Dismissal of health minister drives wedge in the ruling coalition in Romania
At a peak moment in the pandemic, Romanian Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu, appointed by USR-PLUS, was dismissed by Liberal PM Florin Citu. Then the PM himself took over as interim minister, after deputy PM Dan Barna turned down the position. The decision to dismiss Voiculescu caused tensions in the ruling coalition made up of the National Liberal Party, the USR-PLUS alliance, and the Hungarian Union. The head of government said he decided on the dismissal out of a wish to maintain the credibility of state institutions, in order to successfully pull through this difficult time. However, the co-president of the USR-PLUS alliance, Dan Barna, said that the PM no longer has the support of the formation. Deputy PM Kelemen Hunor, president of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, said that Dan Barna got ahead of himself in withdrawing support for Florin Citu, and called for political maturity on the part of the leaders of the coalition. On the side of the opposition, Social Democratic Party President Marcel Ciolacu said that Vlad Voiculescu's dismissal came 'too late for many Romanians who lost their lives or ruined their health'. Lately, public opinion and politicians, including some from the ruling coalition, had been clamoring for the health minister to be fired. Street protests have been a constant against restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, hundreds of members of the five biggest trade union confederations in the country took part in Bucharest in a protest against the entire government. They called for the executive to step down, a raise in the minimum wage to a decent level, equitable pensions, good quality public services, and unblocking collective bargaining.
The COVID-19 vaccination campaign accelerates in Romania
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Romania is slightly down this week. However, the situation is serious in intensive care wards, where the number of in-patients is over 1,500, and available beds are fewer by the day. The authorities have been trying to find solutions to supplement the number of beds. In parallel, the pace of immunization has been rising in the country over the last few days, and waiting lists are shorter, with almost 350,000 people registered, less than half of the number last week. Romanians are being encouraged to get the vaccine, as the only solution for overcoming this crisis and getting back to normalcy. On Friday, vaccination with the AstraZeneca version became available without an appointment in centers with vacancies. At the same time, the executive on Thursday issued a memorandum for the purchase of additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, over 4.2 million doses.
New legal provisions passed in government session in Bucharest
The executive in Bucharest issued a bill regarding 5G communications, which greatly increases mobile Internet speeds. The bill called for special attention, because the new technology may pose complex national security threats, by providing access to sensitive IT infrastructure, said Interior Minister Lucian Bode. The bid to allocate 5G spectrum in Romania, already delayed twice, may take place in the second half of this year. Also on Thursday, the government set the principles for the new system of wages for state employees. People with the same position would get paid the same, irrespective of where they work, and bonuses would be limited. Both the PM and the labor minister assured everyone that salaries would not go down. Also, the ministers had a first reading of two emergency executive orders that simplify labor relations by digitization and reducing bureaucracy.
Romania withdraws its troops in Afghanistan alongside allies
On May 1 Romania, alongside NATO allies, starts withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. Defense Minister Nicolae Ciuca said that, as per decisions made at the extraordinary meeting of NATO foreign and defense minister, the mission in this theater of operations would conclude when all Romanian soldiers return home. Here is the defense minister:
“Romania made a decision two decades ago to be a part of the coalition against terrorism, and to join its strategic allies in the effort to combat an enemy threatening the peace and security of citizens. Over the almost 20 years, tens of thousands of Romanian soldiers ran missions in the Afghan theater, significantly contributing to improving the security situation in the area. We bow our heads for the 27 Romanian heroes who paid the highest price in the name of our freedom. We also express gratitude for the more than 200 servicemen wounded in these missions.”
Support for the hospitality industry in Romania in the pandemic
The EC approved a 500 million Euro support package put together by the government in Bucharest for the hospitality industry in Romania, which has been gutted by the pandemic. The measure will cover up to 20% of losses incurred along the entire year 2020, as compared to 2019 earnings. Support would be granted by 31 December 2021 at the latest. It is aimed to benefit over 73,000 companies in the sector.