The Romanian Parliament Tuesday unanimously passed the setting up of the Ministry of European Affairs led by Leonard Orban (photo). During the ceremony, President Traian Basescu congratulated Orban for his new post and assured the minister of his support, remarking that Parliament’s vote for a Ministry of European Affairs being created shows there is a constitutional majority supporting the current government. Before the investing ceremony, a smiling Basescu said, referring to Orban: “Yet another adviser who leaves me”.
The head of state said it is not the ministers who are to blame for the low absorption rate of EU funds, mentioning that the public servants in charge of it are either incompetent or corrupt. In this context, Basescu urged Orban to make a good selection of experts. “I believe, this is a good moment, since a new ministry is being set up, and you have an opportunity to choose the people (…), since, if we suffered from something European funds wise, it is the incompetence of civil servants” (…) Those complaining all the time of how poor public servants are kicked out (…) have never had the gusts and honesty to say how much harm those public servants have done and are still doing because they either are incompetent, would not acknowledge it (…) or they are corrupt,” Basescu said.
The head of state insisted that the newly-established ministry will not handle the money, but take care of procedures and their simplification, as well as support Romania in negotiating the EU budget 2014-2020. “The ministry will have to follow the strict application of the procedures established over the putting into practice of European financing programmes. It will be the interface between Romania’s Government and the European Commission and will have the mission to support Romania’s viewpoint at the negotiations for the fiscal period 2014-2020,” he said. According to the president’s statements, the ministry will not hire employees, but use those from the structures already in place. “In order to exclude any emotions and wake up having two many employment applications, the ministry takes over existing structures, the access and the coordinating authority of structural instruments and the Department of European Affairs,” Basescu said.
Premier Emil Boc said, while on a national television programme Tuesday evening that the new ministry joins the Authority for Coordination of Structural Instruments (ACIS) for European Funds and the Department of European Affairs (DAE), and they will all be accountable to Orban, coordination wise, although it is the prime minister who takes the decision.
Orban: fund absorption not expected to improve soon
Orban warned yesterday that, nonetheless, we shouldn’t be too enthusiastic, since quick, “overnight” progress cannot be made in improving absorption rate, given Romanian authorities’ decision to bring public procurement programmes to a halt until November. Orban however said he will propose the European Commission to re-allocate European funds yet to be absorbed to some institutions, although it will take two to three months until such decision is reached. He also explained that the proposal is aimed at transferring money to where it can be spent. Towards this end, Development and Tourism Minister Elena Udrea yesterday announced she had asked for EUR 1 bln from the European funds not absorbed by other ministries, among which the Labour Ministry, to go to her ministry.
Kelemen Hunor, president of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), told Radio France International (RFI) that, while Leonard Orban could not be expected to make “miracles”, “he will nonetheless do what is humanly possible”.