European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu criticised Bucharest authorities for not submitting enough infrastructure projects and stressed that Brussels has enough money to fund them. The Romanian commissioner singled out the Targu-Mures – Iasi highway, which she called ‘a priority of the European Commission’ as an eligible project. She also expressed dismay at the fact that the Romanian government decided recently to build the Targu Neamț – Iasi section of the highway via a public–private partnership (PPP).
“We have money from Brussels for infrastructure projects.. [yet] we don’t have projects,” Corina Cretu told the press in the Q&A session of the press conference kicking off the European Week of Regions and Cities.
The commissioner, who is a member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), currently part of Romania’s ruling coalition, spoke of the Targu-Mures – Iasi highway as an example of an infrastructure project eligible for funding from the EU, including for feasibility studies. The project, the Romanian government recently announced, will be made in public-private partnership.
“For Targu-Mures -Iasi first of all it is a priority of the European Commission, and I am saying this with all my sincerity, from here, the rostrum of the European Commission, we need to complete the infrastructure projects connecting Europe, especially to Republic of Moldova, Moldova, Central and Eastern Europe. We have money for feasibility studies, yet we don’t have any request for these feasibility studies,”Cretu said.
The European Commissioner also argued that, once such a project is kickstarted, every upcoming government will be compelled to drive it forward. “If we offer to do it and can make this feasibility study by 2020-2021 and have building works start, I believe we would make a step forward and it would be an important step. Unfortunately, I saw that in the government meeting the Government announced it wants to make this highway in public-private partnership,” Cretu commented.
According to Cretu, the Commission’s experts “are not comfortable with this approach because it signals a deprioritisation of this investment,” she said, adding that it is her duty, as a European commissioner, to warn all member states, therefore Romania as well, on the risk of losing EU funds and especially in the infrastructure sector, given that they are complex works, which take years. “I have to do my duty and to say when a country is risking to lose its chance at development for entire generations,” Cretu said.
As far as Romania is concerned, the Commissioner said, she made “extraordinary” efforts to increase the absorption rate. “We relieved the national budget of EUR 3 billion, money that would have otherwise been lost,” she explained. “However, EUR 2 billion was lost, unfortunately in the most vulnerable and most necessary sector for Romania, that of transport. For the period 2014-2020 we are making superhuman efforts to avoid loss of funds,” Cretu warned. The commissioner also asked from Romania “new, mature projects.”
Cretu also took a jab at the Romanian government, saying: “I want to announce publicly that I no longer accept insults from the Romanian Government regarding my work.”