Romania bids farewell to King Michael 1st
Romania’s monarch, King Michael 1st on Wednesday returned forever to the country that he loved so much.
Michael wasn’t even six when he became a monarch and was looking at a life that promised to be gold-plated. However, the destiny of Romania’s fourth sovereign was to be marked by immense tragedy.
Forced by the communists to abdicate in 1947, the young king had to go into exile. He managed to make it back to his native country only after the 1989 anti-communist revolution. His comeback was not trouble-free as the post communist authorities had at first denied his right to return to Romania. The dethroned monarch had to apply for a job and settle down in a foreign land but never did he forget that he was only a foreigner in a foreign country. With the king’s last trip to Switzerland, where he lived until his death, a lifelong exile has also come to an end. Until the 16th of December, when he will be buried in Curtea de Arges, where all the Romanian sovereigns were interred, the body of King Michael is lying in state in the Throne Hall of the Royal Palace in Bucharest, where thousands of Romanians came to pay their respects.
Although after the fall of the Communist regime, few were the voices that spoke for the restoration of monarchy, the sadness caused by the king’s death has galvanized a nation. The impressive number of Romanians coming to pay their last respects to the king has prompted the Royal Family to significantly alter the programme initially announced so that all those who stayed for hours in lines to pay their respects can do that. Wreaths, flowers, candles and messages have been left at the gates of the Royal Palace.
“God has given him such a long life but still not enough to enjoy the people’s respect and do what he was meant to do as a king who loved his people so very much.”
Sound bite: “I cried quite a lot when he abdicated. I remember, I was 11 years old. I remember those moments quite well and I honestly tell you that I wrote on a piece of paper, ‘Why are you taking away our king?’.
Sound bite: “This is a moment when you respect your history”
On Wednesday, before being flown to Bucharest, the coffin was taken to the place where he spent his childhood, the Peles Castle, in the mountain resort of Sinaia, southern Romania, where high-ranking officials from Romania, Moldova and other countries went to pay their respects.
Evoking the personality of the late king, the founder of the Institute for the Memory of the Romanian Exile, Dinu Zamfirescu. told Radio Romania’s News and Current Affairs channel.
Sound bite: “We have lost a Romanian hero, a man who was a great example of personal and royal dignity. I believe Romania needs such personalities and I tell you with great sadness that a man like him is hard to find in Romania at present. Whenever I met him abroad he was always interested in what was happening in Romania what the Romanians were doing. He used to have a great responsibility for the country and always asked what he could do for Romania.”
Three days of national mourning are being observed in Romania, from Thursday until Saturday; flags are flown at half-mast while the public radio and TV channels as well as cultural institutions have adjusted their programmes.
The Chamber of Deputies endorses bills on judiciary
King Michael’s death has overshadowed these days the huge scandal generated on the Romanian political stage by the revision of the laws regulating the judiciary. The Chamber of Deputies adopted in a plenary session, after heated and extensive debates, the bills drafted by the ruling coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, with respect to judicial organisation and the activity of the Higher Council of Magistrates. The bill on the organisation of the judiciary stipulates, among other things, the set-up of a special unit to investigate prosecutors and judges, while also allowing for decisions made by prosecutors to be overturned by their superiors, should they find these to be illegal or ungrounded. The Opposition argues however that the planned investigation unit is a means to put pressure on magistrates. The second bill, concerning the Higher Council of Magistrates, stipulates that the judicial inspection corps remains subordinated to the Council instead of becoming an autonomous entity, as the parliamentary majority had originally proposed. What the two bills require now is only the endorsement of the Senate, which is the decision-making body in this case. Already pending for debate in the Senate, in an emergency procedure, is another bill that is part of the same legislative package, and which, in the form passed by the Chamber of Deputies, makes prosecutors hierarchically subordinated to the finance minister. Attending the winter session of the European Council, President of Romania Klaus Iohannis also voiced his scepticism about the changes to the justice laws:
“From the very beginning I’ve expressed my doubts regarding these changes, which seem to me to be too extensive and rushed through. I can only urge Parliament to approach these legislative changes with the highest possible responsibility, because they will have long-term effects.”
2018 budget bills have reached Parliament
Also this week, the 2018 state budget bill has reached the parliamentary debate stage. The Government’s figures are based on a 5.5% estimated economic growth rate, 3.1% annual inflation, 3% budget deficit and average net monthly salaries of roughly 570 euros. The budget drafted by the Cabinet earmarks higher funding for the sectors in great need of support, such as public healthcare, public education and investments. The Government has earmarked funds for increasing minimum wages and for pension rises. Challenged by the Opposition, which says revenues are overestimated, the draft budget is to be voted on by Parliament on December 21. (Translated by D. Bilt & A.M. Popescu)