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Highlights of the past week in the news
The second wave of the pandemic
Europe is being swept by the second wave of the pandemic, and EU leaders promise to coordinate in order to thwart it. At the end of a video conference with them, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyden, announced that the executive would finance the transfer of COVID-19 patients from one country to another, in order to relieve pressure on hospitals. President Klaus Iohannis called for more money to be earmarked for diversifying the sources of procurement for future vaccines, and pleaded in favor of a unitary approach across EU countries, which would allow, among other things, mutual recognition of test results. European states are imposing once again total or partial quarantine. The authorities in Bucharest admit that the situation is getting worse, but also say that it is not yet bad enough to impose the drastic measures taken in the spring. Every day, new cases of infection are being reported, and 100 sick people lose the fight. Hundreds of localities, especially the capital Bucharest, function under the red scenario, which means wearing masks indoors as well as outdoors, moving all school activity online, closing bars, restaurants, clubs, and event halls. Intensive care sections are under huge pressure, reason for which the authorities are expanding existing ones, and setting up new ones. In the same vein, the government has introduced new regulations with regard to people who have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, and will hire with no competitive process 200 young physicians with specialties such as intensive care, emergency care, pneumology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, and radiology.
Five years since Colectiv
Five years have passed since the tragic fire in the Bucharest club Colectiv, where 65 young people lost their lives at a music event, and 150 more were hospitalized. The tragedy is the result of a chain of malfeasance, and the subsequent behavior of some of those involved showed cynicism, bad faith, and lack of respect for the suffering of the victims. This was the conclusion of the first court that heard the cases, which handed out a total of 115 years in prison to the culprits. They are the owners of the club, the owners of the company that mounted the fireworks show that caused the fire, the fire marshals that had issued the safety permit, and, last but not least, the then mayor of the Bucharest sector where the club was for abuse of office. However, no considerations, be they moral, or worse, legislative, prevented the latter from running successfully for mayor in another sector. That being after he had resigned shortly after the fire, and had promised he would never run again for office. Incompetence and corruption created the lethal combination that resulted in the tragedy. The people understood that, and took to the streets in the thousands, bringing down the Social Democratic government that ruled at the time. However, what is still painfully valid is what was expressed back then by the head of the Romanian Catholic Church, Monsignor Robu, the first faith leader to arrive at the scene of the fire. He said: 'We all should be ashamed, all of us, governments, state institutions, and churches alike, for not changing anything in 25 years.' He went on to say: 'I believe we have not done enough in 25 years, we, the churches, in our way of thinking, of acting, because we swallowed all too easily corruption, lies, trickery, they seemed like nothing, but now we see they can be deadly.'
High level corruption
The former Liberal speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Bogdan Olteanu, has been issued a definitive sentence of five years in prison for influence peddling, in a case in which he stood accused of receiving a bribe worth one million Euro from a businessman. Olteanu was previously deputy governor of the National Bank. This is the third speaker of the lower chamber to go to prison for corruption, after Social Democrats Adrian Nastase and Liviu Dragnea. At the same time, the members of the chamber approved, with a clear and equally surprising majority, considering past votes, the request from anti-corruption prosecutors to start investigating one of their colleagues, Nicolae Banicioiu (left wing Pro Romania party), who stands accused of influence peddling and aggravated bribe taking.
Romanian PM visits Paris
The Romanian and French PMs, Ludovic Orban and Jean Castex, signed on Monday in Paris a new and revised roadmap for the strategic partnership between their two countries. This provides for more structured cooperation, which is more ambitious and more in line with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, as hoped by the two heads of government. The roadmap sets the main coordinates of the collaboration in the next four years in areas such as nuclear energy, defense, telecom, agriculture, and health. Among other things, France will get involved in developing Romania's capacity to produce nuclear energy. This comes after Romania and the United States signed an agreement early this month to build two more reactors. The Romanian PM held, in Paris, talks with the heads of the National Assembly and the Senate, and took part in the meeting of the OECD there. The members of the OECD Council said they believe that Romania had reached the necessary level to start negotiations for joining their organization. Membership in the OECD would be a strategic step for Romania, the Romanian head of government emphasized.
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