Romania Insider
Romania Insider

Romania Insider

Romania Insider | Latest news & feature stories from Romania
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According to a decision of the Committee for Emergency Situations, wearing a face mask will be mandatory within a radius of 50 meters around schools in Bucharest, local Agerpres reported. The measure is valid starting September 13, when the new school year starts in Romania.

“To prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus infections, starting with September 13, wearing a protective mask, so as to cover the mouth and nose, becomes mandatory within a radius of 50 meters around the educational units, for people standing in this perimeter,” reads the decision.

According to the same document, the COVID-19 incidence rate reached 1.12 cases per thousand inhabitants in Bucharest.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Sabin Cirstoveanu)

The Google Pay application is also available in Romania starting Wednesday, September 8, according to Economedia.ro. So far, the service was available only through payment applications of partners, banks or electronic payment operators.

Android phone users in Romania can now use the Google Pay app to make contactless or online payments. Moreover, the app also makes it easier to store flight tickets or loyalty cards.

In addition, Google Pay for Wear OS devices also becomes available in Romania, which makes it easier to pay with a smartwatch.

Currently available in over 30 countries worldwide, Google Pay offers secure payments with multi-level security.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Piotr Adamowicz/Dreamstime.com)

Romania’s prime minister Florin Citu announced on Wednesday morning, September 8, that he sent president Klaus Iohannis the resignations of USR-PLUS ministers from the government, together with the proposals for interim ministers. Later the same day, president Iohannis signed off on the resignations and the appointment of interim ministers.

Thus, PM Florin Citu will take over as interim minister of investments and European projects, replacing Cristian Ghinea. Meanwhile, finance minister Dan Vilceanu will also act as the interim transport minister (replacing Catalin Drula), while energy minister Virgil-Daniel Popescu will be the interim economy minister (replacing Claudiu Nasui).

The USR-PLUS minister of research and digitalization, Ciprian Teleman, also resigned from the government, and environment minister Tanczos Barna is set to replace him. At the same time, the development and public works minister Cseke Attila will take over as the interim health minister, replacing the former USR-PLUS minister Ioana Mihaila.

The junior ruling party USR-PLUS decided to pull its ministers out of the government earlier this week, amid a growing political crisis that started after prime minister Florin Citu dismissed USR-PLUS justice minister Stelian Ion. In response, USR-PLUS withdrew its support for PM Citu and called for negotiations for naming another prime minister.

PM Florin Citu refused to resign, and thus USR-PLUS filed a no-confidence motion against him. The motion, however, has been stuck in parliamentary procedures. In addition, according to Digi24, prime minister Citu announced on Wednesday that the government would ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the no-confidence motion filed by USR-PLUS and AUR, which he considers to have been filed illegally.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Gov.ro)

Romanian deep tech startup Humans announced that it attracted USD 9 million financing through a private sale of cryptocurrency. Entrepreneur Răzvan Munteanu, one of the most active investors in the blockchain area and Elrond Research, the investment arm of the most respected blockchain companies in the world, were among the investors.

The announcement came shortly after the company announced the launch of a world-leading technology called Proof-of-Human, which validates that there is a person behind every decision of the AI. It uses blockchain technology to encapsulate each AI in an NFT (token non-fungible), thus providing an interface of management and governance for that AI.

“We plan to continue our investment in innovation so that we can allow anyone to create anything they can imagine, without any constraints on time, space, budget or skills, combining blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI),” said Sabin Dima, CEO of Humans.

Humans develops an innovative technology through which it creates unique AI models with an initial focus on the generation and manipulation of digital DNA, generating synthetic media.

The initial focus of the Humans platform is synthetic media, which allows the creation of the voice, image, and gestures of people without the need for a physical presence, called digital DNA. Starting from this digital DNA, audio and video content can be created from scratch with the help of artificial intelligence. This technology allows, for example, the narration of books (audio-books) by a favourite actor or the creation of video production without the help of an entire team of cameramen, video editors or presenters.

“Production studios, ad agencies and any content creator can access licensed Digital Genome, create rich media and automate personalized output in one place. Innovators can publish and monetize their AI technologies in a ready-to-sell environment that handles data management, integration, and sales. Anyone can license and monetize their digital likeness, voice, gestures, dance moves, or any other skill and content creators can use any combination to create synthetic actors and highly personalized media assets,” Dima explained.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: the company)

The authorities in Galati, eastern Romania, plan to build a new hospital in the city. The investment is estimated at over EUR 100 million, and the project will be submitted for financing from European funds.

According to Costel Fotea, the president of the Galati County Council, the authorities started the feasibility studies, the technical expertise and the field studies for the new hospital.

The medical unit will be built in the yard of the current county hospital, will have nine floors and a total area of over 31,000 sqm, according to News.ro. It will include the operating room, the intensive care unit (75 beds), and thoracic surgery, neurosurgery, vascular surgery, burns, oncology and neurology departments.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Facebook/Costel Fotea)

Romania is ready to renew the EUR 100 mln financial assistance program extended to Moldova, which failed to be renewed by the pro-Russian Government of Ion Chicu last year.

Launched in 2010, the grant was repeatedly deferred as Moldova failed to meet the criteria (mainly related to the rule of law) set as pre-requisite conditions. The grant had attached conditions aimed at preparing Moldova’s progress toward European integration. Eventually, only EUR 40 mln of the total was disbursed.

Romania’s minister of foreign affairs Bogdan Aurescu and his Moldovan counterpart Nicu Popescu discussed on Tuesday, in Bucharest, about a new non-reimbursable assistance agreement, according to Unimedia.info. The new agreement would include the conditions of the previous deal.

The two ministers also talked about the acceleration of strategic interconnection projects, including those in the field of energy and transport, especially the construction and rehabilitation of bridges across the Prut river, but also about the continuation and multiplication of assistance programs directly dedicated to the citizens of Moldova.

The Moldovan minister of foreign affairs pays an official visit to Romania, where he also participates in the Annual Meeting of Romanian Diplomacy.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos/George Calin)

Romania's President Klaus Iohannis implied that a solution to the political deadlock could be negotiated only after the senior ruling party (Liberal party, PNL) holds internal elections, co-president of the reformist party USR-PLUS Dan Barna announced after meeting with Iohannis over the political developments.

A few hours earlier, the head of state "guaranteed" in a meeting with Romanian diplomats that he would find "the best solutions" to overcome the stalemate.

"Perhaps you hoped that this meeting will lead to a solution. I am disappointed, it turned out to be a formal meeting. No solutions were discussed, no scenarios were on the table," the USR-PLUS leader said shortly after the discussion with the head of state, according to Hotnews.ro.

Earlier in the same day, the USR-PLUS ministers filed their resignations to the Government. However, President Iohannis has not approved their resignations, and consequently, PM Citu couldn't appoint interim ministers.

Barna used the opportunity to stress that USR-PLUS will never accept Forin Citu again as prime minister.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Ilona Andrei)

Invoking constitutional provisions and a precedent dating from 2010, Chamber of Deputies president Ludovic Orban promised to take seriously the no-confidence motion filed by the reformist party USR-PLUS against the Government. Specifically, Orban officially notified the Government about the motion and summoned once again the Parliament's leading body (Permanent Bureau) that is supposed to schedule the debate and vote calendar, Mediafax reported.

Since Orban is the rival of prime minister Florin Citu in the internal elections within the National Liberal Party (PNL), his statements prompted criticism from the Liberal faction that supports the prime minister. Some of them (Robert Sighiartau) made clear their commitment to block the motion at any cost, including by boycott.

According to the Parliament's regulations, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies is supposed to notify the Government about no-confidence motions and summon the Permanent Bureau on the day the motion was filed. The Permanent Bureau tables the motion within five days, and the MPs give their vote after another three days.

Ludovic Orban clarified that he has all the original signatures of the MPs behind the no-confidence motion, rejecting any speculations about irregularities. 

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Gov.ro)

Romanian businessman Ionuț Dumitrescu, known for his entrepreneurial activity in consulting and real estate developments, bought a plot of land in Chitila (west of Bucharest) on which he wants to build, next year, a new warehouse as part of his Eli Xpress network - a chain specialized in proximity halls.

The new investment is close to the logistics park he built in Chitila, together with Dragoș and Adrian Pavăl, the owners of Dedeman, and which he just sold to the South Africans from Fortress REIT.

Ionuț Dumitrescu and his business partners bought, in December last year, land with an area of about 1.9 hectares located between the logistics project Eli Park 1, also developed by his team, and the supplier of customized glass Moteco Glass. On this lot, the investor has already started the procedures for the construction of a warehouse with a total area of about 10,000 square meters.

"The project will be realized under the concept of Eli Xpress, of smaller warehouses, it will not be integrated into Eli Park 1. We hope to start the construction at the beginning of next year. We already have clients for renting the spaces," Ionuț Dumitrescu, the founder of Element Industrial, told Profit.ro.

Last year, the entrepreneur launched a new line of business based on the concept of proximity warehouses, with areas between 6,000 and 12,000 square meters and located in the vicinity of large cities or even inside them.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

Seven prospective investors have so far expressed interest in buying the Mintia thermal power plant (1.285GW, coal-fired), which closed at the end of July, according to official documents quoted by Profit.ro.

The power plant is the main asset of the Deva branch of the Hunedoara Energy Complex (CEH), the insolvent coal-fired energy producer fully controlled by the Romanian state through the Ministry of Energy.

A group of companies from South Korea, formed by AKEDA, Hyunday-Power Systems and BKB, is among the investors, the media reported after the group's representatives visited the site this September.

The Korean investors want to build a 1,000 MW combined cycle gas plant, a project which they estimate at about USD 1.3 bln, Siwoo Chung, CEO of BKB, said at a meeting with the journalists, according to Economica.net. He also said that at Mintia, there are also premises for a photovoltaic park of about 110 MW.

The assets of the Deva branch of CEH were estimated at a market value of EUR 101 mln and a liquidation value of over EUR 61 mln.

Among the companies interested in buying Mintia there is GSP Power (owned by businessman Gabriel Comanescu), the Romanian branch of Turboenergy Power of the Republic of Moldova, Romanian company (without activity, established in 2018) Optimus-Rredac (controlled by a natural person from the Republic of Moldova), as well as two "big" companies from South Korea and Israel - according to the statements of the minister of energy, Virgil Popescu.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Shutetrstock)

Romania's Chamber of Deputies adopted, as a decision-making body, the draft law on the vulnerable consumer. The law will come into force on November 1, 2021, and will provide financial support to 500,000 households, head of the Chamber of Deputies Ludovic Orban announced after the vote.

The law sets specific subsidies for low-income families to be calculated based on per-capita income and the technology used for heating.

The support will be fully disbursed to households with a per-capita monthly income of RON 200 (EUR 40) or lower, according to Hotnews.ro. As the per-capita income rises, smaller subsidies are provisioned. One-tenth of the total subsidy will be disbursed to households with a per-capita income of RON 1,386 (EUR 278) or single natural persons with a monthly income of up to RON 2,053 (EUR 400).

The biggest full subsidy (RON 500, or EUR 100 per month) is disbursed for households using electricity to heat their homes. For those using natural gas, the total subsidy is RON 250 (EUR 50) per month.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Shutterstock)

Romania’s Government endorsed in its September 7 meeting, attended only by the ministers of the Liberal party (PNL), the first revision for this year’s budget.

The main elements of the revision were already announced in August. Essentially, the Government uses the windfall revenues resulted from the stronger than initially expected GDP growth this year (7% versus 4.3%) to extend more money to ministries while cutting only marginally the deficit target to 7.13% of GDP from 7.16% of GDP previously envisaged.

“We can afford a tiny reduction of the deficit because we have a bigger GDP,” PM Citu explained, according to Economica.net.

The prime minister stated that the revenues of the general government budget increase with the amount of RON 15.5 bln, of which RON 13.4 bln are supplementary revenues from the internal economy and RON 2.2 bln additional European funds.

Central government budget expenditures will increase by RON 9.9 bln, of which expenditures on goods and services by RON 1.6 bln; transfers between public administration units by RON 1.5 bln.

The revenues to GDP ratio (already low in absolute terms) has been lowered from 32.7% to 32.4% under the revision.

A major criticism expressed by the junior ruling partners, reformist USR-PLUS (which pulled out of the Government recently), is that prime minister Florin Citu increased to RON 2.5 bln (EUR 500 mln) from under RON 600 mln the money transferred, under the revision, into the so-called “reserve fund” of the Government - a fund to be discretionarily used by the head of the executive. PM Citu explained that the Government would use most of the supplementary to help local administration in the areas hit by flooding.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Gov.ro)

Romanian minister of investments and European projects Cristian Ghinea, one of the reformist (USR-PLUS) ministers that resigned from the Government after his party clashed with senior ruling Liberals (PNL), assured that he agreed with prime minister Florin Citu on part of the technical team that would secure seamless management of the Resilience Program submitted already to the European Commission for the final endorsement.

He said that he agreed on the key members of the PNRR team that would remain in place.

"So the fact that he takes over the interim is very good, he has the team with which he can continue, but I don't think that anything can happen on this subject except the good news that it will be approved," Cristian Ghinea said, according to Romaniatv.net.

Asked if Cristian Ghinea could remain interim ministry, PM Citu said that he would decide at a certain moment, mentioning that he was also involved in the realization of PNRR from the beginning. "I worked very well with him, I'm sorry he's leaving," he added.

"I was involved from the first moment in terms of PNRR; we will see, I will make a decision at some point," PM Citu said, quoted by News.ro.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea)

The political turmoil prompted concerns regarding a possible sudden depreciation of the local currency (particularly among households), but the developments on the forex market do not justify such expectations yet. The local currency lost 0.3% versus the euro since before the crisis emerged last Thursday (September 2).

Media reports sell quotations at banks’ exchange houses of above 5 RON to EUR, and the volatility may be indeed higher when it comes to retail exchange rates (compared to the interbank market).

Year to date, the euro strengthened by 1.6% versus Romania’s currency - compared to 4.4% consumer price inflation in January-July alone.

Furthermore, the political outlook has not deteriorated permanently; therefore, the political tensions will predictably be treated by the National bank of Romania (BNR) as temporary. 

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

The first round of detailed Q2 GDP data released by Romania’s statistics office INS confirmed the 13% YoY economic growth in the second quarter of the year, heralded last month by the flash estimates.

In absolute terms, Romania’s Q2 GDP reached RON 268.8 bln (EUR 54.5 bln). Over the past four quarters, the country’s GDP was RON 1.1 bln (EUR 226.6 bln).

The performance comes after four consecutive quarters of negative annual growth rates, prompted by the COVID-19 crisis.

The economic recovery measured by the quarterly growth rate slowed down to +1.8% QoQ in Q2, from 2.5% QoQ in Q1 and 4%-5% QoQ in the second half of last year. It was just natural, as this year’s 7% growth rate estimated by the state forecasting body equates to 1.7% quarterly growth, and the 5% annual advance seen for the coming years accounts for 1.2% quarterly growth.

In annual terms, the sector of services boasted the strongest growth (+20.6% YoY) followed by industry (+18.8% YoY) and IT&C (+17.1% YoY), while the agriculture and the financial services sectors performed worse (negative growth rate) than last year.

