Senator resigns in response to street protests
Thousands of Romanians demonstrated outside the country’s senate on Thursday in protest at its refusal to allow investigators to open criminal proceedings against former minister of the interior Gabriel Oprea.
In October 2015 one of Oprea’s police motorcycle outriders, Bogdan Gigina, was killed while escorting the then interior minister home from a restaurant. Oprea was not entitled to a police escort for the trip. The senator is also alleged to have ordered his escort to travel at speeds too fast for the wet conditions.
Romania’s anti-corruption unit, the DNA, wants to investigate Oprea on charges of manslaughter. The senate has now three times refused to lift Oprea’s parliamentary immunity, as members of the PSD, PRU and ALDE parties close ranks around him.
Cynically, Oprea himself said on Thursday that the senate should vote again on the matter. The law – as he probably knows all too well – does not allow for a new vote.
Following threats of new protests on Friday, Oprea finally announced late in the afternoon that he would resign as a senator.
Western Romania hit by deadly measles outbreak
As if Romania didn’t have enough problems, it was announced on Wednesday that the country was currently suffering its worst outbreak of measles in years. Three babies have died of the disease this year, with the number of recorded cases topping 650.
Alarmingly, Romania’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in the developed world, currently under 75 per cent and way below safe levels for herd immunity. In Arad, in the west of Romania, there are localities where the vaccination rate is reportedly now as low as 50 per cent.
A well-known anti-vaccination (and anti-medicine in general) campaigner, former TV presenter Olivia Steer, has since come in for fierce criticism. The ministry of health meantime has brought forward plans to force a compulsory vaccination bill through parliament.
Bucharest is Europe’s eighth faster growing visitor destination
Mastercard on Friday launched its annual Global Destination Cities Index. The most visited city in the world this year is Bangkok, with more than 21 million overnight visitor arrivals. London is in second place, with Paris third.
Bucharest – contrary to the popular belief that it is swerved by tourists – does very well: it is the eighth fastest growing visitor destination in Europe, and will welcome well over a million visitors this year. May, June, September and October are the busiest months.
You can download the full report here.
We, meantime, are off to prepare a new edition of our Bucharest In Your Pocket guide: the only one that any of these million visitors will ever actually need…
Romania on the rails
Romania was featured in a new episode of Michael Portillo’s generally excellent BBC series Continental Railway Journeys.
Although Portillo couldn’t resist a few cliches (Dracula not the least of them) Romania looked rather gorgeous in what we think was one of the more objective travel programmes to feature the country in recent years.
We also noticed that Portillo uses private Regiotrans and not CFR services wherever possible.
You can watch the programme on the BBC iPlayer here. If you are not in the UK (or do not have a VPN), sign up with Romania-based Proxmate for a free trial of their very easy to use browser extension that allows you to watch content from a variety of countries.