Vaccination, “the only way out of the pandemic”
The president of Romania Klaus Iohannis Tuesday once again called on citizens to get the COVID-19 vaccine, stating that this is the only way to end the pandemic. As many Romanians vaccinated means getting rid of restrictions and returning to normal, the head of state pointed out. In turn, PM Florin Cîţu reiterated that the government targets 5 million Romanians vaccinated by 1 June, and that as of that moment we will be able to talk in different terms about returning to normal.
Florin Cîţu: “For us there is no other way. The only solution, if we want to go to concerts again, to have family gatherings, to go on holiday abroad or in Romania, to go to restaurants, to the cinema, to the theatre, to do everything we used to do, is for us to get the vaccine. This vaccination campaign is a campaign for life, for ourselves, for returning to normal.”
In turn, an inter-ministry committee working for Romania’s return to normal as of 1 June, 2021, had a new meeting highlighting the need to gradually adjust the lifting of containment measures to each sector of the economy. The group also discussed the progressive reopening of the hospitality sector, as the vaccine rollout continues.
Meanwhile, several drive-through vaccination centres have been opened in the country, where people can get the vaccine without previous appointments. Moreover, between 7 and 9 May an anti-COVID vaccination marathon will be organised in Bucharest, after the operation proved a success elsewhere in the country. At present around 1,000 vaccination centres are active, with a combined capacity of over 120,000 people immunised daily.
The number of daily new COVID-19 cases has dropped across the country, and this week a number of containment measures are being lifted. The number of patients in intensive care is also dropping, and so is the number of COVID-related deaths. Of the total number of Romanians infected since the start of the pandemic, over 90% have recovered.
Talks on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan
The ruling coalition in Bucharest agreed on a National Recovery and Resilience Plan with projects worth 29 billion euro. The Plan will be submitted to Brussels as of 10 May, when final negotiations with the European Commission will be held. PM Florin Cîţu announced that no project will be dropped, but that the funding for some investment lines will be reduced, after Romania received comments from the EC especially concerning projects related to irrigation systems, natural gas networks and motorways.
The prime minister said there are no problems in the negotiations with the Commission, but that Brussels asked for more details regarding Romania’s plan. In turn, the minister for investments and European funding Cristian Ghinea said, "discussions continue on all the components," and "the European Commission has this kind of dialogue with all member countries."
Cristian Ghinea: “We are trying to adjust to as many of the Commission’s comments as possible, and we have even brough allocations in line with these comments. As for the projects that are our priorities, even if the Commission has a different opinion at this time, we will move forward with them.”
According to the Romanian official, several countries are to submit their National Plans after the end of April, the original deadline set by the Commission. Meanwhile, the vice-president of the EC Margrethe Vestager announced that she had a “constructive” meeting with the Romanian minister concerning the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, and said progress has been made.
Protection for Romanian workers abroad
At the suggestion of the labour ministry, the government passed an emergency order providing better protection for the Romanians working abroad. The order includes new obligations for recruitment agencies and for providers of relevant services, which grant additional protection to Romanian citizens.
One provision is that mediation services for Romanians getting employment abroad should be free of charge, and that employment contracts should be provided in Romanian as well. Romanian workers are also to receive their written employment contracts before leaving the country. The labour minister Raluca Turcan also mentioned that transport companies must comply with certain requirements:
Raluca Turcan: “When transport companies take over Romanian workers who got jobs abroad, they must be grouped together depending on the chosen job. Also, when they take over workers for a particular country, a company must drop them at the employer’s site.”
The order passed by the government also provides for tougher penalties for breaching the law.
Supreme Defence Council discusses Black Sea, Afghanistan situations
Romania will pull out its troops from Afghanistan in coordination with the other NATO members, beginning 1 May. All the 615 troops and over 80 tonnes of materials and equipment will be brought back on Romanian and NATO military aircraft, the Presidency announced at the end of Tuesday’s meeting of the Supreme Defence Council. The withdrawal will be phased and spread across the forthcoming months. In the anti-terrorist mission in Afghanistan launched shortly after the 9/11attacks in the US, 27 Romanian troops lost their lives.
In the same meeting the Supreme Defence Council also decided that Romania would continue to promote efforts to strengthen the Allied posture in the country and in the region, in a responsible manner and in line with international law. Moreover, concerned with the recent build-up of Russian troops at Ukraine’s eastern border, Romania is interested in solving the protracted conflicts in the Black Sea region, and the foreign ministry has presented the EU with some initiatives in this respect, the presidency also said in a news release. (tr. A.M. Popescu)