On the utilisation side, domestic consumption rose by 8.1% YoY, while the gross fix capital formation (investments) soared by 12% YoY. Given the different sizes, however, consumption made a contribution to the overall growth that was more than twice the contribution made by the investments (6.1pp versus 2.5pp).

Both exports and imports advanced by as much as 40% YoY in Q2 (as the foreign trade resumed after lockdown), but this does not bode well for the country’s trade balance. The external deficit adds to the wide public deficit prompted by fiscal stimulus and structural issues, creating a risky combination.

While the annual GDP growth rate may be misleading, the growth rates over the past 24 months show better where Romania’s economy reached after last year’s shock. The country’s total GDP in Q2 was 1.6% up (versus Q2, 2019), compared to +2.2% in Q1 and +2.8% in Q4.

The performance was highly uneven among sectors: IT&C posted a 30% advance while the entertainment industry had a 35% contraction. The industry lags 5.4% versus the level reached two years ago - but it was not doing well (-5.6% in similar terms as of Q1 2020 before pandemic) anyways. The sector of construction has advanced by 10% over the past two years.

On the utilisation side, total consumption in Q2 still lags 3.2% behind the level reached two years ago, while the gross fix capital formation advanced by 14.5%.

In terms of external balance, the situation has worsened as exports rose by only 0.5% (over the two-year span) while imports surged by 8.7%.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

An exhibition of hats inspired by the works of Spanish and Latin-American painters is scheduled to open on September 16 at the Cervantes Institute in Bucharest.

Sixteen hats designed by Cosmina Nicolescu will go on display in the exhibition, inviting the public to rediscover artists such as Joaquín Sorolla, Ricardo Balaca, Alonso Sánchez Coello, Claudio Coello, Francisco Goya, Adelardo Covarsí, Pablo Picasso, Francisco Zurbarán, Raimundo de Madrazo, Antonio Berni, Miquel Barceló, Carmelo Fernández, Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo and Diego Velásquez.

Cosmina Nicolescu opened her millinery, Fandacsia, in 2007 in Bucharest after spending many years working as a film director and producer. She previously directed a telenovela for TV station Prima TV, a series of shows for the public station TVR Cultural, and an educational show for entrepreneurs for TVR 2. Afterwards, she focused exclusively on hat making and designed numerous collections under the Fandacsia brand.

The exhibition is open until October 10.

(Photo: Ifeelstock | Dreamstime.com)

simona@romania-insider.com
 

Romania recorded 2,033 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest number since end-April.

The cases were reported after 45,430 tests (17,078 RT-PCR tests and 28,352 rapid tests) were performed over the same interval, the authorities announced in the daily report.

The highest number of daily cases was recorded in Bucharest (314), where the incidence rate now stands at 1.14 per 1,000 inhabitants. Timiș county added 106 cases, Constanța 91, Satu Mare 85, and Suceava 81.

 

Forty-eight Covid-19 patients died during the past 24 hours, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 34,762. Of those who died in the past 24 hours, one was in the 10 to 19 age group, one in the 30 to 39 group, one in the 40 to 49 group, seven in the 50 to 59 group, 11 in the 60 to 69 group, 13 in the 70 to 70 age group, and 14 were older than 80. Forty-five of them had previous medical conditions.

A total of 3,527 Covid-19 patients were admitted to hospitals in the country, 426 of them to intensive care units. Of the total admitted patients, 101 are minors, with six of them admitted to intensive care units.

Since the start of the pandemic, 1,109,076 Covid-19 cases were recorded in the country, and 1,059,637 patients have recovered.

(Photo: Anya Ivanova/ Dreamstime)

simona@romania-insider.com

The vaccination rate among those older than 12 is close to 50% (49.4%) in Bucharest, Valeriu Gheorghiță, the coordinator of the national vaccination campaign, announced on September 7.

The capital is followed by Cluj county, with a vaccination rate close to 46%, Sibiu county (39%), %, Timiş (36.3%), Constanţa (36.5%), and Braşov (36.3%).

Two counties, Giurgiu and Suceava, have vaccination rates below 20%. The rest of the counties have rates higher than 20%.

At a national level, the vaccination rate among those older than 12 stands at around 31%, Gheorghiță said.

By September 6, 5.17 million people were fully vaccinated, and 5.28 million received at least one dose of a vaccine against Covid-19.

Vaccination started in 2,788 of the country’s 2,862 communes, he explained, with 1.14 million people in rural areas fully vaccinated.

Once the European Medicines Agency issues recommendations concerning the third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the country will organize accordingly, Gheorghiță said. A third dose would be given to immunosuppressed patients and to vulnerable categories, the elderly, those with chronic illness, and eventually to all who received the first two doses. “In October, beginning of October, we plan to start this phase in Romania as well, provided we have by then all the stages related to the international recommendations of the expert group of the European Medicines Agency and the European Center for Disease Control,” Gheorghiță said.

The authorities also plan to start a vaccination campaign in schools and universities, set to run for two months. The campaign targets pupils and their families, students, teaching and non-teaching staff. In the case of the pre-university school cycles, mobile vaccination teams will be deployed, or vaccinations centers will be set up in schools. Another option is to connect schools to nearby vaccination centers that use one of the two vaccines approved for those older than 12. In the case of universities, vaccination centers will be set up inside campuses or other appropriate venues, the vaccination coordinator explained.

(Photo: George Calin/ Inquam Photos)

simona@romania-insider.com

President Klaus Iohannis will be on an official visit to Switzerland on Thursday, September 9.

Iohannis will meet with president Guy Parmelin, with the agenda of talks including topics such as the economic cooperation, cooperation to combat the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the framework of the relations between the EU and the Swiss Confederation, and international politics topics.

The visit takes place as part of “constant, high-level bilateral dialogue during the past years” and as the two countries mark 110 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the Presidential Administration said.

(Photo: Cateyeperspective | Dreamstime.com)

simona@romania-insider.com

Not long ago, I was lamenting that not much was happening in Brașov movie-wise (I am from there, so whining about it is perfectly healthy) and now I stand even more corrected, because not only has this summer been an improvement over past ones, but the autumn starts with an absolute unmissable event. One World Romania, the most important national documentary event, will bring a part of its selection to Brașov between 16 and 19 September. My absolute recommendation is Petit Samedi/ Little Samedi, a wonderful tale on addiction and familial love, but They Call Me Babu and None of Them Says a Word are just as topical and moving, while My Mexican Bretzel is an absolute delight, a nostalgic praline.There will also be discussions ranging from artistic work in times of Covid to the plight of refugees (accompanied by a photo exhibition), so if you are there, do save these dates, this is great and rare stuff.

___STEADY_PAYWALL___ 

One World follows THE traditional documentary event of autumn, namely mighty Astra. Taking place in Sibiu until 12 September, the international documentary festival has a strong focus on anthropology and ethnographic studies, and is a treasure chest of films that you might be otherwise very hard pressed to find, on the most particular subjects. There is so much to recommend and discover, but if I were to pick the unmissable, it would be Salomé Jashi‘s Taming the Garden, the unbelievable story of a Georgian billionaire collecting ancient trees from all over the country, literally uprooting and shipping them to his personal garden. Any fictional movie with a plot like this would be considered completely bonkers, but life writes the most absurd stories, and Jashi’s film is spellbinding and infuriating. Some of the films are also available online (from Romania); you can check the list and conditions here.

Finally, there is a third documentary event close to my heart these days, for the ones who like to travel further, or for anyone reading us from Moldova. Moldox is a relatively young fest dedicated to documentaries and social change, and this year it takes place from from 8 to 12 September in Cahul, and from 17 to 19 September in Ungheni (there are shuttles available; check their site for how to get there from Chișinău). Wood and Aquarela are the highlights of the programme, but anything this passionate fest has to offer is a must; here are all films and side events in detail.

Finally, in the sea of documentary happenings, a fiction film premieres on 10 September, and since I don’t know how long it will run in cinemas (one of the great mysteries of the local theatrical distribution is that some films run for ages while others so briefly you blink and miss them), I am including it in this week's column, because Bogdan Theodor Olteanu’s Mia își ratează răzbunarea/ Mia Misses Her Revenge is the freshest, funniest release of the year. The plot is about a young actress planning her revenge on the (now ex-) boyfriend who slapped her, but the greatest joys of the film lie in its terrific acting, irreverent humour, and hilarious, sharp criticism of gender relations and (the sometimes very specifically Romanian) movie industry.

By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, ioana.moldovan@romania-insider.com
(Photo info & credit: Astra FF // ©Rareș Helici)

 

 

 

An educational campus set to host pupils from kindergarten to high school opened in Bucharest’s District 4.

The project was backed by an investment of RON 54 million (EUR 10.9 million), funding granted through the Regional Operational Program 2014-2020. The District 4 authorities contributed RON 15 million (EUR 3 million).

The 1,245 sqm campus, located on the premises of the Dacia Technological High School, includes several buildings with 22 classrooms, five workshops, and four labs. The building of the high school was refurbished, and two dormitories with a capacity of 75 rooms were built, the District 4 City Hall said.

The campus also includes a 570 sqm renovated sports hall and a multifunctional hall with a capacity of 400 seats, that can host recitals, theater performances or film screenings. Two outdoor sports fields are also available.

Works on a new kindergarten, also inside the campus, are underway.

(Photo: Daniel Baluta Facebook Page)

simona@romania-insider.com

Romanian prime minister Florin Citu said that he is ready to "continue the dialogue" with the reformist USR-PLUS party and overcome the Government crisis, B1Tv reported. He confirmed that the budget revision would be endorsed by the executive on September 7 despite reformists pulling out of the Government.

After consulting with President Klaus Iohannis, PM Citu made clear that he is not ready to compromise but rather on the opposite - a rather striking position that can be interpreted only as a reflection of the robust support confirmed by President Iohannis.

There's only one way out of the political deadlock, and this is a centre-right coalition reached through negotiations, prime minister Florin Citu said after his meeting with President Klaus Iohannis.

In the week before, he dismissed a USR-PLUS minister (the second reformist minister dismissed overnight by PM Citu) and endorsed a controversial EUR 10 bln project opposed by USR-PLUS, actions hardly compatible with the dialogue.

PM Citu said that the dialogue is the solution President Iohannis and himself have advocated, stressing that he and the President share a common view of the current development.

"The solution is the same one that I proposed from the first moment, the dialogue. I am still willing to continue the dialogue. I believe that only a right-wing coalition can lead Romania today, this coalition with which we set off, we just have to sit at the table and talk," said the prime minister. 

(Photo: George Calin/ Inquam Photos)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Junior ruling partner, USR-PLUS, decided to pull its ministers out of Romania's Government, thus forcing the senior ruling partner (the Liberal Party, PNL) to either dismiss prime minister Florin Citu and resume genuine negotiations in the view of a new executive team, or keep the Government of PM Citu alive one way or another but face a de-facto no-confidence motion in Parliament within 45 days (the maximum duration of an interim minister).

"We have to use plan B because plan A was the motion of censure [and it failed]. There are two options: either PNL accepts that USR-PLUS is a serious partner for development and we move on with a new prime minister, or PNL chooses an alliance with the Social Democrats [PSD]," USR-PLUS co-president Dan Barna stated, quoted by Hotnews.ro.

Pulling out of the Government was a difficult decision, he said, adding that it is a message that Romania needs.

"After 30 years, there had to come a time in Romania when a party can say 'that's enough," he explained.

The radical decision was announced by USR-PLUS co-president Dan Barna on the evening of September 6, but the ministers were supposed to file their resignations on the morning of September 7.

Although Barna rejected plans to negotiate overnight, this left the Liberals and President Klaus Iohannis the door open for a last-minute change of mind.

President Iohannis blamed USR-PLUS for its no-confidence motion and met over PM Citu during the day of September 6, but he made no statement on the crisis yet.

USR-PLUS took this second radical decision (after the no-confidence motion drafted on Friday, September 3) forced by circumstances: their no-confidence motion lost support from the Social Democrats (PSD) and now it has an uncertain future, even if formally the Parliament can not simply disregard it.

(Photo: Ilona Andrei/ Inquam Photos)

andrei@romania-insider.com

The no-confidence motion filed by the junior ruling partner, reformist USR-PLUS with a view of overthrowing Romanian prime minister Florin Citu, got stuck in Parliament's procedures after the Social Democratic Party (PSD) refused for the third time, by boycott, to schedule it for a vote in the sitting chambers.

"We do not want to arbitrate between the two factions in the Liberal Party PNL," said PSD MP Lucian Romascanu, quoted by Hotnews.ro.

PSD president Marcel Ciolacu had promised earlier on Sunday, September 5, that PSD would vote "any no-confidence motion against the Government, subject to a vote in Parliament."

But he didn't mention at that time that PSD would block the motion filed by USR-PLUS. The President of the Senate, Anca Dragu (USR-PLUS), convened for Tuesday at 11:00 a new meeting of the Parliament's steering bodies with a view of scheduling the voting calendar for the motion.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Fresh Microgreens, a Romanian producer of microplants and culinary specialties, raised EUR 0.5 mln in a private placement from individual investors, as a first step before listing its shares at the alternative market AeRO of the Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB) in the first half of 2022.

The company attracted 500,000 euros from Vlad Popescu, Alex Cristescu and Marius Alexe, managers of the organic fertilizer producer Norofert, in the form of a convertible loan.

Microgreens is a supplier for the HoReCa industry, as well as for the Metro, Carrefour and Kaufland hypermarkets.

The company has been operating on the Romanian market for seven years. The company was founded in September 2014 by Cristian Tudor.

In the last three years, it has focused on developing technological solutions for vertical agriculture and the cultivation of fresh, functional foods (salads, microplants).

According to the company's representatives, in 2020, Microgreens had a turnover of RON 3.1 mln and a profit of RON 79,000.

For 2021, the company estimates RON 5.6 mln (EUR 1.1 mln) turnover and RON 1.1 mln profit. Cristian Tudor is the CEO and majority shareholder of Fresh Microgreens.

(Photo: Cristina Toth | Dreamstime.com)

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Romanian startup Vatis Tech, specializing in voice recognition technologies, received an investment of over EUR 200,000 for its online platform that uses artificial intelligence to process audio-video content.

The investors were two investment funds (Early Game Ventures and Sparking Capital) and Malin Stefanescu.

"At Vatis Tech, we focus on developing recognition algorithms for European languages such as French, Italian, German, Dutch or Polish. In the tests performed so far, the transcription accuracy provided by our competitors is 84%​​, while that of Vatis Tech exceeded 94%. The speech recognition algorithms developed by us are specialized in industries such as media, finance, technology or the medical field," said Adrian Ispas, founder and CEO of Vatis Tech.

The Vatis Tech service is available online and can be tested by anyone. Developers can use the API to integrate Vatis technology into their products and services, benefiting from dedicated support and taking advantage of advantageous prices.

(Photo: Vatis Tech founders, courtesy of the company)

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Lectra, a French technology company with revenues of EUR 236 mln, announced that it reached an agreement to buy Gemini CAD Systems - a Romanian software producer specialising in solutions for small and medium companies in the fashion industry.

