Fresh News

Tuesday, 09 May

Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu’s visit to Austria

Press release


Prime Minister Grindeanu: The development of Austrian companies in Romania is also due to the friendly conditions for business environment here


Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has participated today in Vienna in a round –table meeting organized by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, to which representatives of the largest Austrian investors in Romania have also been invited.

The Head of the Executive has outlined that Austria is important to Romania, being the second largest foreign investor in our country: „ We are one of the most profitable markets for Austria in this region of Europe. The fact that several of the Austrian companies have developped so well in Romania, is a success story due to your management but also to the friendly conditions existing in our country for the business environment”.

Prime Minister Grindeanu has presented the measures taken by the Government designed to encourage the business environment and the economic development, outlining the VAT decrease from 20 percent to 19 percent, cutting through red tape and reducing by 102 the number of taxes and tariffs.

The Chairperson of the Economic Chamber of Austria, Christoph Leitl has congratulated the Bucharest Government for the record economic growth achieved by Romania, which „gives confidence and welfare to citizens”.

In the first trimester of 2017, compared to the same period last year, the industrial production rose by more than 5 percent, retail sales increased by nearly 7 percent, services to population by 5. 6 percent and services to enterprises by 9 percent.

Also, Christoph Leitl has outlined that Austria ranks first regarding professional training of youth and has expressed its availability to provide expertise to Romania in this field.

The event organized by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber has also been attended by Minister of Economy, Mihai Tudose, Minister for the Business Environemnt, Trade and Entrepreneurship, Alexandru Petrescu, Minister Delegate for European Affairs, Ana Birchall and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Teodor Melescanu.

Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu is paying a visit to Vienna where he met with Christian Kern, Chancellor of Austria and attended a round-table meeting organized by the Austrian Economic Chamber. Prime Minister will also have meetings with representatives of Austrian companies and the Governor of Lower – Austria, Johanna Mikl- Leitner. 


Joint press conference by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern


Christian Kern: Dear ladies and gentlemen, I give you a warm welcome. Today, I had the great joy to welcome the Romanian Prime Minister. Romania is an important partner to Austria culturally and politically, but also economically. We exchanged views on the bilateral economic situation. Austria ranks second in terms of investment in Romania, 10 billion EUR have been invested. Last year, more than 2 billion euros were invested, and I have noticed that it has been an obvious growth in Romania, which will be even better next year. The Austrian companies knew a very good development, thousands of jobs depend on them. Also, developments in Europe show us that we face important confrontations, we want Europe to be in a stable situation, evolve in terms of prosperity, and Romania to evolve in terms of prosperity in Central Europe. We discussed about the EU Presidency because Austria will takeover the Presidency in the second half of 2018, and Romania, immediately after, in 2019, will continue this presidency. We had an exchange of views on want we want to jointly develop here.

The Danube and the cohesion funds subjects represent a priority for us, and we believe it is possible to give new growth impetus. This presidency will evolve into a special EU situation, it will be Brexit, we do not know which are the concrete consequences yet, but we have a common project that both states will continue and develop, and once it reaches the advanced phase, then, we will see together. I give the floor to Prime Minister.

Sorin Grindeanu: I am glad to be in Vienna today, and I would like to thank the Chancellor for inviting me here. The fact that it’s May 9th today, the Day of Europe, and that we are in Vienna, I believe we can say it’s symbolic for us, for Romania and Austria, and it shows the determination we have, Romania and Austria to work together for the consolidation of the European integration project, in the interest and benefit of European citizens. Romania is important for Austria, but Austria is also important for Romania. As the Chancellor stated, Austria is the second-largest investor in Romania, which is extremely important in our view. At the same time, for Austria, Romania is one of the most important markets from the standpoint of businesses and things that can be developed in our country. Surely, I invited him and hopefully, this autumn, Chancellor Kern will pay visit to Romania. There are two main directions on which we held discussions today. The first refers to the economic component – Austria is the second largest investor in Romania in strategic fields such as: energy, constructions, banking sector, insurances and not only. I would outline the fact that our country is incontestably one of the most profitable markets for Austria in the Central and Eastern Europe. In order to strengthen the very good economic relations, today, I am accompanied by the Minister of Economy and the Minister for Trade, SMEs and Entrepreneurship.

