Click here for the past week's highlights in Romania.
Pact for consolidating Romania’s European path
The Romanian President Klaus Iohannis announced on Wednesday, fresh from consultations with the leaders of the parliamentary parties related to the May 26 referendum on justice, that he invited the parties to sign a pact for consolidating Romania’s European path. The document refers to translating into the Romanian legislation the results of the referendum and to revising the justice laws so as to include the recommendations of the Venice Commission and of the EC. President Iohannis also suggested that the signatories to the pact would have to commit to translating into the legislation, as soon as possible, the measures necessary for ensuring the observance of the right to vote for all the Romanian citizens in the country and abroad. Over 18 million Romanians were called to the polls on May 26 to vote in the EP elections and in a referendum on justice called by president Iohannis. Of the 7 million Romanians who voted in the referendum, 6.5 million voted in favor of the proposals of the referendum, thus rejecting emergency decrees for the modification of legislation and for amnesty and pardon of corruption crimes.
PM Viorica Dancila in Brussels
The observance of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary were high on the agenda of talks of the Romanian PM Viorica Dancila, who went to Brussels on Tuesday, with the President and First Vice-President of the EC, Jean-Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans. The visit occurs in the context in which the EC has repeatedly warned Romania that it will not hesitate to take radical measures if it identifies irregularities running counter to the European values. The Romanian PM has given assurances to the European officials that the Romanian government will not issue emergency decrees in the justice field, adding that Bucharest wants a constructive and open dialogue with the European leaders in order to defend Romania’s stand and to avoid infringing the European principles.
The Brussels officials have hailed the Romanian government’s commitment to not taking controversial measures in the justice field and their wish to immediately resume dialogue within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism with the purpose of making progress in the reform process and in the anti-corruption fight. Through this mechanism, the EC has been monitoring the evolution of the Romanian judiciary since the country’s EU accession in 2007. The President of the EC thanked the Romanian PM for the excellent activity reported so far by the Romanian presidency of the Council of the EU, which has completed more than 100 files, of which the most important are those related to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the European Labor Authority and the Copyright Directive.
Changes to the election legislation
Romania will organize local elections next year, and citizens will vote for their mayors as well as for the membership of the local and county councils. Under an emergency ordinance adopted by the government on Monday, the presidents of county councils will be elected again through direct vote in the local elections. The government claims that the move will boost the legitimacy, representation and responsibility of the county council presidents who are currently appointed by councilors following negotiations among parties. To support the move, the leftist government coalition invoked the request of 30 county council presidents, including those from the opposition, which accounts for three quarters of the total number of county council presidents. President Iohannis believes that the modification of the election law does nothing but place at an advantage the incumbent county council presidents. The move is deemed to be a gift from the PM Dancila to the Social Democratic local representatives, said the presidency spokeswoman, Mădălina Dobrovolschi.
EC Recommendations to Romania
Romania must take measures to correct significant deviations from the medium-term budgetary objective, to strengthen tax collection and establish a minimum salary based on objective criteria. These are some of the recommendations made by the European Commission for 2019. The Commission also recommends a full application of the fiscal framework. Other recommendations include investments focused on transport, energy with a low carbon footprint and environmental infrastructure, taking into account regional disparities. Also, the EC’s report draws attention to the fact that quality and inclusion in the field of education must be enhanced, in particular for the Roma and other disadvantaged categories, given that the money allocated for such categories is among the lowest in the EU.
Romania affected by floods
Recent heavy rainfalls have wreaked havoc on scores of households, basements, schools, national and county roads across Romania. Hundreds of people have been saved or evacuated by the employees of Romania’s Interior Ministry. The Ministry of Healthcare has called on representatives of the public health directorates to cooperate with the local authorities and start implementing planned measures aimed at ensuring medical assistance in the affected areas.