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The meeting was held behind closed doors, the press being allowed in only shortly at the beginning. After the meeting, President Basescu left without making any statements. On the other hand, PM Victor Ponta and the minister of defence made statements to the press.
The Chief of the General Staff, General Stefan Danila, said that, in the year of crisis 2012, budget restrictions had affected the activity of the Army by deteriorating the technical condition of equipment and the level of training. ‘In spite of that, our priority objectives, including international commitments, intervention and support of the population in emergency situations as well as the combat service were fulfilled by concentration of resources and determination of the personnel,’ Mediafax quotes the SMG Chief as having said.
The Army official also noted a first priority had been existing international commitments as a NATO member state, materialised in the participation in operations in Afghanistan and Western Balkans, as well as by the activity of the staff operating in the NATO command structures. Danila also said Romania, as an EU member state, had participated in the operations in Africa with the King Ferdinand Warship. Danila also mentioned the performance of the combat service under NATO and national command, providing the permanent monitoring of the air and maritime space.
On the other hand, Defence Minister Mircea Dusa said the members of the Committee planning defence and operations in Afghanistan would present a time-scale for withdrawal and Romania would fulfil all its obligations. ‘If capabilities are reduced proportionally with what will be decided by the defence planning Committee, Romania’s capabilities in Afghanistan will be also reduced accordingly,’ the minister said.
At the end of the meeting, PM Victor Ponta told the representatives of the Ministry of Defence that h appreciated the fact they had always kept clear of political debates and assured them that, by 2016, the Defence budget would constantly grow, 2013 being the first after six years when the budget was ‘slightly grown’.
The head of the Executive told the press that the minister of defence had been mandated by CSAT to conclude negotiations for the procurement of used multirole combat aircraft in the upcoming months. He answered in that way a reporter’s remark that ‘existing aircraft’s useful life will expire in two years’ time’, leaving Romania with no combat aircraft if the Government did not make a decision in the matter. The PM however noted the decision did not only belong to the Government, but also to CSAT. Defence Minister Mircea Dusa said he wanted to have, in the first part of the year, a very clear objective regarding the acquisition of multirole combat aircraft, noting that, the following week, he will discuss the subject with his Portuguese counterpart. The useful life of Romania’s MIG jets expires in 2017.
At the end of 2012, the premier was saying the F16 multirole combat aircraft Romania planned to buy was already in use, but was going to be equipped to last 20 years, the cost of new one being far too high for the country’s financial capabilities at the moment. Corneliu Dobritoiu, who, at the time, was Minister of Defence, in his turn said the F16 multirole combat aircraft would be bought from Portugal and that the 12 used jets would cost approximately USD 600 M, payable over five years. According to Dobritoiu, the first payment worth USD 70 M was falling due in 2013.
‘Not all military pensions will be recalculated’
The PM said yesterday the Government would not recalculate all special pensions, as over 90 per cent of the military retirees had got a pay rise from the first recalculation, but would look for ‘a fair solution’ in particular cases, for those pensioners whose benefits had been cut.
Last week, Premier Victor Ponta said there had been various issues with the calculation of special pensions, but noted that pensions were not calculated by ministers, but by legally designated persons who would be held liable if found responsible, according to the conclusions of the Prosecutor’s Office, Court of Auditors or Ombudsman.
Asked by the journalists whether he and the current Deputy Prime Minister/former Defence Minister Gabriel Oprea had discussed the irregularities identified in the pension recalculation process, Ponta said Oprea had still been the head of Defence when 90 per cent of the military retirees received higher benefits by recalculation. Asked by the press if there were information on a possible DNA case involving the increase of pensions in the absence of supporting documents, the prime minister answered: ‘If the law has been broken in any way, the person who has broken the law will be held accountable. I have made an official request. There is no judicial investigation in progress for a member of the Government. If there is, I will certainly take the due measures,’ Ponta said. Defence Minister Mircea Dusa said yesterday he had brought to the attention of ‘relevant authorities of the ’Romanian state’ certain irregularities identified by an audit commission in connection with the erroneous calculation of military retirement benefits.