ELECTIONS The campaign ahead of the second round of Romania's presidential elections on Sunday continues until Saturday morning at 7 am local time. The incumbent president Klaus Iohannis, who is endorsed by the National Liberal Party, now in power, is facing the former Social Democrat prime minister Viorica Dancila. The Standing Electoral Authority has announced that the electoral register has been updated and the total number of voters in the lists is 18,217,411. The total number of citizens residing abroad and entitled to vote in this election is 715,064. In the first round, which included 14 candidates, Iohannis won almost 38% of the votes and Dancila a little over 22%. Voter turnout stood at 51.19%. In the diaspora, where voting took place over three days, a record turnout was reported, with 675,000 people casting their ballots. The second round of voting is also taking place over three days abroad: on Friday between 12 am and 9 pm and on Saturday and Sunday between 7 am and 9 pm, with the possibility for the voting to be extended until midnight. The foreign ministry has already distributed the materials needed for the voting process abroad. 4 million, six hundred and eight thousand and 175 ballots were distributed among the 835 polling stations set up abroad, 100,000 more ballots than was requested in the first round.
FINANCE The European Commission Wednesday recommended that Romania should implement an annual structural adjustment of 1% of the GDP in 2020, to ensure that the nominal increase in net primary government expenditure will not exceed 4.4%. Romania is also advised to use any exceptional revenues in order to reduce the deficit, with budget consolidation measures aimed at ensuring sustainable improvement of the government structural balance, able to encourage growth. Bucharest is also requested to present the Council with a report on the measures taken in this respect, no later than April 15, 2020.
MEETING The Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu had a meeting on Wednesday with the US State Secretary Michael Pompeo, on the side-lines of the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. The Romanian minister appreciated the US’ constant support for strengthening NATO’s defence and deterrence posture on the eastern flank and pleaded for enhanced American military presence in Romania, given the volatile security context in the Black Sea region. He also reiterated the firm commitment of the new government in Bucharest for a fair sharing of responsibilities within NATO, confirming that Romania will continue to earmark 2% of its GDP to defence and to take part in foreign military missions. Also on Wednesday, Bogdan Aurescu had talks with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on which occasion he mentioned the Common Declaration on the Strategic Partnership signed in 2018 by the presidents Klaus Iohannis and Emmanuel Macron, which re-launched the bilateral relation.
ARREST The owner of the Romanian company that provided pest extermination services to 2 apartment buildings in Timişoara, western Romania, was taken in pre-trial custody for 30 days, under accusations of manslaughter, bodily harm and trafficking in controlled substances. Three people died, including a 9-day baby, over 40 others, mostly children, are hospitalized, and the buildings have been evacuated. The tragedy caused panic among the locals, with scores of people requesting medical check-ups. Investigations have revealed that the substances used for pest extermination had been purchased on the black market and contained a highly toxic compound. Concurrently with the criminal investigation, new decontamination operations were conducted on Wednesday, and a Health Ministry team is running on-site tests.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)