The problem of absorbing EU funds was at the center of talks between Romania’s PM Viorica Dancila and EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu.
On her first visit to Brussels since she took office, Social-Democrat Prime Minister Viorica Dancila met with high-ranking EU officials. On Tuesday, Dancila had talks with European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Cretu. The meeting focused on Romania’s delays in absorbing European funds. Commissioner Cretu warned that Bucharest authorities needed to rush and simplify procedures for accessing European funds. 2018 is a crucial year for EU fund absorption, as Romania risks losing hundreds of millions of euros.
Corina Cretu went on to say that Romanian authorities are aware of this danger and are planning new measures. “We have agreed that concerted and immediate action is needed to approach the risk of absorption. First of all, Romania risks losing 800 million Euros under Regional Operational Programmes. The Prime Minister decided to set up a think tank aimed at simplifying procedures for absorbing European funds in Romania, and I have decided to name someone to represent me as EU Commissioner”.
One of highest risks right now in terms of losing European funding is the building of the three regional hospitals, in Iasi, Cluj-Napoca and Craiova respectively, a project started three years ago, which nevertheless reported huge delays in the implementation phase.
Corina Cretu: “Time flies. The Commission approved these projects in July 2015. It’s 2018 now, and things are advancing very slowly. The only thing certain right now, unfortunately, is the location for these hospitals, which the Government has agreed jointly with authorities in Iasi, Cluj and Craiova”.
By the end of next month feasibility studies are due to be completed. However, due to delays, the authorities have come up with a new timetable, according to which the studies will be made public in October, so that construction works can start early next year. Unless the authorities observe the new timetable, the risk of losing the European funds approved for these projects will increase exponentially. EU member states have to comply with a so-called disengagement rule, according to which the Commission can withdraw its funding if the money isn’t spent within three years of their disbursement to national authorities.
So, if construction works aren’t finished and payments haven’t been fully covered within the eligibility period, which in this case is 2023, the Commission will no longer be able to provide refunds. We recall that Romania was allotted over €20 billion for the 2014-2020 financial framework to use in economic investments, but our country has so far absorbed only 5% of this sum.