Minister of Defense resigns
This week in politics started off with a bang, with the resignation of Social-Democrat Minister of Defense with the coalition government in Bucharest, Vasile Dincu. He announced this on Monday, one day before the celebration of Army Day and the meeting of the Higher Defense Council. Dincu said that he could no longer work with the president, who is supreme commander of the armed forces. His situation had become untenable after his public statement that the only chance for the war in Ukraine to end is negotiating with Russia. President Iohannis reminded the former minister that the official position that Romania and its partners holds is that it is Ukraine's decision to negotiate and when, and tauntingly urged him to read the press more often. PM Nicolae Ciuca is now interim defense minister, and as such took part in the Higher Defense Council passed the updated Army 2040 program, with a focus on budgeting for more personnel, re-configuring acquisition programs, and modernizing the defense industry.
NATO's eastern flank consolidates
The first French military convoys, with armored vehicles, light and heavy, alongside troops, arrived on Sunday in Romania. They are beefing up the NATO task force located at Cincu, in the center of the country. Starting in May, this group started being formed out of various elements of NATO forces already present in Romania, plus arriving troops. France proposed taking over the role of nation on point for this initiative. The French battalion is considered a spearhead for the NATO task force, integrating by rotation forces from Belgium and The Netherlands. Spain will also contribute to the consolidation of NATO's eastern flank by sending F-18 and Eurofighter fighter jets to Romania and Bulgaria. These planes will reach in December the military base in Fetesti, in the south east, and will patrol the airspace in the region. Spain has already mounted a long range radar installation in Dobrogea, in the south east of the country.
PM Ciuca goes to Brussels
Liberal PM Nicolae Ciuca faces, alongside his Social Democrat partners, protests against poverty at home, in an unhealthy bid to increase pensions. However, in Brussels he received good news. There is a possibility to replace the ceiling for pensions of 9.4% of GDP figure, set in the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience, with a new figure, matching financial discipline. This discussion with the head of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, was one in principle, with the details remaining to the settled by experts. In Bucharest, coalition parties want to adjust pensions to the rate of inflation, which is over 15%. In terms of joining the Schengen area, Romania has full support in Brussels, which is what most heads of government in Europe the premier talked to said. He said that Romania proved that the country is able to protect the outer borders of the EU, both before and after the conflict. However, the decision to let Romania join Schengen needs unanimous consent, but The Netherlands are hesitant, due to its government's dependence on radical anti-immigration and Euroskeptic elements. During his trip to the capital of Europe, the PM also held talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who assured him that Romania is a valued allied in the organization, which is ready to defend it.
Possible statute of limitations for high end criminals
On Tuesday, the High Court of Cassation and Justice issued a major ruling regarding the statute of limitations. It decided that the latter may be applied retroactively, applying the more favorable legal provision, which, according to legal sources, may affect the course of thousands of cases that are pending in courts, on are being investigated by prosecutors. This would allow many defendants to get away by claiming the statute of limitations. Among the possible beneficiaries would be present or former mayors in major cities, as well as politicians and business people. The highest name on the list would be Elena Udrea, famous for cases against her and stints in prison over the last 8 year. This happened after the end of the presidential term of Traian Basescu, considered her protector. She is presently serving time for corruption. She is a former minister in his cabinet, and has pending two more corruption cases. One of them relates to financing the election campaign for Basescu in 20009, a case in which she got a sentence of 8 years in prison for conspiracy to bribery and money laundering. In that same case, Ioana Basescu, the former president's daughter, was sentenced to five years.
Shock news in the world of sports
The most celebrated tennis player in Romania, Simona Halep, got a temporary suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs during the US Open, which she had to leave during the opening round. The former world number one was also the winner of the Grand Slam in Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She said that she was starting the most difficult game of her life, a battle for the truth. Halep, who is considered by tennis experts as a model of athletic integrity, promised that she would fight to prove that she did not take the banned substance on purpose. If she does not manage to prevail, she risks being banned for four years from the court. There are slim chances that she can be exonerated. Any suspension, even a mild one, could mark the end of the career of the 31 year-old player. This is the most resounding case of its kind after the case of Maria Sharapova, who tested positive six years ago. Two other cases of illegal drug use in Romanian sports are those of gymnast Andreea Raducan and footballer Adrian Mutu.