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Unprecedented protest of Romanian magistrates against changes to judiciary

The steps of the Palace of Justice in Bucharest were filled on Monday evening with magistrates that were protesting against controversial changes to the judiciary pursued by the ruling coalition PSD-ALDE.

Similar protests took place earlier today in Cluj-Napoca and Constanta.

In the Romanian capital, the magistrates had printed papers with an article from the law regarding the status of judges and prosecutors:

“I swear to respect the Constitution and the laws of the country, to defend the rights and fundamental freedoms of the persons, to fulfill my obligations with honor, conscience and without sides. So help me God,” said the article printed on paper by magistrates.

Their protest came one day after tens of thousands of people marched on the streets of the Romanian cities, asking the coalition to drop the controversial amendments to the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the laws of justice.

The changes are currently debated in Parliament.

Photo by journalist Stoica Ionel

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European Commission to investigate state aid for CFR Marfa

The European Commission has launched an investigation into the state aid received by the state-owned freight railway CFR Marfa from the Romanian state. 

The investigation will assess whether the erasing of debts by the Romanian state and the non collected receivables gave the company an unfair advantage, and breached EU regulation on state aid.

According to competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, “the freight railway transport market is a crucial component of transport of any economy. CFR Marfa is the historic operator on this market in Romania and has benefitted from the erasing of public debt and the failure of public creditors to collect the debts. We need to check whether a private investor would have done the same as the public authorities and, if the answer is negative, we need to determine whether these measures are compatible with the EU state aid rules.

CFR Marfa is the historic operator on the Romanian freight railway market and is state owned. For years, the company has been struggling financially and has major debts towards social security and financial administration as well as towards the state-owned CFR Infrastructure, manager of railway infrastructure.

Unlike the passenger railway transport, the railway freight transport market is extremely competitive, due to the existence of a large number of private operators. Some of them have already acquired a sizeable market share, after the market was liberalised in 2007. In March 2017, The Private Railway Freight Transporters Association submitted a complaint to the Commission, arguing that CFR Marfa has benefitted from state aid, in breach of EU regulation.

The investigation of the Commission will address the state aid measures in favour of CFR Marfa, representing the conversion of receivables in assets valued at RON 1,669 million (approximately EUR 360 million) in 2013.

The failure to collect, starting from 2010 at the latest, of debts to social insurance state budget and of taxes owed by CFR Marfa, as well as of the company’s debts towards CFR Infrastructura.

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Foreign tourists spent on average EUR 467/person in Romania in first 9 months of 2017

According to data released by the INS (National Institute of Statistics), during the first nine months of 2017, the total number of non-resident tourists in Romania was 2.16 million, and their total expenditures for this period reached RON 4.67 million, on average EUR 467/person.

In the third quarter of this year, 960,500 non-resident tourists arrived in Romania in Q3 of 2017, and their total expenditure amounted to RON 2.02 million.

In Q3 2017, the main reason for the foreign tourists’ stay in Romania was “business, attending congresses, conferences, courses, fairs and exhibitions” – 55.5 percent of foreign tourists visited Romania for such reasons, and spent 58.9 percent of the total expenditure of the non-resident tourist group.

The second reason cited was “travels for private purposes” (44.5 percent of non-resident tourists), which include holidays, shopping, sports, cultural events, visiting friends, medical treatment, religion, transit and other activities.

Of the total business expenditure, the highest amount is represented by accommodation (52.3 percent), and accommodation with breakfast included was preferred (93.5 percent).

The expenditure of non-resident tourists with restaurants or bars amounted to 18.2 percent of the total, while shopping represented 12 percent of spending, the most shopping expenses going to food and beverages, followed by presents and souvenirs.

Car rentals accounted for 50.1 percent of total transport expenditure of non-resident tourists. Tickets for amusement parks, fairs, casinos, slots halls accounted for 55.1 percent of their spending on recreation.

49.8 percent of foreign tourists had their travel organised by an agency, while 32.5 percent organised it themselves. These tourists mainly travelled by plane (74.9 percent), while 13.6 percent had their own cars. Others travelled by coaches or buses, trains, car rentals, etc.