The price will be set between EUR 13 mln and EUR 20 mln, depending on the achievement of growth targets. 

Gemini CAD Systems was founded by Traian Luca, who is also the CEO.

In the first stage, Lectra buys 60% of Gemini for EUR 7.6 mln, while the rest of the shares will be bought in the next five years.

Lectra is a global player operating in the fashion, automotive, and furniture markets by offering intelligent design and production solutions.

(Photo: Pixabay)

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The offshore wind law will be ready as soon as possible this year to allow investors to carry measurements for further projects, promised Romanian minister of energy Virgil Popescu on Monday (September 6), speaking at an energy conference.

One such project would be a 300MW offshore wind farm envisaged by state-controlled Hidroelectrica, in partnership with other investors, he disclosed.

"I reviewed the draft in the [Parliament's] industry committee […]. Maybe it is not perfect, but having a law so that we can start the explorations in that area [it's enough]," said Popescu, quoted by Agerpres.

He also said that he did not agree with the National Agency for Mineral Resources to let them lease perimeters for electricity [wind generation], as this institution manages the reserves of the subsoil.

The law will also include new incentives, such as contracts for difference (CfD) and money [grants] from the Modernization Fund.

"I think that adapting them [the new incentives]with the new financial mechanisms and the new state aid schemes, we can quickly have an offshore wind law," minister Popescu assured.

According to him, investors are ready to start measurements.

"Hidroelectrica is ready to start an investment in the Black Sea, and I am convinced that it will find partners with expertise so that we have the first offshore wind farm of at least 300 MW," said minister Popescu.

(Photo: Rodiks | Dreamstime.com)

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A group of companies from South Korea, formed by AKEDA, Hyunday-Power Systems and BKB, which intend to buy and retrofit Romania's third-largest thermal power plant Mintia (1.285 GW, coal-fired), paid a technical information visit to the thermal power plant and met officials of the Ministry of Energy on September 6, News.ro reported.

The Romanian Government shut down the Mintia power plant, operated by the coal and power complex CE Hunedoara (CEH) this year after the European Commission initiated preliminary infringement procedures as the plant lacked environmental permits.

After retrofitting, the plant will burn natural gas and will operate a PV park as well.

Two companies from Israel and South Korea compete with Romanian GSP Power to take over the power plant and convert it into a natural gas-fired plant with a capacity of 800MW, Romanian minister of energy Virgil Popescu announced in June.

Prefect Călin Petru Marian informed investors that Hunedoara County has a well-prepared workforce for energy production. The human resources needed can be used both from the existing one and from those who will prepare in school, at secondary and higher education level.

(Photo: Miklmakgnitka/ Dreamstime)

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Italian utility group Enel through its green energy division Enel Green Power will develop in southern Romania two photovoltaic power plant projects, with a total capacity of approximately 90 MWp and an annual production estimated at 130 GWh.

The group announced that it already purchased the projects from the Greek group Mytilineos.

The commercial operation is estimated to start at the end of 2022 and, respectively, at the beginning of 2023. The first project will have an installed capacity of 63 MWp and will be implemented in Călugareni, Giurgiu County, while the second will have an installed capacity of 26 MWp and will be built in Moşteni, Teleorman County.

"The recent acquisitions are part of our broader business strategy for the country, which is now beginning the decarbonisation phase, at a dynamic pace," says Aristotelis Chantavas, Head of Europe at Enel Green Power.

After completing the two projects, the total capacity operated by Enel Green Power in Romania will reach 623 MW, according to the data provided by the company's representatives.

Mytilineos was founded in 1990 in Greece and operates in the metallurgy, electricity and gas, renewable and storage solutions, and sustainable technical solutions sectors. The company is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

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Raiffeisen Bank Romania revised its forecast in the sense of expecting the country's central bank BNR to increase the refinancing rate rather sooner than later - namely by 0.25 pp at the monetary policy interest rate at the central bank meeting in November.

Until now, Raiffeisen Bank expected an interest rate increase only in March 2022.

"In the context in which the key interest rate of the Hungarian central bank, 1.50%, is already higher than the key interest rate of Romania, of 1.25%, and the central bank of Poland will most likely increase the monetary policy interest rate in the month October, I expect that in November we will see a first step of the NBR for the increase of the key interest rate by 0.25% in the first phase," says Ionuţ Dumitru, the chief economist of Raiffeisen Bank, quoted by Economica.net.

According to Raiffeisen Bank forecasts, the average annual inflation in August will be 5% YoY. ING Bank expects the average annual inflation rate in August at 5.1%.

The National Bank of Romania increased its year-end inflation forecast to 5.6%, under the last inflation report.

The next meeting of the NBR Board will take place on October 5, 2021, followed by the last meeting of the year, on November 9, 2021.

(Photo: Octav Ganea/ Inquam Photos)

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The German companies active in Romania report a vicious circle formed by rising prices, supply chain disruptions and operational uncertainty that puts at risk the economic development, including many investment projects of the public administration, according to a poll conducted by the Romanian-German Commerce and Industry Chamber AHK.

"Not only the scarce supply [of raw materials and intermediary products] and the rise of prices themselves cause major problems, but especially the subsequent lack of predictability. The supply chains are thus becoming increasingly less fit for planning, as sudden, unplanned changes in the supply chains of business partners make their own production increasingly unpredictable, with many very short-term changes," the study based on the poll concludes.

The companies are currently facing the effects of supply bottlenecks and rising prices, especially in the case of steel and plastics (48.6% each), but also aluminum (25.7%) and wood (23%) can be purchased in insufficient quantities or only at significantly higher prices.

There is also a massive shortage of semiconductors in the automotive industry.

The companies invoke the increasing demand (64.7%) as the main reason for the deadlock on the raw materials.

Due to scarce raw materials and intermediary products supply, 78% of companies are currently facing higher purchase prices for their products and services.

"This problem is increasingly becoming a limiting factor for the business activities of companies and, therefore, in further economic development. And, of course, it also has a very direct impact on the many investment projects of public administrations, especially in terms of investments in infrastructure expansion, for example in the reconstruction and recovery programs at EU level," says Sebastian Metz, General Manager and member of the Board of Directors of AHK Romania.

(Photo: Ruletekka/ Dreamstime)

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Nature NGO Conservation Carpathia Foundation, NGO Asociaţia Casa Bună, and lender Banca Transilvania have partnered to build an educational center in Nucşoara commune, in Argeş county.

The day center, called Casa Bună, is meant to offer access to educational activities to some 200 children in the area.

At the center, children will be able to study for school, receive tutoring, and will be offered a meal. They will also be able to practice sports and learn about nature and the history of the region. They will also have access to medical consultations.

“We are one of the most important nature conservation organizations in Romania, and all of our efforts constantly went into protecting the Făgăraș Mountains. But for a sustainable future for this unique massif, we need generations of educated youth, who have access to quality education, people who can build the communities of the future with us,” Barbara Promberger, executive director of Conservation Carpathia Foundation, said.

“What we are doing in Nucșoara is a first step, and we are glad to join the effort of a group of generous people, who make the world around them better,” Ömer Tetik, GM of Banca Transilvania, said.

“Nucșoara is a beautiful place, of winning beauty, but which unfortunately suffers from the same issues as most small, rural localities in mountain areas. Hundreds of hectares of forests were destroyed in the past. The aged population, the lack of infrastructure, the quality of the education, especially during the pandemic, the lack of jobs and access to quality medical services are all serious issues,” Valeriu Nicolae, founder of Casa Bună Association, said.

(Photo courtesy of Banca Transilvania)

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Lidl Romania, the biggest retailer on the local market by turnover in 2020, announced that it would donate RON 150,000 (over EUR 30,000) for the restoration of Banffy Castle in Bontida, Cluj county. It’s the third year in a row that Lidl gets involved in the monument’s restoration.

This year, Lidl proposed donating RON 1 for each plastic bottle or aluminum can collected through the automatic devices installed at EC_Special - the special 2021 edition of the Electric Castle festival usually held at the Banffy Castle. Participants collected about 5,000 plastic/aluminium recipients during the ten-day event, but Lidl decided to increase the amount and donate RON 150,000 to “cover the entire amount needed for restoration and modernization works.”

“With the RON 150,000 donation this year, Lidl Romania has invested over RON 340,000 in the restoration of the Banffy Castle in Bontida, from 2019 until now, as a strategic partner of Electric Castle. Several works were carried out with the help of Lidl, such as the construction of interior stairs and an access ramp inside the building. The amount donated in 2021 will be used for the restoration of gates and doors of the main building and stables, as well as the development of infrastructure to facilitate tourist access to Banffy Castle,” the retailer said.

The initiative is part of the Environment First program, through which Lidl Romania and Electric Castle aim to reduce the ecological footprint of the festival and promote environmental awareness among festival participants.

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(Photo source: the company)

Polish cyclist Jakub Kaczmarek won this year's Tour of Romania race, which ended this past weekend in Bucharest.

The yellow jersey, awarded to the leader of the overall charts, went to Jakub Kaczmarek, while the red jersey, for the winner of the point chart, went to Patryk Stosz of the Voster ATS Team.

The green jersey, worn by the leader in the climbers' chart, went to Maciej Paterski of the Voster ATS Team.

Maksym Bilyi of D'Amico UM Tools, received the white jersey, worn by the best rider under 23 years of age on the overall classification, while Romanian Serghei Țvetcov, of the Wildlife Generation team, received the blue jersey, worn by the best Romanian rider of the overall classification.

Italian team Androni Giocattoli Sidermec was the leader in the teams’ chart.

(Photo courtesy of the organizers)

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Romanian athletes won ten medals at the 2021 European Rowing Under 23 Championships in Kruszwica, Poland: five gold and five silver. Thus, Romania topped the competition’s medal table.

Amalia Bucu, Larisa Bogdan, Manuela Lungu, Cosmina Podaru, and Victoria Petreanu won the first gold medal for Romania in the women’s coxed four (BW4+) final. Italy took silver and Germany bronze.

Later on, Andreea Popa, Maria Tivodariu, Magdalena Rusu, and Alina Baletchi claimed the women’s four gold. Meanwhile, Simona Radis, who won Olympic gold in Tokyo just a few weeks ago in the double scull, won the gold medal in the women’s single sculls final in Poland.

Stefan Berariu, Alexandru Danciu, Florin Arteni and Ciprian Huc also won gold in the men’s four final, while the fifth gold medal went to the women’s eight (BW8+) team consisting of Estera Vilceanu, Larisa Rosu, Adriana Ailincai, Maria Tivodaru, Alice Turcanu, Raluca Dinulescu, Magdalena Rusu, Simona Radis, and Victoria Petreanu.

Romania also claimed five silver medals in men’s coxed four (Andrei Mandrila, Nicu Chelaru, Florin Ceobanu, Claudiu Neamtu, and Gavril Dumbrava), women’s pair (Adriana Ailincai and Dumitrița Juncanariu), men’s pair (Dumitru Ciobica and Florin Lehaci), women’s double sculls (Cristina Druga and Alexandra Ungureanu), and men’s eight (Dumitru Bucur, Dorin Simion, Andrei Mandrila, Nicu Chelaru, Florin Ceobanu, Marian Cireasa, Andrei Lungu, Alexandru Gherasim, and Gavril Dumbrava).

The complete results are available here.

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(Photo source: Facebook/Comitetul Olimpic si Sportiv Roman)

A bus of the Bucharest Public Transport Company (STB) has been converted into a Covid-19 vaccination caravan and will run in the city until the end of the year.

Those interested can receive the vaccine by showing their ID card, without having to make an appointment on the vaccination platform. The vaccine used is the single-dose Johnson&Johnson one.

It is a project of the Bucharest City Hall through the Administration of the Bucharest Hospitals, in partnership with retailer Kaufland.

The caravan will stop every weekend in the parking lot of one of the retailer’s stores in the city. 

(Photo: ASSMB - Administrația Spitalelor și Serviciilor Medicale București Facebook Page)

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Ion Caramitru, one of the most celebrated Romanian actors, passed away on September 5, aged 79.

Throughout his career, he worked with some of the most important Romanian directors, including Liviu Ciulei, Andrei Șerban, Silviu Purcărete, Sanda Manu, Cătălina Buzoianu, and Alexandru Tocilescu. He was also cast in more than 40 Romanian and international film productions. He won numerous awards for his performances, including Actor of the Year for his theater work in 1975, 1979, 1981 and 1985. For his film roles, he received the 1976 Best Performance award from the local Cinema magazine, the Filmmakers’ Association award in 1980, and the Jury’s Special Award for his role in Luchian at the 1984 National Film Festival in Costineşti.

A director of the National Theater in Bucharest since 2008 and president of the Romanian Theater Union UNITER, he was also a culture minister in the cabinets headed by Victor Ciorbea, Radu Vasile and Mugur Isărescu.

As a director, Caramitru worked in 2007 on Tragedia lui Carmen (The Tragedy of Carment) after Bizet’s opera. He also directed Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Bucharest National Opera in 2009. In the 2008-2009 season, he directed Şapte dintr-o lovitură, staged after a play by Lia Bugnar written for the seven young actors recently hired by the National Theater in Bucharest.

For his work in establishing British-Romanian cultural links, he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. In 1997, the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

In December 1989, he was part of the group of revolutionaries who entered the HQ of the public television and announced the fall of the dictatorship.

(Photo: Marian Mocanu | Dreamstime.com)

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Romanian low-cost airline Blue Air will reopen its base in Iasi next year. It will have a Boeing 737-8-MAX based in Iasi and operate eight direct and over 15 one-stop services from the city in eastern Romania.

Blue Air currently operates direct flights from Iasi to London Heathrow and Bucharest Otopeni. It will add a new direct service from Iasi to Dublin in December 2021, followed by five new direct flights from Iasi to Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Brussels and Cologne starting with March 27, 2022, Economica.net reported.

The airline will offer more than 15 connecting flights from Iasi via its Bucharest hub under its 2022 summer schedule: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Heraklion, Larnaca, London-Luton, Madrid, Malaga, Milan-Linate, Munich, Paris, Stuttgart, Timisoara, Valencia and Vienna.

Blue Air is the largest Romanian airline by the number of passengers transported.

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(Photo source: Richair/Dreamstime.com)

Romanian car manufacturer Dacia, part of French group Renault, unveiled on Friday, September 3, the new seven-seater family car Jogger. At 4.55 m, the Dacia Jogger is the longest vehicle in the Dacia range, and the company said that it would also get a hybrid engine in 2023. Orders are scheduled to open in November 2021 in some 30 countries, mainly in Europe.

"Having released its small all-electric city car Spring, compact Sandero, and SUV Duster, Dacia is now revamping its family car into a new 7-seater model. A new model launch that follows on with Dacia's plan to renew its range, with two more models set to be released by 2025," Dacia said.

Upon release, customers can choose between two engines: the brand-new TCe 110 petrol engine and the ECO-G 100 engine. Later on, starting in 2023, the Dacia Jogger will also get a hybrid engine, and Dacia says it will be the most accessible 7-seater hybrid on the market.

