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Romanian Senate gets its first female president after historic vote

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Anca Dragu (pictured) has become the first woman to ever hold the office of Romanian Senate Speaker. Romanian Constitution stipulates that the Senate leader is first in line to succeed to the presidential powers and duties in case the Romanian head of state would become incapacitated, impeached or would resign, writes Cristian Gherasim.

Supported by the center right collation, the first woman to ever lead the Romania Senate marks a historic moment in the south-eastern European country.

Anca Dragu received 75 votes favoring her for the top Senate job, enough to get ahead of her social-democrat contender who was supported by 51 senators, while 75 voted against.

“We are witnessing a unique moment in the history of Romania, the first time the Senate elects a woman president. This is a thought that both honors and makes me responsible. I hope this moment will motivate and encourage many women to enter politics and get involved”, Anca Dragu said in her inaugural address.

To put things into perspective, in the current Romanian government there is only one woman entrusted with a ministerial portfolio, thus making the current female Senate leadership all the more significant.

An economist and Minister of Public Finance, Anca Dragu told EU Reporter that her focus in this mandate will be to digitalize Senate activity and simplify bureaucratic procedures.

Yet to be tested, the new speaker is a relative political newcomer but said she has ambitious plans including a joint parliamentary commission to implement the 2009 referendum. That was when Romanians voted for a unicameral parliament with up to 300 lawmakers, fewer than the almost 500 lawmakers present today.

Eurozone

Majority of EU citizens favor the euro, with Romanians most enthusiastic

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Three out of four Romanians favour the Euro currency. A survey done by Flash Eurobarometer found that Romanians overwhelmingly back the euro currency, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest corrrespondent.

The survey was carried out in seven of the EU member states which have not joined the Eurozone yet: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

Overall, 57% of respondents are in favor of introducing the euro in their country.

In a press release, the European Commission, the institution behind the survey, said that the vast majority of EU citizens surveyed (60%) believe that the changeover to the euro has had positive consequences for countries that already use it. 52% believe that, in general, there will be positive consequences for the introduction of the euro for their country, and 55% say that the introduction of the euro would have positive consequences for themselves as well.

Yet “the proportion of respondents who think that their country is ready to introduce the euro remains low in each of the countries surveyed. Around a third of respondents in Croatia feel their country is ready (34%), while those in Poland are least likely to think their country is ready to introduce the euro (18%)”, the survey mentions.

Romanians are leading in terms of an overall positive opinion regarding the Eurozone. Thus, the highest percentages of respondents with a positive opinion were registered in Romania (75% in favor of the currency) and Hungary (69%).

In all member states that took part in the survey, with the exception of the Czech Republic, there has been an increase in those favoring the introduction of the euro compared to 2020. The highest increases in favorability can be observed in Romania (from 63% to 75%) and Sweden (from 35% to 43%).

The survey identifies some woes amongst respondents as possible drawbacks in making the switch to euro. Over six in ten of those surveyed think that introducing the euro will increase prices and this is the majority view in all countries except Hungary. The highest proportions are observed in Czechia (77%), Croatia (71%), Bulgaria (69%) and Poland (66%).

Furthermore, seven in ten agree that they are concerned about abusive price setting during the changeover, and this is the majority opinion in all countries surveyed, ranging from 53% in Sweden to 82% in Croatia.

Even though the tone is upbeat with almost all questioned saying that they personally will manage to adapt to the replacement of the national currency by the euro, there are some who mentioned that adopting the euro will mean losing control over national economic policy. Respondents in Sweden are the most likely to agree to this possibility (67%), while surprisingly those in Hungary are the least likely to do so (24%).

The general feeling is that the great majority of those questioned not only support the euro and believe that it would benefit their respective countries but that making the switch to euro would by no means represent that their country will lose a part of its identity.

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Business

Beltrame Group invests €300 million euros in rebar and wire rod factory in Romania

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After a comprehensive feasibility study, AFV Beltrame Group, one of the largest producers of steel bars and special steels in Europe, will invest €300 million to build an eco-friendly rebar and wire rod factory in Romania that will include a greenfield steel and rolling mill and a 100mw PV park. This will be the first steel mill green field project in Europe in decades and will create a new benchmark for the steel industry in reducing pollutant emissions. Currently, the company is considering several locations for the development of the production unit.

The eco-friendly factory will be the lowest emissions steel plant in the world, both in terms of greenhouse gases and suspended dust particles. Also, water consumption will be minimal (by treatment and recirculation), ensuring the highest level of circular economy. The new and innovative technology, developed in the last two years has the potential to place Romania at the forefront of innovation in the steel industry.

The plant will have a production capacity of approximately 600,000 tons / year. The investment of Beltrame Group will generate approximately 250 new direct jobs locally, but also to almost 1,000 indirect jobs, of which at least 800 in the construction phase and about 150 in the production phase.

