Romania Insider
Romania Insider

Romania Insider

Romania Insider | Latest news & feature stories from Romania
The most reliable media source for articles in English dedicated to Romania: latest news in business, politics and society, feature stories on business …

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Bucharest entered the red scenario on Wednesday, September 22, as the city’s COVID-19 incidence rate reached 3.3 per thousand inhabitants, Digi24 reported, quoting Bucharest prefect Antonela Ghita.

In this scenario (at an incidence rate between 3 and 6 per thousand), people need to show the green certificate to enter restaurants, public and private events, concerts, shows, or swimming pools. However, the Committee for Emergency Situations has to meet first and impose this requirement. According to sources quoted by G4media.ro, the meeting is to take place later on Wednesday.

The green certificate is proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19.

Bucharest’s COVID incidence rate increased from 2.57 per thousand on Monday to 2.91 on Tuesday and 3.3 on Wednesday.

The counties of Ilfov, Satul Mare, and Timis have also entered the red scenario.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Alberto Mihai/Dreamstime.com)

Romania's president Klaus Iohannis touched important topics such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its challenges, human rights and climate change during his intervention at the 76th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN).

He said at the beginning of his speech that, although the pandemic changed people's lives, "it also provided us with opportunities to learn, adapt and do things better."

"Global challenges require common solutions, solidarity and cooperation. Romania strongly believes that democratic values and a rules-based international order, with the United Nations at its core, are fundamental to build a safer and better future. An effective and equitable multilateralism, directly benefiting our citizens, is essential," Iohannis said.

According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic "also showed us that we need to find ways to build back better and greener."

"We must recommit to achieving sustainable economies, as well as resilient, fair and inclusive societies where "no one is left behind". Indeed, the special needs of the vulnerable ones should be granted particular attention. In order to be effective in achieving this aim, solidarity in action is necessary," the Romanian president noted.

Talking about post-COVID recovery, Klaus Iohannis said it should be done sustainably, and countries should work together to protect the planet and ecosystems.

"The effects of climate change have no national borders, and the responsibility to effectively address them rests on all of us," he said, adding that "working with other states and international organizations to respond to climate change" is a priority for him.

"The pandemic has also prompted us to act together to consolidate our national health systems and make them more resilient. An urgent priority is to ensure equitable and affordable global access to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Romania reaffirms its support for the COVAX Facility, and we have contributed to the "Team Europe" approach to help various countries to tackle the impact of the pandemic. Romania fully supports the adoption of an international legal instrument for pandemic preparedness and response," Iohannis also said.

The Romanian president also talked about human rights. According to him, states must ensure that restrictions related to COVID-19 "do not exacerbate rights violations."

"Romania remains strongly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide. My country promotes the imperative of combating discrimination and hate speech, including anti-Semitism. […] Romania will continue to work towards these objectives, including by pursuing a mandate to the Human Rights Council for the term 2023–2025," the president noted.

Security was another dominant theme of Klaus Iohannis' speech, also put in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Armed conflicts, ethnic divide and inequalities are still harsh realities. It is the right time to turn the COVID-19 crisis and its security impact into an opportunity to revitalize the peace and security agenda, with renewed emphasis on conflict prevention and the consolidation of peace processes," he said.

"The protracted conflicts in Romania's vicinity continue to threaten Europe's security," the president also noted, adding that Romania supports "the lasting peaceful resolution of these conflicts, through political negotiations, in the framework of their dedicated formats."

President Iohannis leads between September 21 and September 23, Romania's delegation at the 76th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held in New York. For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance is allowed at this year's session of the UN General Assembly.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Presidency.ro)

Doctor Valeriu Gheorghita, the coordinator of the national vaccination campaign, said on Tuesday, September 21, that over 50% of the eligible population in Bucharest was vaccinated against COVID-19. Cluj county is next, with a vaccination rate of over 46%.

“Currently, Bucharest has passed the vaccination coverage rate of 50% of the eligible resident population, meaning those over the age of 12, more precisely it reached 50.15%; Cluj county comes next with a vaccination coverage rate of 46.32%,” Gheorghita said, according to Digi24.

40% of the counties in Romania, including Bucharest, have a vaccination coverage rate of over 30%, and approximately 55% have a vaccination rate between 20% and 30%, Valeriu Gheorghita also said. Meanwhile, the counties of Suceava and Giurgiu have vaccination rates of almost 20%.

Approximately 581 vaccination centres are currently active in Romania, as the country plans to start offering COVID-19 booster shots next week.

According to the September 21 official report, 15,682 people received a COVID-19 vaccine in Romania in 24 hours. In total, more than 9.97 million vaccine doses were administered by September 21 to over 5.39 million people (of which more than 5.27 million were fully vaccinated).

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Sabin Cirstoveanu)

Romania will move faster and invite the groups at risk to take the third dose of the Covid vaccine possibly as soon as next week (after September 28) - a couple of weeks ahead of the initial calendar.

The third dose of vaccine will be Pfizer or Moderna, even if the person in question was immunized with AstraZeneca initially, Wall-street.ro reported.

Valeriu Gheorghiță, the head of Romania's vaccination campaign, made the announcement as the number of daily cases exceeded 6,700 on September 21, marking a faster-than-expected increase.

The technical staff will use the short time left until next week to arrange the details related to the online registration for vaccination and the certification of those getting the third dose.

Gheorghiță insists that people wishing for the third dose be scheduled in the vaccination platform if they go to fixed vaccination centres. In this regard, the platform is being updated.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Cateyeperspective/Dreamstime.com)

The Romanian Government is considering raising the minimum statutory wage before the end of the year, given rapid price increases, labour minister Raluca Turcan said in Ploiesti on Tuesday, September 21.

The rates discussed at this moment are between 8% and 12%, she added.

"At the moment, we are in the negotiation stage between employers and unions, and the Government has its own projection on the capacity to support the increase of the minimum wage. Usually, the growth is operated at the beginning of the year, but given the sharp increase of the prices, we are also considering a faster increase," the minister said, according to Agerpres.

The employers' associations have already protested similar plans voiced by prime minister Florin Citu. They argued that the companies already have their budgets approved, and paying higher wages as of October or November would complicate their plans.

The executive director of the Concordia Employers' Federation added that the companies need from the Government a calendar for increasing the minimum wage for at least 4 years, Wall-street.ro reported.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Gov.ro)

Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) announced that it opened investigations related to the circumstances under which Romania purchased [too many, prosecutors seem to imply] Covid vaccines.

"As far as I know, the procedures followed for the procurement [of vaccines] in all European Union countries were the same, and they were developed by the European Commission," Valeriu Gheorghiță, the head of the national vaccination campaign, said, according to Hotnews.ro.

Prosecutors said that the investigations are opened in order to spot potential "abuse of office" [implying personal benefits derived by those so far unidentified] involved.

Notably, the health ministry was managed until early September by the reformist USR-PLUS party, which pulled out of the ruling coalition meanwhile and launched a no-confidence motion against the Government. But the ministry of health was not directly involved in the procurement.

Out of the 18.5 million doses received, Romania currently has 3.7 million doses in stock, G4media.ro reported. 9.95 million doses were used for vaccination, and the difference up to 14.7 million (4.7 million) was sold or donated.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Ronstik/Dreamstime.com)

The Hollywood Multiplex cinema in Bucharest Mall - the first full-fledged shopping mall in Romania's capital city, was sold to Turkish Anchor Grup, which already owns Bucharest Mall (beside Plaza Romania) and is one of the most important developers in Romania.

The multiplex was sold at the beginning of 2016 by CME, at that time the owner of PRO TV, to the company Movie R US, controlled by Gianina Eliana Ciobanu - the financial manager of the ProVideo distributor.

When launched in 2000, Hollywood Multiplex was the first multiplex cinema in Romania. It has 10 projection rooms, with a capacity of 2,125 seats.

After the acquisition, Anchor will reshuffle the multiplex, according to Profit.ro. However, the cinema remains open and operational, while the modernization works are carried out outside operating hours.

Anchor Grup developed the first modern shopping centre in Romania, Bucharest Mall - Vitan, followed by Plaza Romania. In addition, Anchor Grup's investments in recent years also target the residential sector.

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(Photo source: Syda Productions/Dreamstime.com)

The small-sized SUV model EcoSport, produced in Romania by Ford since 2017, is approaching the end of its lifecycle.

"Ford does not comment on its production plans for its plants," Ford Romania representatives told Profit.ro, when asked if there were any plans to stop production of EcoSport.

However, several foreign publications quote sources indicating that Ford will discontinue the production of EcoSport in Romania as well after it decided similar steps in India and the US.

EcoSport, a model that was vital for Ford's plant in Craiova and even for Ford's business in Europe and other emerging markets, is an outdated model launched in 2012. This model's sales fell dramatically in 2020, especially in Europe - where Puma cannibalized it - but also in important markets such as India, South America and the US.

Mini MPV model B-Max, the first model produced by Ford in Craiova, was discontinued in 2019 and replaced by EcoSport. The company has no direct replacement model for EcoSport, but it already announced plans to stop producing the model in India and the US.

In Craiova, a commercial car is expected to be produced (besides SUV model Puma), which will also have an electric version starting in 2023.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: the company)

Property developer and investor Globalworth, focusing on the office segment so far but shifting to the logistics segment, reported EUR 12.5 mln net profit in the first six months of this year (H1), compared to a loss of EUR 48.5 mln in the same period last year.

The revenues and earnings from operations have contracted this year, though, amid rising vacancy rates due to the pandemic.

The company’s total revenues stood at EUR 108 mln, almost 6% lower than the first six months of 2020, Economica.net reported. The net operating profit for H1 was EUR 72.1 mln, nearly 10% down compared to 2020.

The only deals that Globalworth made this year, after freezing its investment activity in 2020, were two logistics properties in Arad and Oradea (western Romania).

The company has shifted its focus to developing new logistics spaces in Romania, with an area of almost 100,000 square meters on the pipeline. In Timișoara, Globalworth has under construction logistics spaces of 19,000 square meters, which will be delivered in 2022. At Chitila Logistic Hub (near Bucharest), a project developed in partnership with Global Vision, phases B and C are under development, which will bring to market a plus 54,000 sqm this year, but also in 2022.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Globalworth)

The Polish retail property investment company Scallier announced the opening of its first two retail parks in Romania, in Roșiorii de Vede (southern part of the country, this month) and in Focșani (eastern Romania, in November) while planning at least three more openings in 2022.

"The retail parks developed by Scallier in small and medium-sized Romanian towns fill a market gap: smaller towns often lack modern retail space. We tend to locate our sites in the immediate vicinity of existing large-format grocery shops. In tandem, they create an attractive destination: for daily grocery shopping, well-known clothing and electronics brands, food court offer, or even a playground for children," said Wojciech Jurga, Managing Partner at Scallier responsible for the company's development on the Romanian market.

Apart from the Danish furniture and home decoration chain Jysk and the Polish clothing chain Pepco, which have already inaugurated their operations in the project developed by Scallier in Rosiori, other shops will include Sinsay, KIK, Martes Sport, Deichmann, or one of the largest Romanian retail chains offering electronic goods - Flanco.

On top of the broad array of retail outlets, the Romanian parks will also offer a choice of catering providers; in Rosiori, Vibe and City Doner restaurants are scheduled to open their eateries.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: the company)

Almost half of the Romanian general contractors in construction believe that the volume of works will increase over the next 12 months, while a third of them estimate that the infrastructure (civil engineering) segment will be the main driver.

At a more granular level, the large European-funded projects and the robust demand on the residential segment are the market's driving forces, according to a survey conducted by IBC Focus. However, both these drivers remain iffy and fragile.

Furthermore, although the report does not detail this aspect, rising construction materials prices and scarce workforce are negative drivers.

Consequently, while the sentiment remains predominantly positive, there is no massive consensus about the market's positive development.

"If in 2020 the market increased […], the expectations are divided when it comes to estimates for the next period. […] Almost half are optimistic and expect growth," said Andrei Spataru, CEO of IBC Focus, Ziarul Financiar reported.

While 47% of entrepreneurs see an increase in the volume of their activity, 27% of them believe that the workload will remain the same for the next 12 months, while 26% expect it to decrease.

Contractors are still waiting for the unblocking of major infrastructure projects that could offer many opportunities.

editor@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Romanian investment fund ROCA, focusing on distressed assets, announced four big deals on the pipeline to be completed by the end of the year.

Each deal is in the range of EUR 10-20 mln, and three out of the four target companies are active in the construction materials sector.

These will be by far the fund's largest transactions so far, given that the previous purchase tickets had values ​​between EUR 2-3 mln. All four are businesses developed by entrepreneurs who reached the retirement age.

"[W]e discovered in the market an opportunity with new perspectives: entrepreneurs who set up businesses immediately after the Revolution [fall of the communism] and developed them for 30 years and now reached the retirement age, without heirs or whose children are busy or no longer in the country. All four companies fit this pattern," said Rudi Vizental, CEO and co-founder of ROCA Investments, Profit.ro reported.

He added that the investment fund would focus more on this 'succession investment', under which the investor typically takes over the whole 100% package of shares.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

Romania’s Executive prepared the ground for another Eurobond issue by the end of this year, after the political turmoil ends, Economica.net reports quoting a government decision (HG) draft.

The document is revising upward the cap of the Medium Term Notes (MTN) program, namely the maximum volume of outstanding Romanian MTN Eurobonds at a certain moment, from EUR 46 bln to EUR 56 bln.

The document also includes a tentative Eurobond calendar that stipulates a third EUR 3.5 bln issue by the end of the year (after the former ones in May and July), followed by other issues in the total amount of EUR 10 bln in 2022.

By the end of the next year, a EUR 2 bln Eurobond matures, which brings the volume of new issues that the Government can launch over the next five quarters (unless the MTN cap is hiked again) to EUR 12 bln.

The planned Eurobonds will also consolidate Romania’s reserves, depending on the inflows from the European Union that might be significant.

The Eurobond issue scheduled for this year is aimed to finance next year’s budget deficit. The issues planned for 2022 will finance the deficit of 2023 if the Government is disbursed enough money under SURE (EU’s program aimed at mitigating the effects of the crisis on the labour market) and Resilience Plan (PNRR), the document reads. 

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(Photo source: Vinnstock/Dreamstime.com)

Arta Cinema is scheduled to reopen in Cluj-Napoca on September 23 after undergoing refurbishment.

The venue reopens with two events. The cine-concert The Student of Prague is scheduled for Thursday, September 23. The silent film will be screened with a live sound design and a reading from Alfred de Musset. The music is provided by CelloFun, while film critic Irina Margareta Nistor will read fragments from de Musset’s December Night. The same film was screened in 1913 at the opening of the cinema venue, named at the time the University’s Cinema/ Egyetem Mozgó.

A screening of Wim Wenders’s Kings of the Road is scheduled for September 24. The film will be introduced by British curator and writer David Ellis. This is part of a Director’s Portrait program, set to take place monthly. Other films by Wenders to be screened are Kings of the Road, Paris-Texas, Wings of Desire, and The Salt of the Earth.

