Friday

14th May 2021

Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave

  • Both Bulgaria and Romania have been hit hard by the pandemic's third wave. The current political crisis in both countries is not helping to fight the virus (Photo: General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations Romania)

As healthcare systems throughout the south-eastern region of Europe near their limits in coping with a wave of Covid-19 cases, the political and governmental crisis in Romania and Bulgaria could hold dramatic consequences.

On Wednesday (14 April), Romania's prime minister Florin Citu sacked the country's health minister in a move that could spell the end of an already-fragile governing coalition.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Vlad Voiculescu saw his tenure as health minister come to an end after a series of incidents drew criticism over his handling of the pandemic.

Just one day before his sacking, three Coronavirus patients died at a hospital in Romania after its oxygen supply malfunctioned.

In late January another tragedy struck, as a fire broke out on a Covid-19 ward in Bucharest's Matei Bals hospital, killing 12 people.

Prime minister Citu, of the National Liberal Party (PNL), justified his decision as a move to reinsure trust in state institutions.

"The fight against Covid-19 has stretched the state's resources to the maximum, especially in the health care system. In order to succeed, trust in state institutions is necessary", the PM said in a statement.

Others from Citu's PNL party had questioned Voiculescu's ability to continue running the health ministry - specifically citing how the minister changed quarantine criteria without informing the prime minister, and blundered into conflicts over Covid vaccination logistics, ministerial orders and careless hospital evacuations.

PNL has been governing together with the reformist USR-PLUS party, which Voiculescu is part of, plus the ethnic Hungarian Party UDMR, since the start of this year. The three parties rule with only a slim parliamentary majority.

If any of them were to pull out, the coalition would collapse.

After seeing their minister removed, USR-PLUS said that it no longer supported Citu, asking for PNL to appointment someone else as prime minister, and threatened that otherwise they would leave the governing coalition.

Many hoped that Voiculescu, a 37-year old economist, and second-time health minister, would help reform the ailing Romania healthcare system, plagued by decades of corruption and mismanagement.

Members of his USR-PLUS party believe his firing had more to do with his reformist agenda, rather than a series of slips and blunders. His supporters say this was a political backlash as Voiculescu was in the process of replacing heads of the health insurance agencies, which control billions of euros in healthcare funds.

Romania has the EU's worst and most under-financed healthcare system, according to Euro Health Consumer Index and Eurostat.

The country has reported over one million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with doctors repeatedly warning that there are not enough ICU beds left for those hardest hit by the virus.

Bulgaria's Borissov resigns

In Bulgaria, politics might also complicate the ongoing pandemic response. Three-time prime-minister Boyko Borissov resigned.

Even though his GERB party came first in the 4 April election, with 24.2 percent of the vote, Borissov did not have sufficient parliamentary backing to go for another term. The 61-year old former firefighter and ex-mayor of Sofia has been leading the Bulgarian government since 2009.

The ongoing anti-corruption protests that shook Borissov's cabinet, with demonstrators accusing him of protecting oligarchs and interfering in the judicial system, also helped anti-establishment parties make significant gains during the election, leading to a fragmented parliament.

Bulgaria, the EU's poorest member, has also been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic - pushing the health system to the brink, but also the welfare net.

According to the EU agency, European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions, Bulgaria ranked last in the EU in terms of support for businesses and employees affected by the pandemic.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

Covid-19: Romania's rural kids hit hardest by pandemic

The Romanian study reveals that over 60 percent of parents in the countryside have not worked during the pandemic, and close to half are unable to provide adequate food, medicine, hygiene products or school supplies for their children.

After China ban, Romania hit by illegal waste imports

Romania's problem with waste and illegal imports has come under increased public scrutiny after such incidents picked up significantly over the past 18 months - particularly after China, the world's primary importer of waste, implemented a plastics ban.

Support for gay marriage doubles in Romania

A new study has shown that Romanians are increasingly more tolerant towards LGBTI rights - with 43 percent saying that they support a legal form of same-sex union in Romania, either as civil unions or marriage.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Opinion

Is Turkey's crackdown on journalists starting to crack?

With the Biden administration and EU leaders both pressing the reset button on relations with Turkey, could press freedom begin to be restored? Ankara is currently one of the world's biggest jailers of journalists.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us