EU leader presses Romania to act on programme funds
(BUCHAREST) - European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday urged Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta to quickly address issues that have led Brussels to freeze European Union funds for the country.
"I have urged the prime minister to take immediate measures to solve the issues that led to the interruption of payments for certain EU programmes", Barroso said in a press release issued by EU's executive Commission.
"Unless urgent action is taken, the absorption of EU funds will be seriously compromised", he added.
Some 20 billion euros ($26 billion) of European funds have been made available over the period from 2007 to 2013 to Romania, the last country to have joined EU in 2007, to help it catch up with fellow EU members.
Bucharest had used only 9.7 percent of the money as of September 30, according to official figures.
The Commission has interrupted payments for four programs in the environment, transport, competitivity and regional policy areas because of irregularities.
Romania, the second poorest EU member, could lose hundreds of millions euros owing to chronic problems in implementing EU-funded programs.
Ponta blamed former centre right governements for the failure, even though his centre left coalition has also been fighting for months to encourage the appropriate use of the EU funds.
"We are paying for mistakes made between 2009 and 2011", the Romanian premier said before a meeting with Barroso.
The EC president also "reiterated the need for a well-functioning independent judicial system in Romania and for respect for the rule of law," the statement said.
Last summer, Ponta's governement came under fire from the European Commission which said the government had violated the rule of law during an attempt to impeach President Traian Basescu.
Ponta then promised to respect a series of recommendations to restore the confidence of Europeans.
"I welcome the fact that many of the points of concerns I raised in July have been addressed", Barroso said.
However, he stressed the importance of appointing the new general and antigraft prosecutors in an "objective manner".
"These two people will define the reputation of the judiciary", in a country still tightly monitored by Brussels, Barroso stressed.