European Affairs Minister Leonard Orban signed yesterday in Bucharest an agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), represented by Peter Stredder, EBRD’s acting director for Romania, on receiving technical assistance in order to hike the absorption rate of structural and cohesion funds during the EU’s current (2007-2013) and future (2014-2020) financial frameworks, a communiqué informs. The signing ceremony was preceded, during the same day, by the first high-level meeting that the European Affairs Ministry organized in order to coordinate the expertise offered to Romania by international financial institutions in order for her to hike the absorption of structural and cohesion funds. The meeting was attended by representatives of international financial institutions, of the European Commission, and of the ministries responsible for the domains in which the World Bank (WB), European Investments Bank (EIB) and EBRD expertise will be offered. The agreement with the EBRD contains general elements of collaboration that answer Romania’s development needs, the support for the implementation of projects set to be offered to beneficiaries and/or the management authorities of the operational programmes on the basis of service contracts.According to the press communiqué, the EBRD will in a first stage offer Romania technical assistance in three domains: energy efficiency, the development of services and municipal projects, and the private and commercial exploitation of infrastructure (assistance for the development of policies for setting tariffs that can promote commercial exploitation). Until the agreement expires the Romanian government can ask at any moment for assistance in other domains or sectors, the EBRD offering it to the extent it has the competent personnel needed. The costs of the expertise offered by the EBRD on the basis of this agreement will be reimbursed from the technical assistance included in the structural and cohesion funds from which Romania benefits, namely the Technical Assistance Operational Programme and the technical assistance priority pillar included in the Regional Operational Programme and the Environment Sectoral Operational Programme. Thus, through the present agreement Romania does not take financial commitments other than those already taken through the operational programmes already in force, namely ensuring the national contribution of 10-25 per cent to the technical assistance implemented through structural and cohesion funds. On this occasion, the European Affairs Minister expressed his confidence that the Human Resource Development Operational Programme will be unblocked in December following the audit that the European Commission is conducting these days, but pointed out that there is no official confirmation from Brussels yet. “Based on our evaluations we believe that things will be positive because significant changes have indeed taken place. The procedures have not only been improved, sometimes, in certain areas, they even have been changed,” Orban stated, being quoted by Mediafax.
Absorption level of 20 pc includes pre-financings yet to be approved
In what concerns the statement that Premier Victor made on Tuesday both during the government meeting and in front of Parliament, statement according to which the rate of absorption of EU funds has reached 20 per cent, Romania managing to absorb so far EUR 4 bln out of the EUR 19 bln earmarked for her for the 2007-2013 period, Leonard Orban explained: “There are two ways of calculating the absorption rate. One way concerns the sums that effectively entered Romania’s budget and the other concerns only the sums approved by the EC. The latter includes pre-financings received by Romanian authorities. According to these pre-financings, the rate is indeed somewhere in the ballpark of 20.7 per cent. Inflows stand at approximately EUR 4 bln, including pre-financings, and the sums effectively approved by the EC stand at around 10 per cent.”He was unable to point out the date when the EUR 2 bln in pre-financings entered Romania’s budget but according to official sources this sum was fully earmarked for Romania in 2007-2009, without being taken into consideration until now when measuring the effective rate of absorption of European funds.