“The challenge of the steel industry is to align with the environmental objectives set by the EU Green Deal, although the zero-emission or ‘green steel’ target is impossible to be achieved with existing technology. I think today the greenwashing is very common with the simple result of inflating the word "green" and or zero-emission. The project developed by Beltrame Group will establish unprecedented progress in the steel industry due to the design and innovative technologies, which make it possible to minimize pollutant emissions generated in the production activity. It is a project in which I invested a lot of work, time and dedication, and through this investment, the group shows its commitment to achieving environmental goals and harnessing local resources," said Carlo Beltrame, Country Manager AFV Beltrame in France and Romania, Group Business Development.

In the construction sector, the internal use of rebar and wire rod amounts to about 1.4 - 1.5 million tonnes per year. This is expected to increase over the next 10 years at least, mainly due to governmental investments in public infrastructure, but also due to private investments. At the moment, Romania imports almost entirely the necessary amount of rebar.

The internal production of rebar and wire rod could become a pillar for the Romanian economy, because it avoids export of scrap and import of finish product. This has the potential to improve the Romanian trade balance and will also contribute to a substantial reduction of scope 3 emission, generated indirectly by logistics activities, such as the transportation of raw materials and products, waste disposal etc.

In Romania Beltrame Group owns the steel plant Donalam, specialized in the production of hot rolled steel bars and special steels, with uses in various industries, from oil and gas, automotive, large mechanical and hydraulic equipment, to agricultural machinery and equipment. The company has over 270 employees and annually exports around 180,000 tons of products to the European market. For this year, Donalam estimates a turnover of over 130 million euro, with a more than double increase compared to last year.

About AFV Beltrame Group

Founded in 1896, AFV Beltrame Group is one of the largest producers of merchant bars and special steels in Europe. The group owns 6 factories in Italy, France, Switzerland and Romania, with a total of over 2,000 employees, over 2 million tons sold annually and commercial activities in over 40 countries.

In Romania, AFV Beltrame founded in 2006 Donalam Călărași which is currently one of the leading players in the hot rolled steel bars and special steels industry in Europe. The company has over 270 employees and sells about 120,000 tons of steel bars annually.

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Romania

Trash trouble in downtown Bucharest, Romania

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Borough 1 in Romania’s capital city has been swamped by piles of uncollected waste. The problem has been dragging on for several months with only short respites, writes Bucharest correspondent Cristian Gherasim.

Reminiscent to a smaller scale of the garbage crises in Naples, Italy which has been on for decades, the waste problem in Bucharest saw Borough 1 city hall locking horns with the cleaning company in charge of waste collection. Borough 1 includes the most affluent part of the city which now lies under mountains of trash.

The newly elected mayor said that the issue comes down to the cleaning company charging a disproportionate fee for the services, way above market price, a fee that the city hall now refuses to pay. Furthermore the on and off dispute which puts citizens in a very uncomfortable position has no definitive solution in sight.

The mayor said she will sue the company for not fulfilling its contract provisions and cancel the agreement but that would also prove cumbersome as the contract can not easily be canceled. Times consuming as it is, any hope of resolving the issue in the court of law doesn’t bring an immediate solution to the problem, keeping the citizens in the same dire situation.

The pressure of the community on the local administration to solve the problem is huge. People rightly want the mayor's office to quickly find solutions to provide basic services: garbage collection, street cleaning. They are not very interested in the details of the crisis, they only see the garbage in front of the house and the dirty streets. It's the kind of crisis that doesn’t win any votes.

So, a double health crisis in borough one: the garbage crisis superimposed over the pandemic.

Romania has been plagues by a waste management crisis on a national level.

Over the past months, Romanian police seized several containers loaded with unusable waste, shipped to the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta, from various EU member states. Goods were falsely stated to be plastic waste. The police report showed otherwise, the shipments it in fact contained wood, metal waste and hazardous materials.

Since 2018, when China put in place strict limits on imports of foreign waste, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria have become major destinations for waste exporters. Such incidents picked up significantly over the past year and a half after China implemented the plastic ban.

More and more companies are importing waste to Romania, under the pretext of importing second-hand products, tonnes of scrap electronic equipment, plastics, medical waste, and even toxic substances. All this garbage ends up buried or burned.

Illegal waste imports pollute the very air we breathe. As most of the waste ends up in illegal dumps, the trash is usually burned, with toxins emitted into the air. Bucharest has recorded instances of particulate-matter pollution at more than 1,000 percent above the accepted threshold. And Brussels has repeatedly targeted Romania over air pollution and illegal landfill.

EU Reporter has previously present the case of a community in Romania trying to cope with the issue of waste management by paying cash to citizens helping with waste collection. Ciugud community is indeed answering EU’s call that local communities to step in and take change of their environmental issues.

It is notorious that Romania is one of the European countries with the lowest levels of waste recycling and local authorities are required to pay significant amounts of money annually in fines for non-compliance with EU environmental regulations.

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