County council chairs “are beating a path” to Bucharest and submitting “mountains of documents” to access European funds, Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu said Tuesday, adding that things are about to improve in that relation.
“You are still beating a path to Bucharest, still submitting mountains of documents to access European funds that you have to sign page by page, at least that was my experience as a county council chair last December. (…) I have discussed the matter with Mrs Deputy Prime Minister, Mrs Minister Plumb, Mrs Corina Cretu and officials of the European Commission. Things are about to improve. Some of them have already been simplified, because all this red tape wastes a lot to time,” Grindeanu told a convention of the General Assembly of the National Union of Romania’s County Councils on Tuesday at Parliament Palace in Bucharest.
He also said that there are still problems with public procurement.
“We have to get out of this vicious circle, because strategic projects that Romania needs, that the counties you represent need, can no longer be blocked. The citizens in the end need the projects. Because all these years when, for instance no bears, no beavers, no tortoises and no bats would stymie us, for instance when building the Lugoj-Deva motorway portion, there would be ‘professional’ protesters that in their turn would stymie important projects strategic to community development,” said Grindeanu.
He added that laws will be changed, if need be.
“We have to solve this problem once and for all and change laws if need be, because Romanians cannot continue to swallow up forever motorways – just to give one example – that are only drawn on a board; people need to see them, these motorways need to exist. Investors want to transport faster what they make; they need the infrastructure,” said Grindeanu.
Dragnea: Elected local official will probably end up being president of Romania in 2019 too
Social Democratic Party (PSD) President Liviu Dragnea believes that in 2019 a person who was previously elected to an office of local authority will end up being president of Romania.
“I was elected local official, the Prime Minister was elected local official, the Romanian President was elected local official and, probably in 2019 too, an authority who was elected locally will be elected president. This says something. Local administration is the public system closest to the people. This creates advantages for all elected local officials, who are more anchored in reality and do not come to Bucharest for empty talk. Every day, the elected local official is stopped on the street by citizens who have concrete, daily problems that we must solve,” he pointed out on Tuesday at the General Assembly of the National Union of Romanian County Councils (UNCJR).
He pointed out that for many years central authorities “kept in Bucharest the whole package of decisions.” In this sense, he added, in the 1996-2000 period the County Council chairman or the mayor had “almost no kind of administrative or financial levers.”
“Gradually, as part of a process that wasn’t easy, some of us negotiated with the Government, asked for the support of European institutions from Strasbourg, Brussels, and a relaunch started to appear, nearing on decentralisation. (…) In 2003 and 2004 the first openness took place, it was continued but not with very great courage,” Dragnea pointed out.
In the context in which the President of UNCJR was about to be elected at the meeting, Liviu Dragnea noted the presence of numerous new county council chairmen. “It’s a change of generations. I also understand why Marian [Oprisan] will be once again re-elected today, to be a bridge between generations, but also to maintain experience in what concerns the continuation of lobbying – to put it this way – for the drafting and adoption of important laws for local administration,” Dragnea said.
“Mayors and CC Chairmen will not have sufficiently high salaries. I don’t understand the logic according to which incompatibility has effect on different mandates”
At the same time, PSD President Liviu Dragnea also stated at the UNCJR meeting that mayors and the chairmen of County Councils will not have sufficiently high salaries, emphasising the fact that the elected local officials concerned are accountable for every civil servant but do not benefit from all the rights a civil servant has.
“In the salary law, local authorities will have higher salaries. I was personally asked, on many occasions: ‘What’s your comment on the fact that mayors will have higher salaries?’ My comment is the opposite: mayors and County Council chairmen won’t have sufficiently high salaries,” Dragnea said.
“The two scales, one holding the responsibility of local authorities and the other their salary levels, are profoundly imbalanced at the expense of salary levels,” Dragnea said.
The PSD President pointed out that a mayor must sign every page of every European grants dossier, which means taking responsibility for anything that a civil servant does, but without having the right to benefit from the bonuses enjoyed by those who work with European grants.
“The mayors and [County Council] chairmen are only good to be accountable for everything, have a plethora of constraints, don’t even benefit from all the rights that a civil servant has. In return, when they must be probed they are considered civil servants. When they must benefit from certain rights they are dignitaries and so they must have only an indemnity and very many constraints,” Dragnea added.
“I don’t understand the logic according to which incompatibility has an effect on a different mandate”
Dragnea added on this occasion that he does not understand the logic according to which incompatibility has an effect on the next mandate or on a mandate in a different institution.
“In what concerns incompatibilities, I’m raising a very simple question: if it’s proven that an elected local official is found incompatible in 2015, let’s say, and eventually the court’s final ruling establishes that he is incompatible, it’s natural for him to lose his mandate. But how can we explain the fact that incompatibility dating back from 2015 or 2011 or 2012 has effect on the next mandate too or for a different mandate in a different institution? I talked with very many people, from the country and from abroad, and I for one found it very difficult to explain this because I don’t understand the logic either,” Dragnea stated at the meeting with County Council chairmen.
He added that the National Integrity Agency (ANI) is an institution that benefitted and continues to benefit from support.
“ANI is an institution we supported, we continue to support. When I was Development Minister, I approved the financing for a project, the integrity warner that would prevent a great deal,” Dragnea added.