DEFENSE - Romania's Higher Defense Council, which convened in Bucharest on Tuesday, decided to maintain in 2018 the 2% share of the GDP earmarked for defense, just like this year, according to a communiqué issued by the Presidential Administration. The other institutions in the field of national security will next year get similar budgets too. The Defense Council also decided to increase the number of soldiers, gendarmes and police staff who next year will take part in missions abroad. 1,775 soldiers, 286 more than this year, will be deployed abroad next year, mostly in Afghanistan. Also, 1,867 gendarmes and police staff will take part in foreign missions under the aegis of the EU, the OSCE, NATO and the UN. By taking part in such missions, the Romanian state gets actively involved in promoting regional and global stability and security and in combating international terrorism. Also at the meeting held on Tuesday, the report on the measures adopted by Romania to enforce the sanctions set at international level between October 2016 and September 2017 was analysed and approved.
JUSTICE - The US should trust Romania's Parliament, whose aim is to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and to eliminate any political interference in the functioning of the justice system, reads a press release communicated on Tuesday by the Senate Speaker Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Liviu Dragnea. The reaction came after the US Department of State published on Monday, on the institution's website, an official statement expressing concern over the fact that the Romanian Parliament intends to pass legislation which, according to the US officials, would affect the fight against corruption and weaken the independence of the Romanian judiciary. The US Department of State believes that these laws, set forth by the Ministry of Justice, are a threat to the progress that Romania has made in the past years, in a bid to build strong judicial institutions, protected against political intervention. In the same statement, the US Department of State calls on the Romanian parliament to reject those proposals that weaken the rule of law and endanger the fight against corruption. In the latest CVM report, made public on November 15th, the European Commission states that the global pace of reform has stayed flat in 2017, and the challenges that the independence of the Romanian judiciary is faced with is a major reason for concern. On Sunday, street protests were staged in Bucharest and other cities across Romania, but also abroad, against the changes brought to the justice laws and the fiscal code.
CONTRACTS- Contracts were signed on Tuesday in Bucharest for the building of a new gas pipeline as part of the EU-backed BRUA project, which will link the natural gas networks in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. The deputy prime minister Marcel Ciolacu said that BRUA was a priority for the government, being a very important project for Romania's energy security and independence. On Romanian soil, the pipeline will cover 529 kilometers and its conveyance capacity to Bulgaria will be 1.5 billion cubic meters per year and 4.4 billion cubic meters per year to Hungary. The cost of the project is 547.4 million dollars, of which 179 million have been allocated by the EU in the form of a grant to Romania.
AGRICULTURE - The Romanian agriculture minister Petre Daea on Tuesday signed an agreement with the European Investment Fund, which provides for the implementation of a financial lending instrument under the 2014-2020 National Rural Development Program. The agreement will facilitate access to funding for farmers and entrepreneurs in the rural areas, more funds and smaller interest rates. The money allocated under this program amounts to almost 94 million euros. The European Investment Fund is an international financial institution, part of the European Investment Bank Group, specializing in risk funding for SMEs. The European Investment Fund supports the EU's objectives by boosting innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship and the creation of jobs.
CENTRAL BANK - Romania's socio-economic development is slower than its economic growth, said on Tuesday the First Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Romania Florin Georgescu. According to him, the favorable macro-economic developments in the past years have been reflected only partially in an increase in people's living standard and the country's competitiveness. This has happened because the total capital in the economy is not at the right level and the business sector is faced with worrying structural vulnerabilities, the Central Bank First-Vice Governor also said.
MIGRATION - Since the beginning of the year, at least 3000 migrants and refugees have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Europe, the International Organization for Migration announced on Tuesday. A record figure was reported last year, when some 5000 people died in similar circumstances. According to the IOM, since the beginning of 2017, some 165,000 migrants and refugees have reached Europe by sea, of which 75% arrived in Italy.
IMF - The International Monetary Fund has appointed the South-Korean Jaewoo Lee chief of mission for Romania and Bulgaria. On December 7th he will replace the Pakistani Reza Baqir. Before this appointment, Jaewoo Lee was head of the IMF mission for Sri Lanka. Currently, Romania has no agreement with the IMF, just regular consultations with its representatives.
ENERGY CONFERENCE - Turkmenistan's capital, Ashgabat, is hosting these days the 28th session of the Energy Charter Conference. The event has gathered leaders and representatives of the energy ministries of the member and observer states and of several regional and international organizations. In 2018, Romania will take over from Turkmenistan the presidency of the Energy Charter Conference, and Mihnea Constantinescu, Special Ambassador and Representative for Energy Security with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, will chair the conference. The Energy Charter was launched in Europe in 1990 as a political initiative. It is a platform of cooperation in the energy field, accepted by both the Eurasian states and the developed countries. In 1991, the European Energy Charter was signed in The Hague, and in 1994 the Energy Charter Treaty and the Energy Charter Protocol relating to energy efficiency and environmental issues were signed in Lisbon. Romania ratified the two documents in 1997. (translation by Mihaela Ignatescu)