Alongside the two Ministers present here, we will have an extremely important discussion we very much wanted to attend, held at the Austrian Economic Chamber where we will have discussions with the investors already present in Romania or with those who will want to invest in the future, in our country. I want to tell them that currently, our country is one of the friendliest countries in the EU economically, the taxes are extremely low. The growth rate of the Romanian economy last year was the highest rate in Europe, we hope it will remain so this year too. We will try to improve the economic framework so that investments in our economy grow and be more solid. The second main topic as the Chancellor Kern said, is the one related to the field of European Affairs. We are preparing for the succesive takeover of the Presidency of the European Union Council, Austria in the second semester of 2018, Romania in the first semester of 2019. There are many difficult topics to approach, we tackled part of them today, Brexit, EU future orientations, future policies, which in our point of view should confirm the cohesion policy –and –as central pillar – and instrument to increase the convergence between Eastern and Western Europe. The financial framework post -2020 is very important and it will be on the agenda of our presidencies. Last but not least, it has been discussed and I want to thank Austria for the support granted to Romania regarding the Schengen accession, and which it will grant in the future too. As a conclusion, I would like to tell you that I was glad to notice that we have the same preoccupation that the European Union remains a successful project for Europe, an efficient and cohesive institution, based on the principles of democracy and freedom, an institution closer to citizen. Thank you.

Reporter: If you allow me, I will ask the questions in Romanian. As it is Europe Day, I would like to ask both officials about late discussions from Austria, regarding a possible prioritization to employment of Austrian citizens to the detriment of immigrants, among whom, the Romanians? And about reducing the social benefits for the immigrants children if they do not live in Austria. I would like to know whether these two topics have been discussed and which the current stand of the Austrian Cabinet is in connection with these two topics. Thank you.

Christian Kern: You should know the following about this: if you speak about immigrants, I think you are speaking about the last wave of refugees. Austria is as size, the country that received most of the refugees, given the number of population, more than Greece or Italy did. In 2017, we need to spend 2 billion euros on assistance provided to refugees, not only on food, but also to secure basic living conditions, also for schools, social assistance, we also engage very much in the integration of these refugees.

If the Austrian population did not offer their support, then, it would be impossible for us to intervene this way. I do not see your concern, but, on the contrary, I want to say that we are one of the countries that does much more than others. The discussion within EU referred to the measure the assistance granted to refugees is compensated. Austria is an exporter and a country that is paying to the EU. This is why, we consider that every country needs to fulfill its obligations and to participate in connection with this issue of refugees,and their treatment, to social assistance which is granted to them, which is bigger than in other countries.

Sorin Grindeanu: I will answer too, much briefly. On the tete-a-tete discussion with Chancellor Kern, I approached this point on benefits. We understand the problems of each country. Our view – it is normal to be so – is that any sort of legislative change at national level should be – and I think here everyone agrees with that– in line with European legislation. Afterwards, each, once it is in line with European legislation, may develop its policies in the respective country, but in line with European legislation. I forgot to mention something in the presentation and I apologize for this. With a view to improving even more our very good relations, over the next period, we will try to pass to an informal level, the one related to NGOs and the dialogue between Romania and Austria to be carried at this level too. For this reason, I put forward the proposal that Chancellor Kern accepted, i.e. to launch under Aspen Institute Romania, a Romania –Austria dialogue, to include businesspeople, professors, personalities and which to help from the point of view of NGOs, to improving relations of all types between Romania and Austria.

Reporter: I have a question for the Romanian Prime Minister. Do you plan to set up a Sovereign Investment Fund this year? Can you offer us details on its size and the projects you would be interested in? A Sovereign Investment Fund. If I have time, I would like to ask you another question on incomes taxation, promotion of some tax reforms. Can you provide us more information in connection with the moment when you intend to have the draft law ready and which is its budgetary impact? Thank you.