Besides the regular schedule of films screenings, which will cover recent European and local productions, art films, documentaries, and independent productions, the cinema will host four curated series: Director’s Portrait, ClasicARTA, Family Time, and Art in Cinema.

A new café, ARTA Café, is also open on the premises of the cinema.

“The past year proved a very challenging one for all of us. Artists and independent art organizations were faced with significant difficulties. Still, having the opportunity to work with a dedicated and passionate team, we took advantage of this period to finalize the process of restoring and revitalizing the cinema, started in 2012. We are happy to give back to the community the oldest independent art cinema in the region, a venue with a special place in Cluj’s history and memory,” Monica Sebestyen, the cinema’s manager, said.

(Photos courtesy of Arta cinema)

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Asia Fest, a festival promoting the culture and gastronomy of Asian countries, is scheduled to take place in Bucharest between September 24 and September 26.

The program of the event, held in the city’s National Park, covers film screenings, workshops, exhibitions, and gastronomy events.

In addition to showcases of traditional dress and cosplay and k-pop competitions, the public can attend various concerts, dance performances, and cooking events. Among the workshops scheduled are ones dedicated to Japanese, Korean and Arabic calligraphy, and origami and ikebana.

The audience can also attend the screenings in a retrospective dedicated to Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. The animation films Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Ponyo will be screened as part of the retrospective, organized together with the festival KINOdiseea.

The program is available here.

The event takes place in keeping with current sanitary norms.

(Photo: Margouillat | Dreamstime.com)

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Catherine Zeta-Jones will film for Wednesday, a Netflix series revolving around the Addams Family character Wednesday Addams, in Romania, she told Entertainment Tonight (ET).

The series, directed by Tim Burton, will see Catherine Zeta-Jones star as Morticia Addams.

Zeta-Jones told Entertainment Tonight she was looking forward to playing the part.

Netflix described the series as the "new live-action coming-of-age comedy […] that will see everyone's favorite maiden of the macabre graduate into a full-fledged leading lady."

"The upcoming eight-episode series is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday's years as a student at the peculiar Nevermore Academy. Wednesday's attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the supernatural mystery that embroiled her parents 25 years ago - all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships of the strange and diverse student body."

Jenna Ortega was cast as Wednesday Addams, Luis Guzmán will guest star as Gomez Addams, and Gwendoline Christie will play Morticia Addams' rival Larissa Weems. 

The cast also includes Issac Ordonez (Pugsley Addams), Victor Dorobantu (Thing) and George Burcea (Lurch), with Tommie Earl Jenkins (Mayor Walker), Iman Marson (Lucas Walker), William Houston (Joseph Crackstone), Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo (Deputy Santiago), Oliver Watson (Kent), Calum Ross (Rowan) and Johnna Dias Watson (Divina), Variety reported.

(Photo: Hutchinsphoto | Dreamstime.com)

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Update: Sixteen intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients were empty in the country on Tuesday, September 21, the Strategic Communication Group announced. Six of these were in Bucharest.

A total of 1,131 intensive care beds are available for Covid-19 patients in the country, 990 of which are occupied. 

The authorities reported 6,789 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, September 21, the highest daily count this year. 
A total of 129 Covid-19 patients passed away in the past 24 hours, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 35,721. 

At the same time, 8,334 Covid-19 patients were admitted to hospitals in the country, 990 of them to intensive care units.

 

A total of 19 intensive care beds were available in the country to Covid-19 patients on September 20, the Strategic Communication Group announced. In Bucharest, all of the 237 intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients were occupied. 

At a national level, 1,087 intensive care beds were meant for Covid-19 patients. Of these, 116 are beds kept for people with additional medical conditions besides Covid-19, and 952 were occupied, the authorities announced in a release quoted by Agerpres.

The authorities said they were working to increase the number of intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients.

The announcement came as the number of daily Covid-19 cases increased constantly over the past week, from 1,849 on Monday, September 13, to 5,388 on Saturday, September 18.

(Photo: Liviu Chirica/ Inquam Photos)

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The vaccination lottery, a Government initiative meant to encourage vaccination, is scheduled to take place between October 1 and December 31, the Health Ministry announced.

Nineteen draws are planned by the end of December, with 1,139 prizes totaling RON 15 million (more than EUR 3 million). 

There will be 81 weekly prizes: 80 weekly prizes amounting to RON 10,000 (EUR 2,020) and one weekly prize worth RON 300,000 (EUR 60,606). Another three prizes - worth RON 100,000 (EUR 20,202) - will be granted monthly. Two other prizes, worth RON 500,000 (EUR 101,010) and RON 1 million (EUR 202,020), will be offered at the end of the lottery program.

The funding for the prizes is provided by the Economy Ministry. The fully vaccinated, who obtained the EU Covid-19 digital certificate, can register for the lottery.

“In this epidemiological context, with significant increases in the number of people infected with Covid-19, it is important to support the vaccination process, including by granting rewards,” Cseke Attila, the interim health minister, said.

At the end of August, the Government approved the ordinance outlining several measures intended to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19. According to the ordinance, those who get fully vaccinated can also receive meal vouchers worth RON 100 (around EUR 20).

The number of daily Covid-19 cases increased constantly over the past weeks. The daily tally went from 1,849 on Monday, September 13, to 5,388 on Saturday, September 18. The daily number of those getting a vaccine against Covid-19 remained around 10,000 throughout the past week. The country is second to last in the EU on the uptake of at least one vaccine dose among those older than 18, with 33.6% of the population vaccinated, according to the Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker of the European Center for Disease Prevention.  

(Photo: Gabriel Petrescu/ Dreamstime)

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Reformist USR-PLUS objected the Parliament's quick endorsement, without thorough debates, of the controversial "Anghel Saligny" promoted by the Government and implying EUR 10 bln of public investments over the next eight years.

USR-PLUS does not oppose the program in principle but wants more transparency and wants to put it in the context of the medium-term fiscal strategy, a document expected by the European Commission by October 15.

The Senate's steering body, controlled by an ad-hoc majority of liberals (PNL, at rule) and social democrats (PSD, opposition), refused the requests expressed by the head of the expert budget committee Claudiu Muresan (reformist, USR-PLUS). Muresan asked for more time to draft an appropriate report.

Previously, the energy expert committee in Senate has approved quickly the Government's plan with no amendments.

Think-tank Expert Group has criticised "Anghel Saligny" program for lacking an adequate algorithm for the allocation of funds. The EUR 10 bln is "helicopter money" aimed at pleasing all the mayors, Expert Group also stated.

Senate speaker Anca Dragu (reformist, USR-PLUS) explained that USR-PLUS senators would table amendments in the budget committee.

"We want this money to really help the local authorities in projects that make a difference in people's lives and not end up in the pockets of some party companies as it happened [with previous similar programs]. Our suspicion is based on concrete facts. We want to introduce an amendment through which the Government will come up with an update of the medium-term fiscal-budgetary strategy and show how it makes fiscal room for these RON 50 bln in the medium-term fiscal-budgetary strategy because we did not see this yet, and we need to understand where the money comes from, how we do the financing, what the impact is on the public deficit. There are very serious things that have been treated superficially," Dragu commented, quoted by G4media.ro.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Romania's reformist USR-PLUS asked the Constitutional Court, in a public statement, to speed up the ruling in the urgent matter of the no-confidence motion, Agerpres reported.

The Court tabled for September 28 the ruling in the case that might clear the no-confidence motion against the Government of prime minister Florin Citu.

This is three days after the elections held by the ruling Liberal Party to choose its new leader - reportedly PM Citu himself.

USR-PLUS visibly expects a successful no-confidence motion to overthrow PM Citu, open the door to incumbent liberal leader Ludovic Orban to another term.

This would supposedly make possible the replacement of PM Citu and a new centre-right coalition formed by the Liberal Party (PNL) and reformist USR-PLUS.

Conversely, it is nearly certain that PM Citu taking over as PNL leader gives no chance to reformists' request for another prime minister. But at the same time, this seems a dead end as a minority PNL Government would not be functional.

Early elections would not change significantly the political structure of the parliament, recent polls show.

"We asked the Constitutional Court to quickly judge the objections expressed by the Romanian Government. Article 113 of the Constitution stipulates very clearly that the motion must be debated and voted three days after its reading. I consider that the deadline of September 28 is too far away, and the legal instrument of the no-confidence motion is thus emptied of its content. For this reason, we requested the rescheduling of this date as soon as possible," stated Anca Dragu (YSR-PLUS), the president of the Senate.

(Photo: Octav Ganea/ Inquam Photos)

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The lawmakers should be given the right to express their vote on the new political composition of the Government, argued on Monday, September 20, Senate speaker Anca Dragu (reformist, USR-PLUS), G4media.ro reported.

She thus reacted to prime minister Florin Citu (liberal, PNL), who stated over the weekend that all he needs is lawmakers' vote for his new ministers.

PM Citu will nominate candidates to replace the ministers of reformist USR-PLUS that pulled out of the ruling coalition in early September.

No vote on the Government as a whole is needed, PM Citu implied - touching a sensitive issue that is already generating public debates.

In addition to pulling out of the ruling coalition, USR-PLUS also filed a no-confidence motion against the Government.

At this moment, the motion is in limbo at the Constitutional Court. Apart from the no-confidence motion, USR-PLUS remains "firm" and insists that a vote should be requested in Parliament on the entire government, Anca Dragu stated.

"As I read the Constitution and the Administrative Code, it seems that the lawmakers should have this right to exercise their vote regarding the composition of the Government," Dragu said.

(Photo: Gov.ro)

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Raiffeisen Bank launched the BIO Credit for farmers certified for organic production (or in the process of getting the license), with a lower-than-standard interest rate, higher amounts lent per hectare, and an extended repayment period.

The certification attesting that the farmers comply with the organic farming requirements is the only document required by the bank to extend the facility to farmers.

"It is the first SME Raiffeisen Bank loan product meant to encourage, support, and increase sustainable agriculture on all three dimensions: economic profitability, respect for the environment, and social responsibility. We wanted to have such a financing product for farmers who do organic farming and to support them on this path," said Raluca Nicolescu, Executive Director of SMEs, Raiffeisen Bank. 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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The National Company for Road Infrastructure Management (CNAIR) in Romania extended the deadline for accepting offers under the tenders for the public procurement procedure Design and Execution related to Sibiu - Pitești motorway, Section 2 (Boița - Cornetu), until September 30, 2021, Profit.ro reported.

The section is the toughest of the entire motorway as it crosses the Carpathian mountains.

The extension was granted to give bidders enough time to examine the data supplied supplementarily, the company explained.

Former minister of transport Cătălin Drulă announced the deadline for September 20. On July 23, CNAIR published the list of the six candidates who qualified (out of 11 bidders) to continue the competitive procedures for selecting a contractor for the design and construction of Section 2 Boița - Cornetu of Sibiu - Pitești motorway.

(Photo: Pexels)

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Romania’s electricity transport system operator Transelectrica cut the profit forecast for this year to RON 41 mln (EUR 8 mln) down from RON 91 mln projected initially, pointing to the high electricity price among others for the revision, Profit.ro reported.

The high electricity price pushed up the expenses related to the power it uses for maintaining the network (technological losses), but the volatile market resulted in other expenditures as well.

Transelectrica estimates total revenues of RON 2.38 bln (EUR 476 mln) this year, almost 35%more compared to the initially forecast.

As regards its plans, Transelectrica announced more investments (admitting that it was sluggish in this regard over the past years) and also announced plans to change the financing structure to more loans (as opposed to financing from own resources).

This, in essence, means, on the one hand, the optimisation of the financing structure - but also higher dividends on the other hand.

With a view of bringing its financing structure in line with its peers, Transelectrica aims to launch a Medium-Term Notes (MTM) corporate bond program, taking into account the option of borrowing in foreign currency in international markets, such as London, Paris, Luxembourg, or Dublin.

(Photo: Pexels)

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The Romanian banks hold in their portfolio Government papers (bonds and bills) worth 7% of GDP, the highest amount in Europe, and this might bring them significant losses if the interest rates are rising and the yield curve flattens, according to Florian Neagu, deputy head of the macrostability division of the National bank of Romania (BNR), quoted by Economica.net.

The losses potentially incurred by banks under adverse scenarios may reach 17.6% of the portfolio of assets and liabilities sensitive to interest rates, he explained.

The banking system’s profitability is high, and the solvency ratio is strong, he said, adding that all these can deteriorate under certain circumstances. In fact, the Romanian banks’ profitability (13% return on equity versus 7.6% in EU) is above the EU average, and above the profitability in the real sector, the BNR official stated.

The solvency ratio (22% versus 17.1% in the EU) is also above average, and the non-performing loans ratio is still small (3.7%) even if above the EU average (2.5%).

However, the solvency ratio can lose 2pp from distributing dividends, another 2pp when building up provisions next year. The losses generated by adverse developments of the interests and yield curve would come on top of these two effects.

(Photo: Brad Wynyk/ Dreamstime)

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Romanian tech entrepreneur Calin Fusu teamed up with the Moldovan shareholders of the online consumer finance platform Virtula, and they will bring the business in Romania a well, Profit.ro reported.

The platform gives buyers the option to pay for a purchase in three equal, interest-free installments (all the costs thus being covered by the retailer). Notably, the platform is available to customers with no debit cards, which somehow expands the market.

"In the coming years, we aim to become a regional player that offers Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) adapted to local realities," said Nicolae Donica, one of Virtula's founders.

Similar services are already available in Romania - such as French oney. Virtula platform was launched in March 2020 in Chisinau and, so far, has processed purchases exceeding EUR 1 mln. Connected partner stores account for a 25% share of the entire e-commerce market in the Republic of Moldova.

(Photo: Nitsuki | Dreamstime.com)

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Austrian plastic packaging manufacturer Alpla, the largest player in the European industry with five production units in Romania, has entered a partnership with the Romanian company Ecohelp and the Swiss company United Polymer Trading (UPT) for the construction of a PET recycling unit in Târgu Mureș (central Romania).

The investment is estimated at EUR 7.5 mln, and the three partners will contribute equally.

Alpla, Ecohelp and UPT will set up, for this purpose, a new joint venture, called PET Recycling Team Târgu Mureș.

It still needs the competition council’s permit.

The factory will have a recycling capacity of 15,000 tonnes of PET per year.

Ecohelp will contribute to the mixed project with the raw material, namely PET flakes, further used to produce recycled PET granules (rPET).

Alpla will contribute as a recycling specialist and a manufacturer of preforms and PET bottles. UPT owns the PET recycling line and will deal with the sale of recycled and processed materials. 

(Photo courtesy of the company)

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Romania's public debt to GDP ratio will stabilise just above 50% of GDP by 2024 under the scenario of a 1.5pp annual fiscal consolidation, according to the head of Fiscal Council Daniel Daianu.

The country's fiscal consolidation is possible thanks to the robust revenues derived under the next generation and multiannual financial framework (2% of GDP per annum, combined) that would offset structurally weak budget revenues, according to Daianu, quoted by Wall-street.ro.

