Economy. The Romanian executive launched, on Wednesday an economic recovery plan of over 100 billion Euros. At the presentation of the plan, the Liberal Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said that the elaborated program took into account the problems facing Romania, accentuated by the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. "We have found that companies' access to resources, to capital, is extremely difficult and restricted," the prime minister said. Attending the event, President Klaus Iohannis spoke about "a project of major importance for Romania of tomorrow". According to the head of state, Romania must adapt to the new conditions and become more competitive. "The time has come for all economic measures to be included in a single plan and to turn on the engines for economic recovery", Klaus Iohannis stated. The opposition has criticized the plan, saying it does not provide real economic recovery solutions. The Save Romania Union has said many of the proposals are outdated, populist and with no funding sources. According to the new economic plan, 80% of the money would be invested in transport, health, education and energy infrastructure. The relaunch plan also provides support measures for the areas affected by the coronavirus crisis, grants for SMEs, digitalization, employee support and employment. The money would come from both the state budget and European funds.
Natural gas. The Romanian natural gas market has been fully liberalized as of July 1st. Tariffs are no longer regulated by the government, but set by the stock exchange. Liberalization comes at a time when the energy supply market is highly concentrated, with 2 companies providing such services for 90% of the household consumers. These companies have sent their customers offers at the same prices as before, and unless they receive an answer, the new contracts will take effect by default. A week ago, Energy Minister Virgil Popescu told AGERPRES news agency that households should pay 10-15% less for natural gas. He explained that, unless major suppliers cut down prices, the Competition Law enables the government to intervene in the market for a 6-month period.
COVID-19 In Romania, 27,296 cases of coronavirus infection have been reported so far, with 326 new cases confirmed over the past 24 hours. 20,749 patients have recovered, and 1,667 have died. The healthcare minister Nelu Tătaru announced 2 days ago that the increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases prompted the authorities to postpone the lifting of further restrictions as of July 1. Three relaxation stages have been introduced since mid-May, when Romania switched from a state of emergency to a state of alert. Among the Romanians living abroad, 4,795 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and 115 of them have died.
Pandemic. The total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has exceeded 10.6 million, with the death toll standing at 515,000 and 5.8 million recovered patients, according to worldometers.info. In the US, the number of new cases has increased significantly in the last 24 hours, reaching a total of 2.7 million. More than 130,000 Americans have died and millions have lost their jobs. The economy contracted sharply in the first quarter, and is expected to decline rapidly in the second. Meanwhile, the EU has approved a list of safe countries for non-essential travel, as of July1st. The list, which includes 14 countries (Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay) will be updated every 2 weeks, depending on local COVID-19 developments.
Parliament. Until mid-July, the Parliament of Romania is holding a special session. The Chamber of Deputies is set to discuss a number of bills, including the one establishing the date of local elections and an initiative banning people with criminal records from running for public office. On Monday the Deputies will hear PM Ludovic Orban on the procurement contracts signed during the pandemic. In turn, the Senate is also to vote on the local elections bill, after the Government decided the election should take place on September 27.
EU. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the EU must prepare for the possibility that negotiations with London on the post-Brexit relation won't secure a deal, as "progress in the negotiations has been very limited." "I will continue to press for a good solution. But we in the EU and also in Germany must and should prepare for the event that an agreement is not reached after all" Merkel told the German Chamber of Deputies on the first day of Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU. Germany took over the rotating presidency of the Council from Croatia, on July 1st, and it will be holding it for six months. Managing the crisis triggered by the new coronavirus will be the main focus of the German term, according to a program approved by the German Government on June 24th, titled 'Make Europe Strong Again. With the EU facing the deepest economic recession since WWII, the member states must agree, in the following months, on a multi-annual budget for 2021-2027 and on the operation of the European Recovery Fund, designed by the European Commission to support the economies of the countries most affected by the pandemic, especially Italy and Spain. (M.Ignatescu)