According to the minister of European Affairs, Leonard Orban, Romania will not lose European money following the financial corrections, as it negotiates with the EC the possibility of re-allotting the money to problem-free programmes.
The financial corrections applied to Romania for the setbacks existing in 5 operational programmes might amount to hundreds of millions of EUR, of which those for the Sectoral Operational Programme Human Resources Development (POSDRU) are estimated at EUR 75 M, the minister of European Affairs, Leonard Orban announced Wednesday in a press conference held at the representative office of the European Commission in Romania, Capital.ro reports. “With regard to the financial corrections for the interval January 1, 2007 – October 2011, for the 4 operational programmes Transport, Environment, Competitiveness and Regional, we have not started negotiations yet, in fact the conciliation with the European Commission, we are waiting for the formal letter in Romanian, which will probably come in few weeks, and then we will have a deadline of up to 2 months for completing these negotiations,” the minister said.According to Orban, the figures are confidential now. However, Romania will not lose the European money following the financial corrections, as it negotiates the possibility of re-allotting these funds to programmes without problems. Romania will enter a very serious financial gridlock if the state does not urgently repay over EUR 200 M to POSDRU projects, in order to catch up with payments, Dan Barna, executive partner in www.fonduri-structurale.ro – Structural ConsultingTM Group warned. According to the financial expert, suing public authorities in court would not be a good solution, because a court verdict about repaying the overdue sums to beneficiaries will put a strain on the state budget, and the money will be eventually taken from taxpayers.
The solution:Internal payments from the state budget
Speaking about POSDRU, the minister of European Affairs said that the only solution to secure internal payments to beneficiaries is the money transfer from the state budget to the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education. POSDRU, a programme managed by the Labour Ministry, is currently in a pre-suspension phase, at the European Commission, but the minister of European Affairs said that there is the possibility of avoiding the suspension. As for the four other programmes that ran into trouble, the minister explained that the Romanian side expects “a differentiated decision.” “I don’t think that there still exists the idea or risk of suspending all the operational programmes; more probably, if this is how things will evolve, it will go from programme to programme and, if even this will not work, from priority axis top priority axis,” Leonard Orban mentioned.
Ministry for EU funds, operational as of 2014
The future ministry that will coordinate all programmes with EU funding, announced Tuesday by PM Victor Ponta, cannot be set up immediately after the parliamentary elections of this year and may become operational only in 2014, when the next budget exercise will begin, the minister of European Affairs, Leonard Orban announced. According to the source, the future ministry will not directly manage the money provided to EU-financed programmes and, instead, will secure the observance of procedures in the absorption of European funds.
Salaries of those in charge with EU funds, equalised starting 2013, at the highest level
European Affairs minister Leonard Orban said that the government asked the European Commission to equalise the salaries of the people in charge with European funds starting January 1st 2013, at the highest level, which is that of the Ministry of Regional Development. Asked about the thresholds of the salaries paid to these civil servants as of January 1st 2013, Orban explained that the idea is to raise them at the top level, which is that paid to the employees of the Ministry of Regional Development. “I cannot give you figures; the idea is to raise the salaries at the highest level, hence at the salaries that are the highest now, and I believe that the highest salaries are at the Ministry of Regional Development,” Orban added. The minister explained that salary differences are among the setbacks present in the European funds absorption system, along with the irregularities present in public acquisitions and with conflicting interests.
Banking union, major impact upon Romania
Another topic approached by the minister of European Affairs was the future European banking union, which will have a major impact upon Romania, said Orban, who added that he works on defining the position of Romania towards the proposals made by the European Commission. “Let’s remember the fact that over 80 per cent of the banks present in Romania are subsidiaries of banks from member states of the euro zone, so this will obviously have a major impact. We are analysing this and we hope that, within a reasonable time interval, we will finalise these talks and define our position,” Orban added. He mentioned that, in negotiations, Romania mainly wants to have a well-defined role in the decision making process of the European banking zone.In a different move, the Minister of European Affairs, Leonard Orban will undergo next week hearings in the European Parliament, in view of being appointed as member of the European Court of Auditors, after he was proposed by the Romanian government for this office.