The robust inflows from the European Union would protect the country from rising interest rates (potentially caused by high inflation) that exert pressures on the budget expenditures (via public debt service), he explains. But there are other scenarios explored by the Fiscal Council, Daniel Daianu added.

A milder fiscal consolidation, of 1pp per year, will result in the debt to GDP ratio stabilising around 60% of GDP at around 2026.

Romania's debt to GDP ratio soared from 15% in 2008 to 47% at the end of 2020, amic economic crises and pandemic - but also as a result of pro-cyclical policies, explained Daianu.

The Fiscal Council head concludes that regardless of the scenario considered, Romania's public debt is projected to increase during the period 2021-2024, exceeding the level of 50% of GDP even in the case of the most optimistic hypotheses.

(Photo: Mattwatt/ Dreamstime)

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Romania's GDP per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) in Romania could increase from just under 72% in 2020 to 90% -100% of the EU average in 2030, says Andrei Rădulescu, chief economist at Banca Transilvania.

He bases his expectations on the balanced structure of the economy (contribution of the production factors to the potential GDP dynamics), the Next Generation implementation, the multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2021-2027, and the country's geo-strategic position.

At the same time, the prospect of leveling the size of GDP per capita as a purchasing power with those of the EU is also supported by the prospects of strong investment growth and Romania's integration into the OECD in the coming years, as well as the low level of real financing cost.

"Among the challenges there are the transition to the green and digital economy, counteracting unfavorable developments in the sphere of population structure (demography), and addressing twin deficits," says Andrei Rădulescu, quoted by Economica.net.

Abandoning the structural reforms, implementing pro-cyclical policies are the main risks to the forecast sketched by Banca Transilvania's expert, besides external factors such as geopolitical tensions.

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The National Museum of Romanian Literature (MNLR) in Bucharest has received the DASA Award granted by the European Museum Academy (EMA).

The award, which focuses on the quality of learning opportunities in museums, recognizes the museum’s main exhibition (8 Nicolae Crețulescu St.) and the exhibition of the Anton Pann Memorial House, MNLR said.

“The National Museum of Romanian Literature is a role model in the Romanian museum landscape in terms of its social aspirations and its scenographic implementation. It meets the challenge of creating a living literary museum and has embarked on an impressive journey since moving to a new building in 2017. The permanent exhibition impresses with its unobtrusive but well-made dramaturgy, which complements the historic building. In its education programs, the museum shows courage and an uncompromising attitude, functioning as a vehicle for current social issues. At the center of its work is ‘interactive literature’, in which its methodology aims to give its visitors an element of surprise, used in an innovative way, in clear integration and scenography,” a jury statement reads. 

Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Stapferhaus in Lenzburg, Switzerland, were the other finalists for this year’s DASA Award. 

EMA is a non-profit foundation established to reflect museums at the international level, and to promote research on museography and museology, among others. It works to “promote the conception and development of new as well as of traditional museums as tools of social change.”

EMA also grants the Luigi Micheletti Award, which in 2019 went to the Astra National Museum Complex in Sibiu.

(Photo: George Calin/ Inquam Photos)

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Romanian-German startup StageMe.Live, developer of a live video streaming tool for e-commerce platforms, said on Monday that it started its first round of financing. The company aims to raise EUR 160,000, the equivalent of 10% of the company, as its pre-money valuation is EUR 1.6 million.

The financing round is aimed at investors interested in technology and, specifically, tech startups in areas with potential for growth in the immediate future, the company said.

The StageMe.Live SaaS solution targets online stores that want to increase their sales and customer engagement and retain their current customers with the help of a new marketing channel: live video streaming. This solution offers interactive, personalized shopping sessions that enhance end-user experience and allow customers to find answers to questions that would otherwise prevent them from completing online purchases.

StageMe.Live is based on the solid experience of 5 entrepreneurs who have been developing and marketing software products for over 15 years.

Christian Roth, an entrepreneur born in Germany, from a Romanian family, with a background in finance and law, is the CEO and initiator of the project, together with entrepreneur and developer Andrei Buze - CTO in this project and Mihai Motocu - COO and serial entrepreneur.

The team also includes Sandu Băbășan, the strategic advisor at StageMe.Live and CEO of Blugento, and Marius Roman, entrepreneur, lawyer by profession, with expertise in financial law, M&A transactions and technology, who joined the project as a business advisor.

The financing round will help the startup develop its live video streaming solution and add new facilities, with the main goal of increasing the recurring income to attract a future round of investments. The target is to have 500 active customers in the first year.

Several private investors support the financing round. The lead investor is Florin M. Pop, a member of the Transylvania Angels Network investor group and one of the most active investors in Romania, with investments in over 15 startup projects in various fields.

At first, the solution will be designed for online stores in Romania and the DACH region (Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland). Later on, StageMe.Live will expand its presence in other European countries.

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(Photo source: the company)

The Sound of Bucharest, Armin van Buuren’s solo show scheduled to take place on September 25 in Bucharest, has been postponed to 2022 because of the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, the organizers announced.

The new date is September 24, 2022.

“Unfortunately, the world we live in is in a very surreal place and circumstances change rapidly. Sadly, due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Bucharest, we and Bucharest Town Hall have made the decision to postpone the show until September 24, 2022. Your safety will always be our main priority, which is why we will have to wait a little longer until we can dance together again,” an announcement from the organizers reads.

Those who have purchased tickets will be guaranteed tickets for next year’s show. Updates on next year’s show are posted on the event’s website.

Sound of Bucharest is an event from producer, concept developer and promoter ALDA, also behind SAGA Festival, which took place this month in Bucharest.

(Photo: Natallia Charkesava | Dreamstime.com)

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Students in Bucharest could return to online learning from mid-October if the COVID-19 infection rate continues to rise, education minister Sorin Cimpeanu told Digi24.

Currently, schools are open in the localities where the 14-day COVID-19 incidence rate is below 6 per thousand inhabitants. If this threshold is exceeded, students move to online learning in that locality.

According to the education minister, 13 localities had infection rates of over 6 per thousand on Friday, which means that the students will move to online learning as of Monday. Schools will remain closed until the infection rate drops below 6 per thousand.

Bucharest's COVID-19 incidence rate went up to 2.44 per thousand on Sunday, September 19, from 2.33 the day before. Thus, minister Cimpeanu expects the capital to exceed the 6 per thousand infection rate around mid-October, which would lead to the closing of schools.

“[…] It’s possible to hit the 6 per thousand threshold in Bucharest in mid-October, which means that schools will go online until the infection rate drops. I have the numbers right here, and I would have liked to see a slower advance of the infection rate, but unfortunately, the numbers have not confirmed this desire,” Sorin Cimpeanu said.

COVID-19 cases have been growing fast in Romania in the past week, with the country reporting 5,388 new cases on Saturday, September 18. For comparison, one week before, on September 11, Romania confirmed 2,648 cases in 24 hours.

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(Photo source: Facebook/Ministerul Educatiei)

Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel will sing the role of Baron Scarpia in two performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Bucharest Opera.

The two performances featuring the opera star are scheduled for October 1 and October 3. They mark the opening of a season that sees the Bucharest Opera celebrating 100 years since the institution’s official establishment.

Terfel previously sang the part in productions at the Royal Opera House and Wiener Staatsoper.

A regular of prestigious concert stages and opera houses worldwide, Terfel has performed at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera, New York, Opéra National de Paris, Teatro Alla Scala and the Zürich Opera. He is a Grammy, Classical Brit and Gramophone Award winner. In 2003, he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to Opera. In 2006, he was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music. In 2017, he received a knighthood for his service to music.

Tickets for the two performances can be purchased from the Bucharest Opera’s website or its ticket office.

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Two journalists filming an international documentary about illegal deforestation in Romania and the environmental activist helping them identify evidence of possible crimes were beaten last week in a forest in Suceava county. The three are director and journalist Mihai Dragolea and his colleague Radu Constantin Mocanu, and environmental activist Tiberiu Bosutar, Greenpeace said.

The three were taken to the hospital. Their equipment and all records were destroyed.

The team filming in the forest in Cosna commune, Suceava county, was reportedly attacked by a group of 20 people who were extremely aggressive.

Mihai Dragolea told local news station Digi24: “Suddenly we saw 20 people with axes and bats in their hands, among whom were the owner and the forestry engineer, and about 10 seconds later we were attacked. We took refuge in the car, but the car couldn’t hold the attack of 20 people, they opened the doors, we were thrown out of the car, I was hit in the face, and I fell into a ravine, from where I called 112.”

He also said that the attackers threatened to kill them.

Police officers and gendarmes were sent to the area following the call to 112. Some of the attackers were identified and taken to the police station. Four were detained and later placed under judicial control, according to News.ro.

Illegal logging continues to be a major problem in Romania, and the phenomenon has been documented and covered by local and international news organizations and NGOs.

“Over the years, environmental organizations have repeatedly pointed out that environmental activists and foresters risk their lives in their work to protect the environment and conserve the natural environment. Also, in recent years, several journalists have been assaulted while documenting illegal deforestation. In 2019, Greenpeace Romania and Agent Green estimated that over 600 people were injured over time, and six of them died as a result of this violence,” Greenpeace said.

About two years ago, a Netflix crew filming a documentary about illegal logging in the Domogled National Park in southwestern Romania and their local guide were assaulted by loggers as they were documenting in.

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(Photo source: Vladimir Zlotnik/Dreamstime.com)

Thinkdigital, the digital media company owned by entrepreneurs Dragoș Stanca and Cristina Cucuiu in association with the international group TDG, together with the global web and mobile solutions Mediapark, part of the Entra Holdings group, made public the announcement of their strategic partnership for the Romanian market. 

Mediapark is a global group, founded more than 10 years ago, with offices across 11 countries, with over 170 employees. The web&app developer counts with major clients like Redbull, Vodafone, Spark, Princeton University, Scoot 911 and many more.

The company covers a broad range of services, being a one-stop-shop for modern web development, Android and iOS mobile apps, UI / UX design, testing and support and a dozen more technologies. 

Through this partnership, Thinkdigital and Mediapark clients will leverage a perfect synergy covering the most demanding project briefs, as the media and communication team of Thinkdigital will add to their portfolio of services, some of the most advanced web and app (iOS and Android) development and design, UX design and several other capabilities.  

Furthermore, once launched, the projects will have the utmost efficient online propagation, thanks to Thinkdigital’s expertise in the field. 

The company has been consolidating their footprint on the Romanian market, both through the premium media network division  - encompassing international websites, apps and publishers that they represent and promote, as well as through the digital communication arm – which offers their partners complex concepts and advanced performance digital marketing services.   

„This new partnership will help us offer our partners – both media agencies and clients – a wide array of web and mobile development services, as well as UX/UI at global standards”, stated Dragoș Stanca, co-founder and managing partner of Thinkdigital.

„We’re thrilled to unfold full steam our presence in Romania with a solid marketing and sales partner, validated by a 15 years’ reputation on the local market and by an extensive experience of collaborations with international heavy weights. Mediapark is targeting an accelerated evolution in Romania, both via new business and through partnerships with smaller IT and web-app development companies. This being said we are open to future merger and acquisition talks”, added Tudor Mardari, partner – associate of Mediapark, in charge with the company’s expansion in Romania. 

Mediapark is part of Entra Holdings, a Lithuanian group launched in 2010, with a team of 500 employees in Finland, Estonia, Letonia, Lithuania, Belarus, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia. The group is holding stock of other companies, like Timebase (Saas), Civitta (business advisory), Fargo (accounting), Eurotela (financing advisory).

TDG has over 200 employees, in several European, Middle Eastern and Northern African countries, in Thinkdigital and other companies: Project Agora (programmatic advertising), Tailwind (adtech & martech) and Forestview (performance marketing).

John Malkovich is set to play Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache in the film The Yellow Tie, Variety reported.

The conductor's son, Serge Ioan Celebidachi, and James Olivier wrote the script for the biopic, scheduled to film in Romania in the first part of 2022.

Malkovich will play Celibidache in his later years. The actor for the part of young Celibidache was not cast yet.

Celebidachi will direct the film, a co-production between Oblique Media Film and Celi Films of the UK. Adela Vrînceanu Celebidachi, Cristina Dobrițoiu, Titi Rădoaie and James Olivier are the producers. Celebidachi previously directed Octav (2017), Sergiu Celibidache's Garden (1997) and Taming the Apex (2013).

With a career spanning more than five decades, Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) was a principal conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker (1946-1952) and the Munich Philharmonic (1979-1996), among other tenures he held with several other European orchestras. Regarded as the leading Bruckner specialist of his time, he was known for his opposition to recording music.

(Photo: Palinchak | Dreamstime.com)

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Around mid-October, Romania might have 20,000 new Covid cases in peak days and an average of 17,000 daily cases - three times the current average count, according to the forecast of Valeriu Gheorghita, head of the national vaccination campaign.

He announced that the official forecast was updated and "the situation is as serious as it can be."

"We expect that on October 1, we will reach an average daily count of almost 7,000, but with peaks of 10,000 per day, and on October 15, we could exceed 17,000 per day [average], which means an obviously much higher peak of 20,000 cases. These are the predictions," Valeriu Gheorghiță told B1 TV.

The previous round of forecasts indicated 10,000 average cases in October.

In Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, the incidence of Covid cases exceeded 2 per thousand (over rolling 14 days), and the authorities are expected to decide on the restrictions to be imposed. In the communes surrounding Bucharest, the incidence exceeded 3 per thousand, and restrictions were already imposed.

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(Photo source: Gov.ro)

The ethnic Hungarians' party UDMR wants the files so far handled by the controversial "special section" of prosecutors (SIIJ) set up by the Social Democrats to be transferred to the General Prosecutor's Office - as opposed to the National Anticorruption Directorate in the draft of the reformist USR-PLUS party - explained Csoma Botond, UDMR caucus leader in Parliament.

The ruling coalition's failure to dismantle SIIJ was a key ingredient of the political crisis that erupted after the reformist USR-PLUS pulled out of the ruling coalition.

UDMR's Botond also explained why his party has opposed the version drafted by USR-PLUS. He argued that the Judiciary Inspection reports outline many cases of abuse that occurred in the past when these files were handled (as proposed by USR-PLUS) by DNA, according to G4media.ro.

"I told them [civic organisations backing USR-PLUS version] that we had a big discussion on this topic, and we began from the report of the Judicial Inspection in 2019 in which a lot of abuses were reported. I read [it]. It has hundreds of pages. And I said we don't want those abuses to happen again," Botond explained.

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(Photo source: Shutterstock)

Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) keeps enjoying robust electoral support (36%) under the latest poll carried by the CURS agency for the party, G4media.ro reported.

Its score edged up marginally from 35% under the latest poll, released by Avantgarde at the end of August, and the Social Democrats remain the most popular party, albeit not popular enough to guarantee it would be able to form the government alone after would-be snap elections. PSD has repeatedly argued for early elections as a solution to the political crisis.

But the CURS poll shows that not much has changed since last December’s elections. The Liberal Party (PNL) would get 19% of the votes ( down from 21% at end-Aug), radical AUR would be the third biggest party with 14% of the votes (down from 15% at end-Aug), and reformist USR-PLUS would follow with 11% (down from 14% at end-Aug).