The amounts spent by non-resident tourists in the first 9 months of 2017 are similar to the figures collected for the first quarter, although fairly more of them travelled to Romania for business purposes (58.3 percent) rather than private purposes (41.7 percent).


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The CARIERE 2017 Awards Gala has chosen its winners

On December 14, CARIERE Magazine organized the fifth edition of its annual Awards Gala at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bucharest and has chosen its winners while celebrating excellence in entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership and inspiration.

Each year, the Gala brings together the elite of communities of entrepreneurs, managers, national and world-renowned specialists who contribute to a better image for Romania at a worldwide stage.

“For over 15 years the CARIERE brand has brought to the public’s attention and has rewarded personalities in the Romanian culture and sciences, as well as entrepreneurs and managers who constantly perform in the Romanian business environment. This year, as a preview of the celebration of the Centennial of the Great Unity, the CARIERE Gala rewards Romanians who inspire, ambassadors of arts, culture and science, who, through their performances, as well as through their civic attitude, stand for excellence in Romania.” said Daniela Palade-Teodorescu, editor in chief of CARIERE Magazine.

The winners of CARIERE Awards Gala 2017 are:

  1. Romanians from Afar – Dr. Adrian Lobonțiu (one of the pioneers and promoters of robotic and tele-satellite surgery, a reference in endo-gastric surgery in France and the United States). The trophy was handed by Florin Tataru, HR Director at Enel Romania.
  2. New Romania’s Leaders – Vlad Voiculescu (for the humanitarian programs MagiCAMP and MagicHOME, intended to support children with cancer and their families). The trophy was handed by Ana Maria Marian – General Director at Intermedicas.
  3. General Management – Bibiana Stanciulov (General Director of Sonimpex Serv Topoloveni, which produces the trademark “Magiun de prune de Topoloveni” from Argeş, a brand that has 103 years of existence on the Romanian market). The trophy was handed by Andrei Dunuta, co-founder at SELFTRUST Academy.
  4. Exclusively Romanian – Dana si Ion Georgescu, Moara de Hartie de la Comana (entrepreneurs who promote traditional Romanian crafts through workshops organized for children and adults). The trophy was handed by Elena Pap, General Director Up Romania.
  5. Founders of Dreams – Corina Puiu (co-founder and chief executive officer of Teach for Romania, a program through which poor communities benefit from teachers who help children enjoy school). The trophy was handed by Mioara Popescu, Executive President IDEA BANK.
  6. Career Leadership Award – Mircea Cartarescu (the most acclaimed Romanian writer abroad, poet, prose writer, essayist, literary and publicist critic, teacher and mentor of many generations of students). The trophy was handed by Raluca Ezaru, Corporate Communication Director, Telekom Romania.

The event was presented by Irina Păcurariu, programmaker at TVR.

The artistic moment was performed by the actress Oana Popa, who presented a lyrical moment entitled “100 Years – Modern Romania in lyrics”, with Emy Drăgoi‘s accordion musical interludes and visual performance “sand art” made by Mariana Pachis.

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Competition Council approves Banca Romaneasca takeover by OTP Bank Romania

Competition Council approves the takeover of Banca Romaneasca and some of its Romanian assets by OTP Bank Romania.

According to a release of the Competition Council, the decision will be published on the institution’s  site after the elimination of confidential information.

“The analysis of the Competition Council concluded that the economic concentration operation doesn’t bring any significant obstacles in the effective competition on the national market or a part of it,” says the institution.

Banca Romaneasca is a member of the National Group Bank of Greece. The Romanian assets are affiliated to the London subsidiary, respectively the subsidiary from Malta owned by National Bank of Greece SA.

Both OTP Bank Romania, as well as the Romanian Bank operate in the financial and banking services.

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E-Distributie Banat invested over RON 20 million in 2017

E-Distributie Banat has invested over RON 20 million in 2017, approximately EUR 4.5 million, in modernisation works at the high voltage networks and equipment in the area where the company operates.

