Today in Romania: 17/01/17

Sevil Shhaideh, PSD leader Liviu Dragnea’s first proposal for prime minister following December’s parliamentary elections, has been left in charge of the shop while actual PM Sorin Grindeanu is in Washington (in an unofficial capacity) for Donald Trump’s inauguration. Shhaideh, the Minister for Regional Development, was refused the job of prime minister by President Klaus Iohannis after it emerged that her Syrian husband is an ally of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

News emerged on Tuesday evening that the PSD-ALDE government is planning to issue an emergency ordinance (OUG) on Wednesday that will in effect grant a widespread amnesty to many politicians currently on or facing trial for corruption. Others currently serving sentences will be pardoned. The word ‘amnesty’ itself will apparently not appear in the OUG, instead ‘decriminalisation’. The outcome will be the same.

The timing of the OUG is perfect: both Dragnea and Grindeanu are in the US (from where they can claim ignorance and avoid any flak: indeed, this is probably the reason they have chosen to pay a small fortune to attend Trump’s inauguration), while the awful weather will probably keep any street protests to a minimum. The European Union is currently busy electing a new president of the European Parliament, while the rest of the world’s attention is on Washington, and Trump. If ever there were a time for the organised crime syndicate currently running Romania to do away with the rule of law then this is it.

Florin Coldea officially resigned on Tuesday from his post as deputy director of Romania’s intelligence service, the SRI. Coldea had been suspended on Thursday of last week over alleged links with the controversial businessman Sebastian Ghita, a close associate of former PM Victor Ponta and a former PSD senator himself. Ghita, who is currently in hiding and the subject of an EU arrest warrant, has made a number of claims over the past few weeks (via his TV channel, RTV) regarding Coldea’s conduct while in office. More here.

According to a report published by the European Commission on Monday, Romania is now the European Union’s leading producer of honey. In 2015 the country produced a whopping 35,000 tonnes of the stuff, up from 20,000 in 2010. The increase suggests that the funding made available for Romania’s beekeepers by the EU have for once been used to good effect: Romania currently receives 10 per cent of all EU apiculture funding, and is now well-positioned to receive more. Subsidies are awarded based on the amount of beehives in each EU member state.

More than 4000 violins were destroyed on Tuesday in a fire at a factory in Toplita, Harghita County. The factory is one of the largest producers of musical instruments in Europe. Damages reach well of €1 million. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

More than 3300 people were injured in workplace accidents in the first nine months of 2016, and 96 were killed, according to figures published on Tuesday by the Work and Social Affairs Ministry. The number of deaths is more than 54 per cent down on 2015.

Monica Niculescu and Ana Bogdan were both eliminated from the Women’s Singles at the Australian Open at the first round stage. World number four (and fourth seed) Simona Halep was knocked out on Monday. Of a record five Romanian entrants into the competition, just Sorana Carstea and Irina Begu have advanced to the second round.

Something else to read today: this from The Advocate, about how the Family Coalition (or the Coalition Which Hates Women, to give the organisation its proper name) is receiving help from the homophobic American organisation Liberty Counsel.

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