European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corin Cretu reacted after the European edition of Politico, an international publication, published an extremely harsh article about her. Romania’s representative within the EU “government” was accused of asking her aides to do her laundry and shop for groceries, of having too much time off and of breaking various European Commission regulations.
After she was assaulted with phone calls from collaborators and persons close to her, Corina Cretu made a series of statements on Facebook, pointing out that the Politico article is an unprecedented and groundless attack.
“Out of respect for the truth, for my team, and I am talking about my cabinet as well as DG Regio colleagues, and, last but not least, out of respect for those who constantly follow my activity, I have decided to make the following statements:
The first year of my term was characterized by an extremely busy schedule, with a lot of meetings and working missions in member states. For instance: so far I have visited 24 countries, I have had official meetings with over 40 regional presidents, I have taken part in over 10 debates within the European Parliament, within its special committees or during plenary sessions, I have attended 6 Council of Ministers summits in Strasbourg, dedicated to the cohesion policy. My public agenda reflects this intensity of commitments.
As I promised at the start of this term, all ERDF operational programmes for 2014-2020 have been adopted. Throughout this year, my team and I have focused on this goal and today I am proud of what we have accomplished. We now have packages of solid investments, centred on performance in order to help regions and cities attain the EU’s economic development and job creation goals.
This good start makes me hopeful that the following years will be just as good if not better, because these programmes will definitely have a substantial impact on people’s daily life.
I plan to maintain this rhythm next year too in order to ensure the implementation of these programmes as fast as possible.
I am proud to have a team of professionals with remarkable experiences and achievements. Together, we have managed to register special results this year. Personnel changes in commissioners’ cabinets are not exceptional, especially in the first year of the term in office when many realize that the level of activity is much higher than they imagined when they accepted the challenge.
However, I want to assure you all that honesty and integrity have stood at the basis of my entire activity in the last 25 years and I will never abdicate from these principles. Thank you,” European Commissioner Corina Cretu wrote on Facebook.
Why Corina Cretu’s staff is leaving her
“Nearly half of EU Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Creţu’s closest staff resigned during her first year in office over concerns about the Romanian’s work habits.
Current and former employees described an office in disarray amid the departures of her head of cabinet, deputy head, and her communications chief, among others.
The unusually high turnover — with 8 out of 19 people in her private office gone in 12 months — came in the wake of concerns about the commissioner’s light work schedule as well as her tendency to combine official trips with leisure travel and to ask staff to perform personal tasks, such as doing laundry, shopping for groceries and chauffeuring family members,” writes politico.eu.
According to politico.eu, several aides in Creţu’s personal office left because they feared that they would not be able to defend her. The staff grew so concerned that the commissioner was taking too much time off that her then-head of cabinet warned against blocking her schedule for “commissioner time” or “no meetings” because it might look suspicious.
POLITICO spoke to 11 former and current staffers in her Commission office, many of whom declined to comment on the record about the staff upheaval.
A copy of the commissioner’s personal schedule for the past 12 months, which POLITICO obtained, often showed no meetings on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Staff sources said an open schedule meant she usually wasn’t working during those times.
Among the 28 commissioners, Creţu has one of the highest absentee rates at the weekly meetings of the full Commission, or College, missing nearly a quarter of them.
Creţu, a 48-year-old politician who worked briefly as a journalist in her youth, shows a cavalier attitude to Commission rules that fed the frustrations of members of her cabinet, the sources said. For example, former and current staffers said, Creţu smoked cigarettes in her office, flouting an institution-wide ban.
“Everyone said, ‘You can’t do this,’” according to a former staffer quoted by politico.eu, “but she said, ‘In Romania, a minister can do whatever they want.’”
Creţu’s bumpy ride in Brussels comes at a difficult time for Romania on the EU stage. She was appointed by Victor Ponta, the former prime minister who resigned last month and faces corruption charges. His wife is one of Creţu’s close friends. According to several sources, Creţu has told her staff she plans to run for public office back home in the future.
As EU regional policy chief, Creţu is not in charge of one of the Commission’s higher profile portfolios. She has made few legislative proposals. But she does oversee spending of more than €350 billion on economic development projects in the EU’s poorer regions for the 2014-2020 period, roughly a third of the bloc’s budget.
To date, there have been no official complaints about Creţu’s behavior or investigations related to staff issues, according to a Commission official.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said she “is a solid member of Team Juncker and doing a great job as regional policy commissioner for jobs and growth.”
In an interview last week, Creţu defended her work habits, saying she maintains a full professional and travel schedule.
“I’m the one who never says no,” Creţu told POLITICO. “I visited 24 countries, I oversee all of the operational programs. I have 700 people in the DG [Directorate-General] who I’m preparing for. I’m preparing for the cabinet.”
Creţu acknowledged trying to keep meetings to a minimum but said she spends a lot of time reading to prepare for them.
“I prefer less meetings and to be more prepared than to have more meetings and not know what I’m saying,” she told POLITICO.
She declined to respond to questions about staff concerns that she had asked them to do personal tasks. “I would not like to lower myself to that level,” she said. “It’s unfair.”
In response to a detailed inquiry, the commissioner’s new head of cabinet Nicola De Michelis cited the “intensity” of Creţu’s schedule as a reason for the high staff turnover in the office, and said it is normal for staffers to leave if the workload expands.
“Personnel changes in cabinets are not exceptional, especially in the first year of the mandate when work requirements are involving too much portfolio-related priorities not known earlier,” he said.
Neither Creţu nor the chief of her cabinet would address questions about specific reasons why staffers resigned or about her activities during periods of time when her schedule appeared light.
Staffers said the departures were related to the commissioner’s work habits.
“I left because we had different work styles and she needed someone more accommodating to her work,” former communications director Dragoş Bucurenci, who resigned his position in July, told POLITICO.