The decentralisation project should not be abandoned, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila told a meeting of the General Assembly of the National Union of Romania’s County Councils hosted by Parliament Palace in Bucharest on Thursday.
“We discussed decentralisation, and I said that there was a decentralisation project – [national leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD)] Liviu Dragnea worked on a decentralisation project, but you know very well that it was rejected by the Constitutional Court (CCR), which does not mean it is an abandoned project. I want the ideas, the first steps to be taken from the local administrations to the government so that together we can carry on this project,” Dancila said upon leaving the event.
Asked about the steps to carry forward this project, Dancila mentioned the establishment of a working group. “Let’s not just say at the declarative level in the local administrations that we want decentralisation; let there be a working group, and let each county come up with proposals on how to get the decentralisation; let us hold public consultations with experts, as it has already been done an try to put everything into practice as well (…) I cannot specify a timetable, but in my opinion we should start as soon as possible taking the necessary steps,” said Dancila.
She added that another discussion regarded European funds, with her reaffirming the need to speed up the process.
“Every community pins their hopes on European funds (…) They have said they want to take all the steps to make up for the delay. As you know, in 2016 we did not even have the accredited management authorities in place, we did not have the guides launched; it was only in mid-2017 that we were able to accredit the authorities and launch guides for the absorption of European funds,” said Dancila, adding that the pace of absorption is accelerating.
“EU funds absorption rate not satisfying; risk of losing 800 million euro under ROP”
The absorption rate of European funds isn’t satisfying, and there is even a risk of losing 800 million euro under the Regional Operational Programme (ROP), Prime Minister Viorica Dancila also said on Thursday at the General Assembly of the Romanian County Councils Union (UNCJR), and made a call on the local and central authorities’ representatives to communicate the problems they are encountering in this respect, in order to be urgently solved.
The PM said that infrastructure, namely the correlation of the funding sources for carrying out investments of the local authorities both from the National Programme of Rural Development and from European funds or programmes will further represent a priority for the Government, so that at the end of the mandate, in 2020, an assessment can be done to see whether the targets planned in the governance programme were met.
“European funds – in 2017 we managed to accredit all management authorities and, even more, we introduced in the pay law a 20 percent granted to mayors, county council presidents, where we have projects carried out from European funds. However, the absorption rate isn’t satisfying, and there is even a risk of disengagement on a 800 million euro amount on the Regional Operational Programme. I don’t believe it is the case to remind you how vital these funds are for the development of our counties, be them water-sewage or waste projects funded from the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme, or roads, hospitals, schools, funded under the ROP. The capacity and experience you have at your disposal, as well as the capacity as presidents of the regional development agencies, members of the ROP monitoring committee, enable you to support the absorption enhancement, and the problems you encounter in accessing [funds] you can communicate to me so we can urgently solve them,” PM Dancila said.
According to the head of Government, the regional hospitals represent a particular situation.
She also announced that the local public finance code is completed, and it will be adopted by the end of the year. It was created based on the formula meant to balance local budgets.
She pointed out that together with Deputy PM Paul Stanescu and Minister Eugen Teodorovici she will watch the implementation of the measures under the 2018 budget law, namely the regularisation of the balancing amounts for each territorial administrative unit, in accordance to the budget execution on 31 December 2017, to make sure the revenues in 2018 don’t decline under the 2017 level.
Dancila underscored that UNCJR has represented an important landmark in the dialogue local administration – central administration and the proposals and solutions promoted and supported were found in several draft laws.
She also gave guarantees that decentralisation remains a project agreed by the Social Democrat Party (PSD) Chairman Liviu Dragnea, and this project’s continuation is necessary.
PM Dancila rules out running for party office in March 10 congress convention
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, chair of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Women’s Organisation, on Thursday ruled out running for party office in the extraordinary convention of the PSD Congress on March 10.
“I think that the prime minister’s job is very time-consuming and I have to be engaged a lot. A party office would entail me doing extra work there. I am already the chair of the Social-Democratic Women’s Organisation, which gives me a seat on the National Standing Bureau. That is enough for me. I will be continuing my advocacy for equality opportunities, gender equality and women. I do not think it is appropriate for me to run for office,” Dancila told a news conference at Parliament Palace.
“I expect JusMin to stay within confines of the law, make objective analysis”
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said on Thursday that she expects Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stay within the confines of the law and make an objective analysis, while making the necessary decisions.
“I am expecting the justice minister to stay within the confines of the law, to observe the law, to make an objective analysis and make the necessary decisions related to the analysis he has done,” Dancila said at Parliament Palace.
She argued that there was no need to talk with Toader before the Thursday evening press conference that released a report on the managerial activity at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA).
Regarding Toader’s cutting short his official visit to Japan and return to Romania, Dancila said Toader managed to meet his Japanese counterpart before returning to the country.
County council official Oprisan: Oftentimes county councils’ work hampered by stuffy, piecemeal legislation
The ongoing convention of the General Assembly of Romania’s County Councils (AGCJR) is a good opportunity to discuss and highlight the most important issues related to the balancing of local budgets for the current year, the use of the 2017 budget surplus, investments that can be conducted under governmental programmes, European funds and, last but not least, public procurement, Chairman of the National Union of Romania’s County Councils (UNCJR) Marian Oprisan said Thursday.
“Unfortunately, far too many times, our activity is hampered and even blocked by stuffy, piecemeal legislation. That makes it harder for s to do our job and leaves room for legal interpretations on the part of both the public servants and the inspection and control bodies. Today’s decision makers have understood these things and we are in the process of bringing legislation in line with the realities of today’s Romania, an imperative thing that we must do together – the local administrations, the Romanian Government and Parliament,” Oprisan told the opening of the AGCJR conventions, also attended by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila.
Oprisan also underscored the need to accelerate real reforms that imply “especially” administrative and financial decentralisation.
“Mrs Prime Minister, we are telling you in all responsibility that the difference between the administration of Romania and the administration of the Western countries that are consolidated democracies is immense. Countries that are consolidated democracies got decentralised 40-50 years ago, which led to a level of their development that we can see today (…) As we have seen in the European space, things have to happen down there; the decision must be close to the citizens, because if we keep permanently knocking at the doors of the ministers and at the doors of the Romanian Government, the problems of the citizens we govern will never be solved in a proper and timely manner,” he said.
According to him, Viorica Dancila is the first prime minister who promises not to close the national budget at the expense of local administrations.
“The Prime Minister promised us when she was inaugurated that we will first ensure the necessary resources for the functioning of the local administrations in Romania and later on we complete the national budget for the current year,” added Oprisan.