The Week in Romania

Cristian Cojocaru, Head of the Telecom Division at Samsung Romania, caused a stir this week when he declared that ‘tablets are more important than indoor toilets.’ In Cojocaru’s view, indoor toilets do not facilitate learning: tablets do. As such, families in the countryside should spend money on tablets (made by Samsung, of course) rather than indoor plumbing. He later apologised. According to the National Institute of Statistics, more than 60 per cent of homes in the Romanian countryside do not benefit from indoor toilets.

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A former Romanian foreign minister, Adrian Severin (PSD), who at a recent conference stated that ‘if everyone is breaking the law, maybe the law should be changed’ was on Wednesday sentenced to four years in prison for corruption. Severin was caught in a Sunday Times sting operation in 2011 while serving as an MEP. He agreed to put forward amendments to legislation in exchange for €100,000. After hearing his sentence (which is definitive and can’t be appealed) Severin said that Romania was a colony in which ‘justice cannot be done.’ Two other MEPs (one Slovenian, one Austrian) exposed as part of the same sting were sentenced to prison in their respective countries some time ago.

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Campaigning officially began last weekend ahead of December 11th’s parliamentary election. On Monday we published a complete guide to the election, and the parties competing for seats. If you missed it, read it here.

Disgraced former prime minister Victor Ponta said this week that Romania need not fulfil its Nato obligation to spend two per cent of GDP on defence, as ‘Russia is not our enemy.’ Ponta, who has been a staunch defender this year of the increasingly autocratic Turkish dictator Recep Erdogan, has long been suspected of having pro-Russian, pan-Slavist sympathies. His comments this week will do little to allay those suspicions. Ponta is head of the PSD’s list in Gorj county in the forthcoming parliamentary election, and the party’s leader Liviu Dragnea (currently serving a suspended prison sentence for vote rigging) was quick to contradict the former PM, stating on Thursday that the PSD remained ‘committed’ to Nato.

Another former Romanian prime minister was in trouble again this week. Calin Popescu Tariceanu, these days the leader of ALDE (and who you may remember jumped the queue at the driving license office during the summer) blocked traffic for a good ten minutes at Piata Universitatii on Tuesday when he parked his car in order to do a spot of shopping. He later apologised, explaining that he had not been shopping, but simply buying something from a chemist.

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Two major accidents occurred over the past few days on the A2 motorway which links Bucharest with Constanta. Last Saturday, in thick fog, four people died in a 20 vehicle pile up 63 kilometres from Bucharest. Then on Wednesday four people were injured when 23 cars collided close to the capital. The satirical Romanian website Times New Roman (if you are not acquainted with it: shame on you) responded to the spate of accidents by coming up with the spoof headline:

‘The PSD has promised that it will prevent motorway accidents by not building any motorways.’

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Ride-sharing service Uber launched in Brasov this week, the third Romanian city in which it is available. The others are Bucharest and Cluj, although the service’s status in Cluj is somewhat murky: the city’s authorities are seeking to ban it.

Romanians will have an extra day off next year: June 1st (Children’s Day). President Klaus Iohannis promulgated the law on Thursday. Earlier this year January 24th (Mica Unire: the day in 1859 Wallachia and Moldavia united to form the first Romanian state) was also made an official holiday. This brings the number of bank holidays Romanians will enjoy in 2017 to 12.

According to Eurobarometer the percentage of Romanians who think that their country benefits from membership of the European Union has fallen dramatically over the past year, from 72 per cent to 64 per cent: the nationalist discourse of erstwhile mainstream politicians has clearly had an effect. However, the figure for Romania is still higher than the EU average of 60 per cent.

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Romania’s male football team played two games this past week, losing both. In the first, last Friday, they were thumped 3-0 at home in a World Cup qualifier by Poland. The game was stopped for a number of minutes in the second half when a flare, thrown by Romanian supporters, exploded just a few centimetres from Polish centre-forward Robert Levandowski. That, and the overt display of a homophobic banner, will almost certainly see Romania forced to play at least two of their next home games behind closed doors.

On Tuesday, in a friendly, Romania lost 1-0 to Russia, in match played in Grozny, capital of Chechnya.

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Daniel Prodan, a defender in the far more successful Romanian team of the 1990s which reached the 1994 World Cup quarter-final, died of a heart-attack on Thursday aged just 44. Prodan played for Steaua, Atletico Madrid and Rangers.

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5 thoughts on “The Week in Romania

  1. The European Union should be gone in 12-15 years. Or at least drastically reduced as a political power, following the reinstatement of the Nation as the cell of any European project.

    We need a clear pro-Russia, pro-Putin voice to appear on the Romania political stage. Vladimir Putin is an admired leader throughout Romanian society and there’s clearly something missing from the picture when 7-8 countries around us are being ran by governments supportive of Putin’s policies, while in our country nobody’s willing to even assume this stance. I believe for this fact that our Democracy has a deep problem.

    Uber is actually suspended from servicing Cluj, by court order, until the ongoing trial reaches a conclusion. Hopefully the court will fine them and ban them forever, or at least until they would be willing to compete fairly with the local taxi companies.

    I think the homophobic banner was too small. Next time we should make one as big as the entire stadium so that the entire world would see it.

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      1. They probably didn’t yet receive the court order to cease and desist. It was taken 2-3 days ago and the motivation wasn’t yet communicated to all parties. They will cease their activity soon.

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