Speech by Commissioner Elisa Ferreira at the launch event of Cohesion Policy’s Programmes in Romania
“Check against delivery”
Dear Minister Boloş
Dear Minister Budăi
Dear participants in this event.
Buna ziua tuturor.
What an honour and a pleasure, to celebrate with you today the launch of the eight national cohesion programmes in Romania.
Last October, we signed together the 2021-2027 Partnership Agreement in Alba Iulia, in such a symbolic venue.
And today, what better symbolism than to be here in Iaşi, the cultural capital of the country.
As we look around us at the many paintings representing the rich history of Romania, we are reminded that what we do today is writing the next chapter of our joint history, Romania and Europe.
Because Cohesion programmes represent a joint investment: the European Commission and Romania committing 45 billion euros in the future of Romania.
In other words, nearly 2400 euros for every person in Romania.
However, this is much more than a sum of money.
It is a sign of our interdependence, a consequence of our Union and the recognition that for the whole to be solid, each of its parts need to become stronger.
This is now the 3rd round of Cohesion programmes in Romania.
And each has been marked by economic growth and advances in social wellbeing.
The Romanian GDP per head (in Purchasing Power Standards, PPS) went from just 40% of the EU average in 2006, on the eve of accession, to 77% in 2022.
In other words, the gap with the EU average has literally halved.
Cohesion Policy has played a major part in this catching up confirming its role as the engine of the convergence machine.
But much work remains to be done and our ambition to do more and better cannot fade away.
This convergence also needs to be a reality inside the country for the benefit of all Romanians, wherever they live.
The capital city of Bucharest has a GDP per head of almost 200% of the EU average which is a great achievement, but regions like Vaslui, which Nicolas Schmit and I will visit tomorrow, have a GDP per head of one third of the EU average.
That is 6 times lower than Bucharest!
These disparities become more visible and more risky during crises or periods of transition, such as those we are living these days.
That is why we must be ambitious in the new Cohesion Policy programmes.
Both in the 8 regional programmes that will be managed directly by the Regional Development Agencies, and the 8 national programmes that we are officially launching today.
All of them need to concur to a greater resilience and a balanced growth of all Romanian regions
I would like to underline 3 of our common ambitions.
First, our ambition to create a more resilient Romania, which protects and includes everyone.
This starts of course with the regional programmes, which are already up and running, and whose investments will ensure that development goes “beyond Bucharest” and that no region is left behind.
These last years, notably during the COVID crisis, have revealed an urgent need for investment in healthcare, in education and in the social infrastructure that can ensure all Romanians have a decent life.
So, we have jointly committed 3.8 billion euros to improve the coverage and quality of healthcare infrastructure, with a focus on reducing inequalities and enhancing community services.
Substantial funds will also be directed to support social policies and job creation as well as the participation of all in the job market. Nicolas Schmit will certainly expand on this.
We have also been at your side as you welcome refugees fleeing Russia’s war of aggression.
Our programme CARE, which stands for Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe, has mobilised European resources to support national governments, NGOs and local authorities in their effort to embrace our Ukrainian neighbours.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has also highlighted the need to protect our external borders and support stability and prosperity in our neighbourhood.
Romania is dedicating 367 million euros for cross-border projects, including with Moldova, which has now been given a very tangible European perspective.
Tomorrow we will be visiting one of those projects, the SMURD training centre, to see for ourselves how cooperation can work on the ground.
The war has also led to high energy costs, so we are mobilising Cohesion support for affordable energy, for vulnerable households and SMEs.
But this of course serves as a reminder that we need to break the dependence on Russian fossil fuels and create a European supply of clean, renewable energy.
And this brings me to our second key ambition: creating a sustainable Romania for the 21st century.
Romania is one of the key actors for Europe to become the world’s first carbon neutral continent.
So, we will be jointly investing 5.2 billion euros in the Sustainable Development Programme to promote energy efficiency, renewable infrastructure, and the circular economy.
These investments will not only improve quality of life, making Romania cleaner and greener, but will also increase our energy security and our strategic independence from Russia.
The European Commission estimates 2 million future jobs in green industries, from renewable energy to deep renovation.
I believe that Romania can benefit from many of these jobs. And Cohesion investments will help pave the way.
The investments will also improve safety, by including risk prevention for natural disasters.
But we recognise that some regions will find the green transition a particular challenge.
So, 2.5 billion euros will be channelled through the Just Transition Programme, to support your investments in the economic diversification of coal and energy intensive regions.
Helping them shift to new jobs and new activities and helping the workers to benefit from these jobs through training re-skilling and upskilling programmes.
And this links to our 3rd key ambition: a modern and digital Romania.
Together we have committed 2.2 billion euros to the Smart Growth and Digitalisation programme, to promote businesses’ competitiveness, digitalisation, and the research and innovation ecosystem.
With these investments, I believe you will continue to close the competitiveness gap with other parts of Europe.
I would like to applaud the successes of the ROStartup project, which originated here in the North-East Region.
This bottom-up initiative coming directly from the regions, is making a vital contribution to the start-up scene in Romania.
A clear lesson of the Regional Competitiveness Index, which we launched last week, is that competitiveness depends on a combination of factors from infrastructure and institutions; to a skilled labour force and an ecosystem that supports innovation.
One final message about the importance of an efficient public administration to turns our ambitions into reality.
The plans and programmes that we built together are excellent.
But as they say in the tech world: “Ideas are just the first step, delivery is the difficult bit.”
And indeed, the capacity to deliver will be key for the success of the programmes, and the success of Romania and Europe.
This is why we have jointly decided on a national capacity building roadmap and eight capacity building regional roadmaps.
My congratulations to our hosts in the North -East region for being the first to finalise their roadmap.
I am happy to see that the European Commission’s Technical Assistance Instrument, which is also under my responsibility facilitated this joint work with the OECD.
To conclude, I look forward to a successful conclusion of the 2014-2020 Programmes in this last year of their execution and I count on you to build up the necessary governance structures and a successful pipeline of projects for the new Programmes.
I am eager to continue our work together writing the next chapter in the story of Romania and the story of Europe.