Romania needs a change in the manner of doing politics that cannot be done by one man only, as that entails the involvement of those who want it, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, told Agerpres in a recent interview.
” I believe this new, younger generation who wants a change for Romania is increasingly more assertive about their wish, in an active manner. I would like to see more and more of these people running on the tickets of political parties, which, I believe, should understand, even at the eleventh hour, that their credibility is not just a function of the speeches of political leaders, but also a function of the programmes they advance and especially of their tickets for elections,” said the Prime Minister.
Furthermore, he reiterated he will not run in the general election this autumn.
The head of the Executive also spoke of the reforms started under his tenure in several domains, including the economy, healthcare and education.
In the interview to Agerpres, Ciolos also talked about of his participation in the past few days in the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Mr. Prime Minister, the current session of the UN is marked by the bloody war in Syria, the dramatic consequence of which is the refugee crisis. President Obama called for more solidarity with the migrants. On the other hand, the EU is strongly divided on this matter. What was Romania’s position in New York and what is our approach of this matter of refugees?
Romania’s position was the same as the one known at a European level. Romania wishes to help in this process. Firstly, we have supported and continue to support the fight against illegal migration (…), through border control. I believe the illegal crossing of borders does not support the refugees, the real ones. The European Union should be able to control this process, and once the phenomenon gets under control, we inside the European Union will be aware of having to take certain responsibilities, but we will do so on a voluntary basis, not imposed from the top. After discussions and decisions at a European level, Romania has voluntarily made some commitments. I want to be crystal clear: we did not take up additional obligations here in New York besides the ones already taken at a European level. And on a European level, we have insisted on the fact that Romania can help protect borders from a logistic, material and human resources point of view. Romania is very active inside FRONTEX with qualified staff and equipment, the material resources; as far as the resettlement policy is concerned, we have taken responsibility for a certain thing, it’s just that the hotspots in Greece and Italy are still functioning pretty slowly.
On the other hand, the main way in which we can control this process of asylum seekers is to control conflicts and contribute to conflict settlement. So, negotiations in order to settle conflicts. From this point of view, in my discussions here with the president of Egypt, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and with the UN Secretary General, I emphasized that Romania is ready to use its contacts for identifying solutions to end conflicts.
Bulgaria has requested in the past days 160 million euro from the EU to build new facilities for migrants. It will receive 108 million in the first stage. It seems the migratory route has changed. Is it possible that we face a migrant flow? Will we ask for financial support from the EU, if need be?
At the moment, it is important to continue showing that we can control the borders. Romania has so far proved that. I’ve had talks with Mr Minister Tudorache [Interior Minister Dragos Tudorache] on this matter. As a matter of fact, he will be taking part in a high-level meeting in Austria, an informal meeting to address the Balkan migration route. Romania is not on the route, but the signal we want to convey by Mr Minister Tudorache’s participation is that we provide support to our neighbors when needed, while at the same time asking them to cooperate to be able to maintain control at the Bulgarian-Romanian and Serbian-Romanian borders, first of all where bigger pressure might occur.
You met in New York with the president of Finland. You discussed preparations for the EU Presidency troika in 2019. What are the latest developments in the preparations for this pretty important moment and what will you do at a governmental level so that 2019 finds us prepared?
There are two things that should be done and that we will prepare: on the one hand, a logistical and administrative preparation and on the other hand, a preparation of the agenda for discussions that Romania could propose. From the administrative and logistical point of view, we have created with the [Government] Chancellery a team that will prepare this presidency. We will recruit persons with skills in various areas because we will have to have this team complete and well verse in the topics that we will have to cover, next summer, at the latest. Romania will have to manage, as President of the Council of the European Union, several working groups on different topics, on subjects that will be debated at a European level at that time. Thus, we are preparing this team and we have begun selecting people there.
On the other hand, we are discussing with our European partners, especially those in the troika, to identify items on the agenda that Romania will propose and support. Cooperation will be necessary in this regard with the European Commission, with the Council and the Parliament like, to see what the topics at that moment on the agenda will be and what other topics Romania could introduce on the agenda. From my discussions with the Finnish president, we have reached the conclusion that one topic will almost certainly be that relating to the Eastern Partnership – to the Neighborhood Policy – especially the Eastern Partnership, in which both Finland and Romania have an interest. And, probably, the Enlargement Policy, the way in which the Enlargement Policy will evolve on an EU level. In this regard, certainly, Croatia will have an interest.
