A roundup of domestic and international news.
COVID-19 Romania - Almost 235,000 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.
Unions – Cartel Alfa, one of the largest trade union confederations in Romania, has called on the Presidential Administration to mediate the social conflict between government and unionists, so that their demands should be covered by the 2021 national budget. The unions are asking for a decent minimum salary, reasonable pensions, fair taxation and quality public services. Cartel Alfa picketed the presidential headquarters on Monday and will continue protest actions across the country further into January and February, in an attempt to put pressure on the authorities. The Bucharest Government moves on with the drafting of this year’s budget, which is based on a deficit target of 7% of the GDP.
Eurostat - On average in the EU, public and private expenditure on preventive care accounted for 2.8% of total health expenditure in 2018, with highest shares recorded in Italy (4.4%) and Finland (4.0%), according to data made public by Eurostat on Monday. The lowest share of preventive care expenditure was recorded in Slovakia (0.8% of total health expenditure), followed by Greece, Cyprus and Malta (all 1.3%) as well as Romania (1.4%). Relative to population size, preventive care expenditure was highest among the EU Member States in Sweden, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands in 2018, while it was lowest in Romania and Slovakia. Preventive care aims to avoid or reduce the number or the severity of injuries and diseases, their consequences and complications.
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 upon 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 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 that by going to Germany, he violated the terms of a suspended sentence in a case which Navalny says was fabricated. The latter called on Russians on Monday to take to the streets against the power, in a video posted shortly after a judge decided his detainment for 30 days.
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. Sandu met with the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who told her that she can count on the EU’s support in the reform process and the battle against corruption. 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, when 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. (Translated by E. Enache)