A look at some of the main stories in Romania this past week.
alert replaces 2-month long state of emergency
of emergency imposed over the Covid-19 pandemic and which lasted two months was
replaced in Romania by a state of alert. The minority Liberal government in
Bucharest adopted an order in this respect that was then also passed by
Parliament. The government now has all the legal instruments, including the
ability to levy fines, to protect people's health and lives, as prime minister
Ludovic Orban put it. Among other measures, wearing a face mask is now obligatory
in enclosed public spaces, in shops, at work and on public transport.
gatherings, demonstrations, processions and concerts, as well groups larger
than three persons are all banned. Out-of-town travel is only allowed for specific
reasons and people must sign a written declaration in advance stating the destination
and purpose of travel. Following amendments in Parliament, the legislation also
stipulates that the government must supply the local authorities with face
masks to be distributed to the disadvantaged persons. Under a subsequent
government order, 2.3 million people are to receive 50 face masks each.
population respects state of alert restrictions
Romania welcomed the end of the state of emergency and the entering of a less
restrictive phase. They started leaving their homes as soon as they were able
to do so, with parks becoming overcrowded as a result. Viral images circulated
on social media from Herastrau park in Bucharest where many young people were
partying without respecting physical distancing and without wearing any face
covering. Border crossing points in western Romania were also very busy, both
for leaving and entering the country. The queues formed by the cars waiting to
cross the borders stretched for kilometres. Religious gatherings are again
permitted after two months in which churches held services behind closed doors.
The first day after restrictions were eased also saw the first protest, attended
by hundreds of people who accused the government of violating the Constitution,
confusion in the management of the current health crisis and the economic
situation and of giving fines abusively during the state of emergency.
Romanian economy post-pandemic
Answering questions in the Chamber of
Deputies, prime minister Ludovic Orban this week told MPs that his cabinet is working
on an economic recovery plan, being reassured by the fact that Romania saw the highest
economic growth level in the European Union in the first quarter of the year.
The opposition believes, however, that the government's economic policy shows a
lack of solutions.
A cold shower came from Brussels. In
its economic forecast for Romania, the European Commission says that if the
current policies are maintained, the country's budget deficit will reach 9.2% of
GDP this year and 11.4% next year and that economic recession is in sight. Among
other measures, the Commission recommends supporting the economy in the form of
liquidities, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises and
independent workers, and expanding social protection measures. The EU Council
has already approved a regulation to put into practice the so-called SURE
programme by which Brussels supports the employment measures proposed by European
governments. According to the Romanian labour minister, over 600,000 employment
contracts had been suspended and almost 400,000 terminated in Romania by 21st
Romanian seasonal workers abroad
Romanian labour minister Violeta
Alexandru had talks in Berlin with her federal counterpart Hubertus Heil and the
German minister for food and agriculture Julia Klockner about the situation of
the Romanian seasonal workers. Alexandru urged the latter to report the violation
of their rights when this occurs. Minister Hubertus Heil admitted that the mass
infection with the novel coronavirus at a number of German abattoirs employing
Romanian workers is unacceptable and that Romanian workers must enjoy the same
rights to social protection, security and health as the German workers. The
Romanian and German officials signed a joint declaration of intention on expanding
cooperation in the areas of labour and social policy.
With the coronavirus pandemic in
full swing, many Romanians left the country to work abroad, especially in agriculture.
Around 30,000 people have travelled to western Europe for this purpose in the
last two months. One of the most controversial episodes took place on the night
of 8th of April, when some 2,000 workers left for Germany to harvest
asparagus. When they got there, they complained about the difficult working and
living conditions. It is still not clear if their departure was facilitated by
the authorities or if thousands of people organised their own bus trips and
charter flights and left, during one night, from Suceava, which was quarantined,
to Germany. (CM)