The front profile of the Dacia Jogger incorporates a wide grille, unique to the Dacia brand, strong wings that extend the wheels to the four corners of the car, and a sculpted, horizontal bonnet. It is fitted with large-diameter wheels (660mm) and a high tire aspect ratio. Plus, its generous 2.9m wheelbase, headroom, and vertical rear-end (vertical rear lights, extra-wide tailboard, low sill) make for a roomier interior and larger boot volume.

"The increased rear-door length and side-window drop-line (40mm) make the rear seats more accessible and spacious. At 4.55m, the Dacia Jogger is the longest vehicle in the Dacia range," the company said.

Orders for the new Dacia Jogger are scheduled to open in November 2021 in about 30 countries, mainly in Europe but also in Turkey and Israel. The new model will arrive in dealerships in February 2022.

Dacia Jogger's price will start at about EUR 15,000, according to Hotnews.ro.

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(Photos: Dacia.com; photo credit: Patrik JOHALL/Cream)

Canoeist Ivan Patzaichin, the holder of seven Olympic titles, passed away on September 5, aged 71.

Patzaichin won seven Olympic medals (four gold and three silver) and 22 world championship titles (eight gold).

After retiring from competing, he became a coach with Dinamo sports club and the national team. He took part in five Olympic Games as the main coach of the Romanian Olympic canoe team and saw Florin Popescu and Mitică Pricop win gold in the C-2 1000 m and a bronze in the C-2 500 m events at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Patzaichin also established the Ivan Patzachin - Milă 2 Association and developed the Rowmania project, aimed at promoting local patrimony and sports.

He was awarded the Olympic Order (silver) in 1990 by the IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

In 2000, he was awarded the national order Faithful Service, and in 2008 he received the Sports Merit Order. In 2010, he was awarded the royal decoration Nihil Sine Deo.

(Photo: Ilona Andrei/ Inquam Photos)

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Safety measures and restrictions will be set in place in Bucharest as the COVID-19 incidence rate, which exceeded 1 per thousand inhabitants already, is rising, according to the prefect of the Romanian capital city Alin Stoica.

This is nothing special, but the activation of measures in line with the gradual approach designed in the previous waves of the pandemic as part of the state of alert.

The state of alert will be further prolonged by a Government decision soon, he added, according to Hotnews.ro.

At the beginning of this week, there will be a meeting of the Municipal Committee for Emergency Situations which will decide the obligation to wear protective masks within a radius of 50 meters around schools, Wall-street.ro reported. However, the threshold set for closing the schools was increased to a higher level: 6 per thousand, double the 3 per thousand in the previous waves.

On September 5, Bucharest has exceeded the incidence rate of 1 per thousand inhabitants. At the same time, the schools will open on September 13, which causes concern among the authorities, given the potential congestion. In this sense, the prefect of the Capital, Alin Stoica, spoke about introducing new restrictions.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

According to data from the statistics office INS, about 193,000 Romanians emigrated in 2020 from Romania, 37,000 fewer than in the previous year. However, 60% of them, namely almost 112,000, are people aged between 20 and 45, the age range in which the population is economically active and founding families, Ziarul Financiar reported.

Not surprisingly, 2021 is the first year when more Romanian babies were born abroad than in the country, according to recent statements by labor minister Raluca Turcan.

“If we do not build a country for all Romanians, we will end up with a country from which all honest people outside narrow circles of interests will leave. This is the stake or objective that any political force and any politician who reaches a position in the Romanian state must take into account,” according to the no-confidence motion drafted by the reformist USR-PLUS against prime minister Florin Citu. 

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(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

A volatile majority has lined up behind a no-confidence motion against the Romanian Government, reportedly filed on Friday (September 3), but the developments remain unpredictable as each of the three forces willing to overthrow Liberal prime minister Florin Citu (PNL) has a different target. Notably, the Social Democrats (PSD) insist on early elections, while reformist USR-PLUS wants to keep intact their coalition with the Liberals (minus PM Citu).

If this sundry ad-hoc opposition majority lives until the no-confidence vote and have the motion endorsed, it will certainly disintegrate, leaving behind a major political crisis and possibly early elections for the first time in Romania over the past decades.

Chances for another USR-PLUS/PNL/UDMR coalition, although fiercely backed by President Klaus Iohannis, depend on thorough changes within PNL, including Florin Citu losing the internal elections in September. It’s not impossible, but a high target.

Prime minister Florin Citu triggered the unexpected twist of fate. After dismissing the reformist minister of justice Stelian Ion on Wednesday (September 1), he approved the controversial EUR 10 bln public investment project on Friday. The tipping point had already been reached after minister Ion’s dismissal, and USR-PLUS eventually decided to minimise the losses at the cost of becoming part of an awkward coalition.

The calendar for debating and voting the motion was not yet announced by the Parliament on September 4, at a time when the Social Democrats (PSD, the biggest parliamentary party) were not yet decided whether to file their own motion or back the one drafted by USR-PLUS. PSD’s ambiguous position was seen by some as hidden support extended to the Liberal Party against a reformist coalition (USR-PLUS/AUR), while some still doubt their commitment to back USR-PLUS.

The PSD president unambiguously stated on Sunday (September 5) that the Social Democrats will vote for the no-confidence motion drafted and filed by USR-PLUS, “in case the motion will be voted in parliament," G4media.ro reported. Or else, PSD said it wants to cooperate with USR-PLUS and AUR to draft a joint motion - an uncertain scenario given the rivalry between the three parties.

There are circulated rumours about some bureaucratic irregularities in the draft of the motion, though.

The radical AUR party reportedly already signed (on Friday) the no-confidence motion filed by the junior ruling party USR-PLUS in its attempt to overthrow the Government. This prompted immediate reactions from President Klaus Iohannis, who blamed USR-PLUS for seeking support from a party that “does not accept the European values."

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Ovidiu Matiu)

The Government of Romania, with no minister of the reformist USR-PLUS attending the meeting, has approved on Friday (September 3) the "Anghel Saligny" multi-annual public investment project.

The project is criticised by the junior ruling partner USR-PLUS for the allocation of RON 50 bln (EUR 10 bln) with no transparent procedures from the state budget to the local authorities to finance projects of local interest.

The project was the visible cause of the conflict between the main partners of the Romanian ruling coalition, which is about to lead to a significant political crisis. USR-PLUS minister of justice Stelian Ion was dismissed a couple of days earlier for opposing the project.

On Friday, the liberal ministers summoned by PM Florin Citu endorsed the project without the mandatory opinion from the Ministry of Transport (also managed by USR-PLUS), assumed to be given in absentia.

Over the first four years of the project (2022-2025), the project's impact on the budget will be RON 26 bn (EUR 3.2 bln), according to Hotnews.ro. Part of the cost will be financed from the additional revenues generated by the economy-wide digitalisation of the invoicing system, prime minister Florin Citu explained.

He assured that the "Anghel Saligny" program and the Resilience Program (PNRR, EUR 30 bln until 2026, out of which EUR 16 bln loans) would not hinder Romania from bringing the budget deficit target under 3% of GDP by 2024.

"Both Anghel Saligny and PNRR and their financial impact were discussed, and the [budget deficit, public debt] trajectory was accepted by the European Commission with these programs included in the budget," claimed PM Citu.

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(Photo source: Gov.ro)

Romanian state-owned airline Tarom reported a net turnover of RON 232 mln in the first half of 2021 (H1), slightly higher than the result recorded in the same period last year, according to data published by the company. The loss for the first semester was RON 176 mln (EUR 35 mln).

Tarom’s revenues edged up marginally by only 2.5% year-on-year in H1. Operating revenues increased by 13% to RON 269 mln.

Personnel expenses decreased by 15%, from RON 82.3 mln to RON 69.8 mln. At the end of June, the company had an actual number of 1,408 employees, compared to 1,746 employees on June 30, 2020.

The loss was 3.2% lower compared to last year: RON 176 mln.

The Romanian authorities are in talks with the European Commission for new state aid to compensate for the operating losses registered by Tarom in the period July-December 2020. Tarom received a temporary rescue loan of approximately EUR 36.7 mln from the Romanian state, after approval by the Commission, under EU state aid rules in February 2020.

On May 28, 2021, the Romanian authorities notified the Commission of a Tarom restructuring plan.

The European Commission announced in early July that it had launched an in-depth investigation to assess whether the support measures given by the Romanian authorities to Tarom complied with EU state aid rules for firms in difficulty.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Real estate developer Impact Contractor & Developer (IMP) plans to build residential neighbourhoods with an estimated market value of over EUR 1.4 bln (plus VAT), the company announced in a development strategy document filed at the Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB), where its shares are listed.

The 2022-2027 strategy also includes the construction of a hotel and small shopping centres.

Impact, a company owned by the man of work Gheorghe Iaciu, plans to build about 7,800 new homes on the land it already owns, according to the development strategy quoted by Economica.net. Another 4,500 homes could be built on land that the developer has identified but has not yet purchased.

The largest project of the company that would be started next year is the one in Prelungirea Ghencea, where it owns a land of 26 hectares and for which it recently obtained the urbanism certificate.

A five-star hotel worth EUR 40 mln is also planned for development in the capital city.

Impact has a market capitalisation of RON 1 bln (EUR 200 mln).

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Shutterstock)

Fortress REIT, a major South African developer and a shareholder of regional developer NEPI Rockcastle, announced that it completed the takeover of ELI Park 1 logistics park in Chitila, near Bucharest, in its first acquisition on the Romanian real estate market. The sellers were Dragoș and Adrian Paval, the owners of Dedeman Holding, and the businessman Ionut Dumitrescu.

The transaction for the 50,000 sqm project, worth EUR 30 mln, was completed in July this year and complements a similar acquisition announced by Fortress REIT on the Polish market, Profit.ro reported.

The primary tenant is Romanian refrigerators producer Arctic (owned by Turkish Arcelik), which has established its distribution centre in Eli Park 1, where it occupies an area of 20,000 sqm.

"Our global diversification strategy is becoming stronger. We concluded the second successful transaction in Central and Eastern Europe by completing the acquisition of our first logistics park owned directly in Romania in July 2021. This follows our two recent acquisitions of logistics parks in Poland in December last year," said Steven Brown, CEO of Fortress REIT.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: the company)

The residential end-user natural gas price will double in the coming winter, compared to the previous one, according to estimates of the vice-president of the Romanian energy market regulator (ANRE), Zoltan Nagy Bege, Antena3.ro reported.

Despite very ambiguous statements of ANRE officials and of minister of economy Virgil Popescu, the current developments point to the energy prices rising further as opposed to the central bank’s expectations for stabilisation.

The high prices on the spot market will surface, for electricity and natural gas as well, in the residential prices at the beginning of next year, the ANRE vice-president stated. He argued that the Romanian authorities could do nothing about this because the same high (natural gas prices) are everywhere in Europe.

Speaking at an energy conference, the Romanian minister of economy Virgil Popescu blamed the Russians (Gazprom) for pushing up the natural gas prices. But it all will end after North Stream 2 (supposed to carry Russian gas as well) will become operational, he assured, according to Focus-energetic.ro.

To help the people face the high energy prices, minister Popescu announced the vulnerable consumer law and another immediate measure to help households overcome the winter by disbursing subsidies. But the Government has not decided whether subsidies will be paid for those with consumption, or incomes, below average. As well, he did not say when such subsidies would be disbursed.

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(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

The Romanian National Authority for Consumer Protection (ANPC) fined Raiffeisen Bank RON 100,000 (EUR 20,000) for incorrect commercial practice and proposed the bank to terminate such activities and return the money illegally collected from its customers as a result of such practices within 15 days.

The money to be returned to some 14,000 customers subject to the illegal practices is estimated by ANPC representatives, quoted by Agerpres, at up to EUR 10 mln.

The illegal practice, which consisted in upping the interest rate margin on the occasion of loan restructuring, took place in 2014 and was declared by ANPC as violating the regulations in the same year. Later in 2020, the court endorsed the ANPC’s findings meaning that Raiffeisen Romania was supposed to return the money collected illegally.

In a response, Raiffeisen Romania declared that such practices are no longer in place, and it is working on calculating the sums to be returned to its customers, Agerpres reported. But as the process is operated manually, it takes time - Raiffeisen Romania explained.

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(Photo source: Lenutaidi/Dreamstime.com)

Romania’s public health fund (National Health Insurance Fund, managed by Health House CNAS) posted a deficit of over RON 2 bln (EUR 400 mln) in Jan-Jul 2021, more than 20% wider than in the same period of the year 2020, according to Economica.net based on the detailed public budget execution data.

This is despite the revenues to the fund increasing by 9% YoY to RON 27.56 bln (EUR 5.5 bln) and despite the transfers to the fund rising by 9.3% YoY to RON 4.99 bln (EUR 1 bln), according to the publication.

The total expenditures in the first seven months of 2021 amount to RON 29.6 bln and are 9.7% higher than those made in the same period in 2020, according to CNAS data obtained and compared by Economica.net.

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(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

Romania’s seasonal and workday adjusted retail sales index edged up marginally (+0.1%) in July, compared to June, and remains at historically high levels.

During the first part of the year, the rally was driven by hopes (consumer confidence) for no more Covid waves. The rising energy prices already seen as of July and expected to intensify during the winter, as well as the rising interest rates and inflation, may significantly dampen the retail sales impetus toward the end of the year.

In annual terms, the retail sales index rose by 6.3% (YoY) while being 13.0% above the level as of July 2019, consistent with a 6.3% annualised growth.

Under a broader perspective, consumption has already returned to pre-crisis growth rates and (in absolute terms) not far from where it would have been in the absence of the Covid crisis (assuming a steady growth rate).

The recovery was nearly complete in the non-food segment (+9.4% YoY as of July and +10.2% annualised over the past 24 months). In the food sector, the sales increased by 6.8% YoY and by 5.8% annualised over the past 24 months.

The fuel sales witnessed the slowest and incomplete recovery: +0.7% annualised over the past two years, despite the +5.3% YoY advance.

Private consumption is broadly expected to drive the economic growth this year when it is projected by the state forecasting body CNP to rise by 8%, fully reversing the 5.2% contraction seen in 2020. In the coming years, the Government expects private consumption to gradually slow down from a 5% growth rate in 2022 to a still robust advance of 4.5% in 2025.

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(Photo source: Shutterstock)

The European Commission will endorse Romania's National Relaunch and Resilience Plan in September, and the European Council will give its green light in October, in line with the calendar announced in June, minister of investments and European projects Cristian Ghinea announced.

He said that despite his party (reformist USR-PLUS) being involved in a political conflict with the senior ruling Liberal Party (PNL), his team has worked to close all the chapters still under negotiations with the European Commission.

"Unless we are total idiots to reopen [the file] next week [under another Government], it will be approved in September. As promised," Ghinea concluded, according to Economica.net.

Romania is expected to receive EUR 30 bln for investments over the following years, until 2026, of which EUR 14 bln are grants.

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/George Calin)

For some time in Western Europe, it has been necessary for employers to guard against a potential lawsuit from an employee regarding discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace. The last few years have seen a considerable development of such cases in the employment tribunals and employment lawyers have been kept busy in this regard.

