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Romanian president vaccination sparks media frenzy

Cristian Gherasim

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President Iohannis generated a viral reaction on social media after the Romanian head of state took the COVID vaccine. The case of the social media buzz is the fact that the president showed a well-defined physique provoking funning comments and memes, writes Cristian Gherasim.

Some asked on his social media profile what gym does he go to while others made puns that the ruling center-right coalition has a strong arm.

Some of the funnies comments on the president’s social media profile read: "On behalf of all the women, thank you. As a reminder, if possible, please, we want to see if you also do abs ”

"What gym are you going to?"

"At 60+ you look like that. Another clear proof that he is not Romanian," alluding to the president’s age and the fact he is ethnic German

"I first thought it was a gym ad."

"Mr. President, with such biceps, I don't understand how the opposition dares to upset you”

Memes have also appeared showing the president in different situations.

The Swedish Embassy in Romania, known for its success on social media, also trolled Klaus Iohannis with a joke about what the Viking training for the arm muscles looks like.

Energy

Commission approves €254 million Romanian aid to support rehabilitation of district heating system in Bucharest

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, Romanian plans to support the upgrade of the district heating system of the municipality of Bucharest. Romania notified the Commission of its plans to provide public support of approximately €254 million (1,208 billion RON) for the rehabilitation of the distribution network (notably the “transmission” pipelines of hot water to the main distribution points) of the district heating system in the urban area of Bucharest. The planned support will take the form of a direct grant financed by EU Structural Funds managed by Romania. EU state aid rules allow member states to support district heating generation installations and distribution networks, subject to certain conditions set out in Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy.

In particular, the Guidelines provide that the projects must meet the criteria of “efficient district heating” set out in the Energy Efficiency Directive in order to be considered compatible under EU state aid rules. On the basis of the type of heat fed into the system - about 80% of its input comes from “cogeneration” sources – the Commission has found that the Bucharest system fulfils the definition of efficient district heating and cooling system, as set out in the Energy Efficiency Directive and in line with State aid rules. The Commission also found that the measure is necessary, as the project would not be carried out without the public support, and proportionate, as the project will deliver a reasonable rate of return. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure does not distort competition and is in line with EU State aid rules, notably thanks to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other polluting substances and the improvement of the energy efficiency of the district heating system.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €254 million aid measure, funded thanks to EU structural funds, will help Romania achieve its energy-efficiency targets and will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas and other pollutants emissions, without unduly distorting competition.”

The full press release is available online.

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Romania

Băneasa case judge charged with abuse of office and wrongfully convicting defendant

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Judge Corneliu-Bogdan Ion-Tudoran, who ruled in Romania’s high profile Băneasa real estate development case, has been charged with wrongly convicting a defendant and for abuse of office for his conduct in the case. The Băneasa development involved businessman Gabriel Popoviciu and concerned 221 hectares which was owned by the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV), through a joint venture.

It emerged that last month, Judge Tudoran has been charged with wrongfully convicting a defendant and abuse of office for his misconduct in the Popoviciu - Băneasa case. It was already known that Judge Tudoran provided the statement of reasons for the decision on the civil side of the Popoviciu - Băneasa case almost a whole year after the ruling. At that point he was retired and, when no longer still held the position of judge. Moreover, at the time of writing his judicial opinion, he was actually hospitalised in a psychiatric centre, with the document being delivered to the court room on a USB stick by his son.

The charges against him in January of this year revealed that his alleged misconduct dated back even further and included the invention of evidence to justify the confiscation of lands and buildings of the largest shopping complex in Romania.

The investigation, directed by Nicolae Marin of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), into the Băneasa case appears to have had many irregularities. The DNA prosecutors opened the a case for “abuse of office”, despite the fact that the Prosecutor General's Office had investigated the case and rejected it. However, in 2008 the DNA reopened the case on the grounds that the damages exceeded one million Euros. This is despite the fact that the calculation of the damages was not actually estimated and reported by the DNA specialists until 2010, two years later.

The catalogue of irregularities relating to Marin’s investigation includes the claim that the main prosecution witness admitted in court that he was not bribed by the businessman, thus contradicting the investigators. A former Minister of Education, in addition to other witnesses, told the DNA that the land in Băneasa was never public property and, therefore, the prosecutor's office could not support the legal accusation of abuse of office. University professors were allegedly threatened with arrest by prosecutor Nicolae Marin if they did not vote in the Senate that the University was constituting itself as a civil party, as requested in writing by the DNA, as has been widely reported by the press. These threats against the University professors were revealed during the senate meeting held on 27 July 2012 which was audio and video recorded and submitted as evidence in the case.

Not only did Judge Tudoran not question the excesses of the prosecutor, it is alleged he  went so far as to invent evidence in order to justify the accusations in the indictment prepared by Nicolae Marin. Judge Tudoran is accused of hatching a story to prove at any cost that the land was so-called public property of the state and to nationalise again the lands that belonged to the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest (USAMV), over which the state had no legal right of ownership.

These charges against the former judge undermine his ruling in the Popoviciu - Băneasa case completely. They also raise deeper questions about the current state of the Romanian justice system, where it would appear that both the investigation and court systems are abused.

 

 

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Commission opens in-depth investigation into Romanian support measures in favour of CE Oltenia

EU Reporter Correspondent

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CE Oltenia, a Romanian majority state-owned lignite-based electricity producer, has been experiencing financial difficulties.

Following a temporary rescue aid granted by Romania to the company after being approved by the Commission under EU state aid rules in February 2020, on 4 December 2020, Romania notified to the Commission a plan for the restructuring of CE Oltenia.

The restructuring plan foresees around €2 billion (RON 9.93bn) of support to CE Oltenia, of which €1.33bn (RON 6.48bn) of public support by the Romanian State, in the form of grants and loans (including the €251 million rescue loan that CE Oltenia did not reimburse). The remaining amount would be covered by EU funds, more specifically, a grant by the Modernization Fund, that Romania would apply for.

EU state aid rules, more specifically the Commission's Guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid, enable member states to support companies in difficulty, under certain strict conditions. In particular, aid may be granted for a period of up to six months (‘rescue aid'). Beyond this period, the aid must either be reimbursed or member states must notify a restructuring plan to the Commission for the aid to be approved (‘restructuring aid').

The plan must ensure that the viability of the company can be restored without further state support, that the company contributes to an adequate level to the costs of its restructuring and that distortions of competition created by the aid are addressed through compensatory measures, including in particular structural measures.

At this stage, the Commission has doubts that the restructuring plan and the aid to support it satisfy the conditions of the Guidelines.

The Commission's in-depth investigation will in particular examine:

  • Whether the proposed restructuring plan can restore the long-term viability of CE Oltenia in a reasonable time frame without continued state aid;
  • whether CE Oltenia or investors would sufficiently contribute to the restructuring costs, thus ensuring that the restructuring plan does not rely mainly on public funding and that the aid is proportionate, and;
  • whether appropriate measures to limit the distortions of competition created by the aid would accompany the restructuring plan.

The Commission will now investigate further to find out whether its initial concerns are confirmed. The opening of an investigation gives Romania and interested third parties the opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59974 in the State Aid Register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

 

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