Commissioner Hübner: Romania needs to speed ISPA funds absorption

Romania needs to speed up the completion, by 2010, of the projects carried out under the ISPA pre-accession program because otherwise it risks losing the bulk of the 1.1 bln euros still available under the program, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Danuta Hübner warned on September 11 during a meeting with Romanian reporters in Brussels.
“ISPA must be finalized by the end of 2010 and some 58 pct of available funds – that is 1.1 bln euros – still need to be absorbed. We already disbursed almost 900 million euros to Romania, but the process needs to pick up speed. In the previous year we noticed progress made with the implementation of ISPA projects, but everything possible must be done from now on too in order to avoid loss of ISPA funding,” said commissioner Hübner, underscoring that this will be the major message she will convey during her visit to Romania next week.
Referring to the post-accession financial instruments, the Commissioner reminded Romanian authorities that they need to refer to the European Commission, by the end of this month, the socalled compliance assessments – a description of European funding management systems approved by the national audit authority. “We hope to receive these descriptions by the end of September, for us to adopt them until the end of October and proceed to further disbursements,” said Hübner.
She also mentioned that the EC has so far paid Romania 1.60 bln euros in advance of the adoption of the funds management systems, but that from now on the systems need to be enforced for disbursements to continue.
The EU official specified that Romania has so far referred no transportation project to the Commission and encouraged it to do so, the more so as “implementing large size transportation projects takes long.”
The greatest part of the transportation projects financed from structural funds – specifically 80 pct – are integrated with trans-European networks. In Romania’s case at stake are the highway and high-speed rail Budapest-Constanta and navigation on Danube.
On the other hand, Commissioner Hübner voiced satisfaction with the environment projects.
Seven major environment projects were adopted by now and another 8 might follow until the end of the year. “Just like many other member states, Romania too faces challenges such as the need for waste and wastewater treatment technologies and many such issues related to the environmental infrastructure. Romania was granted some transition periods, but it still needs to meet all the requirements of the acquis communautaire on the environment, therefore this is a highly important sector,” underscored Danuta Hübner.
The Commissioner for Regional Policy mentioned that the entire issue of community funds couldn’t be considered out of the broader context in Romania, referring in particular to the situation of the judiciary. “The recent report on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism acknowledged some progress in the consolidation of the rule of law state and the rooting out of corruption from the public sector, but a lot still needs to be done. Corruption doesn’t harm only Romania as a EU member, but it also affects economic growth, because the money doesn’t get where it should,” underscored Hübner.
She also reminded that Romania has several rounds of elections lying ahead (parliamentary elections in fall this year, Euro-parliament and presidential elections in 2009) and insisted that it is “very important that the fast paced progress is maintained and continuity exists in Romania’s efforts so far in fulfilling its commitments as EU member state.”

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