Eastern Europe, and in particular Romania, are behind in their approach to these issues and there have not been any major lawsuits regarding discrimination or harassment, although in the writer’s opinion as a Romanian employment lawyer this is only a matter of time.

Romanian employees are now learning from globalization about their British or American counterparts successfully suing their employers for discrimination, sexual or otherwise, or harassment, and have therefore become more likely to file a lawsuit and even, in some cases, press criminal charges against an employer or a member of the management of the company on grounds of discrimination or harassment.

Although there have not been many cases to date Romania does have in place legislation covering discrimination and harassment by reason of race, religion and sexual orientation as well as age. The Labour Code, Government Ordinance no. 137/2000 regarding the prevention and punishment of all forms of discrimination as well as Law no. 202/2002 regarding equal opportunities and equal treatment between men and women effectively cover these issues. In addition, Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation and Directive 2004/113/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services have been transposed into Romanian law.  

Romanian law covers both direct and indirect workplace discrimination. These apply in respect of: 

  • Direct discrimination, which means that an employer treats an employee comparably worse than other employees based on for discriminatory reasons. An example of direct discrimination would be when a pregnant employee is terminated for being pregnant or when a candidate is not hired solely for their sexual orientation or their ethnicity.
  • Indirect discrimination is the result of company policy or practices that whilst not obviously discriminatory create a disadvantage for certain categories of people. An example of indirect discrimination would be asking a female candidate during a job interview about her marital status or about pregnancy plans. The only situation where such policies or practices are permitted by the law is when there is a legitimate purpose and the means for achieving this purpose are necessary proportional and adequate.

Romanian legislation forbids both direct and indirect discrimination for race, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, language, sex, gender, sexual orientation, social origins, genetic traits, age, disability, political inclination, familial situation, belonging to or being active within a syndicate, belonging to a marginalized minority, or being infected with HIV.  Additionally, the legislation has provisions to protect employees from physical harassment, sexual harassment, victimization, and discrimination by association.

As a result of this employers in Romania are becoming increasingly more concerned with the internal procedures that they should have in place to prevent such situations from escalating and leading to a lawsuit and/or damaging the reputation of the company. 

The first thing that any employer in Romania needs to know are what are the basic obligations that the Romanian Labour Code has established for employers in this regard.

The obligations are:

  • To ensure equal opportunities and equal treatment for employees, whether they are men or women, in all employment relationships, especially by adding provisions against gender or sex discrimination in the internal regulations of the company,
  • To add provisions in the internal regulations regarding the sanctions applicable to employees for violating the dignity of their co-workers  
  • To inform employees about their rights regarding equal opportunities and equal treatment between men and women in the workplace.  One of the methods for doing this is by posting notices around the workplace, and 
  • To contact the authorities in charge of applying the legislation on equal opportunities and treatment between men and women in the workplace and inform them of any complaints of discrimination in the workplace.

It is important that the employer should ensure that they are covered in case of a lawsuit by adopting preventative measures against harassment and discrimination. The most basic measure being to include provisions regarding the sanctions applicable to employees for harassing and/or discriminating against their co-workers and ensuring that the Company has effective rules governing harassment and discrimination.  

In cases of discrimination employers sometimes seek to prevent a lawsuit for discrimination or harassment by having employees sign a non-disclosure agreement where discrimination is dealt with as a private matter. Romanian law includes provisions designed to protect employees, therefore there are more restrictions as to what actions such an agreement can cover.  

The Romanian labour code has recently been updated to allow the possibility for the employer to include in an employment contract a provision for solving any potential labour disputes including discrimination through mediation. This means, that if such a clause is included in the employment contract, the parties should try to solve the dispute through this special procedure, and only if they do not reach an agreement can the employee go to court. If they do reach an agreement, they can include in any written agreement clauses relating to compensating for the employee and therefore prevent a future lawsuit using such an agreement. It is important to ensure that the clauses meant to protect the employer from a lawsuit are not too restrictive of the rights of the employee and that they are negotiated with the employee, to avoid having a court subsequently declaring these clauses as abusive. 

Such an agreement can only cover the right of the employee not to file a lawsuit against the employer and not against another employee. It cannot restrict the employee from bringing criminal charges if the alleged act is considered a crime under Romanian law.

As a law firm in Romania dealing with employment issues, we are seeing more and more clients who have questions regarding these matters.  The answers must be addressed on an individual basis as to how they will impact employers under Romanian law.  The most important thing for employers is to get the correct Romanian legal advice early on before the problems become a real issue both for the employer and the employee. 

HAMMOND PARTNERSHIP

Hammond and Associates trading as Hammond Partnership is a Romanian law Firm based in Bucharest. The Firm Hammond and Associates has been in existence since 2004 and is registered with the Bucharest Bar. The lawyer of Hammond and Associates are all registered with the Romanian bar and are authorised to practise in Romania. The managing partner of the Firm is a solicitor registered with the Law Society of England and Wales and the Bucharest Bar.  

The Firms client base is both Foreign and Romanian. Its clients consist of SME’s as well as major companies who have invested in Romania. In addition, it advises individuals both Romanian and Foreign on all aspects of Romanian law as well as providing English law advice when required.

The Firm’s clients come from many fields and countries. Our clients ranging from international banks and companies. It advises clients in the fields of aviation finance, employment, building and real estate, manufacturing, service industries, renewables, IT and computing, agriculture, and shipping . 

The Firm advises on M&A and associated transactions including employment matters from the perspective of employees and employers.  The Firm deals with comm as well as commercial matters ranging from formation of companies to distributorship and commercial agreements.

Mihaela Lupu (Author of this article - in the opening picture)

Mihaela Lupu is a Romanian lawyer with experience in both civil litigation and consultancy in various areas of law.  She has advised a variety of international and domestic clients on corporate commercial and employment matters related to their activities and investments in Romania. She speaks Romanian, English and Spanish and has a knowledge of French.

Native content supported by Hammond Partnership.

As the harvest season is ready to start at the Tohani vineyard in Romania, local wine producer Tohani announced that it would organize grape harvests for the general public on September 25 and October 2. The event is part of the company’s strategy to become a major player in the local wine tourism segment, where it has invested EUR 6 million.

“Vineyard harvesting is both an intense period for the Tohani team, but also a celebration. Therefore, we aim to make all those who love wine part of our story [...]. The harvesting experience is unique, as well as the taste of local wines, and we want more and more Romanians to live this experience,” said Virgil Mândru, CEO of Tohani Romania.

Those who want to try the grape-picking experience at the Tohani vineyard this fall have to pre-register here. For every five buckets collected, participants will receive a bottle of Tohani wine. The harvest day will end with a campfire, music, an authentic Romanian meal and wine to complete the harvesting experience in the vineyard at Moșia de la Tohani.

“We had many requests to participate in the grape harvest, and this year, with our expansion in the wine tourism area and increasing the accommodation capacity, we can enjoy together this special moment of the grape harvesting,” Virgil Mândru said.

Continuing the strategy of placing Feteasca Neagră, the best-selling red wine variety, in Romania, on the international wine map, Tohani Romania completed in 2021 the first part of a large investment project in wine tourism. So, as of June this year, the accommodation capacity within the Tohani complex has increased to 20 rooms, being able to accommodate up to 40 tourists. The total investment in the project dedicated to tourism amounted to EUR 5 million so far and will be followed by another project worth EUR 1 million.

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(Photo source: Tohani Romania)

About 200 criminal cases targeting the issue or use of fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates have been opened in Romania so far, the Romanian minister of internal affairs, Lucian Bode, said during a videoconference with prefects. According to him, 400 people are being investigated in these cases, G4media.ro reported.

The minister also said that the structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are working to combat crimes related to forged vaccination certificates.

According to Europafm.ro, prosecutors from Dambovita county detained on Thursday evening a family doctor accused of having issued several false vaccination certificates between June and August. Her husband was also detained, and several other people were questioned by the police. The family doctor allegedly issued fake vaccination certificates for ten people after introducing false data in the computer system.

A few days ago, a journalistic investigation carried out by local news station Digi24 revealed a network of counterfeiters of vaccination certificates.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Romania’s National Committee for Emergency Situations (CNSU) updated on September 2 the list of countries with epidemiological risk. The countries/areas are rated as green, yellow or red, according to their COVID-19 incidence rate.

Twelve countries were moved to the red list due to higher COVID-19 incidence rates, according to Digi24. These are Serbia, Estonia, Albania, Tunisia, Mauritius, Jamaica, Lebanon, Palestine, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Suriname, and Brunei Darussalam.

Meanwhile, Spain, Liechtenstein and Morocco were moved from the red to the yellow list following a decrease in the COVID-19 incidence rate.

At the same time, countries such as Austria, Norway and Luxembourg also joined the yellow list, but due to an increase in infection cases. They were previously rated as green countries.

Finland, Malta and Andorra are among the countries that are now on the green list.

The updated lists are valid starting September 5, at 00:00. They are available here.

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(Photo source: Cateyeperspective/Dreamstime.com)

New car registrations increased in the first eight months of 2021 by 7.5% compared to the same period last year, to a total of 79,320 units, according to the association of Romanian producers (ACAROM).

This lags by one third behind the 118,003 units registered in the same eight-month period of 2019, though.

At the same time, the registrations of used cars increased by 11.8%, to 270,016 units (only 8% below the 293,507 units in January-August 2019), ACAROM data show, according to Ziarul Financiar.

In August alone, Romanians registered 44.5% more new cars compared to August 2020 - 16,129 units (23,177 units in August 2019). In the case of second-hand vehicles, registered for the first time in Romania, the volume increased by 17.0% YoY, to 34,828 units (35,512 units in August 2019).

The three most popular brands in January-August were Dacia, with 21,334 new cars registered, Skoda (6,033) and Toyota (5,859), followed by Volkswagen, Hyundai and Ford.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Developer of shopping centres and residential projects Prime Kapital is expanding its portfolio in the residential segment and is preparing to launch two new residential projects in Romania, Economica.net reported.

Prime Kapital is developing two residential projects in Bucharest and obtained in August the construction permit for the apartments in the joint Silk District project in Iasi. With the new projects from Timișoara and Ploiești, the company reaches a development stock of 4,500 new apartments and investments of over EUR 431 mln.

The developer signed a contract this year to acquire a plot of land in Timisoara, where the plans provide for the construction of 1,252 apartments and an investment of over EUR 115 mln, according to data from the financial report of MAS Real Estate, the South African company that is Prime Kapital's partner in Eastern European projects. Prime Kapital is the largest shareholder of MAS Real Estate, with a 21.56% stake in the company.

Prime Kapital buys from the lighting manufacturer ELBA a 56,000 sqm plot of land near Gara de Nord in Timișoara. ELBA announced in the spring of this year that it is selling the land for EUR 12.5 million, which will be paid after obtaining the approval of the PUZ and the building permit for the first part of the construction. In addition to apartments, retail spaces with a leasable area of 8,000 square meters will also be built.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Radu Hanga, president of the Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB), said that the local stock exchange notified the Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF), the local capital market supervisor, of the establishment of an index for the AeRO market, expected to be launched in the next 30 days, Ziarul Financiar reported.

AeRO witnessed unprecedented dynamics over the past year, when small entrepreneurial companies in various sectors, including a significant number of tech companies, used it to raise capital with share issues.

In May, Hanga said at another event that on the agenda of the Indices Commission of BVB, there is a proposal to set up, in the second half of the year, an "entrepreneurial index," representative for the secondary stock market.

"It will be built according to the model we apply to the other indices. (...) It will be 'a living animal,' it will be an index that as companies come (and we expect more and more companies to come, including from the area of technology), it will develop and diversify. This is the objective so that in the second half of the year, we have an index that is representative and that gives an indication regarding the evolution of the AeRO market," Radu Hanga said a few months ago.

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea)

Integrated Romanian steel mill Liberty Galati, formerly known as Sidex Galati, targets a production of 3 mln tonnes of steel in 2021, 50% more compared to the output of about 2 mln tonnes of steel in 2020, a company official told Ziarul Financiar daily.

"Production and deliveries have increased in both quarters of the year, and we are currently targeting an annualized production of 3 mln tonnes, up from around 2 mln tonnes in recent years. These excellent results were achieved due to the efforts of the local team, the support from Liberty Steel and the very favourable market conditions," Liberty representatives said, answering ZF questions asked as the international press recently wrote that the GFG group Alliance, the main shareholder of Liberty Galati, is in talks with White Oak Global Advisor, an alternative asset manager and credit firm in the United States, to refinance its operations in Europe.

Asked if the Galati plant was one of the assets under discussion, Liberty representatives said: "The GFG and the Restructuring and Transformation Committee (RTC) are in talks with several stakeholders on Liberty Steel Continental Europe, which also includes Liberty Galati. We do not comment on who is involved in these discussions."

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(Photo source: the company)

Canadian mining company DeepRock Minerals, specialized in the acquisition, exploration and development of mineral perimeters, has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire the second perimeter in Romania, in the Apuseni Mountains, for the exploration of a prospective gold exploration property, the company announced.

According to the terms of the deal, DeepRock is paying upon signing CAD 275,000, will issue 9 mln shares at an estimated price of CAD 0.08 per share to the seller when the exploration license is granted to DeepRock or its subsidiary, plus another 9 mln shares at the same price, later, according to Thenewswire.com.

This expansion will increase DeepRock's land position in Romania from 764 hectares to 3,528 hectares (461%).

Both properties have significant amounts of gold-bearing minerals with advanced underground works.

The company recruited in May this year Adrian Volintiru, former CEO of Romania's largest natural gas company Romgaz, to conduct local operations, according to Profit.ro.

The new property purchased by DeepRock, in northern Romania, is about 5 kilometres away from the company's current gold project - Zapozilor Polymetallic Gold Project.

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(Photo source: Deeprockmineralsinc.com)

The minimum monthly statutory wage in Romania will increase by 10.4%, from RON 1,386 (net terms) in 2021 to RON 1,530 net starting in 2022, if the Government accepts the demand expressed by the National Trade Union Block (BNS).

Another federation of trade unions, the Trade Union Confederation "Cartel Alfa," proposes a very similar minimum wage of RON 1,524.

The strongest trade unions in Romania have different methodologies when they suggest how to increase the minimum wage. If the BNS proposes a change in taxation so that the costs for the employer do not increase much, Cartel Alfa wants to increase the salary without changes of a fiscal nature.

"We propose that the basic personal deduction be doubled - from RON 350 to RON 700, for salaries below the minimum wage, and that the entire grid of deductions for the other income tranches will be adjusted accordingly. Such a measure would allow the increase of the minimum net salary in 2022 to RON 1,530", explained Dumitru Costin, the president of the National Trade Union Bloc (BNS), Ziarul Financiar reported.

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(Photo source: Ironjohn/Dreamstime.com)

The number of tourist overnight stays in July reported by Romania’s accommodation infrastructure increased by 51.3% year-on-year to 3.86 mln in July, but still lags by 16.4% compared to the same month in 2019.

In terms of the number of tourist arrivals (1.43 mln in July 2021), the YoY advance was slightly stronger (+56.3%), and the lag behind July 2019 was slightly smaller (-13.1%).

