A review of the most important events of the past week.
Coronavirus in Romania
Almost 15 thousand people infected and close to one thousand deaths have been reported in Romania since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. President Klaus Iohannis has warned that the situation has not improved and that the pandemic has not passed. However, he said the state of emergency, in force in the country in mid-March, will not be extended after May 15 and will be replaced by a state of alert. In a first stage, hairdresser’s and barber’s shops will be opened, along with dentist practices and museums, and people will be allowed to leave their homes without a sworn statement regarding the purposes of traveling. Wearing protection masks will be mandatory, including on public transport. However, restrictions will not be eased to quarantined localities such as Suceava, Tandarei and two neighbourhoods in Buzau.
Constitutional Court rejects increases in fines
The Constitutional Court of Romania admitted the claim filed by the Ombudsman against the emergency government decree that established sanctions for non-compliance with the rules of quarantine and isolation. In other words, the fines were declared unconstitutional. However, the fines will not be automatically annulled but they must be challenged in Court. The Liberal Prime Minister Ludovic Orban reacted to the decision, saying the ruling of the Constitutional Court prevents the Government, the authorities, from protecting the health and lives of the Romanians. In turn, the Finance Minister Florin Citu has said that the role of the large fines was not to bring money to the budget, but to reduce the risk of further spread. Previously, Interior Minister Marcel Vela admitted to situations of abuse by the police when handing out fines during checks on free circulation. Since the state of emergency has been announced, the fines received by the Romanian citizens for not observing restrictions in place stand at around 120 million euros.
ECHR versus CCR
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled in favour of Laura Codruţa Kövesi, head of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, regarding her dismissal in July 2018 from her position as Chief Prosecutor of the Romanian National Anti-Corruption Directorate. Kovesi took her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg arguing that when she was dismissed, in 2018, by a decree of President Klaus Iohannis, following a decision of the Constitutional Court, two of her fundamental rights had been infringed. The ECHR ruled that Kovesi was denied the right to a fair trial, as she could not defend her case in court, and also the right to freedom of expression and that she was unjustly dismissed before the end of her second term. Laura Codruta Kovesi, who is now the first chief prosecutor of the European Union, did not ask for damages in this case, saying the burden would have been put on the shoulders of Romanian taxpayers.
The crisis after the pandemic
Romania’s economy will go down by 6% this year, according to the EU Spring Economic Forecast. The European Union will be experiencing the deepest recession in its history, the European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni announced on Wednesday. He added that the European economy will contract by a record 7.4%. According to Gentiloni, Romania is expected to report a budget deficit of at least 8%. Actually, almost all the other EU Member States are expected to report higher deficits because they have to support the economy with liquidities and to protect jobs. In Romania the unemployment rate will reach 6.5 % in 2020 and 5.4% in 2021. As regards the inflation rate, it will reach 2.5% in 2020 and it is going to rise next year.
Romania supports Moldova
A convoy of 20 trucks full of medical equipment as part of aid provided by Romania to the neighbouring Republic of Moldova to help it fight the Covid-19 outbreak, reached its destination on Thursday. The convoy was accompanied by an official delegation including the Romanian health minister Nelu Tătaru, the head of the Emergency Situations Department Raed Arafat and the secretary of state for relations with the Republic of Moldova, Ana Guţu. The Government in Bucharest decided to grant Moldova humanitarian aid worth 3.5 million euros in the form of medical equipment and medicines. Romania has also sent a team of 52 doctors and nurses who will be working in hospitals in Moldova treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
Autonomy during pandemic
Romania’s Senate dismissed, by a comfortable majority, a controversial bill regarding the autonomy of the so-called Szekler Land in central Romania, under which this region would have been turned into an autonomous legal entity. The bill was initially passed automatically by the Chamber of Deputies, through a procedure roughly equivalent to what is known as pocket veto, without debates, in the form tabled by the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians. The so-called Szekler Land is a region in central Romania mostly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians, and comprises the counties of Covasna, Harghita and part of Mureș County. The bill defined the borders of the territory that would have become the Szekler Land, which was supposed to have its own administrative organisation, its own institutions, using Hungarian as an official language and the official symbols of the Hungarian nation.
It was the turn of the Chamber of Deputies to reject a draft Administrative Code that has tacitly passed the Senate. Also initiated by UDMR, it allowed for the use of national minority languages in local administration and public institutions in the localities where minorities represent more than 20% of the population and for the hoisting of the Szekler flag on public institutions. President Klaus Iohannis accused the Social Democratic Party—the largest Opposition party in Romania— who control both Parliament chambers, of complicity with the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians and with Budapest. The PSD leaders dismissed the accusations.
(Translated by Elena Enache)