises concerns, and some of its traits are still unknown.
BREXIT Britain is leaving the EU on Friday night, after 47 years since joining the bloc in 1973. The Brexit deal was endorsed by the European Parliament on Wednesday, and some formalities are finalised in today’s EU Council meeting. The transition will take 11 months, during which the EU and the UK will work to define their new partnership. At midnight on January 31, the British colours will be taken off the EU institutions. At a meeting with members of the British business community in Romania, PM Ludovic Orban said Bucharest supports the negotiations for a future close relationship between the Union and the UK.
TENNIS The Romanian tennis player Simona Halep was defeated today by Spain’s Garbine Muguruza (32 WTA) 7-6, 7-5, in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year. Halep fails to play a new final in Melbourne, after the one she lost in 2018 to the Danish Caroline Wozniacki. Despite the defeat, as of February 3rd Simona goes up to the second place in the WTA ranking. Halep will also be closer to the top ranked player, the Australian Ashleigh Barty, who also lost in the Australian Open semis. Muguruza will be playing the final against the American Sofia Kenin (15 WTA).
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)