The number of foreign tourists (128,000 in July 2021), typically accounting for a small share of the total in Romania, was not much more than half of the figure seen in July 2019 despite the four-fold YoY increase.

The tourist and overnight stays for the whole January-July period reveals a significantly deeper (-35%) decline versus the same period of 2019, while the foreign tourist figures are at a quarter of those seen in the first seven months of 2019: 325,000 tourists and 722,000 overnight stays. 

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(Photo source: Shutterstock)

The food prices in Romania will increase by 10%-12% in the coming months, as a result of higher energy prices and higher import prices, according to estimates of the president of the National Federation of Trade Unions in the Food Industry Sindalimenta, Dragoş Frumosu, Economica.net reported. Higher energy prices will generate a 6-7pp increase alone.

As of July 2021, the food prices were up 2.3% year-on-year, less than half the headline consumer price inflation (5% YoY). Nevertheless, the average prices of the energy inputs soared by over 30% as of July (Frumosu speaks of a 100% rise in energy prices faced by the food processors), generating significant inflationary pressures.

Separately, the global food price index compiled by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) surged by nearly 30% YoY as of August.

Romania imports some 25% of the milk it needs, 70% of the pork and significant beef - Sindalimenta head Dragos Frumosu explained, implying that higher global prices will quickly be imported as well.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

The industrial prices (factory-gate prices) index in Romania increased by nearly 14% year-on-year as of July, after a 2.3% monthly leap.

In the energy sector, the industrial prices soared by 31% YoY after another major advance seen in July (+6.6%), announced the statistics office INS.

The prices of the intermediary goods increased by only 1.8% in July but compared to a year ago, they are 17.3% larger - three times more the advance of the prices of the durable and non-durable consumer goods (+5%-6% YoY).

The big picture suggests that the higher energy prices have not yet passed through to the consumer prices, and therefore further supply-side inflationary pressures are expected.

The consumer price inflation neared 5% YoY as of July, up from under 4% as of June.

Rising energy prices, as well as other factors, will cause food prices to increase by 10-12% on average in the coming months, but some products, such as pork, dairy and bread, will see higher price increases compared to the average, said the president of the National Federation of Trade Unions in the Food Industry Sindalimenta, Dragoş Frumosu, according to Economica.net.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Cinema sub clar de lună, a program of open-air film screenings, will hold a new edition starting September 3.

Screenings take place in the garden of the National Museum of Romanian Literature (8 Nicolae Crețulescu).

The public can see awarded films, the productions screened in the opening and closing of this year’s Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF), some of the films that were awarded at the festival, as well as Romanian premieres.

The first film to be screened is Bogdan George Apetri’s Unidentified, which won the FIPRESCI prize at TIFF 2021. François Ozon’s Été 85 (opening photo) and Daniel Sandu’s The Father Moves Mountains will follow.

The screenings run until October 17.

The program is updated here. Tickets are available at Eventbook.ro.

(Photo courtesy of Transilvania Film)

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Noaptea Albă a Galeriilor (NAG) – the White Night of Art Galleries will hold its 15th edition between October 15 and October 17.

Contemporary art venues can register to be part of the event by September 26, on the website noapteagaleriilor.ro.

NAG was initiated and is organized by Ephemair Association. It expanded from Bucharest to several other cities in the country beginning with its tenth edition in 2016.

(Photo: Pla2na/ Dreamsime)

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French fintech iBanFirst has opened an office in Bucharest, the company's first in Central and Eastern Europe.

iBanFirst is a financial services provider that addresses the needs of SMEs. As an alternative to traditional bank offerings, it developed an online platform that allows companies to conduct transactions in over 30 currencies.

The company expects to attract 500 clients to its trading platform in its first year of activity on the Romanian market, and a support team of 20 consultants, it said in a release.

The launch of the Romanian office and the expansion into Central and Eastern Europe are part of the company's development strategy backed by the acquisition, earlier this year, of a majority stake by the US fund Marlin Equity Partners, in a deal valued at EUR 200 million, it said. The deal made Marlin the majority shareholder of iBanFirst, with Pierre-Antoine Dusoulier, the company's CEO and founder, taking second place.

In addition to the Romanian office, iBanFirst plans to open offices in Bulgaria and Hungary in the coming months.

"iBanFirst is at a stage where it is accelerating the expansion of its European presence with the goal of facilitating business access to agile, affordable and customized global trading solutions. Together with our new investor Marlin Equity Partners, we believe that Central and Eastern Europe represents one of the markets with the highest growth potential for our company. We have chosen to enter this area with a first office in Romania because it shows very good signs of economic recovery post-Covid-19, and companies are very open to new technologies, being 'early adopters'. By combining the benefits of a state-of-the-art transaction platform available to clients with the support of an expert local team, we want to help as many businesses in Romania as possible to streamline their day-to-day operations and accelerate their growth plans," Pierre-Antoine Dusoulier, CEO and founder of iBanFirst, said.

Founded in Paris in 2013, iBanFirst is a French company based in Belgium, with operations in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. It is regulated as a payment institution, serving more than 4,000 customers across Europe. A member of the SWIFT global interbank communication network and SEPA certified, iBanFirst holds AISP and PISP accreditations. The company has attracted funding from European venture capital funds including Elaia, Bpifrance Large Venture and NJJ Capital. In May 2021, the company received a EUR 200m growth funding round from US investment fund Marlin Equity Partners.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

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Romania's liberal prime minister Florin Cîţu dismissed Stelian Ion, a member of the junior coalition partner USR-PLUS, from his post as justice minister. He made the announcement late on Wednesday evening, September 1, after the tensions between the PM and his coalition partners from USR-PLUS on a EUR 10 billion development program escalated. Apparently, the Government couldn't adopt the project because it lacked the Justice Ministry's opinion.

In response, USR-PLUS announced that it withdrew support for the PM and called for negotiations for naming another prime minister. If Cîţu doesn't step down, USR-PLUS could also support a no-confidence motion against him to be filed by the opposition.

PM Florin Cîţu has forwarded the request to dismiss Stelian Ion to president Klaus Iohannis. The Presidential Administration told Agerpres the request was under analysis.

UPDATE: President Klaus Iohannis signed off on Ion's dismissal and the appointment of interior affairs minister Lucian Bode as interim justice minister.

Announcing the decision, the PM said he “would not accept in Romania’s Government ministers who oppose Romania’s development,” News.ro reported. He said he would propose an interim minister “who understands the absolute priority of investments in Romania.”

The dismissal decision comes amid strong disagreement between the National Liberal Party (PNL) and USR-PLUS on a RON 50 bln (EUR 10 bln) local development program financed by the Government. On September 1, the PM wanted to have the EUR 10 bln program, dubbed Anghel Saligni, passed in the Government meeting. The PM reportedly wanted to introduce it on the meeting’s agenda without taking into consideration the amendments proposed by USR-PLUS ministers. In response, USR-PLUS announced that its ministers wouldn’t participate in the Government meeting. They accused the PM of breaching the coalition’s functioning protocol and called for a coalition meeting to discuss the divergences.

The investment program proposed by the PM consists in distributing government funds to the local authorities (mayors) to finance infrastructure projects for the development of their communities. USR-PLUS leaders said they would not support the project without clear criteria for distributing the funds and control mechanisms.

The justice reforms have been another issue of dispute in the ruling coalition during the past months. The dismantling of the Special Section SIIJ, tasked with investigating prosecutors, has seen USR PLUS ad odds with the third coalition partner UDMR, while president Klaus Iohannis also took issue with the sluggish advance of the reforms in the sector of justice.

The justice reforms have been another issue of dispute in the ruling coalition during the past months. The dismantling of the Special Section SIIJ, tasked with investigating prosecutors, has seen USR PLUS at odds with coalition partner UDMR, while president Klaus Iohannis also took issue with the sluggish advance of the reforms in the sector of justice.

Stelian Ion is the second USR-PLUS minister Cîţu dismisses after health minister Vlad Voiculescu in April. He is the third minister replaced in his cabinet, after the dismissal of finance minister Alexandru Nazare in July.

RO President, justice minister argue over delayed reforms

(Photo: Gov.ro)

simona@romania-insider.com

Romania’s unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points in July 2021 compared to the previous month, reaching 5.1%, the National Statistics Institute (INS) announced on Wednesday, September 1.

Men’s unemployment rate (5.4%) was with 0.7 percentage points higher than that of women (4.7%). The total number of unemployed people aged 15-74 years estimated for July 2021 was of 420,000.

However, the unemployment rate was significantly lower in July compared with the first two months of this year, when it reached 5.9%.

The INS changed the methodology for calculating the unemployment rate at the beginning of this year, and the data published for January - July 2021 are not comparable with those published for previous periods.

(Photo: Pexels)

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Financial consulting and audit company BDO Romania will run its BDO Academy recruitment program nationwide between September 1 and September 12, 2021, with the goal of attracting 60 candidates.

The candidates will then go through a training program after which the company hopes to hire 20 of them.

“We are launching this comprehensive recruitment program at the national level, because we pay close attention to human resources within our company, and we would like to attract capable young people in our team, eager to prepare for a career in auditing,” said Dan Apostol, BDO Romania Partner.

The recruitment program will be available exclusively online and addresses all the young people, graduates of economic studies in the country.

Apart from the evidence of completing studies with economic profile, such as audit, accounting or finance, the eligible candidates must also be equipped with English communication, at least at an intermediate level.

BDO Romania currently has over 240 employees at its offices in Bucharest, Cluj, Iasi, Timisoara, Sibiu and Chisinau.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

andrei@romania-insider.com

DB Global Technology, Deutsche Bank’s technology center in Bucharest, has recently established an Information Security function, expanding on the global security presence in other Deutsche Bank locations.

The local team of cyber security experts already boasts over 40 people and continues to grow. The security team in Bucharest covers areas such as Identity & Access, cyber threat management, cyber security architecture, and Cloud Security.

“We want to build a strong and highly skilled cyber security team of about 100 people here in Bucharest. Romania has an excellent reputation for cyber security due to its secure networks, the performance in broadband internet speed rankings, and above all, the diverse talent pool,” said Cristiano Avenia, who leads the security team for DB Global Technology.

DB Global Technology was established in 2014 and has reached over 1,000 employees.

The center in Bucharest plays a crucial part in Deutsche Bank’s technology transformation, developing applications for more than eleven divisions within the bank.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

andrei@romania-insider.com

E.ON Energie Romania, the local subsidiary of German utilities group E.ON, has signed over 200 partnerships with companies in Romania for the delivery of solar energy projects since 2018.

The total value of these projects is EUR 40 mln.

The projects include installing 110,000 solar modules on a total area of 165,000 sqm and a combined capacity of 40,000 MWh per year, enough to power 22,000 homes.

Of the over 200 projects, E.ON has already finalized 55, while over 150 are in various implementation stages.

The construction of a solar power plant takes 7-9 months, and the lifespan is 25 years. Investors recover their investment in 4-7 years, according to E.ON.

(Photo: Pixabay)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Zentiva Romania, the biggest pharmaceutical producer in the country, reported a consolidated turnover of RON 514 mln (EUR 104 mln) in the first half of this year and said its local factories increased their production by 20% compared with the same period of 2020.

The Zentiva factory recorded a net turnover of RON 330 mln in the first half of this year, up by 17% compared with the first six months of 2020.

However, its net profit went down by 17% to RON 34.6 mln due to the faster rise in operating expenses, according to a report posted on the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

The group’s second local business, Labormed Pharma Trading, increased its sales by 22% year-on-year.

The group’s best-selling product is the pain killer paracetamol, for which Zentiva recorded higher domestic demand as well as exports, due to new contracts on the German market.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romanian brick producer Cemacon (CEON) reported record turnover and operating profit (EBITDA) in the first half of this year.

The company’s shares jumped by 14% on the Bucharest Stock Exchange on Wednesday, September 1, after the financial report was published.

Cemacon reported a turnover of RON 83.92 mln (EUR 17.1 mln) in the first half of this year, 46% higher compared with the same period of 2020 and 14% higher than in the first six months of 2019.

The EBITDA went up by 74% year-on-year to RON 31 mln, and the net profit more than doubled to RON 21.5 mln. Cemacon’s shares have gained 65% since the beginning of this year, compared with a 25.6% increase for the BET index. The company’s market capitalization currently stands at RON 283 mln (EUR 57.4 mln).

Cemacon’s majority shareholders are Dragos and Adrian Paval, the owners of Romanian do-it-yourself chain Dedeman, who own 94% of the company’s shares through two investment vehicles.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romanian industrial group Promateris (PPL), a leading CEE producer of biodegradable and compostable packaging, recorded a consolidated turnover of EUR 17 million in the first six months of 2021, 60% higher compared with the same period of last year.

The group, which also includes packaging distribution company Biodeck, reported a consolidated EBITDA of over EUR 2.8 million, more than double compared to the first half of 2020. The net profit went up by 166% to EUR 1.9 mln.

The positive financial results recorded by the company in the first six months were primarily generated by the expansion of the production of biodegradable and compostable packaging.

“Our goal is to develop innovative products that have a low impact on the environment. The financial results for the first half of the year are in line with our expectations and motivate us to continue to make progress towards sustainability and innovation,” said Tudor Georgescu, CEO of Promateris.

For the whole year, Promateris targets a turnover of EUR 40 million.

Promateris has made several investments in developing the production capacity of compostable packaging and the production of biodegradable and compostable raw material made from corn starch and says it will become the first company in Eastern Europe to produce raw material based on corn starch.

Both projects are carried out with the support of grants awarded by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA and Norwegian financial mechanisms 2014-2021, within the “SMEs Growth Romania” program. The total value of the projects is EUR 4 million.

The PPL stock price jumped by 15% on Wednesday, September 1, after the company released its first-half results. Year-to-date, the shares have gained 48%.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Behboud (Ben) Madadi, an investor of Iranian origin known as one of the biggest individual shareholders of the Romanian investment company SIF Muntenia (SIF4), aims to buy up to 7% of the company’s shares through a public offer.

He has submitted the offer documentation to the local financial market regulator ASF, according to a notification issued by SIF Muntenia on the Bucharest Stock Exchange, Ziarul Financiar reported.

Madadi’s offer would compete with a share buyback offer announced by SIF Muntenia, which takes place between September 2 and September 15.

SIF Muntenia plans to purchase 20.6 million own shares (2.6% of the total number of shares) at a price of RON 1.3, which is close to the current market price.

Madadi aims to buy 55 million shares, but the price hasn’t been made public. SIF Muntenia’s shares jumped by 4.3% to RON 1.34 on Wednesday, September 1, after the notification. At this price, Madadi would have to pay RON 73.7 mln (EUR 15 mln) for the shares he wants to buy in the public offer.

Ben Madadi, who reportedly owns about 3.92% of SIF Muntenia’s shares, is part of a group of investors who have criticized SIF Muntenia’s investment strategy and especially the fact that SIF Muntenia indirectly holds a significant number of own shares through other investment management companies in which it is a significant shareholder.

SIF Muntenia manages net assets worth RON 1.84 bln (EUR 374 mln). However, its shares are currently trading at a discount of 43% to the NAV per share, even after a 60% increase since the beginning of this year.

