European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu launched a scathing criticism of the government of her home country Romania, whom she bitterly accused of failing to follow through on handing in submissions for much-needed infrastructure projects that the Commission in Brussels would otherwise be willing to fund.
“We (the Commission) have money for infrastructure projects.. [yet] we don’t have projects,” said Cretu on October 8 as she spoke ahead of the Committee of the Regions and the EU executive’s co-organisation of the annual European Week of Regions and Cities.
Crețu’s most pointed criticism was directed at Romania, whose embattled government has shown little interest in gaining the Commission’s support for regional funding that would help jumpstart several key infrastructure projects. Instead, she said, there appears to be no appetite from Bucharest to cooperate with the EU as the Romanian government, which has come under fire in recent months for allegations that it engages in widespread corruption schemes, is more interest in financing public works projects through a public-private partnership.
The Commission has been eager to help Romania construct a major east-west motorway known as the Târgu Mureș–Lași Highway that will cross the Eastern Carpathians to connect the historical regions of Moldavia and Transylvania. Pre-feasibility studies were first performed on the planned project in 2007 and followed up with feasibility studies in 2009-2011, but the project has failed to get off the ground due to the Romanian government’s lack of initiative.
Crețu has, in fact, been a staunch critic of the Romanian government since it opted to build a section of the Târgu Mureș–Lași Highway via a public-private partnership instead of with EU money, which was would have completely covered the cost.
“First of all, this is a priority for the European Commission…I am saying this with all sincerity, from here, the rostrum of the European Commission, we need to complete the infrastructure projects that connect Europe – especially (those) to Moldova, Central and Eastern Europe,” Crețu said, before adding, “We have money for the feasibility studies, but we don’t have any requests for them to take place.”
Commission and CoR aim to close EU budget before elections
Both the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions has stressed that it is imperative that the European institutions be in full agreement about the specifics of certain projects in time for the next EU multi-annual budget for 2021-2027 and before the 2019 European elections in order to avoid any potential delays.
Making the cohesion policy more accessible to beneficiaries is a top priority for Brussels, Crețu has said on several occasions and added that the European Union can ill-afford to be bogged down in delays connected to the budget for investments to start in 2021.
The president of the European Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, agreed with Crețu and urged to transfer to the Council, the body that represents the EU countries and will have the final say on this matter, the importance of having a budget to make decisions.
“We have to show them what cohesion policy is, all the major changes we face in terms of social, digital, environmental equality,” he added. “All these challenges are the content of the cohesion policy. The strength of the cohesion is twofold: if we do not have cohesion, we do not have a Union,” warned Lambertz.
Crețu has stood fast in her support of a proposal made by the Commission in May that accounts for about a third of the total EU budget, and stressed that in the coming years “no region should be left out of the coverage”.
More funds for Greece
The European Commission will increase its funding to Greece as part of the EU Competitiveness Programme and as part of Brussels’ effort to strengthen the competitiveness of small and medium-size (SMEs) enterprises. Crețu said that the EU Funds are expected to include €11 million for investments to support 20,000 SMEs in Greece for 2021-2027.
Crețu did say, however, that despite the progress that has been made, more effort is necessary when it comes to projects involving waste management and the implementation of programmes that cover digital technologies and e-governance. The EU currently has €2 billion in additional funds earmarked for Greece in all three areas.