CELEBRATION - The two chambers of the Romanian Parliament have today gathered in solemn session to mark 100 years since the union of Bessarabia with Romania. In the presence of Romanian officials and other figures such as Princess Margaret, Custodian of the Crown, the Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Iurie Leanca and the President of the Moldovan Parliament Andrian Candu, the Romanian deputies and senators adopted a solemn declaration which pays homage to the authors of the historic act carried out 100 years ago. A province with a predominantly Romanian-speaking population within the Tsarist empire, Bessarabia joined Romania at the end of WWI, on March 27th, 1918. Years later, in June 1940, the Soviet Union re-annexed the province under an ultimatum, and the present-day Republic of Moldova was created on part of that territory. On Sunday, at a meeting organized in Moldova's capital Chisinau, dozens of thousands of citizens of the two Romanian states called for the re-unification between Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
RUSSIA - Romania's decision to expel a Russian Federation diplomat, in response to the poisoning in Great Britain of the former Russian spy Serghei Skripal is "a manifestation of collective political madness" reads a message of the Russian Embassy in Romania. On Monday, the Romanian Foreign Ministry notified the embassy that one of its diplomats would be declared persona non-grata and forced to leave the Romanian soil. Romania thus joined other EU nations, which, just like the US and other countries such as Ukraine, Canada, Norway or Australia have been expelling Russian diplomats. The US alone will expel 60 Russian diplomats, in what has been dubbed "the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history." Moscow has denied its involvement in the poisoning on March 4th of the former double-spy and his daughter, in the first known nerve agent attack in Europe after WWII and has announced similar responses to the measures taken in the countries that have expelled Russian diplomats.
JUSTICE - On Monday, the Romanian Senate, the decision-making forum in this matter, adopted the controversial modifications of the justice laws, namely those concerning the status of the magistrates, judicial organization and the functioning of the Superior Council of the Magistracy. The majority made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, supported by the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania have again stated that the changes, previously endorsed by the Chamber of Deputies, were formulated in keeping with the rulings of the Constitutional Court. The right-wing opposition, however, has criticized the modifications and stated there is ground for challenging them in court again. We recall that some of the changes initially brought to the justice laws triggered the largest street-protests in post-Communist Romania.
PROTESTS - Trade unionists from the Romanian health-care sector are today picketing the headquarters of the line ministry in Bucharest and on Thursday they will protest in front of the Labour Ministry. The are demanding, among other things, pay rises as of March 1st, for the entire healthcare and welfare staff, the elimination of the 30% cap for bonuses and the recovery of income losses following the implementation of the latest salary regulations, as of January 1st. For years, against the background of a severe under financing of the health-care sector in Romania, Romanian health specialists have left abroad in large numbers, in search for better paid jobs. Since last year, the net incomes of the health-care personnel have grown significantly. However, they are still unhappy with their salaries and bonuses and have threatened with protests that might culminate in an all-out strike. The current minister Sorina Pintea, however, has stated that they have no reason to protest.
GOPO AWARDS - Bucharest is today playing host to the Gopo Awards Gala, an event held every year, which celebrates the best cinema productions of the previous year. This year, "One Step Behind the Seraphim" by Daniel Sandu, boasts the largest number of nominations - 15 - , followed by "6.9 on the Richter Scale" by Nae Caranfil and "The Anniversary" by Dan Chisu. Other films on the gala's shortlist are "Ana, mon amour" by Calin Peter Netzer, "Breaking News" by Iulia Rugina and "Fixeur" by Adrian Sitaru. The life achievement awards will be granted to actors George Mihaita and Vladimir Gaitan. The name of the festival is a homage paid to the Romanian film-maker Ion-Popescu Gopo, who years ago won the Palme d'Or for best animated short.
FOOTBALL - Romania's national football squad is today taking on in Craiova, southern Romania, the Swedish team, in a friendly game. This is the first meeting between the two teams since the game played in 1994, when the Romanians lost to the Swedish team, in a penalty shoot-out, in the quarter finals of the World Cup hosted by the US. On Saturday, also in a friendly game, Romania defeated Israel 2-1. In another move, also today, on home turf, Romania's Under 19 team is playing against Ukraine the decisive match for qualification to the European Championship due in Finland, in July. After the victories scored in the first two matches, against Serbia 4-nil and Sweden 2-1, the young Romanian footballers need at least a draw to win the preliminaries.