BUDGET The government of Romania passed the state budget and social security budget bills for this year, and the fiscal-budgetary strategy for 2021-2023. The budget is based on a 7.16% of GDP deficit target, a 2.4% annual inflation rate and on roughly 680-euro net average salaries. The Liberal PM Florin Cîţu said the budget pushes for the restructuring of state-owned companies this year, and voiced hopes that Parliament will endorse the bills as soon as possible. He also mentioned that the amendments to be tabled by MPs should not exceed the targeted budget deficit and must make clear where the funds would come from. The Supreme Defence Council approved the draft budgets of public institutions in the national defence and security field.
VACCINE The national COVID-19 vaccination programme continues in Romania. According to the Vaccination Coordination Committee, nearly 1.3 million doses have been used on close to 770,000 people since the start of the programme on December 27. Most people received the Pfizer vaccine, and some others doses produced by Moderna. As of this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine is also available in Romania. Meanwhile, over 2,700 new SARS-CoV-2 cases were reported in the country in the past 24 hours, the Strategic Communication Group said on Friday. Of a total of 7,000 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalised, some 950 are in intensive care. The total number of cases reported so far in Romania is nearly 775,000, 90% of whom have recovered. The death toll stands at over 19,700.
ROMA The president of Romania Klaus Iohannis emphasised today, in a special message for the Roma Emancipation Day, the importance of eliminating prejudice and discrimination, which he said are “much too common” in respect of Roma access to education. He mentioned that the emancipation of Roma slaves 165 years ago, had a major role in the evolution of the profile and values of Romanian society in mid-19th Century, paving the way for the country to embrace European modernity. The head of state also said that for the Roma, the hundreds of years of slavery left “deep and hard to heal scars.” He explained that the 1856 emancipation was a major challenge for the Romanian society as a whole. The president also called for discouraging and punishing hate speech and all racist, anti-Semitic, chauvinistic behaviours.
PROTESTS Pupils and students are protesting in Bucharest today the scrapping of full subsidies for railway transport. They will be picketing the head offices of the Liberal Party and the USR-PLUS Alliance in power, and the government headquarters. The organisers say these austerity measures hit the most vulnerable youth, and the government sacrifices students’ mobility access for political purposes. They also oppose possible compromise attempts coming from politicians that seek to soften the students’ reactions to this measure.
CONFERENCE “America is back,” the US president Joe Biden said repeatedly attending his first international event. On Friday he took part in the Munich Security Conference, held online. Joe Biden explained that NATO is the foundation of trans-Atlantic security, that the US is fully committed to the Alliance, and he welcomed Europe’s growing investment in the military capabilities that enable shared defence. Joe Biden also warned that competition with China is going to be tough, but voiced confidence that a united Alliance can win this race. As regards Russia, he said Moscow weaponised corruption and tried to undermine Europe by targeting individual states. The German chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe and the US need a shared agenda on China and Russia, adding that the latter is the cause of hybrid conflicts. She also noted that there was scarcely any progress in restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty after Crimea was illegally annexed. On the other hand, the French president Emmanuel Macron only mentioned a need for dialogue with Russia.
PANDEMIC The EU is stepping up procurement of coronavirus vaccines, after large-scale criticism for the slow start of the vaccine rollout. The EC president Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted the agreements signed with vaccine producers to give the EU access to serums tailored to fight the new variants. She added the EU antifraud agency is helping member states to identify counterfeits sold in the black market. According to worldometers updates, over 111 million people have caught the virus and at least 86 million have recovered. The global death toll stands at over 2.4 million. (tr. A.M. Popescu)