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Romanian report
by Euro Reporter
2015-05-31 12:16:03
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Death metal drummer saving Romania's addicts from HIV

romania_400_01Addicts in Bucharest shoot up as many as 30 times a day. Paraic O'Brien went to meet the death metal drummer who is trying to stem Romania's drugs and HIV epidemic. Mikhai Tanasescu, is a drummer who is also part of a team of young health workers giving out clean needles to addicts and condoms to prostitutes, trying to stem an HIV tidal wave. Mikhai says drumming and performing saved him from the sort of life lived by the addicts he now helps.

The World Bank's global Aids programme is warning that a raft of countries in Eastern Europe are on the brink of a new HIV epidemic, driven by cheaper synthetic heroin alternatives. Mikhai reckons that some addicts, using these "legal highs", shoot up 30 times a day. And that means the likelihood of people being infected with HIV goes through the roof.

Among drug users being supplied with clean needles are the addicts who live in the tunnels under Bucharest - as well as a young couple who are forced to bring their small baby to the night-time needle bank. Team leader Dan Popescu says "harm reduction" is all about time. "The first step is to shoot less often," he said.

It is the perfect storm for drug users across Europe: rocketing levels of legal high injection, coupled with a tightening of the purse strings on health budgets. The political chattering classes are debating over austerity - while people in Bucharest are dying over it. Romania has tried but struggled to plug the funding gap.

So why should people in the UK care about a possible public health crisis in a poor corner of Bucharest? Take the example of Ramona. She has two children in Bucharest, one in Britain. She spends part of her time as a sex worker in Tottenham and Ilford, suburbs of London. In our connected world, HIV "harm reduction" is connected too.


Romania to send oil and gas royalty tax law to parliament in September

Romania's government will send a draft law on royalty taxes for the oil and gas sector to parliament in September, Deputy Finance Minister Dan Manolescu told an energy seminar on Monday. The new tax system will likely include differentiated royalties for onshore and offshore extraction and will apply only to new contracts. It will also include a levy on profit from upstream activities, in addition to the global flat 16 percent tax on profit, and a system of deductions based on investment, Manolescu said. Romania is one of the European Union's poorest states, but it has a wide range of energy resources, including gas and coal, and some analysts have said relatively low royalties prevent it from making the most of what it has.

Companies currently pay royalties ranging from 3.5 to 13.5 percent of production for oil and gas, depending on the amount extracted. They also pay a tax on special buildings such as oil wells and a tax of up to 60 percent on income from higher prices due to ongoing energy market deregulation. Both levies are temporary. "We aim that revenues collected under the new system are at least as high as current ones," Manolescu said. "The draft will be sent to parliament in September, when parliament reconvenes from the summer holiday." He said it was not yet decided the level of the additional tax on profit from upstream actives, nor the amount of deductions.

Romania has left royalties unchanged since 2004, a condition it agreed to under the 2004 privatisation of oil and gas group Petrom, now owned by Austria's OMV. It planned to introduce the new system last year, but a November presidential election delayed the debate.


Romania acts to save forests from logging spree

A fierce debate has erupted over a new forestry code in Romania aimed at protecting unique wildlife habitats and controlling the logging industry. This month thousands of Romanians took to the streets to demand action against dubious sales of forested areas. Green campaigners back the new code, hoping it will curb illegal logging.

The anti-corruption agency DNA is investigating some officials in the state forest administration Romsilva, as well as some politicians. The Carpathian Mountains, sweeping in a big arc through Romania, have vast tracts of virgin forest, home to almost half of Europe's wild population of brown bears, wolves and lynx. But Gabriel Paun, head of activist group Agent Green, complains illegal logging has inflicted losses of at least €5bn (£3.6bn; $5.7bn) on Romania since the communist regime was toppled in 1989.

Deforestation has reduced Romania's forest cover to about 26% of the total land area, he said, "but scientists say 36% should be the minimum". "Here the national parks are administered by forestry people, but in other countries the parks administration is independent from forestry," he told the BBC. Agent Green reports that 366,000ha (904,020 acres) of Romanian forest was illegally chopped down in 1990-2011 - some 80m cubic metres (2.8bn cu ft) of wood.


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