STATE VISIT - PM Sorin Grindeanu said in Jerusalem on Thursday that Romania remained firm in supporting the fight against terrorism. In a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, Grindeanu said the terror attacks in Europe were alarming and mentioned Romanian citizens had also been among the victims. On the other hand, PM Grindeanu said Israel was Romania’s closest ally and partner in the region, with the diplomatic ties between the 2 countries spanning nearly 70 years. The Romanian Prime Minister reiterated Romania’s commitment to establish a Jewish History and Holocaust Museum. In turn, Netanyahu said the visit of his counterpart continues the great friendship between the 2 countries. During the visit, two bilateral documents were signed, a declaration on cutting international roaming fees and a joint statement on cooperation in the fields of electricity and natural gas transportation, research, development and innovation, high-tech and investments. The Romanian official also had talks with President Reuven Rivlin and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
JUDICIARY – The Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) Thursday dismissed as inadmissible a notification filed by the Ombudsman concerning an article that denies the access to government posts for convicted criminals. The Court found that the arguments put forth in the notification filed by Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea are either matters of interpretation and enforcement of the law by the relevant authorities, or elements of law-making that fall within the powers of Parliament. Law no. 90 of 2001 on the organisation and functioning of the government and ministries, says that only individuals who have not been found guilty in criminal cases and are not in an incompatibility case may be members of the government. The Court was notified after the Chamber of Deputies Speaker Liviu Dragnea was unable to get nominated for prime minister because of this article, although the Social Democratic Party he is heading won the December 2016 parliamentary election. Dragnea received a 2-year suspended sentence in a vote fraud case regarding the 2012 referendum on the impeachment of then President Traian Basescu.
PARDON BILL – The Senate’s judicial committee Thursday rolled back Wednesday’s decision, dismissing all amendments to the Government’s bill on collective pardon, whereby sentences for some acts of corruption could be written off. According to the amendments passed on Wednesday, bribe taking and giving, as well as influence peddling, were on a list of crimes that would be written off provided the inmate commits to covering the damages suffered by the state. Hundreds of people protested in Bucharest and other large cities against these amendments. Protesters vented their anger at politicians, whom they see as deeply corrupt. The Government, who initiated the draft law on collective pardon, as well as the Chamber of Deputies Speaker and Social-Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea have argued against pardoning acts of corruption. Dragnea announced that the bill, whose final text would not pardon corruption offences, would be fine-tuned in a meeting of the Social Democrat’s National Executive Committee. Authorities see the bill on collective pardon as a possible solution to prison overcrowding. The European Court of Human Rights has called on Bucharest authorities to come up with a set of measures to improve detention conditions.
MINORITY RIGHTS – The Romanian Foreign Minister, Teodor Melescanu, said on Thursday in Bucharest that guaranteeing the rights of ethnic minorities is necessary to ensure stability, security and good neighbourhood in the region. While attending a conference on responsible governance, he said Romania was probably one of the European countries with the most developed regulations on protecting national minority rights.
CINEMA – The French actor Alain Delon will receive a lifetime achievement award at the Transylvania International Film Festival, which will take place in Cluj-Napoca between June 2 and 11. According to organisers, the award will be handed out on June 10, in a ceremony hosted by the National Theatre in Cluj-Napoca. On the day before, the 1981 film “Pour la peau d’un flic”, starring and directed by Alain Delon, will be screened in honour of the French actor.
CULTURAL HERITAGE - The U.S. Ambassador to Bucharest, Hans Klemm, donated 59,300 US dollars to the Superior Consistory of the Evangelic Church Sibiu under the special U.S. Department of State program called the "Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation." The grant is designed to help restore the Medieval Fortified Churches of Movile and Agarbiciu (Sibiu County) and Daia (Mures County). On Thursday, Ambassador Hans Klemm and Bishop Reinhard Guib held a ceremony at the fortified medieval church in the village of Movile, where Ambassador Klemm said: “Our cultural heritage is a reminder of the contributions and historical experiences of humanity. The medieval fortified churches of Transylvania are monuments to Europe’s cultural heritage.” Local officials, representatives of the Evangelical Church, of the Fortified Churches Foundation, of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Transylvania, archaeologists and construction experts were present at the ceremony.
FRENCH ELECTION – The centrist candidate in the French presidential election Emmanuel Macron filed a legal complaint after his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen implied he had an offshore account in the Bahamas. Macron strengthened his position as a frontrunner in Sunday’s second presidential ballot after the televised debate he attended jointly with his opponent Marine Le Pen. This was the only debate held for the two rounds, and the two contenders traded harsh words and even insults. For the first time in France’s post-war history, the candidates of the traditional right and left wings failed to qualify to the presidential second round. Defeated in the first round by Macron, Le Pen labelled him “the representative of wild globalization” and criticized him for his superficial approach to terrorism. Macron said Le Pen is a dangerous nationalist feeding on France’s suffering. The French and international media writes the debate was brutal and violent, with the two contenders verbally abusing each other unlike never before in the history of presidential debates in this country.