Possible lifting of the MCV
This was an important week for Bucharest, as the EC stated that Romania has fulfilled the requirements of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification, and recommended lifting the monitoring. Some of the measures that were taken into account are the recently passed laws on the judiciary, a new strategy to develop the legal system, and the fight against corruption. However, Brussels does point out that Romania should continue to work fully to live up to the rest of its commitments, mentioned in the report, and to implement them, as part of the rule of law mechanism. The authorities in Bucharest saluted the EC decision, and said that this was a clear confirmation that Romania has made the necessary reforms. The lifting of the MCV was essential for joining the Schengen space, since The Netherlands was blocking Romania's entry into the free circulation space due to what it saw as problems with the rule of law and corruption in the country. Last month in Bucharest, Dutch PM Mark Rutte reminded the authorities that Amsterdam would withdraw their objections over Romania joining Schengen once the MCV was no longer applicable.
President Klaus Iohannis visits Latvia and Lithuania
Romania joining the Schengen space was also the topic of discussion for President Klaus Iohannis abroad. He visited Latvia and Lithuania this week on official missions, and held talks with his counterparts in the two Baltic states. Romania and Latvia celebrated a century of diplomatic relations, and the head of state talked with President Egils Levits about deepening cooperation and coordination between the two countries as part of the EU, NATO, and various other regional organizations. Speaking of joining Schengen, the Romanian president said that Romania has never been, is not, and will not be, a country that allows out of control migration and illegal border crossings. This statement came in response to worrying statements made by the Austrian chancellor regarding the alleged crossing into the EU of 75,000 unregistered migrants, alleged to have reached Austria. Here is the president:
“Romania did not, does not, and will not, have an uncontrolled migrant flow. These migrants do not arrive through Romania or from Romania. As we all know, the Balkan route raises problems, and we in Romania have taken all necessary measures.”
In fact, Romanian Minister of the Interior Lucian Bode traveled to Vienna to provide assurances to his Austrian counterpart that Romania joining the Schengen space would enhance European security, and would not pose a danger for other member states. In addition, he recalled that, a few days ago, after an assessment of his country's borders, EC experts established that Romania meets all European norms that would allow it to join the free circulation space. In Vilnius, Klaus Iohannis spoke to his Lithuanian counterpart, Gitanas Nauseda, about the security situation in the region. The leader in Vilnius believes that the next round of sanctions against Russia, in response to its aggression against Ukraine, should be issued as fast as possible. In turn, Klaus Iohannis said that Romania supported, and continues to support, the Republic of Moldova against Russian attacks, which affected not only Ukraine, but also the supply of electrical power in Moldova. Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu made similar statements at Monday's conference in Paris on supporting Chisinau, saying that Romanian will remain in solidarity with Moldova, and would support the neighboring country for as long as necessary. In addition, Romania joined France and Germany in announcing a new program of aid for Moldova, worth over 100 million Euro.
The first Romanian-Spanish government session
Romanian and Spanish prime ministers, Nicolae Ciuca and Pedro Sanchez, took part in the first joint Romanian-Spanish government session in Bucharest and Madrid. They firmly condemned the unprovoked, unjustified, and illegal aggression that Russia perpetrates against Ukraine. In the common statement signed by the two officials, their two states reaffirmed their status as firm EU partners, and allies that support Euro-Atlantic security as part of NATO. In the European realm, the two countries committed to supporting EU's policy of expansion in the Western Balkans, and the roadmap that Kiev and Chisinau have towards joining the EU. The two governments agreed to have a bilateral working group to grant double citizenship to Romanians living in Spain. In this context, the Spanish PM thanked the million-plus Romanians living in his country for their contribution to the development of his country, saying that they have integrated very well there. PM Nicolae Ciuca also thanked Romanians in the Iberian kingdom.
“I take this opportunity to thank Romanians for the way in which they integrated, for the way they behaved, for the way that they honor Romania, no matter in which area they carry out their activities.”
The meeting ended in the signing of a memorandum of understanding in a variety of areas.
Major decisions in Bucharest
In the context of the energy crisis facing the whole of Europe, the Chamber of Deputies in the parliament in Bucharest issued a bill to change the ordinance on energy, setting the price ceiling for electrical power at 1.30 Lei per kWh, about 26 Eurocents. The new ceiling will be progressive, depending on consumption, and will be valid starting January 1 next year, until March 31, 2025. Also this week, the government joined its social partners in agreeing that the minimum wage would go up starting on January 1, upcoming, to 3,000 Lei (about 600 Euro), from 2,550 Lei (about 510 Euro), as it stands now, while 200 Lei, about 40 Euro, would be tax free. According to the agreement, the wages in the construction sector would be no less than 4,000 lei, about 800 Euro. The executive believes that this raise would have a positive effect on economic growth, both by lifting the purchasing power of workers, and by reducing unemployment. Previously, the leaders in the ruling coalition in Romania had decided that pensions based on contribution would go up by 12.5% starting next year. People with low incomes, also starting next year, would benefit from state aid. The PM said that these support measures agreed upon by the coalition would not skew the budget. The opposition disagrees, issuing a report critical of the Ciuca cabinet, one year after its coming into office. The document references the huge inflation, the lack of concern for reducing spending in ministries, and preserving special pensions for elected officials. Opposition party USR also made a point of record price hikes and failed projects, while the AUR accused the present government of incompetence and lack of political will to pass measures to prop up the economy and the population.