A review of the most important events of the past week.
Coronavirus in Romania
Romania has reported 1,250 deaths and about 19 thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past 3 months since the first case of coronavirus infection on its territory. According to President Klaus Iohannis, we cannot say that the epidemic has significantly subsided. He has announced, however, that restrictions will be further eased starting June 1st. Among the new relaxation measures are the opening of café and restaurant gardens, of beaches, and the organization of open-air performances with up to 500 spectators. Sports competitions, that do not require direct contact among athletes, will be resumed, as well as international road and rail transportation. People will also be allowed to travel without any restrictions outside their home towns or metropolitan area.
Ministers fail the test of simple motions
The Bucharest Parliament, dominated in terms of number by the Social Democratic Party and its occasional partners Pro Romania, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania, has tabled a number of simple motions against the Liberal ministers. This past week alone, simple motions against Education Minister Monica Anisie and Interior Minister Marcel Vela, have passed. Minister Anisie was criticized for contradictory and confusing statements as regards the way in which national evaluation and high school graduation exams would be held, which, according to the Social Democrats, created panic among students and teachers. The Social Democrats in the Senate have also requested the resignation of Marcel Vela, claiming that the structures coordinated by the interior minister minimized the risk of the pandemic and did not focus on purchasing protective equipment for the medical staff. In reply, the interior minister has stated that all the measures taken during the pandemic, although restrictive, have been correct and aimed at protecting the population’s health. Previously, Parliament passed simple motions against Finance Minister Florin Cîțu and Agriculture Minister Adrian Oros. Simple motions do not automatically trigger a minister’s dismissal.
15 specialists with the Romanian Defense Ministry travelled to the United States on Monday to help authorities of the state of Alabama fight the coronavirus pandemic. The five doctors, five nurses and five military specialized in defense against chemical, biologic, radiologic and nuclear weapons will grant expert support to their American colleagues in the medical units in Alabama and also learn about how the virus is fought against in the US. Allies within NATO, Romania and the US are connected through a strategic partnership. We remind you that between April 17 and 24, a Romanian team made up of 11 doctors and 6 nurses travelled to Italy to help the medical staff there fight the coronavirus. Also, another team travelled to the neighboring Republic of Moldova, with a similar mission, as part of a convoy that also included 20 trucks with medical equipment worth 3.5 million euros.
Reaction to Chisinau’s statements
The Bucharest authorities deem as completely unacceptable and disapprove of the denigrating statements regarding Romania, made by the pro-Russian PM of the Republic of Moldova, Ion Chicu. In a Facebook post in which he dismissed criticism for the way in which he handled the medical crisis in his country and the delays in the implementation of reforms, he wrote that “Romania is the most corrupt state in Europe.” The Romanian Foreign Ministry says the statements show deep disrespect for Romania and the bilateral relation. The implementation of reforms assumed under the Association Agreement with the EU are not only an obligation for Moldova but also a guarantee for its citizens’ prosperity, while their well being cannot be ensured by such public statements, made in a rudimentary language, the Romanian Foreign Ministry has also said.
Bucharest and Budapest reach a truce in the duel of statements
The Romanian and Hungarian foreign ministers, Bogdan Aurescu and Péter Szijjártó, respectively, have recently met in Bucharest amid strained relations between their countries. The two officials agreed their countries would try to overcome tensions through dialogue and pragmatism and for Hungarian officials visiting Romania in the coming period to refrain from statements that could contradict in any way the strategic partnership with Bucharest. As regards the Hungarian plan for economic development in Transylvania, central Romania, where most of the Hungarian minority lives, the Hungarian foreign minister pointed out that his country had a verbal agreement for its implementation with the former Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea and the former government of Romania led by the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, through the then foreign minister Teodor Melescanu. Minister Aurescu pointed out that only a written agreement has legal value and that verbal understandings made in the past with previous Romanian leaders are not valid.
The new national defense strategy
Romania's Supreme Council of National Defense adopted the draft defense strategy for 2020-2024, which will have to be endorsed by parliament. According to President Iohannis, in 2021 the Romanian Army will have 1,940 military and civilians in international missions, 436 less than this year, while the Interior Ministry will contribute 841 military and policemen, some 181 less than in 2020. The Strategic Partnership with the United States of America, as well as membership of NATO and the European Union are reaffirmed in the document as pillars of the country's foreign and security policy. The president has said that the National Security Strategy for the next four years entails a new approach, determined by the deteriorating relations between the North Atlantic Alliance and the Russian Federation, the proliferation of terrorism and hybrid and cyber threats. Also approved was the modernisation of the Romanian Army by 2026 and beyond. (Translated by Elena Enache)