Sorin Grindeanu: Surely, the creation of a Sovereign Investment Fund is one of the measures we committeed to come up with, in the next period, we drew up the law and the addenda. Over the next period, it will be brought into public debate, once this public debate regulating the establishment of this Sovereign Investment Fund finishes, we will send this draft law to Parliament. I hope the pace of dicussions in Parliament is an alert one, so that approvals and everything related to setting up this Sovereign Investment Fund is put into practice this year. There are very many steps to take, but we are just before submiting this law, extremely important for us, to public debate. From the other point of view, there are currently very many discussions related to the taxation system, all things designed to make Romania a friendlier economic environment. I told you at the start of the conference, that we are one of the countries with the most friendly economic environments in Europe. We have all time discussions of this type to improve these issues. We envisage an economic growth of 5.2 percent this year, all these things happening in the context of a fiscal relaxation which took place early this year. VAT decreased, the special construction tax was removed, etc. There are things we have done and we envisage in the next period as measures so that we maintain the economic growth of more than 5 percent for 2017, and to further remain one of the most friendly economic environments in Europe.

Reporter: Good afternoon! I have a question for Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and Chancellor Kern. I would like to know whether the current level of investments of the Austrian companies in Romania is satisfactory and whether you discussed today about a prioritization of cooperation in certain fields.

Christian Kern: Cooperation functions very well. We have some very large projects in Romania. There are large companies that invested very much, EUR 10 million and I think that Mr. Prime Minister has already stated that the framework –conditions shall be improved, and then, I believe that investments will grow, but eventually, the decision belongs to companies, not to the Chancellor. We can support them, encourage them, but we think it will continue.

Sorin Grindeanu: As aforementioned, Austria is the second largest investor in Romania in the fields I have mentioned before. There is always room for improvement. This is why we consider this afternoon meeting at the Austrian Economic Chamber as extremely important. We will have a meeting with current investors and with those who want to come in Romania. Our duty is to present our advantages, what we want to do in the future, the policies and the measures we want to take from this point of view, so that Austrian investments in Romania continue to be at the highest level. I repeat: Austria is extremely important to us from this point of view, and vice -versa is also valid, Romania being an extremely profitable market for Austria in this region of Europe.

Christian Kern: Unless there are other questions, I would like to thank you. 


Joint press statements by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and the Lower Austria Governor, Johanna Mikl-Leitner

Sorin Grindeanu: I am glad that during my visit to Vienna, I had the opportunity to have a meeting with the Lower Austria Governor, Johanna Mikl-Leitner. One of the strongest Austrian states, with a remarkable economic growth at the level of the Federal Republic, Lower Austria ranks at European level too, among the most successful and performant regions, last but not least, due to the openness of your state to Central and East European space and the investments too, in fields of the future such as: research and innovation or the new technologies. For the regions in Romania, Lower Austria can be considered a model region, regarding both economic strategies and policies, for this reason, it was designated the most appreciated region in Europe, from the innovation standpoint, and due to the important role in the field of digitalization.

Today, we had discussions, as Madam Governor mentioned, about certain concrete projects implementation and we have also discussed a lot about Danube Strategy for the Danube region, extremely important issues for Romania and for you too. It is extremely important due to successive presidencies of the EU Council that Austria and Romania will have, to establish common points on the agenda as common priorities, in the second semester of 2018 when Austria will hold the presidency, and in the first semester of 2019, when Romania will hold the presidency.

I discussed with the Governor about some challenges too, which we are facing at the level of the European agenda, knowing very well the fact that Lower Austria is extremely active at European level, and pleads for a strong cohesive policy, which represents a major priority of Romania on the European agenda. In our opinion, the cohesion policy should remain the central pillar of regional development policies. I appreciate the European and international openness of this state and I would like to express my satisfaction for the fact that Lower Austria Representation Office in Timisoara marks its tenth anniversary, which coincides with the tenth anniversary of Romania’s EU membership. I am certain that our relations will boost in the future and will make beneficial contributions both to the diversification of cooperation between our states and to the European project development. As a conclusion, I voice hope that the Governor will visit Romania soon and I thank her once again for our today’s meeting.  


End -of -visit statements by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu


Reporter: (...) Mr. Prime Minister, did you discuss here, in Vienna about Romanians living here, who have business, and if you think, we know that at some point, it was a talk about helping them to return in the country, to invest in the country. Did you have any discussion on how to assist them, did the Economy Minister attend it? In your case...

