The stand out story of 2012 had to be the political melodrama that kept the local and the international press enthralled, drew widespread criticism and eventually elicited firm rebukes from the European Commission. Along the way there were three new governments in the space of just a few months, botched privatizations and a referendum to impeach Romania’s president Traian Băsescu.
But perhaps some of the biggest stories were about what didn’t happen: despite his unpopularity, president Basescu was not impeached, Oltchim wasn’t privatized and Romania didn’t join the Schengen area.
Elsewhere, there have been plenty sporting highlights with the Olympic games in London and the Europa League finals in Bucharest.
Plenty of corruption cases have hit the headlines in 2012, involving the great, but clearly not so good. The biggest fish of the lot in the anti corruption directorate’s catch was former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who is currently in jail for corruption.
A hot summer and some big concerts and festivals in Romania, with a number of major names from the music world making stops in Romania this year.
Romania-Insider.com chose the most important 12 stories of the year.
Romania witnessed the year of extreme weather in 2012. It started out with heavy snowfalls, blizzards which took over various regions of the country, including capital Bucharest, and continued with snow melting and threatening to cause flooding.
The summer brought some more of the extreme weather – there was little rain in the summer of 2012, which affected crops across the country, turning 2012 into one of the worste year for agriculture.
The year seems to end in another wave of cold and blizzard, with meteorologists issuing codes Yellow and Orange for some counties.
The political battle took over Romania in 2012 probably more than anytime in the past. POlitical instability was reflected via the frequent Government changes. The year started with a Government change, and then another- a short lived Government, with a third change after the recent elections on December 9.
It was not only that – plagiarism accusations emerged in case of some Government members which had to be replaced while the issues were being investigated.
A new Government was proposed and will most likely be voted until this Christmas.
The center piece of this year’s political battle in Romania must be the attempt to impeach the president and the referendum organized in July. With the president on the sideline for around two months, campaigning for his return, and the leader of one of the opposition parties taking his seat in the meantime, Romania was seen as adrift during the hot months of the summer of 2012.
European leaders scolded the country for various irregularities and the whole issue kept everyone busy- media, politicians, commentators – until late autumn.
The president Traian Basescu survived the referendum, which did not reach its needed threshold to be validated.
All these were not enough, and the President and the PM choose to enter a long, almost silly public quarrel, which ended up in more European – level scolding for Romania
In times of crisis, Romania tried to get more money to its budget. Selling some of its assets seemed like the best sollution to cash in some money, but things were not that simple.
The first of two major failed privatizations this year was of state company Cupru Min. Dyring the short lived Government led by Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, the state tried to sell the copper mine Cupru Min, and even had a company interested to buy. But the deal somehow slipped through the Government’s fingers.
Former PM and other big names sent to jail
Romanian prosecutors seem to have been busier than ever this year, which kept the media on its toes as well. Some big names ended up in prison, after long years of dragging their cases in the court. The biggest name was the former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, whose imprisonement was not without fuss. On the night when he was supposed to go to jail, he tried to kill himself, but survived and ended up in prison. The whole subject stirred pros and cons from the media and analysts in June 2012.
The list of important names sent to jail continued:
Local and general elections
Romania faces massive political campaigning this year, with local elections held in June, and general ones, in December. In both elections, the Social Liberal Union, which took over power in Romania mid-year, emerged as winners.
Romania’s biggest energy company, the state owned hydroelectricity giant caused a stir when it filed for insolvency. The reason appeared to be numerous suspicious contracts under which Hidroelectrica was in effect giving away energy. The insolvency procedures appear to be helping, Hidroelectrica has been allowed to cancel many contracts with the so called ‘smart guys,’ who were allegedly conning the state out of millions via their dubious contracts with the energy producer.
The London Olympics
It wasn’t the country’s biggest Olympic medal haul, but there were some memorable performances by Team Romania. The two gold medals came in shooting and gymnastics with Alin Moldoveanu winning the 10m air rifle event and Sandra Izbasa taking gold on the vault in the gymnastics competition. The women’s gymnastics team took the bronze medal, helped on their way by Catalina Ponor’s final Olympic appearances. She won an individual silver for the floor exercises and with three career Olympic gold medals, a silver and a bronze she has secured her place in Romanian sporting history. Overall, Romania won two golds, five silver and two bronze medals.
In the Paralympics, a tiny Romanian team managed to win two medals. Both were won by cyclist Eduard Novak – one gold and one silver – a fantastic achievement and hopefully an inspiration for greater Romanian involvement in the Paralympics.
… or not. Despite hopes for Schengen accession in 2012, it wasn’t to be. Opposition from a number of countries, the most vociferous of which was probably the Netherlands, has pushed back accession to the open border area back and back. The political crisis didn’t help either but throughout the European Commission has repeatedly come out in support of both Romania and Bulgaria’s accession.
Building highways… eventually
Whining about the pace of infrastructure development is a favorite pastime in Romania. Progress, or more often than not lack of it, has been in and out the news all year. There have also been a number of corruption cases involving highways and the theft or misuse of funds, including the recent fall of Romania’s Asphalt King amid criminal charges. But there was a sunnier side – The Bucharest to Constata Sun Highway was finished – after more than 30 years.
Telecom spectra auction
Whether or not it’ll prove to be the end of the world, 2012 was already the end of the frequency spectra licenses held by the mobile phone companies. Romania’s communications authority ANCOM was charged with organizing the public auction of spectrum rights, in some cases valid for the next 15 years. It was a big deal – big companies Orange and Vodafone, big money – over EUR 680 million raised in the end, and, if things had gone wrong, it would have been a very big embarrassment. Happily, the auction went well and all parties seemed reasonably satisfied with the prices paid for the frequency blocks. And it was all done and dusted pretty much on schedule.
Europa League final in Bucharest
Romania failed to qualify for the EURO 2012 finals in Ukraine and Poland, but the final of the UEFA Europa League was hosted by Bucharest this year. Sadly, all the Romanian teams had been knocked out of the competition and in the end it was an all Spanish affair with Atheltico Madrid taking on Athletic Bilbao in the National Arena. But the event brought tens of thousands of visitors and big boost to local trade. Getting home proved a little difficult for the thousands of Spanish fans and their were complaints over how the capital’s airports handled the situation.
Lady Gaga in Bucharest
It was one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year. One of the hottest acts in popular music arrived in the middle of a summer heatwave to play for 35,000 people in Piata Constitutiei. Lady Gaga encouraged fans to follow her lead dress outrageously for the event and she didn’t disappoint – plenty costume changes, weird and wonderful onstage sets and two hours of hits from the petite enfant terrible de pop.