PM Ponta: The European fund absorption rate has gone up from 7 percent to 25 percent.
The partnership agreement for the new EU multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 might be concluded between Romania and the European Commission early next year, after last strategic elements are finalized, Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner on regional policy, and Prime Minister Victor Ponta stated yesterday at a meeting at Palatul Victoria. The two talked also about the absorption of European funds and the EU strategy for the Danube region. Commissioner Hahn will stay in Bucharest for two days to participate in the second Annual Forum on the European Union’s Strategy for the Danube Region.
“We have discussed and will keep discussing about the main strategic aspects of the new partnership agreement. We are completely open to ideas and truly wish to set Romania’s objectives before next year; we also wish to be able to conclude the Partnership Agreement at the start of 2014,” Victor Ponta said. In turn, Hahn pointed out that the agreement for the new EU budget will be concluded between Romania and the European Commission after several sectoral strategies mentioned in the partnership are thoroughly developed. The EU Commissioner commended Romania’s progress in absorbing European funds, but he emphasized that authorities still have a lot of ground to cover in this respect. “Certainly, we talked about preparing the Partnership Agreement and it is, indeed, likely for a consensus to be reached early next year with regard to the Partnership Agreement. Of course, several sectoral strategies are necessary, but these should be visible,” Hahn said. The European Commissioner also highlighted the Danube Strategy’s importance in regional development, explaining that the strategy consists of 400 projects with EUR 49 billion in financing. Prime Minister Ponta thanked the European Commission for its support in improving administrative capacity, which has resulted in unblocking all sectoral programs and reaching an absorption rate of 25 percent. “The annual absorption rate of European funds – both cohesion and structural funds – has gone up from 7 percent last year to 25 percent today. Nonetheless, it is important to maintain this rhythm to make up for lost years,” the head of government pointed out.
Ponta expressed Romania’s determination to work efficiently toward implementing the EU Strategy for the Danube region. “We are determined to work efficiently as a team with our Bulgarian, Serbian, Austrian and German partners toward implementing this strategy’s objectives. We also hope the strategy will draw the transport, environment and tourism projects the Danube Region and Romania need,” the Romanian Prime Minister underlined. The European Commissioner for regional policy also stated that the Danube Strategy that has been in operation for two years is ‘a success story.’ “The overall volume for the 400 projects is close to EUR 49 billion and this strategy will provide economic growth and job opportunities,” Hahn said.
Apart from Johannes Hahn, guests invited at the Annual Forum on the EU Strategy for the Danube Region included Michael Spindelegger, Austrian Foreign Affairs Minister, and Dacian Ciolos, European Commissioner for Agriculture. According to Carmen Podgorean, national coordinator of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (SUERD), 900 participants are expected to come to Bucharest.
The Executive Committee Reunion of the Council of Danube Cities and Regions, part of the Forum, took place Sunday and was attended by mayors and government officials of the 14 Danube states. Sorin Oprescu, mayor of Bucharest, also took part in the reunion. He stated it was important for the growth of Bucharest and the entire region to create a link between the capital city and the Danube through the Bucharest-Danube channel. “This channel enables a direct connection between Bucharest and other capital cities and major European centers, as well as connections with other counties or areas of Romania, and it will help create the basis for a European waterway network. I strongly believe this channel is a pillar in the development of Romanian and Bulgarian towns,” the mayor of Bucharest said.