Notably, the poll (carried out for PSD) supports the narrative circulated by the Liberals: namely that reformist USR-PLUS is losing support due to their “alliance” with radical USR (which is now a legitimate party, compared to a marginal extremist movement as mainstream parties used to describe it so far). 

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Romania's prime minister Florin Citu announced that he plans to ask Parliament's vote only for the new ministers that will replace those of the reformist USR-PLUS (which pulled out of the Executive).

He also said that he expects the reformist MPs to extend their support for the candidates nominated by him "because they have something against me, not against the Liberals."

The consensus interpretation of the Constitutional provisions implies that the Government as a whole must ask lawmakers' vote of confidence each time the political structure of the Executive changes.

"I will observe the Constitution, and we are in the process of reshuffling. The Constitution reads very clearly that there are the new ministers and not the Government that needs lawmakers' vote of confidence," Citu said before the meeting of the steering body of the Liberal Party (PNL), Economica.net reported.

He added that if the candidates fail to get lawmakers' confidence in Parliament, he will make other nominations but will not resign from the post of prime minister.

Liberal leader (and Citu's rival in the internal party elections on September 25) reacted to the statement by saying that it will probably be the Constitutional Court that will bring clarifications in this regard. "I would prefer not to express a point of view on this subject, although I have a point of view. Most likely, it will reach the Constitutional Court, if you ask me," he stated.

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(Photo source: Gov.ro)

The leader of the ruling Liberal Party (PNL), Ludovic Orban, who also serves as Chamber of Deputies speaker, plans to unblock the no-confidence motion filed by reformist USR-PLUS against the Government.

He also argued in favour of preserving the ruling coalition with USR-PLUS. There’s no other option, he explained: “What other ally do we have, as long as we have already decided not to team up with the Social Democrats?”

Orban said that he wants to summon the Parliament’s leading body (Permanent Bureau) on Monday, September 20, with a view of scheduling the debates and the vote of the motion, Economica.net reported.

Such an attempt will meet staunch resistance from the Liberals loyal to prime minister Florin Citu and from the Social Democrats (PSD).

The no-confidence motion was already presented in a joint meeting of the two chambers last week, but no further steps were taken.

The reformist USR-PLUS insists on observing the three-day deadline (for debating and voting the motion) mentioned in the Constitution, calculated from the day the motion is presented to lawmakers. However, PM Citu and his supporters argue that the Constitutional Court must first rule (on September 28) on their objections to the motion. They claim that the Government was not appropriately informed about the motion. 

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(Photo source: Gov.ro)

Romania will receive EUR 3.8 bln as pre-financing under the Resilience Plan (PNRR), MEP Dragoş Pîslaru (USR-PLUS) announced. Informally, Romania's PNRR is currently already approved, he said.

He also noted that this massive capital injection must be used judiciously and efficiently for the approved investments and reforms.

Pîslaru, who also serves as co-rapporteur and member of the implementation monitoring group, said that Romania's PNRR is "useful and good," but "it reflects the [Liberal] Government" - that is, it does not show ambition because "the importance of the reforms was not understood and desired by all the partners from the government."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is coming to Bucharest to sign the PNRR on September 27, according to an announcement made on September 17 by Dana Spinanţ, deputy spokeswoman for the Commission.

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(Photo source: Gov.ro)

The Romanian Constitutional Court motivated the decision taken in July rejecting the banks' appeals regarding the new form of the Law on giving in payment.

Under this law, debtors can terminate the contract (with no further consequences) by simply transferring to the creditor (the bank) the ownership of the good purchased under the financing contract.

The Court points out that the courts will automatically have to find that there is an unforeseen situation (the sole trigger for the giving in payment law) when the foreign currency used in the lending contract has strengthened by more than 52.6% since the date of the loan (as in the case of loans in Swiss francs), or the monthly instalment has increased by more than half as a result of rising interest rates, Profit.ro reported.

Both the debtors and the creditors will have the right to request the adaptation of the contract within the giving in payment procedure, and the judges will pronounce the solution without assessing the material situation of the debtor (as requested by banks).

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea)

Vista Bank completed, on September 16, the acquisition of 100% shares in Crédit Agricole Romania, after obtaining all the necessary approvals from the National Bank of Romania (BNR) and the Competition Council, the bank announced.

The integration of the two entities is beginning, and it is expected to last until next year. Vista Bank and Crédit Agricole Romania will operate independently during this interim period, and Crédit Agricole Romania customers will continue to contact Crédit Agricole Romania for all their banking services, News.ro reported.

Following the merger, Vista Bank will hold total assets of more than EUR 1.4 bln (1.2% of the banking system’s assets), loans of EUR 800 mln (1.3% of the total non-government loans), deposits of EUR 1.2 bln (nearly 1.4% of the stock of bank deposits), and more than EUR 105 mln of CET1 capital.

Vista Bank has been active in the Romanian banking market since 1998, has a network of 31 branches and 320 employees and offers a complete range of products and services to local and international customers.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

PKO Bank Polski, the largest bank in Poland in terms of assets, anticipates starting operations on the Romanian market in the second half of next year, Profit.ro reported.

"The bank implements a strategy for expanding abroad and, among others, will open corporate branches in countries where Polish companies export or invest. Romania has a very high GDP growth and a relatively low unemployment rate. In addition to this, it has a good dynamics of gross fixed capital formation," said the director of the external development division of PKO, Robert Zmiejko, quoted by the PAP agency.

The Polish Financial Supervisory Authority has already sent a notification to the National Bank of Romania (BNR), in accordance with European legislation, according to the director.

"Thus, we are approaching the goal of starting operations in the second half of 2022," Zmiejko added.

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Natural gas prices in Europe, already at a high level, could rise even more due to low gas storage capacities, the head of the Russian Gazprom group, Alexei Miller, warned on Friday, Wall-street.ro reported.

Miller said demand for natural gas is rising. He described natural gas as a "clean fuel" that could support the transition to greener energy.

Europe's gas storage capacity is currently 22.9 billion cubic meters (bcm) below normal.

"It's a lot, all experts say that Europe will not be able to close the gap and increase the level of stored gas. Europe will enter the autumn-winter period with a deficit in underground storage capacity," the Gazprom chief said.

"Of course, the situation has an impact on prices, and we see that in Europe prices are breaking all possible records. It is even possible to break new records," Miller said.

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The minister of infrastructure and regional development of Moldova, Andrei Spânu, stated for TVR Moldova that, starting this October, the natural gas deliveries from Romania through the Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline will be technically possible.

"We need to liberalize the gas market so that we do not talk about dependence or independence, but about where we can buy gas at the best price," he said, according to G4media.ro.

Minister Spânu added that only after the completion of the gas pipeline, the two parties would discuss the gas price.

At this moment, the main gas supplier in Moldova, Moldovagaz (which also owns the country's incumbent gas transport network), is negotiating with Gazprom a new contract as the existing one expires on October 1. Notably, Moldovagaz is controlled by Gazprom.

Romania's Transgaz has developed the infrastructure, including a pipeline on the Moldovan territory, to supply gas to industrial areas in the neighbouring country.

However, the statement of the Moldovan minister about the Romanian gas comes at a moment when Romania's imports of natural gas (from Russia) are increasing to account for 25% of total consumption.

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(Photo source: Shutterstock)

Romanian coal-fired power plant CE Oltenia auctioned forward electricity contract with delivery in Q1 next year for RON 600 (EUR 120) per MWh, but the electricity subsidiaries of Enel utility group had to offer up to RON 830 (EUR 166) per MWh to make sure they win, Economica.net reported.

The “band” electricity blocks, namely contracts providing for the supply of constant power during the period (Q1), were eventually sold at prices between RON 815 and RON 821 per MWh.

For this price, CE Oltenia is safely on the profit side, Economica.net concludes quoting company’s officials announcing a production cost of RON 510 per MWh that includes a carbon price component calculated for CO2 certificate traded at EUR 60.

CE Oltenia general manager Daniel Burlan was recently speaking of the high prices (RON 700-1,000 per MWh) on the spot market - “three times more than the company gets [at that time] under the bilateral contracts.”

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(Photo source: Facebook/Complexul Energetic Oltenia)

The procedures that regulate the Government’s EUR 10 bln investment plan (2022-2028) incorporates in its final form several improvement suggestions submitted by civic organisations, but it did not address the big issue that consists in the problematic money allocation procedure.

Ambiguous procedures and the lack of a transparent and predictable algorithm for money allocation makes the Government’s program “worse than the Social Democrats’ PNDL1 and PNDL2,” Expert-Forum (EFOR) think-tank concludes, after reviewing the official documents.

The improvements acknowledged by EFOR include the development of a platform for program management, procedures for intermediary publication of data, the introduction of program monitoring indicators, setting in place of mechanisms for abandoning idle projects, and procedures for charging fines when needed.

EFOR notes a lack of clarity in regard to these positive developments, as well.

Nevertheless, the big issue highlighted by EFOR remains the lack of clear procedures for allocating the money.

The provision promising a certain amount of money per county/municipality/village seems to be aimed at “making everybody happy” rather than a procedure providing equal opportunities to all local administration entities. Such algorithms should have taken in indicators such as population, entity’s financial strength, the number of projects already carried on under PNDL, the number of residents that would benefit from the project, and other indicators provided by the statistics office INS, EFOR explains.

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Troubled Romanian insurer City Insurance has paid EUR 18 mln to its main shareholder, Vivendi International, for fictitious loans since 2017, disclosed the director for the insurance market in Romania’s Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF), Valentin Ionescu, Ziarul Financiar reported.

Specifically, City Insurance declared that it borrowed EUR 50 mln, EUR 25 mln, and another EUR 50 mln this year from Vivendi - but the accounts in the Swiss banks indicated by the insurance company do not exist, and Vivendi extended no loan to City while cashing interest rates of 10%-12%.

Valentin Ionescu was appointed at ASF earlier this year, specifically to investigate the situation in the insurance market.

Nicu Marcu, the current ASF president appointed in 2020, has launched extensive controls on insurance companies, including overseas operations. Before Nicu Marcu, during 2017-2020, the president of ASF was Leonardo Badea - the current vice-governor of the National Bank of Romania (BNR).

In an interview given to Radio Europa Libera, Valentin Ionescu discloses other irregularities at City Insurance, such as understating the cost generated by the green cards issued - as an effect understating the capital requirements.

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea)

The Council of Romania's Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF) withdrew the functioning license of City Insurance and will initiate bankruptcy procedures against it.

The insurer failed to observe the recovery strategies required by the Authority in June. Under the strategy, the insurer was supposed to increase its capital by EUR 150 mln before September 6. A Swiss-registered investment vehicle (I3CP) promised to buy new shares issued by the insurer, but it failed to come up with the money by the deadline.

On September 17, ASF announced that Romania's biggest insurer, with almost 3 mln car owners among its customers, failed to demonstrate it can increase its own resources to meet the minimum and solvency capital requirements. ASF also concluded that the company is already insolvent, and its solvency keeps deteriorating.

Under existing regulations, the claims generated by the insurance policies issued by City will be processed from now on by the Insurance Guarantee Fund (FGA), but the payments will be disbursed only after City's bankruptcy, Profit.ro reported.

The Government is reportedly drafting an emergency ordinance that would allow FGA to disburse the money within 60 days after the insurer loses its functioning license.

According to sources familiar to the market, City's portfolio will generate total claims of around EUR 100 mln.

City Insurance is 85% controlled, through Swiss-registered Vivendi International, by Dan Odobescu - the brother-in-law of former prime minister Adrian Nastase (who himself served in jail in several instances since he lost his seat).

ASF officials reported massive frauds at City Insurance, particularly after it took over the company's management in June.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Connecting Europe Express, a train travelling across the EU to promote the benefits of rail during the European Year of Rail 2021, arrived in Bucharest’s Gara de Nord station on Friday, September 17.

The train entered Romania at the Ruse-Giurgiu border point. Its first stop in the country was at Giurgiu, where it stayed for 27 minutes, according to Digi24.

In Romania, the Connecting Europe Express covers 900 kilometres and makes several stops along the way, including in Brasov, Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca, Oradea and Arad. It will exit the country on Sunday, September 19.

The Connecting Europe Express pulled out of Lisbon station on September 2 and will stop in more than 100 towns and cities during its five-week journey before arriving in Paris on October 7.

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(Photo source: Facebook/Comisia Europeana in Romania)

Ballet dancer Sergei Polunin filmed his new video The Road to Eternity in Romania, on the famous high-altitude road Transalpina and at the edge of an old-growth oak forest in Valcea county. 

The video was directed and filmed by Bogdan Daragiu, with the music signed by Miroslav Bako.

The first part of The Road to Eternity video was shot on the Transalpina road, while the second part was filmed close to an oak forest in Valcea county. According to News.ro, the oak that appears in the video is one of the most beautiful in Romania.

"Dancing in Romania, in the middle of nature, was very special. It was a unique experience for me because I managed to connect on a spiritual level with all that surrounded me," Polunin said. 

Born in 1989 in Ukraine, Polunin was at the age of 19 the youngest lead dancer in the history of the London Royal Ballet. He danced at the Bolshoi and the Stanislavsky Theaters, La Scala in Milan and the Paris Opera, and is currently a permanent guest of the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich. He also travels the world with shows produced by Polunin Ink, the dance company he founded. In 2019, he performed alongside Romanian Alina Cojocaru in Johan Kobborg's Romeo & Juliet.

In recent years, Polunin also worked in films such as Murder on the Orient Express (directed by Kenneth Branagh), Red Sparrow (directed by Francis Lawrence), The White Crow (directed by Ralph Fiennes), and Simple Passion (by Danielle Arbid). 

Sergei Polunin visited Romania in July when he was a special gust of the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF).

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(Photo source: screenshot from The Road to Eternity video)

Untold, one of the biggest music festivals in Romania, had a strong economic impact on the city of Cluj-Napoca, which hosts it every year. According to the organizers, this year’s edition brought more than EUR 35 million to the Transylvanian city.

A public of more than 265,000 attended Untold 2021, and most of them came from outside Cluj-Napoca. According to the organizers’ calculations, quoted by Hotnews.ro, each of the 200,000 people from outside Cluj spent at least EUR 175 on average on accommodation, transport, restaurants, terraces, shopping, visits to museums, and so on.

“At a simple calculation, this means a capital infusion in the Cluj community of over EUR 35 million. This money will later be found in local taxes and fees, but also in revenues for local businesses or for people who have benefited from the large number of tourists present, renting their apartments or houses,” the organizers said.

“Some of the over 265,000 participants at this year’s four-day event can still be seen on the streets of Cluj-Napoca. The organizers estimate that, of the total number of participants, 25% are from Cluj county, 15% from abroad, with the remaining 60% coming from all over Romania. This year too saw participants from over 100 countries such as Germany, France, Great Britain, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Israel, and the US, as well as exotic countries such as Argentina, Japan or Brazil,” they added.

