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A summary of the week's top events
Romania continues the state of alert
Starting on Monday, the state of alert in Romania got extended by 30 days. Even though the cases of coronavirus infections continues to drop, intensive care units continue to be full, and the number of deaths is still high. The capital of the country still tops the charts in terms of infections, but the authorities don't believe a quarantine is yet warranted. Here is the prefect of Bucharest, Traian Berbeceanu:
“At this point, we don't deem it necessary to take additional measures, because, in our opinion, it is pointless to take measures on paper, if you don't supervise and see how things get enforced. We strongly believe that if we observe the measures in place, we can curb the spread of the pandemic.”
Ilfov County, home to the capital city Bucharest, has most of its localities in quarantine, and local authorities announce a slight drop in the rate of infection. In the rest of the country many more localities are under quarantine still. Nationally, a third of Romanian counties are red zones, with a high rate of infection, between 1.5 and 3 cases per thousand, while the rest are green zones, with below 1.5. In the hope of halting the pandemic, and being able to get back to normal life, Romania, as everywhere else, prepares to receive vaccines. They are supposed to reach here at the end of the month, as in the rest of the EU, as stated by the EC. Setting up vaccination centers is already and ongoing process, where medical staff has primacy. Health authorities reiterate that this cannot stop the virus if vaccination is not done on a mass scale. In Romania this most likely will occur starting in spring, on a voluntary and free of charge basis.
Fierce negotiations for a new government in Bucharest
On December 21, President Klaus Iohannis announced that he would call on Parliament to designate a new prime minister after an initial round of consultations he had with parties that were elected to the legislative assembly. According to final results from the Central Electoral Bureau, the future parliament will have representatives of the PSD, PNL, USR PLUS, AUR, UDMR, and ethnic minorities. The results of the elections made it very difficult to designate a premier, and implicitly a new government. The Social Democratic PSD party, which came first in the December 6 elections, maintains that the best solution for the pandemic would be a national union government led by physician Alexandru Rafila, in order to unite all the political formations that made it to Parliament. The PNL, USR PLUS, and UDMR held intense debates this week for constituting a parliamentary majority and forming a government.
Special pensions in the Constitutional Court
Romania's Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional overall the law that taxes at the rate of 85% pensions over 7,000 lei (some 1.400 Euro). The decision was unanimous. At first, these were pensions granted to magistrates and security forces employees, followed later by members of Parliament, diplomats, and aeronautic staff. As opposed to regular pensions, which amount to around 300 Euro, based on individual contributions, special pensions are exempt, and amount to thousands. Moreover, they are funded by social security as well as the state budget. Reason for which in June, Parliament issued a law that did not root out special pensions, but taxed them proportionally. Right away, this bill was contested by the People's Ombudsman in the High Court of Cassation and Justice, claiming that the law violates the principle of taxation equity. In protest against the ruling, members from the USR party resigned in the last plenary session of the lower chamber of Parliament, effectively renouncing their special pensions. A few Social Democrats made a similar gesture.
Timisoara on its 31st anniversary
A day of mourning was observed on Thursday in honor of the first victims of the December 1989 uprising and revolution against communist rule. The events in that city sparked the events that led to the downfall of the Ceausescu regime in Romania, in one of the bloodiest revolutions in the east of Europe. Due to the pandemic, the celebrations in Timisoara lacked the luster of the past. However, participants in the struggle, as well as descendants of the victims took part in the event alongside officials. Interim PM Nicolae Ciuca, at present Defense Minister, sent a message on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the Romanian revolution, in which he called for 'a light to be shined' on the events in 1989. He believes that some of the employees of the Ministry of Defense ought to apologize to grieving families for the mistakes or abuses perpetrated at the time of the events. On December 17, 1989, citizens in the city of Timisoara took to the streets shouting Freedom and Down with Ceausescu, and were opened fire upon, causing around 100 to lose their lives and about 350 to be wounded.
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