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2012 month by month in Romania – November: Banking frauds, Oltchim strikes and dwarf dinosaur eggs

Back at the beginning of November a big banking fraud story broke. Right from the outset, it was clear that this was a serious case; staff from three major Romanian banks, BRD, BCR and CEC Bank, as well as members of the Economy Ministry were implicated. The estimated value of the fraud was EUR 22 million, but despite its size and seriousness, it paled next to another case just over a month later.

Romanian banking fraud group brought in for questioning, alleged EUR 22 mln damages

Romanian lender BRD’s VP arrested in EUR 22 mln fraud scheme

Some Romanians detained, BRD VP released, but investigations continue into EUR 22 mln bank fraud case

Backpackers’ bible Lonely Planet featured Transylvania in its top ten European winter destinations for 2012/2013. Lonely Planet couldn’t resist the Dracula connection, “gorgeous medieval towns with various connections to Vlad Ţepeş, the historical Dracula,” reads the winter destination guide.

Romania’s Transylvania among Lonely Planet’s top 10 European winter destinations

The new EUR 52 million departures  terminal at Bucharest’s Otopeni airport was open in November, part of a three phase modernization started in July 2011. The new terminal had been designed to meet Schengen Area requirements, as well as providing extra capacity. The relocation of budget flights from Baneasa airport had put extra pressure on Otopeni.

New EUR 52 mln departures terminal doubles capacity at Bucharest’s Otopeni airport

The privatization fiasco may have been over and bid winner Dan Diaconescu had gone back to using his media company to publicize his Popular Party promises, but at the Oltchim chemical plant, the plight of the workers had not improved. In November, they went on strike – not for better working conditions or higher wages – just for some wages, as they hadn’t been paid for September or October.

Oltchim workers protest for unpaid wages, demand Romanian PM’s presence, 5 on hunger strike

Economic results for the first nine months of 2012 showed that the economy had slid again in the third quarter and only recorded 0.2 percent growth between January and the end of September. Growth predictions had been tumbling all year and without a marked upturn in the fourth quarter, growth could be lower than the more pessimistic estimates.

Romania’s economy slides in third quarter while nine-month growth only slightly above stagnation

Romanian innovation triumphed at the Eureka competition in Brussels in November. Inventor Corneliu Birtok-Baneasa came up with an air filter for engines that reduces fuel consumption by up to 12 percent. He developed the product himself and retained control of the fabrication and marketing of the air filter by setting up his own company. His fuel saving air filter is now on the market.

Romanian gets gold at Brussels invention fair for air filter which reduces car fuel consumption

A shocking case of police brutality emerged in November, in which officers from Romania’s intelligence unit SRI allegedly beat a man to death. The victim had been searching for scrap metal and the reports suggested all the hallmarks of the very worst abuse of power. The man was beaten during interrogation and when he he collapsed, the commanding officer ordered the officers involved to keep the matter secret. The old Nazi line “I was only obeying orders” even came out, when three captains involved blamed their commanding officer for their actions.

Four Romanian intelligence officers accused of murdering suspect: ‘Beat him, kill him, bury him out back’ said Commanding Officer

Dwarf Dinosaur eggs went on display at a new information center in the Dinosaur Geopark in Hateg, Central Romania. According to Discovery.com, fossils were discovered in the area more than hundred years ago by the sister of Austro-Hungarian aristocrat Baron von Nopsca, a paleontology enthusiast with a reputation for eccentricity. He theorized that the small bones had belonged to a dwarf species of dinosaur. The area where the remains were found had been islands in the time of the dinosaurs and the Baron suggested that as island dwellers, they had been cut off from the main stream of evolution and got smaller over the generations. His theory was dismissed until recently when new research showed that the bones had indeed come from a dwarf adult, rather than a young dinosaur.

Dwarf dinosaur egg nest becomes center piece at new Dinosaur Geopark information center in Romania

There was good news right at the end of November when the latest European figures showed that unemployment in Romania had fallen to its lowest level since the crisis. EU statistics office Eurostat put the unemployment rate for Romania at 6.9 percent in October – the lowest rate since 2009.

Unemployment drops to lowest rate in Romania since before the crisis

editor@romania-insider.com