According to company representatives, the investments have improved the quality of the electricity distribution services for more than 46,000 consumers.

In 2017, the distribution operator has carried out works for the modernization of two overhead power lines and a 110/20kV primary station, as well as for replacing the high voltage equipment within three primary stations, with the purpose to improve the reliability of the electricity network and the quality of the distribution service.

Within the local investment program, E-Distributie Banat invested RON 7.5 million  for modernization works at Teba 110/20 kV primary station. The upgrade included the replacement of the 110 kV primary gear and the secondary circuits with state-of-the-art equipment, providing high quality technical performance and optimised maintenance.

The company also carried out refurbishment works for the 110 kV Hasdat – Hateg and Jimbolia – Carpinis aerial power lines. The investments were aimed at increasing the security in power supply for 36,000 consumers in the mentioned areas. These lines hold strategic importance for the national energy system, as they ensure the power evacuation for the hydro power plants in Hateg area, as well as the cross-border interconnection with Serbia. The route of the line was difficult to access during extreme weather conditions, making it harder for the field teams to intervene in case of emergency.

In order to ensure faster restoration of electricity supply to consumers in the event of a power outage, the distribution company invested approximately RON 7 million in works aimed at replacing insulation, clamps and fittings, conductors, and the installation of ground plugs in the area with high traffic. The works also implied the painting of the pillars, the installation of inscriptions or warning signs and the replacement of the counterweights, the missing or contored elements of the electricity pillars.

E-Distributie Banat has also completed this year a number of works in order to reduce the frequency and the duration of electricity supply interruptions affecting consumers, as well as to increase the level of tension and to ensure the necessary power level for over 10,00 consumers. In this respect, the high voltage transformers in Freidorf and Decebal primary stations have been replaced, the investment reaching 6 million lei.

From an operational perspective, the works contributed also to the increase of the energy efficiency, as well as the reduction of own technological consumption within the stations. Moreover, the modernization also minimizes the negative environmental impact, while significantly contributing to the improvement of the security and protection measures in the installations.

The above-mentioned works are part of a wider investment program carried out by Enel’s distribution companies in Romania, aimed at securing a proper service for end users, allowing remote control and improving the quality and security of the network, while also complying with Enel’s environmental standards.

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Businessman Ion Tiriac could be suing the National Bank of Romania (BNR)

Romanian businessman Ion Tiriac announced he is suing the National Bank of Romania (BNR) in a case relating to the ownership of the Arenele BNR tennis venues.

Romanian tennis players Simona Halep, Ion Tiriac and Ilie Nastase, argued in the Romanian Parliament on Monday in favour of the resuming of tennis activities at the tennis venues Arenele BNR in Bucharest.

After he submitted an official complaint to the state institutions, Ion Tiriac said he is suing the BNR, which, he argues, is the unlawful owner of the venues.

“We have shown documents to the Bucharest Court today, therefore today we are starting the process against the National Bank of Romania. Who are we? We are a group of former, current sportsmen, and, if needed, I can gather 200,000 signatures of  future sportsmen,” Ion Tiriac told Capital.

National Liberal Party (BNR) Daniel Zamfir, a supporter of Tiriac’s initiative, argues that the protocol closed by the BNR with the Ministry of Youth and Sport relating to the expropriation of the land the tennis arenas are built on is illegal, and called on PM Mihai Tudose to take a stand. “BNR, in full knowledge and with complicity of several institutions, acted illegally for 27 years. Illegalities started in 1991, when an illegal protocol was closed. I have here the documents that show this.”

According to Tiriac, Arenele BNR should be “a diamond in the middle of Bucharest.”

An investigation by the Ministry of Finance has shown that the protocol was illegal.

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New evidence in 1989 Revolution file – three failed assassination attempts on Ceausescu couple

Military prosecutor Marian Lazar announced on Monday that substantial advancements have been made in the Romanian Revolution file, which was reopened in 2016 after the previous investigation was deemed incomplete and superficial.

