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December 5-9, 2022
New Schengen fail
Nothing convinced Austria that Romania and its integration partner, Bulgaria, deserve to be a part of the Schengen space starting on January 1st next year. 11 years ago, inconsistent reforms in justice and corruption were good enough arguments for several European member states to vote against belonging to the free circulation space, but now the singular opposition from Vienna seems bizarre. It comes after two expert evaluation missions, which attested that Bucharest meets the technical conditions for joining, in addition to the firm support of the other countries in the union and community institutions. Romanian Interior Minister Lucian Bopde expressed his deception, saying that this was a vote not against Romania, but against the EU as a whole, and against unity. The foreign minister said that Austria is self-isolating within the EU. His ministry considers this vote as completely unjust, lacking any objective motivation, especially since Romania acted openly and with transparency in relation to all European partners, including Austria, while the degree of preparation of the country in applying the Schengen acquis was repeatedly confirmed by EU and member state experts. The foreign ministry stated that the claim made by the Austrian side that there is an increase in the flow of migrants in support of its opposition to Romania joining Schengen is unacceptable, incorrect, and unjust, considering that all the data from the EU Frontex Agency clearly shows that Romania is not part of the West Balkan migration route, is not facing migration pressure, and is not a source of secondary migration movements. The ministry summoned Austria's ambassador to its headquarters to be conveyed the message that her country's unjustified and inimical attitude would have unavoidable consequence on bilateral relations.
European plan against illegal migration
Seeming to quell worries expressed by Austria and other states about the large number of illegal migrants reaching the EU, the EC submitted this week an action plan to manage the arrival of illegal arrivals on the West Balkan route. The plan includes operating action structured on five prongs: beefing up border management, speedier asylum procedures, the fight against migrant trafficking, consolidating cooperation on re-admission and return, and a coordinated visa policy. The West Balkan states are called upon to align their visa policy with the EU's, considering the large number of cases of migrants that go to Balkan countries that don't require visas, giving them a gate of entry into western European countries. Romania's government saluted the EC's action plan in this regard, and reiterated its availability to contribute actively and consistently to the implementation of the measures proposed by the executive, in full solidarity and collaboration with European partners.
Budget bill for 2023 in Parliament
The budget bill that went to the floor of Parliament, submitted by the government this week, was based on an economic growth forecast of 2.8%, a 4.4% GDP deficit, and 8% inflation. The great novelty was the new figure for the defense budget, 2.5%, coming against the most severe international security crisis of the last few decades. The executive provided for next year aid for the most disadvantaged categories of the population, aimed at helping them weather this winter and the following, as well as the necessary amounts to cover energy prices. The state and social assistance budgets would allow increasing pensions by 12.5%, a minimum wage worth 3,000 lei, about 600 Euro, and granting monetary aid for retirees of up to 3,000 lei. The Fiscal Council, an independent body, criticized the executive for the way it built the projected budget for next year, saying that it relied on revenues of over 11 billion lei, and that their expectation is for these revenues to be almost 2.5 billion lower. The council said that the government relied on an assumption of lowering expenditure by 0.58%, but that in reality it would be forced to make future budget adjustments in order to bring in an additional 7 billion. The Fiscal Council concluded that the budget deficit anticipated in the bill is too optimistic, and estimated that the real figure may reach 5.7% of the GDP. They also warned that the government did not allot enough money for the co-financing of European project loans and local investment projects, which risk being blocked as a result. In reply, Finance Minister Adrian Caciu said that this institution claimed that revenues were overestimated in last year's budget debate as well. He added that in 2022 the country had a 70 billion lei budget surplus, while the aim of his ministry was to eliminate the risk of lower collection rate.
The Gaudeamus Book Fair
The most important book fair of Romania, Gaudeamus, organized by Radio Romania, was back this week in person, after two years of pandemic hiatus. This is the 29th edition, with 200 participants offering the public a variety of editorial products on various media, for all ages and interests. Over 600 editorial events were scheduled, with book launches, book signings, shows, workshops, and other projects. This year's honorary president of the event is writer Ana Blandiana, who said that this event helps readers and writers discover each other.
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