In Brussels last Thursday and Friday, Romania’s Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu unveiled the priorities of his cabinet to the European union leaders, while reasserting his commitment as Head of the Romanian Executive to continue the fight against corruption.
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu paid a visit to Brussels on Thursday and Friday, on which occasion he met with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, First Deputy-President of the European Commission, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jyrki Katainen, Deputy President of the European Commission responsible for workforce employment, economic growth, investment and competitiveness.
In a press statement released on Friday, the Romanian Government said that the Grindeanu-Tusk meeting addressed the main current affairs in Europe, along with the priorities of the new Romanian Government.
“The Romanian prime minister introduced his government’s priorities, with emphasis on economic measures that boost employment and economic growth, all of which are important in the current European context, as well as of direct interest to the citizens. He also reasserted the governments’ commitment to continue the fight against corruption, for which he voiced readiness for cooperation with EU institutions.”
The Government also says that Romania’s involvement and the consolidation of the country’s role in the EU are some of its main priorities.
“EU’s unity and support for deepening European integration are essential, given the current internal as well as external challenges facing the EU. Any initiative that could lead to division must be firmly fought against,” Grindeanu is quoted as saying in the statement.
EC President Jean Claude Juncker welcomed the abrogation of GEO 13, which “jeopardised the progress registered in years”
During his meeting with Premier Sorin Grindeanu on Friday, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker welcomed the abrogation of government emergency ordinance (GEO) 13, which “jeopardised the progress made in this domain” and asked for transparency for any measure that will be adopted in the future.
According to a communique issued by the Romanian Government, Premier Sorin Grindeanu and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had “a constructive discussion” as part of the meeting the two had on Friday in Brussels.
“The two officials discussed the latest developments as part of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) and about the fight against corruption. President Juncker saluted the Romanian Government’s recent decision to abrogate the emergency ordinance which was jeopardising the progress made over the years in this domain. Prime Minister Grindeanu and President Juncker agreed on the importance of wide consultations with the interested parties and of a democratic process that any future measure would go through. Transparency and openness will be essential for restablishing and maintaining confidence and stability,” the communique adds.
According to the aforementioned source, Juncker encouraged the Romanian Premier to continue the fight against corruption and offered Romanian authorities the European Commission’s support.
“President Juncker reiterated the intention to finalise the CVM during his term, provided Romania meets the necessary benchmarks. The path toward attaining these benchmarks is clearly established in the reports of the Commission for the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism,” the communique points out.
The two officials also briefly tackled Romania’s economic situation.
Juncker expressed confidence that mandate of Romanian Presidency of the EU will be very good in 2019 and offered the Commission’s support throughout the process
“The President encouraged the Premier to continue implementing reforms for economic and social modernisation, while at the same time developing a responsible fiscal policy. They agreed to continue working together to improve Romania’s capacity to absorb European grants. In his turn, the Premier took the commitment to collaborate closely with the European Commission in what concerns the European Defence Agenda. During the meeting, the issue of migration was also tackled. President Juncker welcomed Romania’s contribution to the European Border Police and Coast Guard meant to secure the Union’s common external borders, as well as Romania’s efforts to consolidate solidarity in the migration and asylum domain. Given the fact that Romania is marking 10 years since its accession to the European Union, the Romanian Premier and President Juncker also discussed the future of the EU with 27 member states, ahead of the Rome Summit scheduled in March, and also about the Romanian presidency of the Council in the first half of 2019,” the Government communique reads.
According to the document, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker expressed his confidence that the Romanian presidency’s mandate will be very good in 2019 and offered the Commission’s full support and expertise during the whole process.
Premier Grindeanu at joint press conference with Frans Timmermans: I’ll nominate the Justice Minister next week; a politically non-affiliated person
Premier Sorin Grindeanu announced in Brussels that he is considering nominated a politically non-affiliated person at the helm of the Justice Ministry, a proposal in this sense set to be made next week. The announcement was made following the Premier’s meeting with European Commission First Deputy President Frans Timmermans.
“These days I had talks with several persons. I will decide in the following period, I want to tell you that I’m extremely seriously considering proposing a politically non-affiliated person. I’ve had talks with several persons who at this moment have a professional background beyond any challenge, who have shown and have did very many things in this domain. The meetings with such persons whom I consider eligible are continuing these days and will continue even over the weekend. Probably early next week, halfway through next week I will make a nomination and it could be someone who is not part of the ruling coalition, namely an apolitical person,” Sorin Grindeanu said.
Timmermans: Repealing OUG 13, a very good step. Lifting of CVM depends on Gov’t and Parliament
“The fact that emergency ordinance 13 has been repealed is a very good step, a good thing on the part of the Romanian Government, and it’s good that the Government wants to put national legislation in accordance with EU norms, but this must be done with complete openness, so that anyone who has an interest would see what happens, what is being done, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, any idea that this is being done to weaken the fight against corruption. If this process is done transparently, with the involvement of the community and of stakeholders, then we, the European Commission, can be sure that the fight against corruption will continue with the same intensity,” Frans Timmermans stated in a joint press briefing with Premier Sorin Grindeanu.
Referring to the CVM, the European official said Romania is “in the final stretch of the marathon.”
“It all depends on the runner. The speed is a consequence of the Romanian Government’s and Romanian Parliament’s determination. The Commission can help, can assist, but it cannot dictate the speed. That is up to the Romanian authorities, and the speed will determine when the finish line will be reached. It’s important for them to continue and we encourage the Romanian Government to take all steps in this direction,” Timmermans said.