SIF Muntenia is managed by SAI Muntenia Invest, a local asset management firm controlled by SIF Banat-Crisana (SIF1), another local investment company. SIF Banat-Crisana’s president and general manager is former finance minister Bogdan Dragoi.

(Photo: Dreamstime)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Sigtree Technologies, a Romanian Prop-Tech startup that targets real estate developers, aims to attract financing worth EUR 500,000.

Half of the sum should come from investors on the local equity crowdfunding platform SeedBlink, in exchange for 7.14% of the company’s shares. The SeedBlink campaign starts on September 2.

Two private investors with experience in technology and real estate provide the remaining EUR 250,000. The company says it will use the funds to expand into other European markets, such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Spain and the UK.

“The pandemic has changed the real estate market, the buying and renting habits. Everything is digital nowadays, and the concept of iBuyer is gaining momentum,” said Vlad Costea, founder and CEO Sigtree Technologies.

“Our platform addresses one of the market’s needs, namely the creation of a technological bridge between real estate developers, clients and service providers. We are aware of our business’s strong assets, and we know exactly what to do to grow in other markets, with higher potential,” he added.

The company is evaluated at EUR 3 million pre-money. For 2022, the management targets a turnover of EUR 650,000, ten times higher than in 2021, in the context of growing interest in the PropTech industry, especially in Western Europe.

In the next two years, the company targets a new investment round worth EUR 2 million from a UK-sourced private investment fund, thus, entering this market as well.

(Photo courtesy of the company)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romania’s foreign exchange reserves increased by EUR 2.6 bln in August 2021 compared with the previous month to a new record of EUR 41.6 bln, according to data released by Romania’s National Bank (BNR) on Wednesday, September 1.

The central bank recorded foreign exchange inflows of EUR 3.34 bln in August, of which EUR 2.1 bln come from the crediting of Romania’s SDR account following the IMF’s new general allocation.

The outflows totaled EUR 735 mln in August. The gold stock remained steady at 103.6 tons and was valued at EUR 5.1 bln at the end of August.

As a result, Romania’s international reserves, which include foreign currency and gold, reached EUR 46.73 bln, up from EUR 44.13 bln at the end of July.

(Photo: Henning Marquardt/ Dreamstime)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Strong divergences between the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the reformist party USR-PLUS on a RON 50 bln (EUR 10 bln) local development program financed by the Government have brought Romania’s center-right ruling coalition on the brink of a break for the second time this year.

The tensions escalated on Wednesday, September 1, when liberal prime minister Florin Citu wanted to have the EUR 10 bln program dubbed Anghel Saligni passed in the cabinet meeting. The PM reportedly wanted to introduce this point on the meeting’s agenda without taking into consideration the amendments proposed by USR-PLUS ministers, according to News.ro.

In response, USR-PLUS announced that its ministers wouldn’t participate in the Government meeting and the party’s leaders Dan Barna, who is also deputy prime minister, and Dacian Ciolos spoke again about the possibility to leave the ruling coalition. They accused PM Citu of breaching the coalition’s functioning protocol and called for a coalition meeting to discuss the divergences.

The investment program proposed by PM Florin Citu is similar to those carried out in previous years by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and consist in distributing government funds to the local authorities (mayors) to finance infrastructure projects for the development of their communities. However, the previous two programs run by PSD raised criticism related to the discretionary distribution of funds and lack of transparency.

USR-PLUS leaders said they would not support a similar project without clear criteria for distributing the funds and control mechanisms on how the money is spent. The party asked for similar criteria as those for EU funds, according to G4Media.ro.

USR-PLUS also said that the program as supported by PM Citu is "thievery". "Romania's development can't be carried out with programs to enrich local barrons, inherited from Liviu Dragnea (former PSD leader - e.n.)," USR-PLUS said in a press release quoted by Hotnews.ro.

Meanwhile, PM Florin Citu wants to pass the program as soon as possible and doesn’t seem willing to accept his governing partners’ amendments. He even accused USR-PLUS of blackmail and said the program would pass as it is, according to G4Media.ro.

The debate comes at a critical moment for Citu, who competes for the leadership of the National Liberal Party (PNL) against incumbent leader Ludovic Orban. A swift adoption of the investment program could tilt the balance in Citu’s favor, as the party’s mayors have a strong say in the internal elections.

This is the second major conflict in the ruling coalition this year after the one generated by Citu’s unilateral decision to dismiss health minister Vlad Voiculescu (USR-PLUS) in April. At that moment, USR-PLUS folded and decided to continue as part of the Government.

editor@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos / Ilona Andrei)

Our monthly overview for Romania Insider members brings you the main topics of the month, to make sure you don't miss the bigger picture, no matter how often you choose to read the news. If you choose to stay away from much of the media frenzy, this monthly bulletin brings the essentials without wasting a lot of time, in a basic visual version, so you can focus on the text alone. 

Opening photo: Clasical music concert at Sala Palatului in Bucharest on August 30, 2021, part of the George Enescu International Music Festival - Photo source: Inquam Photos / Bogdan Ioan Buda

August was a more relaxed and less eventful month in Romania. Still, the peak of the summer holiday season was visible in the country's tourist hotspots and on the roads, where traffic was higher than usual due to many Romanians coming from abroad to spend their holidays at home.

However, the relaxed atmosphere could be just the calm before the storm as Romania prepares for an agitated autumn and an even more complicated winter. The fast rise in COVID-19 cases and energy prices are two of the most pressing problems in Romania today. Meanwhile, the leaders of the top two ruling parties in Romania - PNL and USR-PLUS - are also engaged in internal power battles and the coalition is not running very smoothly. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

On the COVID-19 front, Romania's vaccination campaign made very little progress in August. The country's vaccination rate among adults is currently around 30% just as the European Commission announced that 70% of EU's population has been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the rise in new COVID-19 cases has accelerated in recent weeks, reaching levels not seen since May. This comes just two weeks before the start of a new school year in Romania in which the authorities hope students will be able to attend more classes in school than last year.

On the political scene, all eyes are on the internal elections in the National Liberal Party (PNL), the biggest party of the center-right ruling coalition in Romania. PM Florin Citu seems to have a slight advantage over PNL's current leader Ludovic Orban, who has been trying to gather support with a traditional and nationalistic discourse. Meanwhile, PM Citu had to manage an image crisis caused by 20-year-old drunk driving charges in the US. Still, a large number of PNL regional leaders have expressed support for Citu. The PNL congress takes place at the end of September.

USR-PLUS, the other major party of the ruling coalition, also has internal elections scheduled in early October. There are three candidates in the race, but the battle will be between USR leader Dan Barna and PLUS leader Dacian Ciolos. There are still many tensions between coalition parties, which are split over some bit topics such as the justice reform and a EUR 10 bln state-backed investment program for the development of regional infrastructure. The Government is also expected to adopt an important budget revision this month.

The new macro indicators released in August show a mixed picture. Romania posted 13% economic growth in the second quarter compared to the same period of 2020 and the estimates for the full-year growth are around 7%. However, the inflation rate also spiked close to 5% in July, pushed by higher energy prices. The central bank expects annual inflation of over 5% at the end of this year and could start hiking the monetary policy rate this autumn.

The business sector remains active in terms of M&A deals and financing rounds. The local companies' first-half results show a rapid recovery after last year's dip caused by the pandemic and related restrictions. The big banks, in particular, posted strong profit increases in the first half. Meanwhile, the biggest insurance company in Romania is struggling to solve its financial problems with the help of a foreign investor.

In real estate, August market the signing of the biggest office deal in Romania this year, after a relatively modest first half. Still, the top investors are accelerating their investment plans.  The hotel market also shows signs of recovery, with two new hotel openings in August and more planned for next year.

Other important milestones announced in August were the record grain harvest and Dacia's new Sandero model climbing to number one in terms of sales in Europe.

Fresh data released in August show that Romania's resident population continued to decline in 2020. Meanwhile, over one million Romanians were officially registered in the UK.

August also brought the first large music festivals in Romania since the beginning of the pandemic - Summer Well and Electric Castle - as well as new editions of the Transilvania Film Festival and Sibiu International Theater Festival. The large events series will continue in September with the George Enescu Festival and Untold.

Below, you can browse through the most important topics in August, grouped by relevance. By clicking on a title, you can read the whole article on the Romania-Insider.com website.

 

COVID-19 - Fourth wave coming

 

POLITICS: Looking for new alphas

Domestic politics

Foreign politics

Political decisions with impact on business

 

MACROECONOMY : Inflationary growth

 

BUSINESS: M&A market remains active, banks post high profits

M&A, new investments

Startup financing

Energy

Banking & insurance

Real estate

Transport

Agriculture

Other company news

New in town

Other

 

SOCIAL & LIFE:  Imbalances grow, return of the festivals

Social issues

Leisure

 

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos)

Approximately 10,000 runners are expected to participate in the OMV Petrom Bucharest Half Marathon this weekend (September 4-5).

However, due to international rules imposed amid the pandemic, foreign professional athletes will not join the event this year, the organizers announced, according to Europafm.ro. But the prizes remain the same, amounting to a total of EUR 11,000. In addition, a prize of EUR 1,500 will be awarded this year for the race record.

Participants lined up at the start will have to wear masks at the beginning, for the first 150 metres, as they will be close to other runners. Plus, they will also have to wear the masks at the finish line for the same reason.

The event is open for both vaccinated and unvaccinated runners. The organizers will bear the costs for testing participants who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Europa FM. Those vaccinated must present a European COVID-19 digital certificate.

The Half Marathon is one of the biggest sports events organized in Bucharest this year. Further details are available here.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Mihocphoto/Dreamstime.com)

Air passenger traffic decreased by 26.5% YoY in the first half of 2021, from 4.07 million to 2.99 million passengers, according to data centralized by the National Institute of Statistics (INS), quoted by local Agerpres.

With 985,100 embarked passengers and 948,700 disembarked passengers, Bucharest’s Henri Coanda Airport took the first spot in terms of H1 passenger transport. Next were the Avram Iancu Airport in Cluj-Napoca and the Traian Vuia Airport in Timisoara.

The main countries (by the airport of origin) from where air passengers arrived in Romania were the United Kingdom - 203,678 people, Germany - 139,988, Italy - 138,160, Spain - 132,469, France - 74,219, and Turkey - 65,197.

By country of destination, most regular passengers boarded for the United Kingdom - 204,960 passengers, Germany - 143,219, Italy - 140,279, Spain - 130,960, and France - 82,602.

When it comes to the domestic air traffic, Bucharest’s Henri Coanda again topped the list with 50.1% of embarked passengers, followed by the Avram Iancu Airport in Cluj-Napoca - 16.1%, and Traian Vuia Airport in Timisoara - 14%.

According to the same INS data, with 1,038,300 boarding passengers and 1,042,200 disembarking passengers recorded in the second quarter of 2021, the air traffic registered a substantial increase from Q2 2020.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

Bucharest ranks ninth in the Workation Index put together by vacation search engine Holidu.co.uk. The top ranks the best cities in the world for a workation - a more popular option for people worldwide, as remote working has been on the rise due to the pandemic.

To compile the index, Holidu analysed several factors such as the monthly cost of a one-bedroom apartment, the number of things to do rated 4-stars and above, the cost of after-work drinks, or the Wi-Fi speed - all important when combining work with a vacation.

Bangkok took the top spot, mainly due to the affordable prices, a large number of people who speak English and the diversity of attractions, Biziday.ro reported, quoting the index. New Delhi comes next, followed by Lisbon, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires and Budapest (sharing fifth place).

The top ten is completed by Mumbai, Istanbul, Bucharest, and Phuket.

“In fifth place on the top five European cities for a workation is Bucharest. Romania’s vibrant and busy capital has seen a big come-back in recent years, and has a lot to offer to remote workers: one of the fastest Wi-Fi speeds in the world at 54 Mbps, cheap taxi fares at GBP 0.35 per km on average and two pints of local beer at around GBP 2.78 – bargain!” - reads the Romanian capital’s presentation.

There is also a second ranking that includes only destinations which appear on the British government’s green and amber travel lists, and Bucharest is at number sixth on this list.

The complete Workation Index is available here.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Tangducminh/Dreamstime.com)

The European Commission (EC) announced on Tuesday that 70% of the European Union's adult population is now fully vaccinated. In total, over 256 million adults in the EU have now received a full vaccine course, according to the EC.

"The full vaccination of 70% of adults in the EU already in August is a great achievement," said the EC president Ursula von der Leyen.

She added: "The EU's strategy of moving forward together is paying off and putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19. But the pandemic is not over. We need more. I call on everyone who can to get vaccinated. And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. Europe will continue to support its partners in this effort, in particular, the low and middle-income countries."

Romania is second-to-last in the EU, with less than a third of its adult population vaccinated, according to ECDC data. Only Bulgaria is lower, with a share of 20%. Meanwhile, most of the other countries in the region boast vaccination rates of over 50% of the adult population.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

The former leader of Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, is allegedly targeted by a new investigation of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), according to sources quoted by News.ro.

The new case is related to the use of party funds to pay for exotic holidays on which the former PSD head allegedly took his girlfriend. These included trips to Indonesia, Bali, the Dominican Republic and Doha.

Liviu Dragnea was released from prison on July 15 after serving two years and two months of detention for abuse of office.

In May this year, DNA sent Dragnea to court in another case related to the financing of his visit to the US in 2017, when he attended the inauguration ceremony of former President Donald Trump.

Liviu Dragnea, who was the most powerful politician in Romania for several years, was replaced as head of PSD after he was convicted in May 2019.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Shutterstock)

The German management consulting company Roland Berger won the international tender organized by Romania's national salt company Salrom for conducting a feasibility study on the exploitation of graphite in Romania.

Economy minister Claudiu Nasui made the announcement on Facebook. He said that the exploitation of graphite could turn Romania into an important country for the development of the battery industry.

"Romania can become a very important place for the battery industry and can get to this naturally, without subsidies or state aid schemes also paid from taxpayers' money," Nasui wrote in his Facebook post, according to Agerpres.

He added: "Many modern technologies for the manufacture of batteries and solar panels use graphene, which is obtained from graphite, a product that we also want to manufacture in Romania."

Romania has graphite deposits at the Baia de Fier mine in Gorj county.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Gov.ro)

The total value of real estate deals in Romania reached nearly EUR 290 million in the first six months of 2021, down by 29% compared with the first half of 2020, according to a Colliers report. Office assets generated about two-thirds of the total volume.

Despite the slow first half, Colliers consultants believe that the market fundamentals remain strong. Healthy transaction levels and confidence in the banks’ ability to increase their lending to the economy in 2021 encourage existing or new potential interested investors to prospect Romania.

“2021 may look like a somewhat soft year in terms of overall volumes compared to some of the previous years, but as they say, one must not judge a book by its cover and a period solely by the deals closed. In terms of investor interest and favourable moves to core asset prices, it is not at all a bad year, on the contrary. There are also quite a few large deals in various stages presently,” said Anca Merdescu, Associate Director Investment Services at Colliers.

