Romania has a new Government
The third Government of the coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Romania (PSD-ALDE) was sworn in on Monday in Bucharest. In December 2016, the Social Democrats won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections and took over power, alongside the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Romania. Only a year later, the party registered a first in Romanian post-communist history: it toppled its own government, led by Sorin Grindeanu, through a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Last month, the leaders of the Social Democratic Party withdrew their political support for their second prime minister, Mihai Tudose, and MEP Viorica Dăncilă became the first woman prime minister in Romania’s history.
The members of the new cabinet were sworn in before Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis, who said: "Your mission is a difficult one. Given the citizens’ poor trust, caused mainly by the political and administrative mistakes made by the previous two cabinets, you will have to do something to convince them. Therefore, you will have to make up for the failure of those two governments, which were formed by the same majority as today, and you have the obligation to make every effort for things to start going in the right direction.”
According to PM Viorica Dăncilă, the main priorities of the governing program are the investment in infrastructure, increasing citizen incomes, the administrative reform and cutting red-tape. Another major goal of the new Government is to bring Romania into the first half of the ranking of EU’s most powerful economies, by 2020.
Romanian justice on the agenda of talks in Brussels
Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis, has held talks with EU officials on the functioning of the rule of law, an issue of high interest for both the political class and public opinion in Romania. The rule of law is a vital issue for Romania and no one questions its functioning, Klaus Iohannis told a joint press conference in Brussels with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The Romanian President said the problem of the justice laws and criminal codes should be solved in Romania, without waiting for solutions from abroad.
Klaus Iohannis: "I am convinced that I will succeed to ultimately transpose these discussions into laws, which can be practically used in their best form. However, my most important objective remains the same, namely to ensure the intangibility of the independence of Romania’s judiciary, an issue I will completely dedicate to, doing all my best as a president to keep things as they are.”
In turn, Jean-Claude Juncker said Romania’s justice system is functioning and that Bucharest cannot be said to disregard the rule of law, as long as the Constitutional Court’s rulings are observed. However, Juncker has warned that backsliding is unacceptable for Romania at this time. The EU official mentioned that the lifting of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), through which Brussels is monitoring the progress and setbacks of the country’s legal system, depends on the observance of these rules, and so does the country’s Schengen accession, denied by influential western countries on grounds of persistent corruption in the Romanian administration. The Bucharest embassies of seven EU member states and the European Commission have voiced concern about the modification of the justice laws in Romania.
Unexpected ruling in Microsoft case
Six former ministers investigated for abuse of office in a major corruption case, regarding a program to introduce computers in Romanian schools, will never be probed into again. The new prosecutor who took over the case has found that the suspects were charged after the statute of limitation for the offences had expired. The charges against a seventh minister involved in the case were also dropped. According to the National Anti-Corruption Directorate, the seven ministers, in charge of education, finance and communications in various cabinets, were investigated for having initiated or supported government orders awarding a public procurement contract to Fujitsu Siemens Computers. The company was to supply Microsoft licenses to the state, for schools all across Romania. In the same case, two business people have been charged with money laundering. The state lost over 70 million dollars from the deal.
European funds for Romania
While on a visit to Bucharest earlier this week, the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu, urged Romania to step up the implementation of EU-funded projects and voiced discontent with delays in the completion of infrastructure projects, for instance, with the slow implementation of projects in general. She has warned that, in spite of recent progress, Romania runs the risk of losing substantial EU funds.
Corina Creţu: “The danger of losing money still lingers, and the efforts to absorb funds should be stepped up rather than discontinued. I am glad that authorities came up with a series of measures which, if applied, might produce immediate results, thus avoiding the situation in which Romania might lose large sums of money.”
During a meeting with the EU official, the governor of the National Bank of Romania, Mugur Isărescu, has said that, since Romania joined the EU 10 years ago, the country has received over 45 billion Euros from the EU budget. If we take into account Romania’s contribution to the EU budget, net inflows of European funds stood at some 30 billion Euros, Isărescu has added. The central bank governor has underlined that European funds give Romania a chance to modernise, by investing in transport infrastructure, education and healthcare. He has warned however that without the European money, Romania would be left without an essential source of capital, and has underlined that delayed payment of European money to Romania or the payment of smaller amounts have an impact on the hard currency market.