The freezing temperatures continued into February, but the cold weather didn’t stop the Romanians protesting. A few days into the month, Prime Minister Emil Boc announced his resignation and a new cabinet was installed.
The River Danube froze and blocked shipping in the Delta area, near Tulcea and temperatures were down as low as minus 27°C. The Black Sea port, Constanta harbor, also iced over.
Also at the beginning of the month, Romania’s communications authority reduced the amount mobile phone operators could charge for calling other networks. It was a busy year for the communications authority; as well as bringing down call costs, it ran the bid for spectrum concessions later in 2012.
Another month and another corruption conviction. This time round, Romanian businessman and media boss Sorin Ovidu Vantu was convicted of extorting money via a protection racket. Vantu apparently threatened to kill a business associate and his family if he didn’t give him protection money.
Although nobody needed reminding, there was another reminder of just how tough the financial times have been in recent years when Hungary’s national airline Malev collapsed dramatically. Malev had run continuous operations for over 60 years but the company had been struggling and was finally seen off by an EU ruling that the airline had to repay state aid. Malev ran regular flights into Bucharest and other airlines stepped in to fill the gap left by the Hungarian national carrier.
In the face of ongoing protests, PM Emil Boc stepped down on February 6. After coming into office in 2008 he oversaw the tough austerity policies put in place in Romania to tackle the debt crisis. His government’s actions included one of the toughest measures taken in Europe: a 25 percent across the board public sector pay cut.
Mr Boc defended his time in office, saying his policies had been necessary. “I had to make extremely tough and painful decisions, after sleepless nights and with a lot of unease. [...] But we cleaned up and made the country better,” said Emil Boc on his resignation.
Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu was interim PM for just a few hours, before President Traian Basescu announced the nomination of a new Prime Minister in the evening of the same day.
Former foreign intelligence head Mihai Razvan Ungureanu was nominated as PM and asked to form a new cabinet. The new PM had also served as a Foreign Affairs Minister and had formerly been a member of the National Liberal Party (PNL), part of what was then the opposition Social Liberal Union (USL). He resigned from the PNL back in 2007 when he became an intelligence head, which was required for the role.
The news of the first discoveries of natural gas in Romania’s deep water Neptune perimeter broke in early February. ExxonMobil and OMV Petrom are equal partners in the Neptune perimeter exploration and exploitation project.
On February 9, the Romanian parliament approved Mihai Ungureanu’s new cabinet, but the then opposition USL boycotted the vote as part of a political protest. The new cabinet got down to business and although its position was perhaps weak, having been installed as an alternative to the early elections demanded by the opposition, there wasn’t really anything to suggest that it was destined to be a record breaking short lived government.
The year’s first payment freeze on EU funds by the European Commission came in February when the Commission announced the cessation of funding to the POSDRU human resources Operational Programme. The EC cited irregularities in public acquisitions as the motive for the measure.
Sundance Select picked up Cristian Mungiu’s latest film in February, acquiring North American distribution rights to Beyond the Hills/Dupa Dealuri. Cristian Mungiu had previously won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and Beyond the Hills went on to be a festival favorite over the year. The film’s lead actresses Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur were jointly awarded the Palme D’Or for best actress later in the year at Cannes 2012.
Despite the protests and the new government, Romanians were still feeling the effects of harsh economic austerity measures insisted on by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the EC and the World Bank as part of the country’s bailout agreements. The Romanian Railway Company (CFR) announced 1,000 jobs would be cut in March. The news of more layoffs in a state owned company came hard on the heels of an announcement of redundancies at the Romanian Post.
As February ended, temperatures climbed and the new government was blissfully unaware of its impending doom. In the final few days of the month, the EC cut its prediction for economic growth in Romania for 2012. The EC reduced its estimate from 2.1 percent to 1.6 percent 2012 growth. This was followed by falling predictions for growth throughout the year from various organizations.