Romania “cannot afford the luxury of even contemplating leaving the European Union,” European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu told in Bucharest on Monday where she participated in the “EuroImpact – Impact and results of cohesion policy in Romania; experiences with accessing funds and implementing funded projects” conference, organised by the European Institute of Romania (IER).
“In recent years, I have understood that the communication part of the cohesion policy has to be an integral part of our common efforts. It is not communicating just about the existence of programmes or funding systems that, perhaps, are more abstract things to the everyday people, but to show people the concrete effects of optimising European funds,” said Cretu.
She added that there is now “an anti-European rhetoric that is getting increasingly more visible.”
“I believe that Romania cannot afford the luxury of even contemplating the idea of leaving the European Union especially now, when the presidency of the Council of the European Union is ahead of it, when it has the possibility as a European Union leader to change things for the better from inside,” Cretu pointed out.
Romania has lost 1.8 – 2 billion euro in transport infrastructure, a sensitive area
Romania has lost between 1.8 and 2 billion euro from a total allocated funds of 19.5 billion euro in its most sensitive area, the transport infrastructure, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu said Monday.
“From 2007 to 2011, the absorption rate was 4pct. I took office in 2014 with an absorption rate of 48pct. We close the financial cycle (…) with an absorption rate of nearly 90pct (…) Unfortunately, of 19.5 billion euro allocated to the funds I manage – the Cohesion Policy and the Regional Development Fund – between 1.8 and 2 billion euros have been lost for Romania’s most sensitive area, the transport infrastructure,” Cretu explained.
She pointed out that there were “things that have affected Romania’s potential” of taking full advantage of the benefits of the Cohesion Policy.
“But, of course, if we look at the full part of the glass, of the 19.5 billion euro for the period 2007-2014, 17.5 billion euro were spent, but only about 14-15 billion were actual ground works, because almost 3 billion were saved under retrospective projects by taking over EIB and EBRD credits that Romania still had for completed projects such as the Sun Motorway that had already been built but for which the government would still pay loans. Likewise, we have also taken over the wages of all officials working with European funds in Romania, precisely in order to reach this 90pct absorption rate and to relieve the national budget of this borrowing burden,” said Corina Cretu.
She underlined that in the current financial cycle Romania has a total allocation of about 31 billion euro, including money for agriculture.
“European funds provide funding for about 60-65pct of public investment in Romania. I say every time there were problems with project implementation. I was talking about cumbersome procedures and reduced administrative capacity. Today,we are talking about things that did not happen yesterday or in the last year. This is a weakness of Romania that goes back to the beginning of its joining the European Union when the country was not ready to access such a sum of money,” Cretu said.
” For the rest of my term I want to maintain a permanent dialogue with Gov’t”
She underlined that for the rest of her term in office she aims to maintain a permanent dialogue with the Romanian Government, in order to be able to contribute to the improvement of certain things, such as the low quality of infrastructure in our country.
“What I aim to do for the rest of my tenure – four years have already passed since I was anointed European Commissioner – is to maintain a permanent dialogue with the Romanian Government, with the national authorities, especially considering that on January 1, 2019 Romania will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. I will be a supporter of a successful Presidency and I commit, during the time left, to try to improve the things that haven’t been improved. For instance, the very bad quality of the infrastructure we are all aware of, for this is something that affects all citizens. This weak quality limits our economic growth potential, especially in areas such as transportation, environment and energy, that’s why, every time, I talk to the authorities to speed up the projects in this field,” stated Cretu.
The European official specified that, lately, there were strengthened the efforts of identifying and implementing the necessary measures to increase the EU funds utilization rate and the quality of the financing projects.
Moreover, she underscored that, in 2007-2013, there were 14,000 small and medium-sized companies in Romania that were supported, thus 51,000 new jobs have been generated.
“The European Commissioner also spoke about European investments in the waste field. “There were 299 waste storage facilities that were closed. Unfortunately, the single ex-ante condition that is still not met at this point by Romania refers to this waste field (…). Romania was sanctioned by the European Court of Justice and I believe that we must accelerate in meeting this ex-ante condition, considering that we pay sanctions every day to the European Court of Justice,” said Corina Cretu.
According to the European Commissioner, the Cohesion Policy also invested in the transportation infrastructure.
“Despite, of course, all the warning signals that I sent related to the major transport projects, the Cohesion Policy has been investing heavily in transport infrastructure, especially in the county roads. And it also invested in the healthcare and educational infrastructure – 2,4888 schools have now Internet due to the European funds from the last ten years; there were also 100 polyclinics and hospitals that were modernized (…). Speaking of the medical system, I have approved, not long ago, the modification of the Regional Operational Programme (…) This modification (…), allowed the allocation of 73 million euro to buy ambulan
“European Commission has prioritised completion of Romania’s international transport network”
The completion of Romania’s international transport network, including the Sibiu-Pitesti section, is a “priority” with the European Commission, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu told a news conference in Bucharest on Monday.
“To the European Commission, it is a priority to complete the international transport network that includes the link between the Republic of Moldova and Western Europe. And the Sibiu-Pitesti portion, which is the missing link between Rotterdam and Constanta, is indeed a priority and we wait and see. The project cannot be submitted to the commission because there is no environmental agreement,” Cretu explained.
She said there are funds for the feasibility study for the Targu Mures-Iasi motorway.
“In the transport master plan adopted by the Romanian Government, I repeat, the Romanian Government, the Sibiu-Pitesti, Targu Mures-Iasi, the Bucharest ring road, the Pitesti-Craiova motorway portions, Braila bridge are all seen as priorities. As far as I am concerned, when they are ready as projects, we are ready to receive them, whether or not they feature in the master plan,” she pointed out.