COVID-19 Romania - Almost 205,000 Romanians have been vaccinated against the new coronavirus so far, with minor and common side effects having been reported in several hundred patients. Sunday was also the first day when the second dose of vaccine was given to the medical staff from infectious disease hospitals who opened the national vaccination campaign on December 27th. The second stage of the campaign continues for people over the age of 65, those with chronic diseases, as well as for the staff working in key areas. On Monday, about 1,500 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Romania, bringing the total number of cases to 700,000. More than 17,000 Romanians have died from COVID-19 infection, and about 1,000 are in intensive care.
Protests - The Romanian government continues to draft the state budget for this year, with a budget deficit target of 7% of the GDP. The executive also intends to correct the date from which the increase in the minimum wage is applied, so that the increase of 70 lei to the gross salary (about 14 euros) should come into force from January 1 and not from the day when the increase was published in the Official Gazette. The protests of one of the largest trade union confederations, Cartel Alfa, continue. The trade unionists, who are picketing the presidential headquarters, are dissatisfied with the level set by the government for the gross minimum wage in Romania, as well as with the capping of revenues in the public sector at last year's level.
Arrest - The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday called on Russia to immediately release the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, who was arrested on Sunday on his arrival to Moscow, France Press reports. Navalny returned from Berlin, where he had been hospitalized since August last year after being poisoned with the nerve agent Noviciok. Maas also called for a thorough investigation into Navalny's poisoning and for bringing the perpetrators to justice. In turn, the British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab called on Russia to release Aleksei Navalny immediately and said that Moscow had to explain how he was attacked with a chemical weapon. European Council President Charles Michel and the team of the US President-elect Joe Biden have called for Navalny's immediate release. In Bucharest, the Romanian Foreign Minister, Bogdan Aurescu, condemned the arrest of the Russian opponent, and described the repression of the opposition as a purely undemocratic gesture. Navalny is accused by Russian authorities of violating the terms of a conviction by going to Germany.
Moldova - The President of the Republic of Moldova (ex-Soviet country with a majority Romanian-speaking), pro-Western Maia Sandu, is paying a two-day visit to Brussels to re-establish ties with the European Union, ties which were affected by the policy of his pro-Russian predecessor, Igor Dodon. She is to meet with EC President Ursula von der Leyen and the European Council President Charles Michel, with the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn, and with the president of the EP David-Maria Sassoli. On Sunday, before the official visit, Maia Sandu already had a discussion with the head of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, the Romanian Laura Codruţa Kovesi, with whom she agreed on joint actions to combat smuggling and money laundering. The first high-level visit that Maia Sandu received after taking office was, on December 29, went her Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis, went to Chsinau where they adopted a Joint Declaration, meant to strengthen the strategic partnership of the two neighboring countries.
Visit - The Secretary of State for European Affairs with the Romanian Foreign Ministry, Iulia Matei, is today participating in the informal meeting of the EU General Affairs Council. The meeting, which takes place in videoconference format, has on its agenda the presentation of the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council and a briefing on the organization stage of the Conference on the Future of Europe. According to MAE, in the run up to the informal meeting of European leaders, on January 21, the meeting will address issues related to the coordination at EU level of the strategy for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. (tr. L. Simion)