What is Romania’s position on the creation of a single European army, given that we are a NATO member state?
I believe the idea of a single European army is an idea that can evolve in the long run. In a short and medium term, the first matter is heightened cooperation between European member states for a more coordinated intervention in certain theaters of war where the European Union has an interest and can help. Anyway, our position has been very clear from the beginning and, from what I understand, is the position of most of the EU member states that are also NATO members and that is that this heightened coordination at a European level must be ensured in complementarity with the NATO missions, and not to replace the role of NATO. In this regard, I can tell you I have had several discussions also with the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, who confirmed to me each time that NATO also looks upon favorably to this strengthening of the role the European Union can assume in different theaters of war.
On the other hand, I believe that at a European level, through this heightened coordination, we can ensure a better complementarity and link between the policy to equip the army, on one hand, in different member states, including the development of the defense industry, and this strengthening of the role of the European Union in defense policy.
There are supporters of yours who are reproaching you of not running in the election. What message do you have to send them?
The main message is that I believe Romania needs a change in its doing politics. Such change cannot be made by one man alone, and what it entails is the people wanting the change getting personally involved. I took responsibility for that and got personally involved as early as last November, by taking up the office of the prime minister. I said back then that I will not run in the general election, precisely in order to preserve credibility in the balanced approach by the incumbent Cabinet. That does not mean I am not interested in what will happen at this election, and that is why I am urging all those wanting a change in Romania to do it. It is a good thing that they are all over the social media, in the public space generally speaking. I believe this new, younger generation who wants a change for Romania is increasingly more assertive about their wish, in an active manner. I would like to see more and more of these people running on the tickets of political parties, which, I believe, should understand, even at the eleventh hour, that their credibility is not just a function of the speeches of political leaders, but also a function of the programs they advance and especially of their tickets for elections.
So, I am encouraging them, and I can assure them that I am not indifferent to what happens in Romania or what will happen in Romania next. On the other hand, I believe a statesman should be consistent with himself and not lie.
Do you share opinions with President Iohannis, that Romania needs a political government come winter?
Well I believe in a democracy, otherwise I don’t see why we’d have elections anymore. Elections have precisely the role to set in place a majority in Parliament that would then propose and support a government. So long as this government stems from parties that have a majority and is supported by these parties, it is a political government.
You are past the halfway mark in your term. What do you believe is the greatest achievement of this tenure and what do you regret not being able to do?
Let’s be realistic now, I don’t know if we can speak of great achievements in ten months. Our objective was, firstly, to maintain balance, to ensure conditions for continuing the rising trend of economic development in Romania and to start certain reforms that I had announced from the beginning. Along the way, other crises emerged that we had to resolve (…), and to launch certain reforms, as those in the healthcare sector, in the wage policy sector. In these sectors, we were aware there is need for reform, but we did not predict that in a short space of time we could do certain things, yet we were compelled to do them. What I believe is important in this period is that, in the administration reform process, we have launched and I believe that we have went pretty far with this process of debureaucratization, of simplification in administration. It is an essential matter in preparing administration reform, because it can regain the trust of the citizens in the state and in administration. On the other hand, we also gave a signal in administration that from now on things must move differently, be more oriented towards the citizen.
In the economic sector, things have developed well and that is because we have taken certain measures to strengthen the predictability for the business environment. There too we have simplified and clarified some things. We have established a policy of state aid and support of small and medium-sized enterprises that is more clear, more transparent and more objective. The results can be seen because investment in the private sector, as well as jobs, has gone up.
In the healthcare sector, we have done things that had not been done in many years, this rebalancing of wages, including the clarification of the situation of additional on-call time. We are now launching an approach for investment in the healthcare sector, investment in hospitals, which will be a medium and long-term approach.
In education we have started certain things as well. Touching up on the wage policy, even if we couldn’t go as far, in the first stage, as we went in the healthcare sector, but it’s a clear approach: professional development and dual training, which is essential at this moment in order to attract investors.
What didn’t you have time to do? What did you wish could have changed in these months?
I wish we went further with administration reform. Unfortunately, we were not prepared here, there was not enough ambition from ministers that should’ve approached matters more head on. But the gears are in motion there, too, because based on the strategy for public service, the local public administration strategy, which is now in preparation, and the strategy regarding professional development in administration, we will modify several laws to introduce certain elements of reform that we had initially planned and this is something we will do until the end of my tenure.