Sorin Grindeanu: We had talks, today, regarding the situation of Romanians, from more perspectives, both with Chancellor Kern and with Governor Leitner. We also had a meeting with those who already invested in Romania or who are willing to invest, at the Austrian Economic Chamber. More topics have been attained, including those related to social aspects. As you know, in Austria, at this moment, it is a debate in connection with benefits for the immigrants’ children. I said on today’s press conference, I have raised this problem, when I was with Mr. Cahncellor, they are in a process in which they sent a clarification request to the European Commission. We consider, as country, that the European principles must be observed, those underlying the European project foundation, those related to the free movement of labor force, capital. There are things underlying the European common project, and there cannot be European citizens of different categories or ranks.

Reporter: Did he tell you if the intent to prioritize the Austrian citizens, upon employment, has become one way or other, reality? Because, again, it is a debate in Austria too, on this topic.

Sorin Grindeanu: More then 100.000 Romanians, around 105.000, are living in Austria. We are among the first countries as presence, from this standpoint. Romanians contribute through daily work, to Austria’s economic growth. Most Romanians living here are honestly working and they obey the laws in Austria, and this is a very good thing. I found extraordinary openness at Chancellor Kern, dialogue, he appreciates the work and what Romanians are doing here, in Austria. Surely, I do not want to enter Austria’s internal debates and I do not think it is my role to do this. As I said, the common European principles do unite us. Both Romania and Austria plead for strengthening the common European project, as history has showed us that together, the 27 states are stronger than separately. Romania is important to Austria, important from an economic standpoint too. It is the country in which Austrian companies invested more or around EUR 10 billion. Austria is important to Romania from this perspective too. We share things that we need to strengthen. We are among the most important partners of Austria in the Central and Eastern Europe, which is important.

Reporter: Since you mentioned EU principles and values which we should promote, I would ask your opinion about the draft law passed by the Chamber of Deputies regarding the Coalition for families and the definition of marriage in Constitution.

Sorin Grindeanu: First of all, it is about an initiative, eventually, the Romanian people will decide through vote the path we are taking. My personal opinion that you know: three million Romanians voted in favor of this, but I want to tell you that it is eventually a first stage, it is a proposal to amend Constitution but Romanians will decide through vote, in favor or against it. I think this is the correct approach.

Reporter: But do you think that this would lead to a new division or maybe, the emergence of a ...?

Sorin Grindeanu: I think that the decision must be made by Romanians in the end, and the decision can be reached by what I told you earlier, that consultation. What happened today is a first step before this consultation. It is hard for me to assess today the Romanians’ options.

Reporter: Home, (...) we are talking about EU, a construction which pleads for freedom, solidarity, non-discrimination?

Sorin Grindeanu: I do not want to enter necessarily in a debate of this type, I can bring arguments and counterarguments, and we can discuss for a long time from this perspective and these arguments and counteraguments can be heard. What matters is for there to be debates, it is very important, and I outline this, debates from this point of view. What matters is that when Romanians express their option, to do it in full knowledge of all debates, therefore, I encourage on the one hand what you said, the freedoms and all things which are essential in EU, on the other hand, what they say –those who promoted all things related to tradition, of a certain observance of this tradition and of the traditional family. This is why I tell you it is very important for these debates to exist in the period to come, so that, when people opt, they do it wittingly.

Reporter: Reporter: /.../ Did you also address the issue of illegal deforestation in Romania?

Sorin Grindeanu: I was at the Economic Chamber of Austria, where there were a few dozen companies present, some that are already present in Romania, others that want to come, invest in Romania. Alongside part of my government team, I consider this aspect extremely important in presenting Romania from an economic perspective, emphasizing the advantages and the friendly environment that we have, testament to this are the important investments made by Austrian companies in Romania. There were also representatives from that industry who asked me and my colleagues questions.

Reporter: What did those from Schweighofer ask you?

Sorin Grindeanu: It is more important what I answered them.

Reporter: What did they ask and what did you answer them?

