The year 2018 in Review

the year 2018 in review A look at the most important events of the year in Romania.

An extremely agitated political year

The Romanians who had expected a peaceful cohabitation between the President and the Government, saw their hopes shattered in 2018 as well. The war between the right-of-center President Klaus Iohannis and the leftist government coalition formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and ran by Viorica Dancila since January 29th, reached a climax.

Even if in 2018 Romania celebrated 100 years since the creation of the Romanian unitary state, the two sides were unable to end hostilities. Supported by the Liberals, president Iohannis, who in June had already announced his intention to run for another presidential mandate, criticised almost the entire activity of the Government and of the parliamentary majority all throughout the year, including the changes brought to the justice laws, the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the preparations for taking over the rotating presidency of the EU Council, the new salary law, the public pension law, the transfer of the obligation to pay contributions to the welfare fund from employers to employees, the idea of relocating the Romanian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the budget adjustment.

Klaus Iohannis challenged at the Constitutional Court the unconstitutionality of a record number of legislative changes and re-sent to Parliament for reexamination a large number of laws. Moreover, he repeatedly asked for the resignation of either Viorica Dancila, or of the entire Government, invoking their lack of competence. In fact, the opposition parties - the National Liberal Party, the Save Romania Union and the People's Movement Party - filed two no-confidence and several simple motions, all of which were rejected. In November, President Iohannis accepted the government reshuffle proposed by the PM, with the exception of the ministers of development and transport, and that is why the Constitutional Court of Romania ruled that the president did not fulfill his constitutional responsibilities when failing to acknowledge the vacancies created by the resignation of the two ministers.

Justice, one of the main reasons for division within Romanian society

The eye of the political and social storm in Romania in 2018 was the justice system. At the end of the year, Minister Tudorel Toader announced he would submit to President Klaus Iohannis the request for the dismissal of Romania's Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar. In February the same year, Tudorel Toader had called for the dismissal of the head of the National Anticorruption Directorate, Laura Codruta Kovesi.  For months in a row, Klaus Iohannis vehemently opposed the measure, but in July, forced by the Constitutional Court, he signed the decree for dismissal. He rejected, however, the appointment of Adina Florea for the office left vacant by Ms. Kovesi, invoking legal compliance conditions, and that is why the National Anticorruption Directorate is even today run by an interim head.

Seen as the spearhead of the fight against corruption until Laura Codruta Kovesi's dismissal, in 2018 the Directorate sent fewer cases to court. The number of acquittals, however, went up, corroborated with the fleeing abroad of high-ranking dignitaries, who had received definitive sentences and whose extradition the Romanian state did not manage to obtain. Other rulings of the Constitutional Court, including the one establishing the illegality of the 5-judge panels, affected trials and sentences too, and many convictions previously received by well-known figures were suspended. The Social Democratic Party - PSD and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats - ALDE saw this as a victory against the so-called "illegitimate parallel state" which, in their opinion, is trying to oust the lawfully elected political power by using "fabricated criminal cases" created also with the help of some secret protocols signed with the intelligence services, whose existence was also revealed in 2018. MPs in the opposition and part of the civil society say, on the other hand, that this is an obvious attempt of the Social Democrats to take control of the judiciary, so that some of them, starting with their leader Liviu Dragnea, would not be brought to justice.

One of the biggest street protests against PSD and against the Government was definitely the one held on August 10 in Bucharest, when gendarmes used teargas and water canons against protesters. Military prosecutors opened an investigation into the matter after hundreds of protesters filed complaints against the gendarmes. The latter said they only did their job, in keeping with the law. In Brussels, the European Commission and Parliament warned the ruling coalition that the independence of justice, the observance of the rule of law and the fight against corruption regressed in the past year.

A good year for Romanian agriculture

In 2018 Romanian agriculture reported extraordinary results, as it ranked first in Europe in terms of corn and sunflower production, while its cereal crop, totaling 31 million tons, put the country third in Europe after France and Germany. Authorities say that subsidies paid on time, the technology used by farmers, the extension of irrigated areas and the anti-hail protection led to this result, in spite of difficult weather conditions. Also, agriculture and rural development drew European funds, being the sectors with the highest absorption rate at national level. These exceptional results were overshadowed, however, by the African swine fever, the most serious animal disease Romania has been faced with after WWII.

Also in 2018...

The retrospective of 2018 in Romania is not complete without mentioning that the main international financial bodies, such as the IMF, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Commission as well as the main rating agencies issued moderate forecasts regarding Romania's economic growth, the biggest in the EU so far, and warned of the risk of a higher budget deficit. Also in 2018, in the month of October, around 21% of the citizens with the right to vote, that is 3.9 million people, took part in a referendum on the revision of Romania's Constitution, in the sense of redefining family as a freely consented marriage between a man and a woman and not between spouses, as it is at present. 91.5% of the participants in the referendum voted in favor, but the voter turnout was below the 30% threshold needed for the referendum to be valid.

Also in 2018 Romania said good bye to some outstanding personalities, such as Doina Cornea, a symbol of the anti-communist resistance, film director Lucian Pintilie, historian Neagu Djuvara, sports journalist Cristian Topescu and football player Ilie Balaci.
Publicat: 2019-01-05 14:04:00
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