End of an era
The Romanian political class joined politicians around the world in mourning the demise of Queen Elisabeth II of the United Kingdom, who passed away on Thursday night, at 96 years of age. Her seven decade reign is the longest in the history of her country, spanning several generations, mirroring the destiny of the world from the second half of the last century to the present. As a constitutional monarch, a ruler who never governed, the queen worked with 15 PMs, from the legendary Winston Churchill, to the newly minted Liz Truss. During her reign, the most important strategic partner of her country, the US, had 14 presidents, from Harry Truman to Joe Biden. Along the years, the UK's fraught relationship with Moscow was managed on the opposite side by a suite of Soviet and post-Soviet leaders, from tyrannical Joseph Stalin to unpredictable Vladimir Putin. Elisabeth II's passing closes a chapter in history. Her first born becomes king at the age of 73, under the name of Charles III. The press in Bucharest dubs the latter a great friend of Romania, which he visited periodically during the last two decades. The new British monarch, fascinated by Romanian and Saxon traditions in southern Transylvania, has consistently contributed to preserving and popularizing them. He is also a tax payer to the local budget, as the owner of properties in Romania.
New school year, old issues
On Monday, almost three million students in Romania went back to school. The new school year brings novelties, announced by the Ministry of Education. In place of the thus far usual two semesters, from now on children will have five teaching modules, alternating with five school breaks. Quarterly exams will no longer be mandatory, while grade averages will no longer be cumulative, but will be assigned subject by subject. Grade point averages for fifth to eighth grades will no be taken into account for high school admission. Another change removes rules for expelling students, since now 12 years of schooling is obligatory in Romania. This sanction only applies to optional vocational schools. These novelties are only part of the reform package pushed by the new governing coalition minister, Liberal Sorin Cimpeanu. He is strongly opposed by many within the education system, from academicians to teachers, to university leaders and student associations. Tens of thousands have already signed petitions for his removal. According to a new poll conducted by World Vision, the anger and frustration within the system are obvious. Two out of three Romanian instructors point out that the curriculum continues to be too cumbersome, and that the drop out rate continues to be a problem this year, yet to be solved. 35% of youngsters continue to have insufficient school resources due to poverty. One out of ten parents continue to pull out of school at least one of their children, temporarily or definitively, in order to cope with expenses. Half of teachers state that they are discouraged by the lack of involvement from parents. 65% of them say that more money is needed to face expenses for laboratory or athletic activities.
Blue Air up in the air
The government in Bucharest has allocated about one million Euro to the reserve fund set aside from Romanians stuck abroad as a result of the decision by air carrier Blue Air to suspend its flights. PM Nicolae Ciuca said that the money should be recovered fully from the airline. Almost 3,000 people have requested consular services, and the Ministry of Transportation mobilized the state air carrier, TAROM, in order to bring them home. Blue Air has suspended flights up until Monday, September 12. All company flights scheduled to depart from Romanian airports have been grounded due to the fact that the Environmental Fund Administration has frozen its accounts, as the airline owes it over 28 million lei. According to data published by Blue Air, this suspension cancels 400 flights, accounting for 54,000 travelers. Two months ago, the National Authority for Consumer Protection fined the company for canceling numerous flights this year, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.
An expected motion
As anticipated by commentators, the Chamber of Deputies, meeting in plenary session, rejected the first simple motion in its first parliament session, introduced by the opposition USR party against the Liberal minister of energy, Virgil Popescu. USR chair Catalin Drula said that the program to set ceilings and pay subsidies for energy and gas prices has put an undue burden on companies critical to the national economy, has made vulnerable tens of thousands of jobs, and has weakened Romania's energy security, in a very difficult international context. Minister Popescu rejected all charges, accusing the USR of populism. He claims that the new mechanism for handling energy bills would discourage price gouging in the energy sector.
Top tier talks between Romania and Hungary
On Wednesday, Hungarian President Katalin Novak was on an official visit to Bucharest, assuring that her country supports neighboring Romania's accession to the Schengen Area, which is a priority aim for Bucharest. She assured the press that the two neighbors wish to assuage existing tensions, not foment them. She admitted that Romania and Hungary would not always see eye to eye, but that what is most important is talking and listening. In turn, President Klaus Iohannis said that Romanian authorities were fully open to collaboration with the country next door. He emphasized that Romania respects the rights of all national minorities, granting them parliamentary representation. The Hungarian minority in Romania, about 1.2 million strong, is concentrated in the center and west of the country, representing about 6% of the population. Its main political representative body, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, has been a constant presence in governing coalitions in power since 1996, irrespective of political orientation.