Three office deals in Bucharest accounted for half of the transaction value in the first half: the sale of the Campus 6.2 and 6.3 office buildings by Skanska to S IMMO for EUR 97 mln, the acquisition of The Light One office building by Uniqua Real Estate for EUR 54 mln, and Immofinanz’s purchase of the Bucharest Financial Plaza for EUR 36 mln.

After the end of the first semester, Adventum Group took over Hermes Business Campus from Belgian group Atenor for about EUR 150 mln, the largest deal signed this year.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Sphera Franchise Group (SFG), one of the biggest restaurant operators in Romania, announced record-high results in the second quarter of this year. The company registered RON 233 million (EUR 47.5 mln) in consolidated sales in all three markets of activity, a surge of 119% compared with the same period of last year when the COVID-19 restrictions strongly impacted its activity.

“Despite ongoing lockdowns and limitations on the indoor dining, KFC stores present in Romania, Italy and Republic of Moldova as well as Taco Bell in Romania thrived between April and June 2021, registering the best sales for that period of the year,” the company said in a report on the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

Combined with a strong first quarter of the year, Sphera Franchise Group closed the first half of 2021 with consolidated sales of RON 444.5 million (EUR 90.7 mln), a 46% increase compared with H1 2020. The normalized EBITDA reached RON 30.7 million, up from RON 1.56 mln in the same period of 2020.

As a result, the company also posted a net profit of RON 5.2 million, compared with losses of RON 22.36 mln in H1 2020.

The company operated 161 restaurants at the end of June, up from 153 one year ago.

Sphera Franchise Group holds the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchises in Romania and operates restaurants under the KFC brand in Italy and Moldova.

SFG’s stock price went down by 3% after the results report on Tuesday but are still up 22.5% since the beginning of this year.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: the company)

Fondul Proprietatea (FP), the biggest investment fund in Romania, recorded a net profit of RON 1.8 bln (EUR 367 mln) in the first half of this year, compared with losses of RON 849 mln in the same period of 2020.

The main contributors to the profit were the net unrealized gains from the fund’s investments in OMV Petrom (RON 244 mln) and Hidroelectrica (RON 910 mln).

Oil and gas group OMV Petrom (SNP), which is listed on the Bucharest Stock Exchange, recorded a share price increase of 17% in the first half of this year, while energy producer Hidroelectrica, which is not yet listed, recorded a significant increase in valuation due to solid revenue and profit growth in the first half.

The fund also recorded a gross dividend income of RON 655 mln in the first six months, mainly from its stakes in Hidroelectrica and OMV Petrom. However, the dividend income was significantly lower than in the first half of last year (RON 1.15 bln).

Fondul Proprietatea’s net asset value (NAV) per share increased by 13.8% in the first half of this year, while its shares offered a total return of 32.9% in the same period, including the gross special dividend of RON 0.072 per share.

The fund also boasts a historic milestone in H1 as the share price at the end of June surpassed its NAV per share, which means that the fund was trading at a premium for the first time since its listing on the Bucharest Stock Exchange in early 2011.

Fondul Proprietatea is managed by the American group Franklin Templeton.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Hidroelectrica, the largest energy producer in Romania, recorded a net profit of RON 1.68 billion (EUR 344 million) in the first six months of this year, double compared with the same period last year. The company's revenues reached RON 3.2 billion, up by 78% compared to the first six months of 2020.

The figures were included in the half-year report of local investment fund Fondul Proprietatea, which owns 20% of Hidroelectrica's shares.

At the end of June, Fondul Proprietatea valued its stake in Hidroelectrica at RON 6 bln (EUR 1.22 bln), standing for a total value of RON 30 bln (EUR 6.1 bln) for the whole company.

The Romanian state owns the majority stake of 80% in Hidroelectrica.

The company's strong results come in the context in which electricity prices have climbed to record highs in Romania as the country's domestic production doesn't fully cover the consumption. Data from the local energy exchange OPCOM show that the average spot electricity price in July was EUR 94 per MWh, up by almost 70% compared to the average at the beginning of the year (EUR 56 per MWh), Ziarul Financiar reported.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Facebook/Hidroelectrica)

Black Sea Oil and Gas (BSOG), a Romanian company backed by US investment fund Carlyle, could start gas deliveries from Romania’s Black Sea section at the end of this year when work on the Midia Gas Development project will be finalized.

French group Engie, one of the top gas suppliers in the Romanian market, has already signed a contract to take half of the gas extracted by BSOG from the Midia perimeter.

The project’s production is estimated at 1 billion cubic meters per year, which stands for about 10% of Romania’s gas consumption.

The gas deliveries from the Black Sea could come at a critical moment for the Romanian energy market, marked by higher gas prices and higher imports from Russian group Gazprom, which could lead to significantly higher bills for household consumers this winter, according to Ziarul Financiar.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

The Government won’t intervene to cap the energy price, and Romania needs energy independence, prime minister Florin Citu said on Tuesday, August 31, during a meeting dedicated to the recent increases in domestic energy prices. He added that the Government would take the “toughest measures” if it discovers that the inefficiency of state-owned energy producers causes the higher energy prices paid by Romanian end consumers.

Energy prices have become a hot topic in Romania after the electricity price went up 25%, and gas prices increased by 20% from July 2020 until July 2021, according to official statistics. Further price increases are expected over the winter as Romania’s domestic electricity and gas production doesn’t currently cover the consumption.

“I can tell you right away that we will not intervene to cap prices. Just to be very clear,” Florin Citu said, quoted by News.ro. He added: “At our previous meeting, I understood the major problem we are facing now - rising prices everywhere in the European Union. At the same time, I understood that we have another problem: we have to import energy because we don’t produce enough to cover our needs. It’s clear that Romania needs energy independence.”

At the same meeting, energy minister Virgil Popescu announced that the Government would also start compensating the higher energy bills for Romanians with average income and average energy consumption beginning November 1.

“In addition to compensating vulnerable consumers, we want to compensate consumers with average income or average consumption. We want to fully compensate them this winter, which begins on November 1 and ends on March 31,” Popescu said, quoted by Agerpres.

He said that there are 4.5 million households in Romania that consume up to 1,000 kWh per year, which means over 10 million Romanians.

The minister said that this compensation would be made regardless of the vote on the Vulnerable Consumer Law. This bill should create the framework under which the state can help vulnerable energy consumers.

Minister Virgil Popescu said the funds to compensate vulnerable and average consumers would come from the tax paid by gas producers for their extra gains from the gas market liberalization and from the dividends received by the Government from the state-owned energy companies such as Hidroelectrica, the country’s biggest electricity producer.

andrei@romania-insider.com

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Twelve NGOs active in nine cities in the country have formed an alliance working to establish a network of urban nature areas.

The Coalition for Urban Nature aims to “promote, maintain and integrate nature areas in cities, facilitating the urban population’s access to recreation and environment education.” It also aims to get involved in preserving urban biodiversity, promote nature inside cities and involve city residents in creating and managing the national network of urban nature areas, according to a release from the coalition.

The coalition is made up of organizations and initiative groups active in environmental protection. Each of them promotes an urban nature area or has expertise in related areas.

The coalition’s members are: Văcărești Nature Park Association in Bucharest; SOS Cluj; the Foundation of the Brașov Mountain Ecology Center; Societatea Carpatină Ardeleană (Ardeal Carpathian Society) – EKE Satu Mare; Piatra Neamț civic initiative group; Romanian Ornithological Society – Iași Branch; Bio-Team Association in Timișoara; Ruralis Association in Bistrița; the Center for Protected Areas and Sustainable Development in Oradea; Napoca Bike Tourism Club in Cluj; Funky Citizens and Kogayon Association.

The urban nature areas are “wild landscapes with conservation, scientific, educational, and recreational value that can improve the city residents’ life.” They can be forests, riverbanks, meadows with little impact from human activity or abandoned areas that turned wild again.

The coalition is part of the project Network for Urban Nature and is rolled out by the Văcărești Nature Park Association in partnership with Funky Citizens, the S.O.S. Sustainably Organized Society Association, the Foundation of the Brașov Mountain Ecology Center and Societatea Carpatină Ardeleană EKE Satu Mare, with financial support from Active Citizens Fund Romania, a program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the 2014-2021 SEE Grants.

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The EU Covid-19 certificate or a rapid antigen test are needed for access to Untold, the music festival taking place in Cluj-Napoca, in western Romania.

“Untold fans will be able to access the festival’s premises this year only with the EU digital Covid-19 certificate or based on a rapid test. With this, the Untold organizers keep their commitment to holding one of the safest events in Europe,” a press release from the organizers, quoted by Agerpres, reads.

Those who take the rapid antigen test at the centers or clinics of the medical providers agreed by the festival receive after the test the bracelet serving as proof of the test's authenticity and a negative result, the organizers said. They are not required to also show the EU Covid-19 certificate but have to carry with them at all times the negative result of the test and their ID. The list of centers and clinics will be available on the festival’s website in the coming period.

Furthermore, minors aged between 7 and 12 need to have a negative test (rapid or RT-PCR) or proof of having recovered from the illness, as well as their birth certificate. Those aged between 12 and 14 need to show proof of vaccination, of having recovered from the illness or a negative test (rapid or RT-PCR), as well as the birth certificate. Participants aged between 14 and 18 can access the event based on vaccination proof, of having recovered from the illness or a negative test, and the ID documents.

Untold is scheduled to take place between September 9 and September 12. Among the artists in the lineup are David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, The Script, Parov Stelar, Tyga, and Sam Feldt.

(Photo: Salajean/ Dreamstime)

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The Romanian Government approved on August 30 the ordinance outlining several measures meant to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to the ordinance, those who get fully vaccinated will receive meal vouchers worth RON 100 (around EUR 20). This applies to those who get vaccinated once the ordinance comes into force.

At the same time, a raffle with money prizes will be organized for those fully vaccinated. The raffle, with a first draw scheduled for October, is open to all those fully vaccinated. Those who have a vaccination certificate can register on the Government-run site certificat-covid.gov.ro, where the Special Telecommunications Service STS will develop the raffle registration functionality.

By August 30, 5,124,998 people were fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The country is second-to-last in the EU on the cumulative of at least one vaccine dose among adults older than 18 (32.8%), according to the Vaccine Tracker of the European Center for Disease Prevention.

According to the same ordinance, the validity of the rapid antigen test certificate is extended from 24 hours to 48 hours.

The draft of the ordinance is available here.

(Photo: George Calin/ Inquam Photos)

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Bulgaria, a popular tourism destination for many Romanians, and Spain, where a large community of Romanians live, have revised their entry requirements for Romanian citizens.

Starting September 1, Romanian citizens arriving from Romania to Bulgaria need to show, besides their travel documents, one of the following: the EU Covid-19 certificate showing the holder is vaccinated against Covid-19 or a similar document including the same info as the EU certificate; the EU Covid-19 certificate showing the holder recovered from Covid-19 or a similar document including the same info as the EU certificate; the EU Covid-19 certificate showing the holder tested negative or a similar document including the same info as the EU certificate.

Among those exempt from the requirement to show the EU Covid-19 certificate are those who transit Bulgaria, if they leave the country’s territory quickly, and children younger than 12, the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) explained.

Starting August 30, travelers arriving from Bucharest or Ilfov county in Spain, via air or ferry routes, need to show the EU Covid-19 certificate showing the holder is vaccinated, recovered from the illness or tested negative for Covid-19, the Romanian Embassy in Spain announced. They also need to fill in the electronic form in the Spain Travel Health app or available at www.spth.gob.es.

The requirement comes as Spain placed Bucharest and Ilfov county on its list of risk countries/areas. The list is revised every seven days.

Children younger than 12 are exempt from the requirement of showing the EU certificate, but an adult needs to fill in the health control form for them. Travelers arriving from other areas of Romania have to comply with the previous requirements and fill in the health control form.

More about the entry requirements for Spain here and here. The risk list is available here.

COVID-19 travel: Romania moves Switzerland to the red list, Bulgaria joins the yellow list

(Photo: Pixabay)

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Although you’ll find that the Romanians’ English language skills are pretty good, knowing a few key phrases in Romanian can make things a lot easier. Plus, it can also bring a smile to the locals’ faces, as the Romanians simply love to hear a foreigner say Bună ziua or Mulțumesc.

Romania celebrates the Romanian Language Day today (August 31). So check the list below and surprise your local friend with a few phrases in Romanian.

Bună ziua (or simply Bună or Salut if you’re meeting a friend or younger person) is the most common way of greeting. It means ‘good day’ or ‘hello.’ If it’s morning, say hello using the phrase Bună dimineațaand change it to Bună seara if it’s evening or night.

Ce faci?/Ce mai faci? - How are you? is the phrase usually following after ‘hello.’ The most common answer is Bine - Good.

When it’s time to say goodbye, just say La revedere! or Pe curând! Romanians also use the less formal Pa, pa! (which translates as Bye-bye!) when saying goodbye to friends.

  • Other everyday phrases and words to know:

Mulțumesc! - Thank you!

Cu plăcere - You’re welcome

Te rog - Please

Da/Nu - Yes/No

Cum te cheamă?/Cum te numești? - What’s your name?

Numele meu este… - My name is…

Nu știu - I don’t know

Vorbești engleză/franceză/germană? - Do you speak English/French/German?

Scuzați-mă/Nu vă supărați - Excuse me/I beg your pardon. This is usually used before asking something (like directions or a piece of information) or simply as an apology.

Noroc! - Cheers!

Poftă bună! - Enjoy your meal!

  • More useful words:

Eu - I

Tu - You

Când? - When?

Acum - Now

Astăzi - Today

Mâine - Tomorrow

De ce? - Why?

Unde? - Where?

Dreapta - Right

Stânga - Left

  • Plus, surprise your loved one with these romantic phrases:

Te iubesc! - I love you! 

Dragostea mea - My love 

Mă faci fericit/fericită - You make me happy 

Mi-e dor de tine - I miss you

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A journalistic investigation carried out by Digi 24 news channel revealed a network that facilitated obtaining vaccination certificates allegedly issued by a hospital in Bucharest for unvaccinated people.

The network used the Russian chat app Telegram. The scheme was organized through a Telegram group called Certificat_Covid19.

A member of this group provided vaccination certificates allegedly issued by the Grigore Alexandrescu hospital in Bucharest for EUR 100 apiece.

The user vowed the certificate was authentic and that it would help the holder pass border control and any other control without being vaccinated.

The certificates trafficked through this network stated that the holders had been vaccinated with the Johnson&Johnson vaccine.

Prime minister Florin Citu reacted to the media report on Monday, August 30, and said it was inadmissible for such networks to be discovered by a journalist and not by the state institutions that should handle such issues.

This new media report comes after several cases of people that held vaccination certificates who got to the hospital with severe COVID-19 infections in Romania, Digi24 reported.

In the end, those patients admitted that they got the vaccination certificates without actually getting vaccinated.

Some doctors in Romania have spoken in recent weeks about the so-called practice of “sink vaccination”, implying that some family doctors issued vaccination certificates with the Johnson vaccine for people and threw the vaccine in the sink. However, the authorities haven’t officially revealed any such cases so far.

Romania is among the last in the European Union (EU) for the share of adults vaccinated against COVID-19.

(Photo: Anyaivanova | Dreamstime.com)

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