Thursday

20th Jan 2022

Romania sees biggest protest since 1989 over austerity measures

  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF chief, addressed the cavernous Romanian parliament in March (Photo: IMF)

In some of the largest demonstrations Romania has seen since the ousting of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, tens of thousands of workers and pensioners have taken to the streets to protest the swingeing austerity measures the government is imposing at the behest of the International Monetary Fund.

Between 30,000 and 60,000 mostly public sector workers and retirees on fixed incomes descended upon the capital, Bucharest, on Wednesday (19 May), having been bussed in from across the country, and called on the government to resign.

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

In a worrying sign for the government, even police joined in the protest, with Marian Gruia, head of the policemen's union, calling fellow citizens to unite, "as we did in 1989, when we overthrew the dictatorship," according to a number of local media reports.

The centre-right coalition government of Emil Boc has announced public sector wage cuts of 25 percent and pension and unemployment benefit cuts of 15 percent in an attempt to bring down the country's budget deficit and assuage the concerns of markets. The measures come atop job-benefit reductions in some civil service sectors in 2009.

The Labour Ministry has announced job cuts of between 60,000 and 80,000 positions, including 15,000 teachers, meaning the likely closure of a number of schools in villages.

Additionally, a scheduled increase in the minimum wage has been postponed.

The government is imposing the cuts in order to be able to access another tranche of a €20 billion loan from the IMF. Earlier this month at an auction, the government was unable to attract sufficient takers for public debt.

Already last year, a loan installment from the international lender was delayed following the collapse of the government.

The administration has a small majority in the parliament and has said that it will seek a vote of confidence from the chamber over the measures.

Meanwhile, trade unions have warned they will step up their actions and plan to hold a general strike later this month.

Mayor breaks language divide in mixed Romanian city

The Romanian city of Sfântu Gheoghe plans to bridge the language gap between Hungarian and Romanian speakers by pioneering a programme to incentivise learning each other's languages.

MEPs call for workers to have 'right to disconnect'

MEPs called for a new law guaranteeing workers can 'disconnect' outside work hours, without repercussion. But they also passed a last-minute amendment, calling on the commission to delay any legislation for three years.

EU rolls out vaccine, as UK-variant spreads

Most EU member states began rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 on Sunday, as a more contagious variant from the UK begins to spread on the continent.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs call for full-scale election observers in Hungary
  2. Nato membership 'very unlikely' on her watch: Finland's PM
  3. Germany investigates Green leaders' Covid-bonuns
  4. Officials surprised by Macron's call for seperate EU-Russia talks
  5. Commission to withhold EU funds from Poland in mine row
  6. 'Patriotic millionaires' call for wealth tax at virtual Davos
  7. Borders must not be moved by force, Scholz warns
  8. MEPs demand public consultation on gas and nuclear

Opinion

Sweden's non-lockdown didn't work - why not?

The Swedish king would have been better advised to use his annual Christmas interview to call for unity of purpose and shed light on the political roots of the country's response.

Column

BioNTech: Stop talking about their 'migration background'

I understand that the German-Turkish community - often subjected to condescension in Germany - celebrated the story. Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türecki represent scientific excellence and business success at the highest level.

Latest News

  1. Macron promises strong EU borders
  2. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  3. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  4. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers
  5. Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?
  6. Tomorrow MEPs can end EU animal export horror show
  7. An EU-Africa 'equal partnership' must tackle past and present
  8. Metsola becomes youngest EU Parliament president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us