On April 25, European Commissioner Corina Cretu sent to Premier Viorica Dancila, Minister Lucian Sova and Minister Rovana Plumb, a letter in which she expressed her concern about the risk of disengagement of EU grants, according to the document that the National Liberal Party (PNL) presented on Monday.
“I write to you about the current situation of investments in the transportation domain, as part of the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 period. Considering we are approaching the halfway point of the current financial framework and that this is the moment in which the Commission’s services start the preparations for the next financial framework, I am extremely concerned about the planning and implementation of transport infrastructure projects that are co-financed in Romania by the Cohesion Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. (…) In this sense, Romanian authorities will have to give special attention to the budget exercise in 2019 and in subsequent years in order to avoid the disengagement of funds, since the projects that are in the second phase will near completion and the new projects risk being still in the starting phase, without generating the necessary expenditures,” European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu points out in the letter addressed to Transport Minister Lucian Sova, European Grants Minister Rovana Plumb and Premier Viorica Dancila.
Cretu warns that so far only four new major projects for the railway sector have been filed in 2014-2018, expressing her concern about the incipient phase of the projects.
“The preparation and presentation of new projects for the current financial framework has been significantly delayed. So far, only four major projects have been filed in four years: the Radna-Gurasada-Simeria railway section (EUR 1,306 million from the Cohesion Fund, approved), Phase II of the Sebes-Turda Highway (EUR 272 million from the ERDF, approved), the Campia Turzii – Ogra – Targu-Mures Highway (EUR 247 million from the Cohesion Fund, under assessment), and Bucharest Subway’s Main Line 6 (EUR 657 million from the Cohesion Fund, under assessment). Recently, Romanian authorities have announced a list of major transport projects that they want to forward to the Commission in 2018, including: Danube bridge at Braila, National Road 73 Brasov-Pitesti (phase two), sections 1 and 5 of Sibiu-Pitesti, Craiova-Pitesti, Transylvania Highway, and the Bacau beltway. I welcome the fact that new projects are being prepared for forwarding to the Commission, but at the same time I express my concern about their low level of maturity,” the letter reads.
The European Commissioner also points out that, because of this, our country risks “immediate disengagements.”
“The fact that the preparation of the projects is very poor and consequently focused on a limited number of investments, means that the delays registered in the implementation of these handful of projects could lead to immediate disengagements that year, thus endangering not only the priority transport axes that are part of the LIOP – considering the expectations from the sphere of these projects and the sums at stake – but also the cohesion policy in Romania in general,” according to the mentioned source.
Considering the things revealed by Corina Cretu’s letter to the Executive, PNL demands the immediate resignation of Premier Dancila and of the two ministers.
“The weak capacity of drawing the financing put at the disposal of our country through the 2014-2020 financial framework – EUR 1.5 billion allocated for the Romanian transport sector – is visible. I am convinced that it has been on the two ministers’ table for two weeks, but it was not made public. The tone of this letter is imperative for the Romanian authorities. They say very clearly that we will lose infrastructure money because the authorities are unable to prepare the projects. We ask Prime Minister Viorica Dancila to tender her resignation and to take with her the two ministers too – Lucian Sova and Rovana Plumb. Failure can no longer be tolerated,” House lawmaker Lucian Bode (PNL), chairman of the House Committee for Transport and Infrastructure, stated on Monday at the press conference in which Corina Cretu’s letter was presented.
Transport Minister’s reply following Corina Cretu’s stern warning on grant absorption: I believe she refers to previous periods
On Monday, referring to European Commissioner Corina Cretu’s letter, Transport Minister Lucian Sova stated that it refers to previous periods, pointing out that, at present, infrastructure projects “are at a level of prepared over-contracting that surpasses 200 percent.”
“I’ve seen this letter, tomorrow we will meet all the entrepreneurs working in infrastructure, both road and rail. I believe the contents of Mrs Corina Cretu’s letter refer to the periods prior to the exercise we have had in the last year. From the standpoint of the absorption of European grants, LIOP, infrastructure, she is not the only one in charge. LIOP manages other domains too, and there are probably some reasons why Mrs Corina Cretu did this. We pay attention that no project jams and of course we try to consider the mistakes of the past, if there were mistakes,” Lucian Sova stated.
He claimed that there is no risk of disengagement.
“At this hour, the infrastructure projects managed by the Transport Ministry are already at a level of prepared over-contracting that surpasses 200 percent,” Sova added.