Besides the money spent by the participants, the organizers are also making RON 1.3 million investments in the spaces used during the festival. In Central Park, for example, these works consist of changing parts of the lawn, overseeding, reconditioning the alleys, bridges and benches, and landscaping.

The sixth edition of Untold, which took place between September 9-12, brought over 200 artists to Cluj-Napoca.

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Manases Sandor)

President Klaus Iohannis will lead, between September 21 and September 23, Romania's delegation at the 76th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held in New York. For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance is allowed at this year's session of the UN General Assembly.

The Romanian president's participation will be "a good opportunity to highlight the country's position on the current global challenges, which require common solutions, solidarity and cooperation, based on strong democratic principles and respect for international law," the Romanian Presidential Administration said.

"President Klaus Iohannis will emphasize the importance of a rule-based international order, as well as effective and equitable multilateralism, for the benefit of all citizens of UN member states," the same press release reads.

President Iohannis will deliver a national declaration to the General Assembly on Tuesday, September 21. The following day, he will participate in the high-level event on the Transformative Action for Nature and People.

Moreover, on September 22, at the invitation of US president Joe Biden, the Romanian president will take part in a global summit focused on coordinating the international response in the context of the pandemic - Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better Health Security to Prepare for the Next.

"President Klaus Iohannis will send a message highlighting our country's efforts to combat the pandemic, as well as supporting the construction of a resilient global health security architecture that allows for the proper management of unforeseen crises," the Presidential Administration explained.

The Romanian president's agenda also includes a series of formal events and a meeting with representatives of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

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(Photo source: Presidency.ro)

The Cluj County Committee for Emergency Situations (CJSU) decided to impose several restrictions in Cluj-Napoca and the communes of Floresti and Săvădisla after the 14-day COVID-19 incidence rate increased to over 2 per thousand inhabitants. The new rules will apply from Friday, September 17, for two weeks, according to Digi24.

On Thursday, the COVID incidence rate reached 2.15 per thousand inhabitants in Cluj-Napoca, 2.21 per thousand in Floresti, and 2.67 per thousand in Săvădisla.

For example, the new rules set a capacity limit of 50% for sports competitions held in closed or open spaces. Organizers also have to ensure a distance of at least 1 meter between participants, and people can attend these events only if they show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or proof of a previous COVID-19 infection.

There is also a capacity limit of 70% for cinemas or concert/theatre halls.

The number of people allowed to attend weddings, baptisms or other private events differs depending on how many participants are vaccinated. For example, a maximum of 150 people can participate if the event is held outdoors, and only 100 if the event takes place in a closed space, without any restrictions related to vaccination but in compliance with the sanitary rules. The number can increase if the participants are vaccinated or show proof of a negative test or previous infection.

Stricter restrictions have also been taken in other localities in Cluj county where the incidence exceeded 3, respectively, 6 and 7 cases per thousand inhabitants. These are Săndulești (with an incidence rate of 3.19 per thousand), Ploscoș (6.43 per thousand), and Cătina (7.78 per thousand).

The incidence rate also went over 2 per thousand inhabitants in Bucharest on Friday, and thus the authorities are expected to impose restrictions in the capital as well, according to Digi24.

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(Photo source: Claudiu Marius Pascalina/Dreamstime.com)

The National Committee for Emergency Situations (CNSU) updated on September 16 the list of countries with epidemiological risk. The countries/areas are rated as green, yellow or red, according to their COVID-19 incidence rate.

Thus, according to the CNSU decision, countries like Spain, Denmark, Luxembourg, Mexico, Argentina, or Morocco are now on the green list.

Meanwhile, states/territories such as Bulgaria, France, Thailand, or Puerto Rico were moved from the red to the yellow list following a decrease in the COVID-19 incidence rate, according to Biziday.ro.

At the same time, the Republic of Moldova and Honduras are among the countries that also joined the yellow list but due to an increase in infection cases. They were previously rated as green countries.

Grenada, Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, and Liechtenstein were moved to the red travel list.

The updated lists are valid starting September 19, at 00:00. They are available here.

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Above a Covid incidence of 3 per thousand, when specific restrictions are imposed in Romania as an effect of existing regulations, and below an incidence of 6 per thousand (when, for instance, the schools are going online), green passport holders will be allowed more mobility thus making possible the continuation of economic activity in HoReCa, entertainment and other few sectors to continue.

The green pass holders will be allowed to enter restaurants, theatre halls, attend wedding ceremonies and use gyms, Profit.ro reported.

The regulations were drafted and passed by the Romanian National Committee for Emergency Situations (CNSU), and they pend endorsement under the form of an emergency ordinance by the Government.

The public places hosting green pass holders (such as restaurants and those outlined above) will have to observe tighter sanitary restrictions, though, when the incidence is among 3 and 6 per thousand.

Notably, the shopping malls are not subject to the regulations - meaning that showing a green pass will not be mandatory for their visitors, G4media.ro reported. Above a Covid incidence of 3 per thousand, local emergency committees can restrict the functioning hours of the shopping malls and other shops.

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(Photo source: Alexdascalu/Dreamstime.com)

On Thursday, September 16, the Romanian Constitutional Court scheduled for September 28 its first key decision, on the no-confidence motion against the Government, and invited the Government and Parliament to express their arguments in a second case opened by Senate head Anca Dragu against the Executive, Economica.net reported.

The Court thus postpones its decisions and keeps prime minister Florin Citu in his seat until after the Liberals' congress on September 25, when PM Citu hopes to defeat incumbent Liberal head Ludovic Orban.

Under the best-case scenario, the Liberals and reformist USR-PLUS would resume negotiations for forming the ruling coalition again. Under another scenario, failure to form a coalition would push the major parties to accept early elections for the first time in three decades of parliamentary activity.

In the first case to be ruled by the Constitutional Court, the Parliament already "pleaded guilty" after the Liberals (PNL, at rule) and Social Democrats (PSD) formed an ad-hoc coalition aimed at keeping the Executive in place - each of them pursuing their own interest. Despite this, the Court's ruling remains unpredictable since facts indicate that the Parliament began procedure related to the no-confidence motion as soon as the political parties sent enough lawmakers to put in motion the procedures.

Ruling in favour of the Government would be extremely awkward and open the door to an unusual (procedural) way of blocking a no-confidence motion without a vote in the joint sitting of the Chambers.

The second case the Constitutional Court has to rule is related to appointing new ministers after the junior ruling party USR-PLUS pulled out of the ruling coalition. Specifically, USR-PLUS and Senate speaker Anca Dragu argue that PM Florin Citu should have nominated replacements for the USR-PLUS ministers and ask for Parliament's vote since the political structure of the ruling coalition changed. 

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea)

ABN Systems International, the owner of the only 100% Romanian brand of telecom accessories and smart home products, Tellur, and one of the most important companies in the market for distribution of IT&C products and accessories in Romania, plans to be listed on Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB ) by the end of this year.

The listing is aimed to finance its accelerated development in foreign markets and consolidate its position on the domestic market by accessing new business niches. TradeVille is advising it.

In 2020, ABN Systems recorded a turnover of over EUR 19.21 mln and a profit of EUR 1.17 mln. Last year, its B2B sales increased by 70%, those through online retailers - by 60%, and sales in the marketplace system - by 53%.

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(Photo source: Inquam Photos/Diana Oros)

Neocity Group, founded and headed by Israeli businessman Ehud Benshach (68), has applied for and obtained the building permit for the first stage of a large project including more than 2,000 apartments on the shores of Lake Fundeni in eastern Bucharest. The project was drafted some 13 years ago, but it was put on ice meanwhile.

The developer intends to build on the land of 14 hectares, which he inherited before the crisis of 2007-2008, a residential complex with over 2,200 apartments, which would involve an investment of over EUR 100 million, according to calculations made by Profit.ro.

The Neopeninsula project, as inked for the first time in 2006, provided for the construction of 16 blocks with 2,700 apartments, a project that requires an investment effort estimated at EUR 300 million.

Until November 2018, the Neocity group was listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and after delisting, it became an arm of the investment fund Poalim Real Estate, which, in turn, is a subsidiary of Hapoalim Bank, the largest financial group from Israel.

Ehud Benshach, who is also the president of Poalim Real Estate, and his brother, Mordechai, inherited the Israeli energy giant Petrolgas, which after merging with Pazgas in 1993, came to control 40% of Israeli gas. Ehud Benshach is also a shareholder in the energy company Global Power and the Israeli packaging plant Caniel.

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Romanian president Klaus Iohannis said, at a meeting with a delegation of the Austrian group OMV led by the new CEO Alfred Stern, that the completion of ExxonMobil-Romgaz negotiations creates "encouraging premises" for the Neptun Deep project, the largest natural gas exploitation project in the Black Sea, to advance, Profit.ro reported.

In June, the natural gas producer Romgaz, controlled by the Romanian state through the Ministry of Energy, concluded an agreement with the American oil giant ExxonMobil under which it received an exclusive right for 4 months, until October 15, regarding the full takeover of the Romanian branch of ExxonMobil, which holds 50% of the rights related to the concession of the Neptun Deep offshore natural gas perimeter in the Black Sea. The remaining 50% of the rights are in possession of OMV Petrom.

OMV Petrom, in its turn, expects the Romanian parliament to amend the Offshore Law and thus unblock the investment decision by providing more favourable terms. The Romanian ruling coalition promised to address this obstacle this year, and president Iohannis provides now joints about when the amendments will be enacted. 

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(Photo source: Presidency.ro)

One of the two measures the Romanian Government is discussing (and might enforce next week) to address the structural problems on the car insurance market is regulating the fees charged by the car repair shops, Economica.net said, quoting sources familiar to the talks.

The other measure is speeding up the payments from the Guarantee Fund in case an insurer begins insolvency procedures.

Regarding the car repair fees, this has constantly been a subject of conflicts between insurers and the car repair shops.

The bill was reportedly drafted by the Government some time ago but put up on the agenda following the imminent bankruptcy of City Insurance.

Under the most recent form, it provisions for so-called "reference prices" for the workmanship charged. The bill has a broader scope, though, and it regards full liberalisation of the procedures employed by insurers in setting their car insurance fees. 

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Franklin Templeton, as fund administrator of Romania's biggest investment fund Fondul Proprietatea, expresses "extreme disappointment" at the change of the members of the board of directors of state-controlled salt company Salrom.

Former reformist minister Claudiu Nasui (USR-PLUS), who resigned last week, condemned the rushed move taken by the Government and accused the replacement of the board members in some state-controlled companies (including Salrom) that were previously selected on performance criteria, according to Mediafax.

Nasui also implied that Salrom's graphite mining project would be at risk simply because it was launched by a reformist minister (who is no longer a member of the ruling coalition).

Fondul Proprietatea also considers that this decision to replace board members at Salrom risks harming the company and jeopardising important projects, such as the listing of Salrom on the stock exchange and the evaluation of the options regarding the exploitation of the graphite deposits in Gorj.

"In fact, the people appointed now by the majority shareholder in Salrom's board of directors are none other than those who held these positions in 2020, a year in which Salrom's profit fell almost seven times and in which operating revenues fell by 36%," Fondul Proprietatea stresses. 

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(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

Garanti BBVA Consumer Finance, part of Garanti BBVA Group Romania, announced that it launched its first green loan “for individuals planning sustainable acquisitions.”

To encourage sustainable life choices, Garanti BBVA Consumer Finance says it “supports every customer by covering the last two instalments” out of for a maximum of 60 months.

The interest rate (starting from 10.5% interest, 10.67% DAE) reflects the rather loose conditions: the consumer loans are unsecured, with a value of up to RON 400,000 and a maximum period of 60 months (no minimum period specified - which is important because “the bank commits to pay the last 2 instalments of the loan, once the destination is proven”).

The customers can purchase an electric car or bicycle, sustainable home renovation products, solar panels for their houses, environmentally friendly home appliances, or pay the advance for a green house, for example. These are sustainable choices that can produce greater returns, in the long run, the creditor explains.

BBVA Garanti Consumer Finance charges DAE 9.37%, over 1pp less than the “green” loans, for the “Relaxed” consumer loans of roughly similar value and the repayment period.

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Romanian minister of labour Raluca Turcan said that she thinks of a "significant increase in the minimum wage as price increases are much higher than what has happened in Romania recently."

She stressed that in "order to address the problems on the labour market," it is mandatory to increase the minimum statutory wage because "the current level is not only insufficient [for a decent standard of living], but is also a factor generating migration," local Digi24 reported. 

The minimum gross salary in Romania reached RON 2,300 (EUR 460) per month in 2021, after an increase of only RON 70 (3.1%) compared to the previous year. 

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(Photo source: Gov.ro)

Romania’s construction activity index contracted by 3.5% MoM (seasonally adjusted terms) and by 2.4% YoY (gross terms) in July, resulting in a less buoyant bigger picture than half a year ago.

In June, the seasonally adjusted index edged up marginally, and in May, it marked another significant (-7.2% mom) decline.

While the residential market segment maintains a robust growth trend (+32% YoY) despite high volatility, the non-residential segment (-18.8% YoY) has at best stagnated over the past year, and the civil engineering segment (public infrastructure projects, -6.7% YoY) has lost ground over the past several months after starting the year at a high level.

Such developments are not exactly unexpected: the non-residential market is formed by sub-segment moving opposite directions (logistics up, commercial, and office down), and the resulting trend is not necessarily relevant while more detailed data are needed.

The Government seems to have lost stem, at least in terms of civil engineering works, although it reports record investments.

Finally, the most delicate segment is the residential segment: rising sharply but potentially accumulating the toughest tensions (non-performing loans) as irrational decisions may be taken under the pressures of “imminent price hikes” narrative circulated on the sell-side (and partly true). 

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(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

A photo exhibition organized by Bucureștiul meu drag Association showcases the city as it looked in the 1970s.

The photos, taken by Dan Vartanian, will be displayed alongside images showing the spots as they look today.

Passionate about architecture, Dan Vartanian started taking photos of patrimony buildings and construction sites up until 1989. “His photos are very important for the city’s visual memory even if he was taking them simply for his personal archive, to remember buildings that were to be demolished, or capture various stages in the building of new ones,” Andrei Bîrsan, the president of Bucureștiul meu drag Association, explains.

The photographs of today’s spots were taken by Alexandru Iordan, Anda Stăncescu, Andrei Bîrsan, Andrei Pîslaru, Andreia Bîrsan, Antonio Gherdan, Adelina Miron, Camelia Stan, Cristian Malide, Dan Moruzan, Denise Fătulescu, Eli Driu, Eliza Breajen, Florian Marin, Gabriel Cristea, Gabriela Mihăilă, Ioan Herișanu, Liviu Lazăr, Lucia Spirea, Luciana Gingărașu, Mădălina Macovei, Marius Zota, Mihaela Bîrsan, Mihai Petre, Nick Costandache, Paulina Șelaru, Radu Iacob, Răzvan Pasol and Sabin Prodan, and Sorin Panait.

The exhibition is open between September 16 and October 15 at the Museum of the City of Bucharest (Suțu Palace - pictured).

The photos of Dan Vartanian are also available in this online gallery.

