The project is criticized not just by the opposition but by ruling coalition members too, the Democrat-Liberal and UDMR representatives facing the prospect of putting their offices at risk or losing funds.
After the PDL MPs met Premier Emil Boc on Monday, PDL MP Costica Canacheu stated that each MP and party branch will have their own calculations and negotiations will take place. Other representatives of the ruling coalition’s main party do not seem phased by the MPs’ possible dissatisfaction. Asked whether the administrative reorganisation idea will be accepted by PDL MPs, MP Sulfina Barbu, President of the Lower Chamber’s Public Administration Commission, stated that “there is no risk for the party.” “I’m convinced that most of my colleagues in Parliament know very well this aspect of local level development and responsibilities, I don’t believe there will be surprises from this point of view,” she said. On the other hand, Barbu does not deny that ruling coalition partners are dissatisfied. “The true challenge is for the whole ruling coalition to take responsibility for this project, and by that I mean our ruling coalition partners UNPR, UDMR and the representatives of ethnic minorities,” she said.
The bone of contention will be the fate of the Mures, Harghita and Covasna Counties, UDMR wanting them to form a single region. No later than yesterday, UDMR President, Kelemen Hunor warned the administrative reorganization with eight regions is far-fetched, arguing a person would have to walk 300-400 kilometers to solve a problem. The Magyar leader said no official discussion has took place yet inside Coalition, adding the Union has his own bill on this subject which is presently in Parliament and which advances 15-16 development regions.
The final decision on this project will be taken in a week’s time when it will be known whether the Premier will opt for taking responsibility for the draft. The Democrat-Liberals seem in a rush to promote it. President Basescu himself tackled the territorial reorganization issue yesterday during a meeting with British businessmen in London, saying the process might begin this year. In the head of state’s opinion, the administrative reorganization is meant to diminish bureaucracy and to let local communities to decide for themselves.
Pros and cons
For the time being the Democrat-Liberals have not mentioned the number of Counties that will be left after the reorganisation, stating that doing so “would get ahead of the process of negotiations,” however their unofficial option is to create eight large regions. Sulfina Barbu stated yesterday for RFI that Romania could consist of “a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12 regions,” pointing out that in her opinion eight would be “enough.” The Prefects and Presidents of County Councils (CJ), set to be worst affected by a possible reorganisation, had different comments. Tamas Sandor, President of the Covasna CJ, stated that taking into consideration European standards one cannot create eight Counties or regions, the existence of 16 administrative units being optimal. Constantin Simirad, President of the Iasi CJ, rejected the 8-region option too. Constantin Simirad, an independent backed by PDL, labeled it as “nonsense” since there is the danger of growing autonomy demands from rich Counties.
In his turn, Cluj County Prefect Florin Stamatian considers that the ideal solution would be to lower the current number of Counties to half and to create larger Counties by merging some of the existing ones. Unlike him, Democrat-Liberal Alin Tise, President of Cluj CJ, agrees with the 8-region option. Social-Democrat Mircea Cosma, President of Prahova CJ, is in favor of 12 or 14 regions. Brasov County Prefect Ion Gontea considers that an administrative and territorial reorganisation is definitely beneficial but will probably be applied after 2016.
PSD believes stakes are purely political for PDL
The Social-Democrats are by far the staunchest opponents of the initiative, claiming it is an attempt to confuse the electorate before the local elections scheduled in 2012. Liviu Dragnea, President of Teleorman CJ, stated that the ruling coalition’s administrative reorganisation has nothing to do with more efficiently tapping EU funds, the stake being “redrawing Romania on the basis of PDL fiefdoms.”
PSD and PNL leaders Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu stated only that they will present their view on regional development on Saturday. The two joked about Emil Boc and Traian Basescu. “Did you ever think they tricked us or they’re tricking us? That Boc is the brain and Basescu is his puppet?” Antonescu asked Ponta, the PSD President answering: “That’s already an apocalyptic scenario. Boc thinking is breaking news.” According to an analysis published by ‘Gandul’ daily, lowering the number of County Councils/ Regional Councils to eight would diminish PSD’s willingness to make room for PNL candidates, given that competition will be much higher.