JHA Council meeting in Bucharest
This week Bucharest played host to the informal meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) on the sidelines of its presidency of the Council of the EU. Talks focused on short and medium-term actions to manage migration, law enforcement cooperation and combating terrorism. On this occasion, Romanian Interior Minister Carmen Dan said the solution to the migration crisis consists in the solidarity of member states and dealing with the cause of the problem, not just its effects. In turn, EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, pointed out that a temporary solution needs to be found concerning migrant arrivals, in addition to measures aimed at better protecting and overseeing the external border of the European Union. In this respect, the EU official argued, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) needs to be strengthened. The JHA meeting continued on Friday when Justice Ministers discussed topics such as corporate and civil law cooperation, cybercrime and potential international agreements in the field, as well as the issue of the European public prosecutor, which the Romanian presidency of the Council of the EU wants to take office starting next year. The European Prosecutor’s Office will be an independent and decentralized institution, which will investigate, prosecute and bring to trial people suspected of bringing prejudice to the budget of the European Union.
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila pays a visit to Brussels
Romania’s priority at the helm of the Council of the European Union is the cohesion policy. At domestic level, the rule of law is observed and the fight against corruption is key, just as the rights and liberties Romanians enjoy like all Europeans, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said on Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels, where she attended the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions. The Romanian official also said Romania fulfilled all technical criteria for joining the Schengen Area in 2011, although a decision in this matter has been delayed on political grounds. Viorica Dancila met with European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and with European Council President Donald Tusk. Talks focused on the future of Europe and consolidating the Union. Regarding Brexit, Prime Minister Dancila said Romania’s Presidency will seek to preserve the observance of the rights of European citizens post-Brexit. Also in Brussels, the Romanian Prime Minister attended the conference organized by Romania on combating anti-Semitism and the need to protect Jewish communities in Europe. The conference brought together representatives of Jewish communities from across Europe and the United States.
Romania’s 2019 state budget
After having returned from Brussels, the Romanian PM Viorica Dăncilă, on Friday chaired a cabinet meeting, during which the ministers approved Romania’s 2019 draft budget. Significantly larger amounts of money will go to investments, healthcare and education. Romania further allots 2% of the GDP for defense, in keeping with its NATO commitments, the necessary sums of money have been secured for further increasing pensions and salaries in the state sector as well as significant sums for local budgets. Whether revenues stand at 33.4% of the GDP, with the largest sums of money being estimated to come from social security contributions, VAT, excise duties and taxes, expenditures account for 35.9%. The right wing political opposition has criticized the ruling coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for what it called the inexcusable delay in establishing the budget for the current year. This is based on a GDP which exceeds for the first time 1,000 billion lei, that is some 212 billion Euros, an economic growth rate of 5.5%, an average annual inflation rate of 2.8% and an estimated budget deficit of 2.55%. The draft budget is submitted to Parliament for debate and voting.
Russia, on the offensive again
Romania’s Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu has demanded explanations from the Russian Federation after Moscow on Thursday called on the United States to bring down the anti-ballistic missile shield installation in Deveselu, southern Romania, as a prerequisite to Russia returning to full compliance to observe the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The United States and Russia have both withdrawn from the treaty signed in 1987 after accusing each other of violating its provisions. Moscow claims missile launchers from Romania can be used to deploy medium-range Tomahawk missiles, which are illegal under the INF. Minister Melescanu reiterated the shield in Deveselu is purely defensive, saying that the Romanian army scrapped its last Tomahawk missiles a year ago. The Romanian official believes Russia is looking for new arguments to justify its violation of the INF Treaty. In an official release, NATO recently recalled that, after six years of talks with Moscow, Allied forces discovered in December last year that Russia has developed and deployed a missile system violating the INF Treaty and jeopardizing Euro-Atlantic security.