(Photo: Adriana Sulugiuc | Dreamstime.com)

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The artistic community developed around the collective TechnoFields, established by choreographer Andreea David, will hold a series of cultural interventions and debates in Văcărești Nature Park between September 24 and October 16.

Micro-Rave, an event scheduled for September 24, October 9, and October 16, sees TechnoFields “conceive a series of performative situations grouped under the theme of micro-rave as a means to bring to public attention the city’s abandoned places.” The artists involved are Andreea David, Maria Baroncea, Eliza Trefaș, Maria Mora, Giles Eldridge, Oana Maria Zaharia, Eve Cousins, Sînziana Pintean, and Sillyconductor. 

Meanwhile, the installation Outlands will see artists Marina Oprea, Andreea Medar and Mălina Ionescu develop a large-size construction developed in a minimal in-situ intervention.

Becoming landscape. Becoming animal. Becoming machine, scheduled for September 24 and October 9, is a series of debates on themes such as contemporary art’s impact or the human-nature relation mediated by art and technology in the post-humanist paradigm. The debates, moderated by Raluca Oancea (Nestor), will feature Dan Bărbulescu, Laurențiu Fuiorea, Raluca Ionescu Paraschiv, and Vasile Mihalache as guests. 

Harmony of Disaster, set to take place on October 9, is an experimental concert where “the sounds of the Delta will meet electro-acoustic music, the voice of the performers, and the performance of string quartet Outis. The musicians are Diana Miron, Laurențiu Coțac, and Outis quartet - violinist Francisco Miguel Ramonda, David Ursei, violist Mihai Todoran and cellist Victor Sandu.

(Photo courtesy of the organizers)

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Forty-six paintings from a lot of 59 artworks stolen in Belgium in March were recovered in Bucharest, Agerpres reported.

Local prosecutors and police officers carried out a European mandate issued by Belgium judicial authorities who are investigating the theft of 59 artworks, paintings and sculptures, from an Antwerp storage facility, the Bucharest Prosecutor’s Office said in a release. The damages in the case amount to EUR 160,000.

“Following the searches, 46 paintings from the 59 items were identified and recovered. The Belgian judicial authorities will continue the investigation,” the prosecutors said.

Last year, a house search carried out by Romanian police officers and prosecutors in Neamt county, in northeastern Romania, led to the discovery of old books and manuscripts reported stolen from Feltham, in London, in 2017.

(Photo: Vlad Ispas | Dreamstime.com)

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Can apply for a long-stay visa for family reunification, the sponsor, holder of a temporary residence permit valid for a period of one year, an EU Blue Card, an ICT permit, a mobile ICT permit, a residence permit on long-term or beneficiary of refugee status or subsidiary protection.

According to the law, the definition of sponsor is - the foreigner, holder of a residence permit, other than for the purpose of family reunification, or of a Blue Card of the European Union issued by the General Inspectorate for Immigration, requesting family reunification or whose members of the family requests the reunification of the family with him.

This visa can be applied for the following categories of people:

a) Husband/wife;

b) Unmarried minor children of the sponsor and of the spouse, including those adopted;

c) The unmarried minor children of the sponsor, including the adopted ones, who are dependent on him and over whom the sponsor exercises parental rights. If parental rights are exercised jointly, the consent of the other holder of parental rights regarding the family reunification requested by the sponsor is also required;

d) The unmarried minor children of the spouse, including the adopted ones who are dependent on him/her and over whom the soul/spouse exercises parental rights. If parental rights are exercised jointly, the consent of the other holder of parental rights regarding the family reunification requested by the sponsor is also required.

Applications may also be approved for family reunification and for the following categories of persons:

a) First-degree relatives in ascending line of the sponsor or of the spouse, if they cannot support themselves and do not enjoy adequate family support in the country of origin;

b) Unmarried adult children of the sponsor or of the spouse, if they cannot support themselves for medical reasons.

Unaccompanied minors, beneficiaries of refugee status or subsidiary protection, may also request family reunification for:

a) First degree relatives in ascending line or legal guardian;

b) When the first-degree relatives or the legal guardian do not exist or cannot be identified, any other relative thereof.

In addition, the law also grants the right to family reunification and to the following categories:

a) Foreigners married to Romanian citizens;

b) Unmarried foreigners living with unmarried Romanian citizens, if they have at least one child together;

c) The children of the Romanian citizen, of the spouse or of the partner, including those adopted who:

- They have not reached the age of 21;

- They are continuing their studies and have not exceeded the age of 26;

- Although they are adults, they cannot support themselves for medical reasons;

d) First degree relatives in ascending line of the Romanian citizen or of his/her spouse;

e) The foreign parent of the Romanian minor citizen, if he/she proves that the minor is in his/her support or that there is an obligation to pay the child support, an obligation that the foreigner fulfills regularly;

f) Foreigners, family members of Romanian citizens, who prove that they are registered with the right of residence in another Member State in this capacity.

In order to obtain a visa, it is necessary to obtain approval from the General Inspectorate for Immigration, after submitting documents and declarations showing that the legal conditions are met in order to obtain such a visa.

After obtaining this approval, family members will travel to the diplomatic missions of the country of origin, where they reside, to apply for a long-stay visa for the purpose of family reunification.

At the same time, the persons benefiting from the refugee status can request the reunification of the family, in their case the conditions being less restrictive, taking into account their special status.

Therefore, the request for family reunification is resolved within a maximum of 90 days, and its approval will be communicated in writing to the applicant, in order to send it to family members, who will have a period of 60 days to report to the consular office from where they have your domicile or residence, to obtain a visa.

After obtaining the visa and the entry of family members on the territory of Romania, they will have the possibility to obtain a residence permit, attesting their right of residence, and the application must be made at least 30 days before the expiration of the right of residence granted by the initial visa.

This will give them the right to live for a longer period of time, but maximum for the period entered in the sponsor's residence permit.

Author: Attorney at law Cristian Badea, Law Office Grecu & Partners.

This is native content supported by Grecu & Partners.

Öhlala Pâtisserie, a confectionery and pastry shop offering French-inspired recipes, opened in Bucharest’s Amzei Square.

The pastry shop is the project of Alina Petrea, a 2019 graduate of the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris.

Petrea and her husband, French Sébastien Cazac, invested EUR 100,000 in the project. The amount covers the design and furnishing of the venue in Amzei Square, the equipment for the production laboratory, the branding and consulting. The two expect to recover the investment over the next three years.

Alina Petrea worked alongside French chefs such as François Perret, Tristan Rousselot and Olivier Lainé. She also went through a two-week internship in the laboratory of François Perret, named the best confectioner in the world in 2019 by the association Grandes Tables du Monde.  She returned to Romania in 2020, after almost 30 years spent in Paris, and founded Öhlala Pâtisserie with her husband.

All products are created by combining French techniques with both local ingredients and ones brought from suppliers in France. “My goal is to use my personal vision, as well as what I learned at the Ritz Escoffier School, to create products that become memorable. In search of the best raw materials, I discovered tasty fruits, of local origin, which I will combine with Romanian milk and cream, French butter and many other quality ingredients. For me, my cakes are the result of an alchemy, a tribute to the two cultures that I appreciate and admire - the Romanian and the French,” Alina Petrea says.

The venue also serves a range of specialty coffee drinks.

Öhlala Pâtisserie (1-3 Christian Tell Street) is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 10:00 to 23:00. The place can seat 20 inside and 16 on the terrace.

(Photo courtesy of Öhlala Pâtisserie)

simona@romania-insider.com

Romanian conductor Cristian Măcelaru will record all the works of George Enescu with Deutsche Grammophon, the George Enescu Festival announced.

The recording will be done with Orchestre National de France in a project estimated to take ten years. The choir of the George Enescu Philharmonic in Bucharest and various soloists from Romania will participate in the project.

The Romanian conductor, who took over as music director of Orchestre National de France last year, presented the project in a meeting with president Klaus Iohannis, after one concert delivered by the French orchestra at the Enescu Festival, ongoing in Bucharest. Iohannis was in the audience at the concert. 

It is the first dedicated recording of Enescu’s works with the music label.

(Photo: Adriane White, courtesy of Enescu Festival)

simona@romania-insider.com

Romanian prime minister Florin Cîţu announced on Wednesday, September 15, that he no longer wants economic activities to be closed when the Covid incidence rate rises above 3 per thousand.

The large-scale use of the green certificate is one of the proposed alternatives that would allow activities to remain open. PM Citu was asked, at the end of the Government meeting, when the use of the green certificate for various activities will be approved, but he didn't provide a precise answer.

"First of all, the National Committee for Emergency Situations (CNSU) must adopt a decision in this regard, then it must be issued a Government decision," the prime minister said, quoted by News.ro.

But he assured that the economy would no longer be closed as it was in the previous Covid waves.

"In order for the economic activities to remain open, we need to have some form of monitoring. The green certificate […] is one of the proposals for these activities to remain open. Restaurants can remain open based on a green certificate; it is a proposal, we will see if it will be approved in CNSU. […] Now we have a vaccine, we also have a way to check if someone has been vaccinated, tested, or gotten sick. It's a way to keep the economy open, but at the same time follow some rules," he explained.

(Photo: Thea Photography/ Dreamstime)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romanian prime minister Florin Citu said that he remains in his office, despite the collapse of the ruling coalition, to avoid the collapse of the state.

He also said that his partnership with President Klaus Iohannis is "stronger than ever."

"There is no doubt - the partnership with President Iohannis is stronger than ever. This partnership is seen in the EUR 80 bln that we will implement through the Liberal Government in the coming years, money that was obtained with the help of the President last year," said PM Citu, quoted by Antena 3.

Last week in Switzerland, President Iohannis said that he is not concerned with the political turmoil and that the political situation is not at all supporting such concerns.

In the meantime, the liberal MPs backed by the Social Democrats sent an opinion, on behalf of the Parliament, that compromises the odds of the no-confidence motion filed by the reformist USR-PLUS against the Government.

Specifically, they insisted that not all the document was handwritten, but some of them (including signatures) were copies.

The Constitutional Court expected until September 15 the opinions on the no-confidence motion from both the Parliament and the Government before ruling on the conflict between the two parties.

(Photo: Gov.ro)

andrei@romania-insider.com

All Romanian insurers have significantly raised the prices charged for the mandatory car insurances (RCA) OVER the last ten days amid major problems faced by the market leader City Insurance, which is close to bankruptcy, Bursa reported.

Data supplied by insurance brokers consulted by HotNews.ro indicate that Euroins, the second-largest RCA insurer, previously charging prices marginally above those charged by City, increased the fees the most, while other insurers followed the same trend.

In separate news, there are reports about car repair shops refusing car owners that show up with insurance policies issued by City. I

n separate news, prime minister Florin Citu announced that the Government would pass next week two emergency ordinances (OUG): one of them will regard the prices on the RCA market, and the other will regard particularly the situation at City Insurance and will guarantee that all those with a claim against City will receive their money, News.ro reported.

(Photo: Pixabay)

andrei@romania-insider.com

After selling four logistics parks in Craiova, Sibiu, Arad, and Oradea to regional market leader CTP for a sum between EUR 55 mln and EUR 60 mln, the Maltese group Zacaria announced that the transaction would allow it to continue developing industrial parks, shopping centers, and residential projects in Romania.

"Regarding our immediate plans, we will continue the development of new industrial parks, in the first phase in Sibiu and Piteși and, moreover, we will accelerate the construction of residential complexes, already having some land ready. At the same time, the capital infusion will be directed to new business lines that we want to open in Romania, especially in the retail sector," said Jonathan Scifo Diamantino, CEO Zacaria, quoted by Profit.ro.

The company will soon begin works at three residential projects in Sibiu, Craiova and Bucharest, thus bringing about 550 apartments on the market. Zacaria will then start in October a residential project in Sibiu totaling 121 apartments.

For the end of 2021, Zacaria has scheduled the debut of another major project located in the center of Craiova. Valletta Towers totals 191 apartments.

(Photo: Pixabay)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Wood & Company Financial Services, a top 10 intermediary on the Romanian stock exchange, is reportedly preparing the listing of the online retailer Elefant.ro through an IPO at the Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB) scheduled for November this year, according to Ziarul Financiar quoting sources familiar with the operation.

Elefant Online, the company that operates the elefant.ro online store, has already issued bonds (RON 7.6 mln, or EUR 1.5 mln) at BVB that mature on September 27, 2021.

Elefant has attached a 9% coupon payable twice a year on its bonds issued in February 2019.

The company reported a modest increase in revenues and deep RON 3.79 mln (EUR 0.76 mln) losses in Jan-Jun this year, compared to thin RON 0.47 mln net profit in the same period of the year before, according to a company’s statement filed to Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB).

According to Confidas.ro data, Elefant is 60.7% owned by Millennium Gold Resources Limited, registered in Cyprus, OLIF BV in the Netherlands (29.4%) and Catalyst Romania Sca Sicar (9.92%).

(Photo courtesy of the company)

andrei@romania-insider.com

The yield of the Romanian long-term debt (10 yrs) traded on the secondary market increased again in August 2021, to a staggering 3.72%, according to data published by the European Central Bank quoted by CursDeGuvernare.ro.

It has risen to the highest level in the last 12 months, after falling in February 2021 to only 2.65%.

From just 3.24% in July, Romania’s long-term interest rate moved upward, against the trend seen in European markets.

There were only several countries where the interest rate rose, but only marginally - in the Czech Republic (from 1.72% to 1.74%) and Hungary (from 2.83% and 2.84%).

Poland managed a marginal reduction (from 1.61% to 1.60%). Outside the euro area, Croatia (0.43% from 0.45%) and Bulgaria (stationary at 0.14%) performed much better.

The EU27 average fell again in the negative area, from +0.02% in July to -0.08% in August. Basically, Romania borrows money at record interest rates.

Romania ranks first in the top of the most expensive loans that can be taken by a member state of the Union.

The spread versus the second-weakest peer, Hungary, has widened. After a declining trend in previous months, the spread widened versus the Czech Republic as well and rose to a level 2.3 times higher than Poland, an economy with a similar currency regime and the closest in structure to the Romanian one.

(Photo: Tibor Duris/ Dreamstime)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Alfred Stern, the CEO of Austrian group OMV - the majority shareholder of OMV Petrom - is meeting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on September 16, in the context of the group being expected to make a final investment decision on the natural gas offshore project in the deep Black Sea.

For the decision, however, the group needs all the details, including the amended offshore law promised by the Romanian Government a couple of years earlier.

The overall picture is further blurred by talks about capping the energy (natural gas included) prices in the context of the regional surge of the prices.

The price of gas could be capped because it is a special situation that requires special solutions, said prime minister Florin Citu quoted by Ziarul Financiar daily.

This is not exactly the version of the energy minister Virgil Popescu after the September 15 Government meeting - who mentioned a more market-oriented scheme including end-user subsidies.

PM Citu mentioned this version as well, but apparently, the final version of the plan is not yet drafted. In any case, PM Citu said that some 60% of the households would see their gas bills 25% subsidised.

"We had discussions about capping the gas price. There are several options we think about. It is important not to distort the market ", the prime minister said, adding that the capping of the gas price can negatively affect the investments in this field. 