In his turn, Sorin Grindeanu said that during the talks he reiterated the firm stance of continuing the fight against corruption.
“I can assure you of our desire to have the correct speed, so that the next report would be a very good one. I want 2019 without the CVM,” the Romanian Premier added.
According to the European Commission First Vice President, the meeting was “very constructive, extremely frank on all that the stage of implementing CVM measures means.”
“We will point out what we want clarified, so that we can meet all the requirements within the CVM,” Timmermans concluded.
“No to-do list for Romania’s judiciary from EU officials”
At the end of his meetings with European officials, Premier Grindeanu stated that he did not receive a “to-do list” from them, stating that European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker told him that his wish is for the CVM to be lifted for Romania at the end of his term.
Asked whether or not he was asked for a guarantee in relation with the modifications considered in the Romanian judiciary, Grindeanu said: “Do you mean to ask whether or not I have some to-do list? No, I do not.”
He added that the Romanian Government wants “the clarification of certain terms so that we could achieve all of the European Commission’s recommendations.”
“The speed should be the appropriate one in order to remove the CVM. For that, in the following period, teams of specialists will transmit these things to the European Commission in order for us to very clearly know the route we must take.”
He deemed that the recommendations included in CVM reports have changed during the 10 years of monitorisation.
“If we look at how things were 10 years ago, the recommendations made 10 years ago and those included in the latest report are not the same, they’ve evolved in time. Romania has evolved too and has taken extremely important steps from this standpoint. Everything that the commitment I took and I maintain means. I said this too in Parliament, at the no-confidence motion, so that everything that CVM regulations means, everything that Romanian judiciary laws mean, laws amending the Criminal Code or the Criminal Procedure Code, of course, given by Constitutional Court decisions, these things will take place in Parliament. The desire of the Government I lead is for those aspects to be clarified. (…) We want to remove those obstacles left in order to eliminate the CVM. I can tell you one more thing: Mr President Juncker’s desire, for Romania to have the CVM lifted before the end of his term. It’s what he directly conveyed to me today,” Grindeanu said.
“I respect protesters’ opinions; I’ve got their message”
He also stated that he followed the street protests, deeming them peaceful and appreciating the creativity of the protesters, pointing out he understood their messages and repealed GEO 13. Following his meetings with European leaders, the Premier pointed out he did not receive a “to-do list” from them, mentioning however that European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker told him that he wants Romania to have the CVM lifted by the time he finishes his term.
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu asserted that he respects the opinions of the protesters and got their message, but discussions over this topic will be conducted in Parliament.
“I have watched the protests all this time (…) both when there were tens of thousands of people before the Government building and right now, when the protests got smaller. I respect the protesters’ opinions and I appreciate their orderly fashion of protesting, and I even appreciate the creativity of many of our fellow nationals displayed all this time. (…) I’ve got the message they sent,” Grindeanu told a news conference in Brussels.
Grindeanu’s statement came when asked what would be his message to the people that keep protesting in Bucharest and to the nearly 20 protesters who showed up before the headquarters of the European Commission when he was meeting European officials.
Grindeanu also pointed out that the repeal of the emergency ordinance amending the Codes is proof of the protesters’ message having been understood.
“Even if you may make a questionable decision at a time, when rallies and protests emerge in the society, which has happened in our country, it means yours was not the right decision and that is why you have to discard your decision, which we have done. All that regards discussions over this area will continue in Parliament, (…) as more players than just the political class should be involved. That is what I would like to see happening,” said Grindeanu.
He added that GEO 14 was issued in reaction to the street protests.
Likewise, when answering a question related to the hour at which GEO 13 was adopted, Grindeanu explained that the Government meeting started at 8 p.m., being conditioned by the Supreme Defence Council’s report on the state budget, and ended at 9.30 p.m., GEO 13 being implicitly approved at that time.
“ I reaffirmed Romania’s commitment to the European project”
Grindeanu stated that during meetings with high officials in Brussels he reaffirmed “Romania’s commitment” “to the joint European project”.
“The discussions were as open as possible, discussions in which we presented the up-to-date situation in the country (…) We explained what we want to do in each domain, (…) in the judiciary, the economy, and we also wanted to reaffirm the Romanian Government’s commitment to the joint European project,” Grindeanu stated in a press conference in Brussels.
“Finally we have a promulgated budget”
“Today, I had an extremely important discussion with Deputy President Katainen, extremely focused, on the economic side, on attracting European funds, on all that has to be improved, so that everything we have set ourselves as target, namely the absorption, this year, of 5.2 billion euro, we can carry out,” Grindeanu stated.
The Head of the Executive has made reference to the fact that the 2017 budget was finally promulgated by President Klaus Iohannis, after several days of delay, just one day before his arrival to Brussels.
“Finally, we have a promulgated budget, which means, given the targets we have set, an economic growth of 5.2 percent (…) Although late, almost end-February, it is a good thing to be back to normalcy (…) Through the budget already promulgated yesterday by the President, we have established a 2.95 percent deficit. It’s an ambitious budget (…) If we only look from a certain angle or starting from a certain aspect, our ambition (…) comes from the European grants. It is ambitious to absorb more than nil, as it was absorbed last year,” Grindeanu specified.