Bucharest was covered in snow last Sunday as winter finally arrived in the Romanian capital. Schools were closed on Monday but otherwise life went on: Bucharest is rather good at muddling through a bout of bad weather. With temperatures as low as we can ever remember them (on Thursday morning the car displayed -18.5C at 7am) the snow is set to stick around for a bit, although no new falls are forecast.
There were protests, riots, and even a quasi-storming of parliament in neighbouring Moldova this week, as thugs loyal to Russia attempted to derail the installation of a new, vaguely pro-European (although still grossly corrupt) government. A glance at Moldova is, we think, the perfect riposte to anyone who suggests that the membership of either the European Union (EU) or Nato are not in Romania’s interests. Moldova – an all but failed country – is precisely what Romania would look like were it not a member of the EU or Nato.
Alina Gorghiu, leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL), this week formally asked prime minister Dacian Ciolos to pass an emergency ordinance (OUG) to restore a two-round system of voting for mayoral elections. The current method by which mayors are elected is the same as the UK’s first past the post (FPTP) used to elect Westminster MPs: one round of voting, winner takes all. Until the last local elections in 2012, Romania had used a two-round system. It was, ironically, the PNL which – along with the PSD – brought in FPTP. Ciolos refused Gorghiu’s request, even though he is thought to favour a return to two-rounds. He stated that to reverse, by emergency ordinance, a parliamentary bill would be ‘undemocratic’.
However, in a not particularly well-coded message to Ciolos, head of the Romanian Constitutional Court (CCR) Augustin Zegrean made it clear that he would have no problem with an OUG reintroducing two-round elections. ‘It is a political issue, not a constitutional one,’ he said. With much of civil society favouring a two-round vote, Ciolos might well be persuaded to give in. We hope he is.
Wizzair this week announced that it would start flying from Bucharest to Cluj as of July 22nd. It is the Hungarian airline’s first Romanian domestic route. Wizzair’s move comes just a week after Ryanair also announced the opening of an internal flight, from Bucharest to Timisoara. In both cases, fares will be less than half those of state-owned Tarom, which until now has had a virtual monopoly on internal flights. It would appear that the days of that monopoly are coming to an end. It would also be nice to think that the days of Tarom itself are coming to an end too, at least as a state-owned and subsidised enterprise. Romania has a number of priorities, and a loss-making flag carrier is not one of them.
For what it’s worth, Tarom responded on Friday by slashing the price of its internal flights to as little as €57 return (depending on the date of travel). Isn’t competition wonderful?
High in the Fagaras Mountains 72 people had to be evacuated by helicopter from Balea Lac after the antiquated cable car from Balea Cascada broke down. During winter, when the Transfagarasan Highway is closed, the cable car provides the only access to Balea Lac. As we pushed the publish button on this post, the cable car had yet to be repaired.
Other bits and pieces you might have missed this week:
The great hope of Romanian tennis, Simona Halep, was knocked out in the first round of the Australian Open by a Chinese qualifier, Zhang Shuai.
The Romanian film Aferim! – now on limited release in the UK – received a glowing, five-star review in The Guardian.
A number of Romanian MPs want to suspend the driving licenses of drivers who use their car horns too much. Quite how the good people of Bucharest will know that the traffic lights have turned green we really don’t know.
Finally, a word about next week in Bucharest: Tuesday in particular. That’s the day the CCR meets to discuss objections to the anti-smoking law passed by parliament in December. The court is expected to dismiss the objections with little fuss, paving the way for president Klaus Iohannis to promulgate the law. The bill, you may remember, was passed by parliament shortly before Christmas, only for a small group of die hard senators – almost all smokers and, allegedly, in the pay of large tobacco companies – to block it by submitting their objection to the court. Word is the CCR will dismiss the objection with nary a second thought. Here’s hoping.