(Photo: Pixabay)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romania’s opposition Social Democratic party drafted and is promoting a bill for capping the energy (electricity, natural gas) prices at the past six months’ average.

The losses incurred by the suppliers will be covered by the Government from a fund financed from energy producers’ profits (50% of their net profits) and from the central government budget, explains PSD deputy president Mihai Tudose, Economica.net reported.

This would be a temporary fix until the Government sets in place a more sustainable framework for protecting the households.

The Parliament has just enacted the so-called “vulnerable consumer bill” aimed at supporting low-income households, but the schema was seen as fragile as the Government itself is now discussing some more realistic subsidies for households hacked with high energy prices.

Speaking of the supportability of the current energy prices in Romania, it is more the expected further hikes that create panic since, at this moment, the end-user prices have increased less than the wages over a three-year perspective (since the latest energy price shock).

The natural gas price at the BRM commodity exchange in Bucharest rose from RON 220 per MWh in August to RON 250-290 in September.

The prices set under the forward contracts indicate RON 307 per MWh in October and RON 317 per MWh in November (Aleph).

Similarly, the electricity price on the spot market has tripled as of August compared to the same period last year - while the end-user price has advanced by only 18%.

The surging energy prices on the spot markets all over Europe put massive pressures accumulated by the suppliers - while the Governments attempt to mitigate (or smooth) the impact on the end-users. 

(Photo: Aitor Muñoz Muñoz | Dreamstime.com)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romania will not face natural gas shortages during the coming winter season because its deposits are 70% full at this moment, explained minister of economy Virgil Popescu, News.ro reported.

From 2.1 bln cubic metres in the deposits, the reserves will increase up to 2.4 bln cubic metres by October 1, which is “more than enough” - he assured.

The statement comes to address the comment of the Association for Smart Energy regarding imminent shortages.

The Association argues that after the natural gas routes in the region have changed, Romania was left with a smaller interconnection capacity that may be insufficient in the case of prolonged periods with low temperatures, according to Mediafax.

Romania’s gas deposits, irrespective of how full are they, can yield a limited daily capacity, and this limit has been repeatedly reached in the past years forcing the authorities to restrict the consumption at some non-key industrial users. This is technically possible to happen this winter again, in case the weather will be extremely cold. 

(Photo: Pixabay)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romania’s Government considers subsidising households’ electricity and natural gas bills, minister of energy Virgil Popescu announced after the Executive’s meeting on September 15, Mediafax reported.

The households using between 30kWh and 200 kWh per month will receive RON 0.18 per kWh, which is around 22% of the average electricity price (RON 0.82 per kWh).

The size of the subsidy was calculated as the differential between the best (lowest) offer on the market and the average offer, minister Popescu explained.

The households using less than 30 kWh per month are holiday homes, and households using more than 200 kWh per month must be wealthy ones that need no subsidy, minister Popescu explained.

Using electricity for heating is, therefore, a wrong option for Romanian households (except for the wealthy ones).

But not many households use more than 200 kWh per month, according to minister Popescu - who claims that 13 mln Romanians (out of 19 mln) fall into the category of 30 kWh to 200 kWh per month. Most likely, the minister has used the average monthly consumption.

As regards the subsidies to natural gas consumers, households with annual consumption of under 1,200 cubic metres will receive such support.

The 25% subsidy was calculated based on an expected price of 255 per MWh, roughly twice the price last winter.

The subsidies will be effective November 1, but everything is at the level of scenarios discussed by the Government, minister Popescu added. 

(Photo: Gov.ro)

andrei@romania-insider.com

Romanian heritage and contemporary works of art worth over EUR 9 million are exhibited at Art Safari, one of the largest local events dedicated to visual arts, according to News.ro. The event takes place at the Dacia-Romania Palace and Arcub-Hanul Gabroveni in downtown Bucharest between September 16 and September 26.

Art Safari 2021 features about 850 works of art coming from the collections of 25 museums and 80 private collections.

The event includes several exhibitions, namely Samuel Mützner. Following Claude Monet (curator Rodica Marian), Seduction & Triumph in Art. Female artists of Romania (curatorial team: Elena Olariu, Angelica Iacob, Ana Maria Măciucă-Pufu, Cristina Ioniță-Măciucă and Liana Ivan-Ghilia), Constantin Piliuță. Zenith Color (curator Călin Stegerean), and Superheroes/Antiheroes. Trends in Romanian Contemporary Art (curator Raluca Demetrescu).

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Romania also announced that it supports the event in Bucharest. In the event’s opening, on Wednesday, September 15, representatives of the Embassy unveiled, for the first time, a giant floral copy of the Vas cu tufănele painting by Romanian painter Samuel Mützner.

“The work, specially designed to mark this moment, has the dimensions of 4 x 4 m. The original painting – oil on cardboard – measures 33.5 x 42.5 cm and is exhibited within Art Safari. 1,750 Dutch plants were used to make this project initiated by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Romania. Overall, the plants used to make the copy of Samuel Mützner’s painting weigh about 400 kilograms,” the Embassy said in a press release. 

“Inside the pavilion, visitors will discover a room dedicated to greenery where they could be inspired by bold landscape architecture projects promoted within the Romanian-Dutch bilateral partnership Urban Landscapes Romania. The exhibition is mirrored in reality by 2 spectacular trees located in the Izvor area inviting creativity to activate the urban space of Bucharest,” the same statement reads.

Art Safari awaits visitors Monday to Sunday between 12:00 and 21:00. Night Tours are also available on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 22:00 to 01:00.

Further details are available here.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Facebook/Art Safari Bucharest; photo credit: The Storyalist)

Two UNESCO experts arrived in Romania on Wednesday, September 15, for a field mission to evaluate the Buzău Land (Ținutul Buzăului), the country's candidate for the Global Geopark title. They are set to spend several days in the area to take the pulse of the local community and meet with mayors, entrepreneurs, locals and teachers.

The experts' visit represents the last stage of the project evaluation process. After this, the project can be accepted for the title, postponed, or rejected.

The UNESCO specialists will evaluate the criteria that the Buzău Land must meet to get the Global Geopark status while also checking to see if the reality confirms the information included in the file sent to Paris in December 2020.

To get the Global Geopark title, Buzău Land has to meet 99 of 101 criteria. All the famous tourist landmarks of the Romanian area will be evaluated by September 19, such as the Muddy Volcanoes, the domes of salt, the Eternal Flames, or the Trovants from Ulmet.

According to a statement from the Ținutul Buzăului Association, the two UNESCO evaluators are known to be highly rigorous. Ilias Valiakos (Lesvos Island Geopark, Greece) is the UNESCO evaluator with the most field missions and one of the most experienced Geopark evaluators, while Margaretha Roelfs (Hondsrug Geopark, The Netherlands) comes from the only UNESCO Global Geopark in the Netherlands.

After the field evaluation mission, the two experts will provide general feedback without immediately giving a verdict. About a week after the visit to Romania, they will send a joint report to the UNESCO Secretariat in Paris. The latter will analyze the report, together with the other two reports prepared by a UNESCO commission and a commission of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) - based on the file submitted by the Ținutul Buzăului Association in 2020.

Next, the UNESCO Secretariat will send a proposal for acceptance, postponement or rejection to the Board of UNESCO Geoparks, which meets every year in May. The final decision will be communicated based on the votes obtained.

By obtaining the UNESCO Geopark status, Buzău Land will become an internationally recognized territory, being promoted by UNESCO and the European and Global network of Geoparks. At the same time, the status of Global Geopark will attract tourists and have the potential to convince entrepreneurs to invest in alternative tourism, agrotourism, cultural or adventure tourism.

Ținutul Buzăului Association will ensure the Geopark's management, with its partners' support, including the Buzău County Council and the University of Bucharest, a Scientific Council, and an Advisory Council.

Also, the Buzău Land will have a multi-annual budget for this project, with the funds being provided by the Buzău County Council and by the Ținutul Buzăului Association. Other income sources, such as sponsorships, donations, or the revenues from selling products under the Ținutul Buzăului brand, will add to the Geopark's budget.

At present, there are 169 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 44 countries, according to official information. Romania's Haţeg Geopark is also on the list.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Ținutul Buzăului Association)

Elrond (EGLD), a fast-growing cryptocurrency that serves the blockchain with the same name, has reached a market capitalization of over USD 5.5 billion after its price almost doubled in the last week, climbing as high as USD 300.

On Wednesday, September 15, EGLD was trading at USD 273 and the total market capitalization was USD 5.3 bln, making it the 33rd most valuable cryptocurrency in the world, according to Coinmarketcap.com.

The strong price increase was supported by Elrond’s push into the United States. Starting Thursday, September 9, US citizens can buy EGLD via credit card directly from the network's Maiar app.

Elrond was created by Romanian Beniamin Mincu and his team of developers from Sibiu, who are looking to create a blockchain that is at the heart of a global, borderless and fully accessible digital economy.

Elrond launched its mainnet in July 2020 but the EGLD price exploded in January-February this year, just before the blockchain launched the Maiar app, which made it much easier to buy or transfer the native cryptocurrency.

In April, Elrond reached USD 240, after which the price dropped to USD 60 in June, and then started a new rally as the crypto market recovered.

Elrond is also working on launching its own decentralized exchange – Maiar Exchange.

 

editor@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Elrond Network Facebook page)

 

Most Romanians believe that the general situation in Romania is worse than 30 years ago, according to an INSCOP Research survey. Moreover, a significant share of the population is also pessimistic about the future.

The survey, published on Facebook by INSCOP director Remus Stefureac, revealed that 63% of Romanians believe that the general situation in Romania is worse than it was 30 years ago, 23.4% think that the situation is better, and 9.3% see no change, local Agerpres reported.

When asked to say how they think the general situation will be 30 years from now, in 2050, 44.6% of respondents said it would be worse. Almost 31% believe it will be better, 11.6% don’t expect things to change, and 12.9% said they do not know or did not answer.

Commenting on the results, Remus Stefureac said: “Sociological data capture a terrible chronic pessimism of the Romanian population, as the present is perceived as being much worse than 30 years ago, and the future worse than the present.”

He also made a comparison with an INSCOP survey from 2014, according to which only 12% of Romanians believed that life would be worse in 25 years, and only 40% said that life was worse than before 1989.

The data presented by Stefureac are part of an INSCOP Research survey supported by Strategic Thinking Group and were collected by phone between September 2 and September 5. A total of 854 respondents took part in the survey.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Radub85/Dreamstime.com)

The European Parliament (EP) adopted, with 387 votes in favour, 161 against and 123 abstaining, a resolution on the rights of LGBTIQ persons in the EU, sending a strong political signal to the European Commission and the EU Member States, local News.ro reported. In this resolution, the MEPs emphasize that LGBTIQ citizens should be able to fully exercise their rights, including the right to free movement, everywhere in the European Union.

“The resolution states that marriages or registered partnerships formed in one member state should be recognized in all of them in a uniform way, and same-sex spouses and partners should be treated the same as their opposite-sex counterparts,” the EP said.

In this context, the European Parliament also said that the European Commission (EC) should take action against Romania for breaches of EU values. The MEPs say that Romania failed to update national legislation to reflect the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling in the Coman & Hamilton case, which found that “spouse” provisions in the Free Movement Directive also apply to same-sex couples.

The ruling was made in the case of Romanian Adrian Coman and Clay Hamilton, an American national, who were married in Brussels in 2010. The couple wanted to be able to live in Romania, but the Romanian authorities declined to grant Hamilton a right of residence because the country does not recognize marriages between same-sex couples conducted abroad. Thus, the two sued the General Inspectorate for Immigration and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2013.

The case reached the Romanian Constitutional Court (CCR) at the end of 2015, which decided to refer it to the European Court of Justice. In June 2018, CJEU ruled that EU member states need to respect the freedom of residence of same-sex spouses in the European Union, regardless of whether they recognize same-sex marriages or not. About a month later, CCR also ruled that same-sex married couples have the right to move and reside freely in Romania if one of the spouses is an EU citizen.

“In the last three years, both decisions have been ignored by the executive, legislative and judicial powers. The courts, which were supposed to resolve the discrimination case initiated by Adrian, Clay and ACCEPT against the General Inspectorate for Immigration (IGI) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, failed,” local NGO ACCEPT said.

“Following the justice’s failure at the national level, the Coman-Hamilton couple and the ACCEPT Association addressed the ECHR, and the trial  began on March 1, 2021. The ECHR will debate the violation of their right to marriage, non-discrimination, family life and access to justice,” ACCEPT added.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Romanian tennis star Simona Halep, a former world No. 1, will marry her boyfriend Toni Iuruc today, September 15. The civil ceremony will be held in Constanta, Halep's hometown, and will be followed by a party with about 300 guests, according to local Adevarul.

Simona Halep and businessman Toni Iuruc have mainly invited friends and relatives to their wedding today. However, according to TelekomSport, the guest list also includes important names such as former professional tennis players Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac, and even president Klaus Iohannis.

Simona Halep confirmed last week that she will get married in a few days. "It's a beautiful event. I am emotional. These are different emotions than winning a Grand Slam, it's the personal part, tennis remains tennis. This is an extremely important step, and I'm happy it's happening," Halep said at the Otopeni Airport as she returned home from the US Open tournament.

Simona Halep, one of Romania's best tennis players, has won two Grand Slam singles titles so far: the 2018 French Open and the 2019 Wimbledon Championships. She was also number one in the WTA singles ranking twice between 2017 and 2019.

irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Lcva/Dreamstime.com)

The number of daily Covid-19 cases already reached nearly 4,000 in Romania on September 14, up from 2,000-3,000 until recently. The 10,000 figure mentioned by the authorities as possible in October seems thus much closer.

According to Andrei Baciu, secretary of state in the Ministry of Health, the fourth wave of the pandemic will probably be the most intense so far due to the increased contagion of the Delta strain.

"I think it is essential to adjust the perception on this subject. The pandemic will not end in these months, it will not end in these weeks, neither in Romania nor in other parts.[...] A properly worn mask protects you to a great extent," Andrei Baciu, Digi24 reported.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Influential Social Democrat leader Viorel Hrebenciuc - who served as MP between 1996 and 2014 - was given three years of jail for influence peddling, G4media.ro reported. The sentence is final.

Specifically, Hrebenciuc convinced members of the media market regulator CNA to give back a TV license, previously invalidated, to Gheorghe Stefan - the owner of Giga TV station.

CNA head Laura Georgescu was given 52 months of jail and Gheorghe Stefan 54 months.

Earlier this year, Hrebenciuc was given 36 months of prison, with execution (not final), in a file where he is accused of fraudulent restitution of 43,000 ha of forest.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Inquam Photos/George Calin)

Romanian online retailer Elefant.ro, a small-sized player on the local market, reported a modest increase in revenues and deep RON 3.79 mln (EUR 0.76 mln) losses in January-June this year, compared to thin RON 0.47 mln net profit in the same period of the year before, according to a company's statement filed to Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB) where its bonds are traded.

The company's officials hope that the customers will return online after spending their holidays outdoors, with a visibly negative impact on e-commerce.