Investigators have identified the source of the panic-inducing noise that was heard during Nicolae Ceausescu’s last speech, and discovered that substantial amounts of evidence related to the planning of the Revolution had been destroyed or damaged.

Another important aspect is that prosecutors have found evidence that before the Ceausescu couple’s assassination, which occurred on December 25, 1989, there had been three other assassination attempts targeting the dictator and his wife.

Investigators also concluded that there was no power vacuum in Romania at the time of the Revolution, since power was quickly overtaken soon after the fall of Ceausescu, by a political-military commanding force.

According to the statement, it is now possible to conduct a more thorough analysis of the behaviour of the members of this new power structure and their attempts to obtain legitimacy nationally and internationally.

Today’s release states that the international context at the end of 1989 was extremely complex, especially for Eastern Europe countries.

In order to achieve a better understanding of the events in December 1989, prosecutors questioned numerous witnesses and worked with historians, writers and journalists who had written about the revolution.

In addition, military and civil archives were verified, together with the Romanian Senate’s archive, which was used to create the Senatorial Commission’s Report on the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.

Prosecutors also studied and verified various audio-video materials that had covered the revolution, and established a permanent and efficient collaboration with state institutions such as the parliament, the Ministry of Defense, the Romanian Information Service, the Internal Affairs Ministry, etc.

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Financing contract signed for non-reimbursed funds of over RON 700 mln for Turda- Campia Turzii region

The delegated minister for European funds, Marius Nica, signed today, in the presence of the PM Mihai Tudose and the commissioner for regional policy Corina Cretu, the financing contract for non-reimbursed funds of over RON 700 million for development of water and used water infrastructure of Turda- Campia Turzii region.

„We signed the most important financing contract of European funds in Turda-Campia Turzii area, aiming to take a high step towards a Romania where the standards of living of citizens align to the Western countries’ standards,” said Nica.

The investment, requested by SC Compania de Apa Aries S.A.and proposed for financing through the Operational Program for Large Infrastructure implies the expansion and improvement works of the water and used water infrastructure. The connection and compliance level will increase by 100 percent for 103,000 citizens from the project’s area.

The investments proposals are part of the regional master plan of water and used water services’ management and are correlated with other investments developed during 2014-2020 with the help of other financing sources.

The expected results refer on one side to the increase of the connection rate between the centralized systems of water supply from 84 percent up to 100 percent, and on the other hand, to the increase of the collection rate of used water from 66 percent up to 95 percent in the operation area and up to 100 percent in the agglomerations of over 2,000 inhabitants.

The implementation of the project, including the flaws’ notification, will be finished in 2023.

The Operational Program for Large Infrastructure 2014-2020 implies big investments in the transport, environment and energy sectors.

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Bucharest real estate agency to start accepting payments in Bitcoin

Bucharest real estate agency Cityland, specialised in new residential developments, will soon start to accept payments in Bitcoin for their properties. The agency claims that the growing popularity of the virtual coin among potential investors led them to the decision, according to

Paul Pop, Partner at Cityland, argued:  “As we have noticed an increase in the number of Romanians who are active on the Bitcoin market, many of whom are also interested in real estate investments, we have decided to offer them the option of comparing their Bitcoin portfolio to the real estate market, and even acquire properties directly using the virtual coin.”

Apartment prices will be listed in the virtual currency, they will start at 4 Bitcoin and they will be updated daily.

Bitcoin was worth around USD 5,000 in August 2017, but since then the currency’s market value grew by over 300 percent, and it is expected to rise above USD 30,000 by February 2018.

On Friday, Bitcoin reached a record value of USD 18,000 on the Bitstamp exchange platform, seeing a 9 percent increase despite the growing number of warnings from financial experts regarding the high risk of investing in this extremely volatile and speculative financial asset.

The rapid growth of Bitcoin has generated worries about it possibly being a speculative bubble which could “burst” in a spectacular manner in the near future. Bitcoin had an 80 percent growth in December alone.

Romanian Economist Daniel Daianu also warned about Bitcoin’s speculative nature and made clear distinction between cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, which is already being used by large financial institutions in order to improve security and transparency.

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