"The year started with a robust growth in e-commerce, which then gradually diminished after the relaxation of restrictions. Beginning in May, Romanians focused their consumption more on holidays, restaurants, shows, and convenience stores. We see this market correction as on a transitional one, and we expect a return of the increase of online consumption starting with September," said Sergiu Chircă, general manager of Elefant.ro, according to Bursa.ro.

The report regards the financial situation of Elefant Online S.A., the company that issued the bonds, under national accounting procedures. Its revenues increased marginally from RON 102.4 mln (EUR 20.5 mln) to RON 104.4 mln (EUR 20.9 mln). The company's payroll surged from RON 6.46 mln to RON 8.33 mln, and the value of the outsourcing contracts advanced as well from RON 17.5 mln to RON 20.9 mln.

In another statement, Elefant Group reports (under IFRS) tripling of its losses to RON 4.55 mln (EUR 0.9 mln) in January-June 2021, from RON 1.66 mln losses in the same period of 2020. Group's total revenues increased from RON 103.5 mln to RON 107.2 mln.

The better financial indicators this year were mainly stimulated by attracting a larger number of unique visitors to the site, the company explains.

iulian@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: the company)

Troubled Romanian insurer City Insurance currently has a market share of almost 45% in the mandatory car insurance segment (RCA), the biggest market segment by far, according to Mădălin Roşu, president of the Romanian Motor Insurers' Bureau (BAAR), Ziarul Financiar reported.

This is more than the bankrupt companies Astra Asigurări and Carpatica Asig had at the time of their collapse, he stressed. In conclusion, the costs of a possible bankruptcy of the City Insurance market leader could be higher - but this also depends on the portfolio structures of the three companies.

Until the end of June 2021, BAAR paid EUR 44 mln on behalf of Astra and EUR 62.7 mln on behalf of Carpatica. After payments amounting to EUR 106.7 mln, BAAR still has to pay EUR 12.1 mln for Astra and EUR 25.5 mln for Carpatica (a total of EUR 37.6 mln).

City Insurance, the leader of the insurance market and the dominant player in the insurance area RCA, is on the verge of seeing its operating license withdrawn - a firm step toward its bankruptcy. While the license's withdrawal is operated by the financial market regulator ASF when the insurer fails to meet the capital requirements, the bankruptcy can be decided only by the court.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

"We do not compromise on the safety of car passengers and pedestrians, but we carefully choose the assistance systems," explained Gilles Le Borgne, executive vice president of engineering Renault Group, according to Economica.net.

Romanian carmaker Dacia's two new models, Sandero Stepway and Logan, received in April only two (of five) NCAP stars, despite rather good protection provided to passengers (four out of five stars ) and average protection provided to pedestrians and cyclists.

Several Renault officials, including Denis le Vot - CEO Dacia and Lada, Gilles Le Borgne - executive vice president of engineering Renault Group, and Laurens van den Acker - executive vice president of design Renault Group, were in Bucharest last week to wrap up the details of the next generation of the brand's SUV model Duster.

In a discussion held on this occasion with a group of Romanian journalists, they also explained how the safety level of Dacia cars - one of the main points of criticism expressed by local buyers still reluctant to "buy Romanian" - is designed to respect the idea of "essential" equipment.

As it is already known, the word that currently defines the Dacia models is no longer "low-cost" but "essential," they explained. This brand new concept floated by le Vot explains not only the frugal safety features of Dacia models but also the prices that have increased significantly compared to the previous models.

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dacia)

Romania's industrial production index increased by 3.1% YoY in July, losing momentum from the outstanding (and low-base driven) 12% YoY growth in June and 29% YoY surge in May.

The industry has visibly recovered from last year's crisis, but in terms of gross industrial output, it still lags behind the pre-crisis levels: its production was still 3.6% smaller in July this year, compared to July 2019. But this is no surprise as the industrial slowdown became visible in 2018, and the industrial growth turned negative in 2019 - well before the crisis.

The industrial decline in 2018-2019 was sometimes seen on a positive note as a shift to higher value-added sectors much needed in order to support the higher wages prompted by a tight labour market.

The narrative of re-industrialising the country in the context of new production chains (less vulnerable to global disruptions) has been circulated since the lockdown period, but except for the expansion of logistics real estate developments (and local production of face masks), nothing supports it so far. On the opposite, Dacia's first electric car is going to be Made in China.

In related news, the statistics office INS announced that the industrial turnover surged by 13.6% YoY in July. The double-digit growth comes after much higher figures in the previous months (the advance for the whole January-July period was 24% YoY), and it is explained by the substantial increase in industrial prices.

For January-July, the industrial output advanced by 14% YoY while the industrial turnover soared by 24%. The 10pp spread, standing for the rise in industrial prices, remained intact for July as well. 

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Pixabay.com)

Romania’s public debt has increased by RON 19.3 bln (EUR 3.9 bln) during July, when the Government issued EUR 3.5 bln worth of Eurobonds, to RON 545.3 bln (EUR 110.2 bln) at the end of the month.

And yet, the debt-to-GDP ratio eased to 49.3% at the end of July, from 49.5% reported one month earlier. This was possible thanks to the methodology saying that the ratio is calculated under the latest available value of the four-quarter GDP at the reporting date.

On September 7, the statistics office INS reported the Q2 GDP and the four-quarter GDP calculated as of the end of June was 2.8% higher (in nominal terms) compared to that calculated at the end of March - just enough to push down the public debt to GDP ratio. 

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

International rating agency S&P said on September 14 that it does not expect imminent risks to Romania’s near-term fiscal consolidation following the resignation of USR-PLUS ministers on September 7. “Nevertheless, should the political deadlock persist, it could disrupt progress on much-needed fiscal reform,” it concludes on a note leaving the door open to a rather broad range of scenarios.

The absorption of EU funds and fiscal reforms are key to stabilizing the country’s fiscal and external positions, the rating agency’s statement reads.

The rather positive comment may look surprising if regarded from a short-term perspective. But from a longer-term perspective, the impact of the current protracted political turmoil has a much smaller impact on the fiscal policy compared to last year when the Social Democrats were threatening to damage the public finance sustainability with bills passed on a weekly basis, such as the one on 40% rise of the public pensions.

In April this year, S&P was the last of the major three to revise the country’s outlook to stable (from negative) in response to the new Government’s fiscal consolidation plans. The agency will review the country’s ratings on October 15. Until then, the political outlook will gain more visibility.

Under the baseline scenario, S&P assumes that the Government would aim to preserve its capacity to function over the short term in order to contract this funding, “which we understand is ready to be disbursed,” the agency reads.

In the rating agency’s view, the Government passing last week the budget revision “suggests that there is [enough] capacity to execute policy.” 

andrei@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)

Christian Gurny, Regional Leader Romania and Czech Republic, BearingPoint, talks in this interview about his Romanian business journey from a small villa in Bucharest to a team of 700 in five cities serving clients all around the world.

Berliner Christian Gurny has been working as a management and technology consultant for 25 years, first at KPMG Consulting then at BearingPoint, being on the plane almost every week. Following his interest in international activities and his strong entrepreneurial drive, he jumped at the opportunity to set up a new BearingPoint entity in Romania in 2007.

Despite a bumpy start of his journey, marked by the 2008 financial crisis, he managed to steer the business in the right direction and grow it to more than 650 people in four offices in Romania (Bucharest, Sibiu, Timisoara, Iasi) and one office in Prague. His team now consults large and medium international corporations in Germany, France, Switzerland, UK, and other countries on navigating a rapidly changing digital environment. They advise clients what technologies are most suited and implement them.

The pandemic came with plenty of challenges, one of which was changing the way BearingPoint consultants work. From weekly flights to and from clients, people suddenly found themselves working from home. And the results were surprisingly good: the business has increased, and 200 new employees have joined the team last year, Christian says.

He is now optimistic about the growth opportunities ahead as businesses have to adapt to the new digital world. But what he is most proud of is that he has created a team of like-minded people who will continue the journey that he started in Romania almost 15 years ago.

How did you start in the consulting business and how did you get to Romania?

I joined the company - named then KPMG Consulting - 25 years ago as an SAP consultant, working in production, and made my way up. In 2002, I became a partner.

As a partner, I was responsible for almost everything: winning deals, implementing, managing big projects across the globe. 

At one point, we didn’t have enough people to help us get the work done. So, in 2005-2006, we started thinking about opening a new entity to help us add more talents to our teams. I had a look at Eastern Europe, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, and other countries. In the end, we chose Romania.

Why did you choose Romania?

Romania was and still is the second biggest Eastern European country after Poland, accessing the EU at the beginning of 2007. I was convinced that the Latin heritage made it a good fit for the west.

I didn’t know any Romanian people at that point, but I came here and said, “let’s do it”. 

How did you start the business here?

We kicked off our Romanian business by providing SAP consulting, while located in a small villa in Militari, Bucharest. We needed functional consultants and technical consultants. So, I put my first big ad in Ziarul Financiar: “BearingPoint is looking for 300 people to hire this year.”

Looking back, I guess I was a bit naive. At the end of that year, we had about 20 people, because it was not easy to find candidates who fit our levels of quality and expertise. So, we started slowly. Then, in September 2008, the financial crisis hit, which slowed us down. At that time, we had 40-45 people in our team, and we had just opened our second office in Sibiu. After the crisis we started growing and expanding, we opened an office in Timisoara, then one in Iasi and Prague. Our Bucharest team has now around 450 people working from the heart of the city at Izvor 80. By the end of 2021, we expect to be more than 700 people in Romania and the Czech Republic.

What kind of consulting services do you provide?

We started with consultancy for implementing major ERP systems, and we’re still doing this. Our team contributes to delivering big global projects from different industries which run with major, state-of-the-art ERP and CRM solutions. We’re talking about the digital transformation where clients can run processes either purely cloud-based or a hybrid between on-premises and the cloud.

We also advise our clients on how to automate their processes to gain efficiency. We’ve just won an internal prize for innovation in the firm through one of our teams who use the latest Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools.

Over the years, we have educated and certified hundreds of people over the globe to implement applications or to develop state-of-the-art solutions. We also added solutions built on the top CRM technologies, technologies that gained a lot of attention in the last years, purely cloud-based. We are also supporting and advising around all state-of-the-art cloud products.  

What makes a good advisor in the Consulting industry?

You have to see the benefits, pros, and cons of various technologies and platforms. You need to select solutions that fit best the clients’ business needs. Our team finds answers for all the opportunities and requirements out there that are very different from client to client. We have clients with really complex worldwide system landscapes. We help them analyze, build a strategic path, and get it done. We are the end-to-end management and technology experts. All is possible because at BearingPoint we work in partnership with all the major technology suppliers, developing solutions and strategies to suit our clients’ requirements.

What industries does BearingPoint Romania serve?

We serve nine industries, specifically Automotive, Banking & Capital Markets, Consumer Goods & Retail, Chemicals, Life Sciences & Resources, Communications, Media and Entertainment - Government & Public Sector, Industrial Equipment & Manufacturing, Insurance, Utilities, Postal & Transportation. We have a group of experts that understand how the segments and processes work, what areas need improvement, which legal obligations are required in specific countries, and the challenges posed by the latest trends around cryptocurrencies, to give just one example.

What differentiates BearingPoint from its competition?

We are a real trusted advisor over the complete business and digital transformation journey of our clients from the beginning to the end, which makes us different from the competition. We are very hands-on, holistic, and entrepreneurial.  

We are an independent management and technology consulting company owned by partners. So, we work beyond borders, and we get the best people to the table and get things done.

How has your team evolved since the start of the pandemic?

Since the pandemic, more than 200 people have joined us. This confirms that the way we integrate people, the way we give people a voice, shape their workplace and allow them to decide how they want to contribute to projects is the right way. People stay because they are heard and valued and respected as a part of our culture.

Due to the pandemic, BearingPoint had the Romanian offices closed from March 2020 until July this year. How did this impact your work?

In March last year, we shifted to working from home. Our clients kept trusting us and saw that they continued getting results from our contribution. This turned into the best year ever for us in terms of numbers. It was a situation that nobody expected. Since July, people can come to the office when they want, and we see them returning slowly – to share their knowledge, to welcome new joiners, to brainstorm and develop innovative solutions together. At the beginning of July, I visited all our offices within one week, welcoming everybody back. This was an amazing week finally meeting a lot of my colleagues in person again. I missed it a lot!

How do you see BearingPoint Romania’s business evolving further?

Definitely growing! We have more than 50 roles open monthly for our Romanian practice, looking for talents in the entire country. We have our eyes and ears open for new technologies. New ERP and CRM solutions are a better fit for some of our clients which is a great opportunity to extend our portfolio. Another example is the virtualization of business processes, finding benefits and improvement areas based on ERP data is an area we invest a lot in. 

This whole discussion on automatization and combination with artificial intelligence is still at the beginning. So, if you have your team ready and you have a few references, which we do, it’s easy to kick the doors open.

BearingPoint is also very active in Corporate Social Responsibility activities – what do you do?

We want to support the communities around us, and many of our employees are keen on lending a helping hand. We just launched our #EnableHelpers2021 initiative last week to support NGOs with a series of pro bono webinars. Our consultants will speak about topics ranging from digitalization to project management, organizational development, donor analysis. We offer our help to positively impact an NGO’s internal skills and competencies which, in turn, could make it easier for them to help others. Over the years, we have worked with many local non-profits around education, sustainability, civil engagement. It’s just something we really care about!

What achievement are you most proud of after almost 15 years of doing business in Romania?

If someone asked me today if I would do anything different from what I did when I started 14 years ago, I’m so proud to say no.

I never stopped believing in our people, and the people never disappointed me. They followed me over 14 years, and now I have a fantastic team of seniors on board, taking more and more responsibility who will be able to continue this journey that I started.

Even more, 2020 has been a memorable year that brought new circumstances, decisions, challenges, and opportunities. In March 2020, no one knew how 2020 will play out, but in the face of a pandemic, our team has proven that going all the way together to keep our people safe and our business stable is the biggest achievement. This makes me very proud! And grateful for our people’s contribution, resilience, and caring for each other.

(p) - This article is an advertorial.

A smart lab opened at the Constantin Stere School in the commune of Bucov, in Prahova county, north of Bucharest.

The lab is endowed with educational robots, 3D printers and scanners, and VR glasses, among others.

The cost of the project, which amounted to EUR 120,000, was undertaken by six private companies. 

The lab in Bucov, which is meant to help pupils develop STEM competencies, is the sixth of this type open in the country. The first five opened over the past two years at the Titu Maiorescu School in Bucharest’s District 3, Alexandru Ioan Cuza High School in Bucharest’s District 3, at Măgurele Science Park in Măgurele, Ilfov, at the Grigore Moisil High School in Bucharest’s District 6, and at the Alexandru Odobescu County Library in Călărași, Călărași county. 

The project was designed and implemented by INACO – Initiative for Competitiveness, with the support of six donor companies: ShapeRobotics Roma, Windaco Resources, Video Technic System, Graphtec Design, Cryptodata Tech, and Graziosa.

(Photo courtesy of Smart Lab Bucov)

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