Sorin Grindeanu: I told them that for them and for everybody, it is valid from that perspective of that industry and from my point of view, three things: one, observance of the Forest Code, adopted by the Romanian Parliament last year, and which is extremely important. There are stipulated those quotas of 30 percent and those things need to be observed as law provides. Secondly, the timber origin, must be legal and proven, the raw material must not have an illegal origin. Thirdly, I urged those from this industry to be in touch and have a very good dialogue with the NGOs in this field, to take into account some cases raised by NGOs, to try in the immediately following period, to explain certain actions which have not been explained very well, to be extremely transparent in all their actions, observing and I underline it, both the Forest Code and all the things I reminded earlier. From my point of view, these are the three things which must be observed by all who deal with these industries.

Reporter: Have those from Schweighofer assured you of their transparency?

Sorin Grindeanu: I told them what I believe.

Reporter: What did they tell you?

Sorin Grindeanu: I made them a recommendation in this respect. I cannot but make recommendations. We are talking about private companies, and that recommendation was for them to be transparent. One of the recommendations.The other two pertain to law observance. We do not discuss or negotiate here.

Broadcaster: Returning to the family topic, there is a real discussion in the country about the possibility to cap the child rearing allowance. Labor Minister, Lia Olguta Vasilescu stated that this would be considered and it would be a good idea for the maternity allowance to be capped at something between 5.000 and 10.000 lei, saying that there are few cases when these are above that amount and that it was about a cap on that tax.

Sorin Grindeanu: Let us put this topic on the normal track. We are talking about that plan of convergence, which was approved, on the last Cabinet meeting. Such decision has not been made, there will be a consultation and following this, it is this possibility. I want to further tell you something: 97 percent of these allowances are below 5,000 lei at this moment, in Romania. This is the reality, under 5,000 lei, not under 10,000 lei. We are speaking about these things. I underline once again, we are speaking about a consultation on this topic, no decision has been made yet, this is why I want us to reduce a bit the tension in this respect, to speak on real issues. The decision as aforementioned, has not been taken.

Reporter: Is there currently a project in this respect?

Sorin Grindeanu: No. I am trying to tell you that there are no such projects. It is about that plan of convergence where, through the measures we could take in the ensuing period, not recent future, in one week, month but farther. It is important not to overlook it, but to say things frankly. I repeat: no decision has been made in this respect, we are as clear as possible, there is not a project of this kind at this time, it is just that plan of convergence which mentions the possibility of a cap on it. This possibility is to be analyzed under the aspect of its being opportune or not. The allowances under 5,000 lei are 97 percent. Only 3 percent of them are below or above 10,000. Certainly, those who will receive allowance above 10,000 lei are below 1 percent.

Reporter: Why is this taken into account if there is such a small percentage? Why this discussion after all?

Sorin Grindeanu: When we make a decision, we will let you know.

Reporter: If you allow me, last year, Mr. Liviu Dragnea criticized Ciolos Cabinet on this issue, and said that PSD will reduce allowances at their correct value and talked about a thoughtless government because that allowance of 35.000 lei was in discussion by that time, if I am not wrong.

Sorin Grindeanu: I will never comment or discuss what somebody else has said. I think I have been as clear as possible and I have communicated you that no decision has been taken, but we are conducting an analysis, when, further to this analysis, we see what path we are taking, we will communicate you and we will make that decision.

Reporter: I would ask you, if you reminded that convergence programme, it is laid down there that special pensions will remain at their current value. Are they possible to change, if you talked about measures which can be taken in the future, for a debate to take place and something to be changed here too?

Sorin Grindeanu: All these issues related to the convergence programme and the later decisions, either on what you mentioned or the allowances, are decisions we will make following analyses. That convergence programme was adopted some days ago, and shows certain possibilities that we can have over the next period, so that we keep within the parameters agreed.

It is what we are talking about.

Reporter: (...) you took a decision at the level of the Government, will you issue a Government resolution(...)?

Sorin Grindeanu: Alongside my Cabinet colleagues, the Finance Minister, the Transports Minister and others, I had a discussion with MPs, with the Committees of budget –finance and from Chamber or Senate, we had several rounds of discussions with hauliers, to consult them on this issue. Also, with ASF. We will wait for Parliament to debate the draft law in the following period, and for it to make a decision in this respect.

Reporter: If until May 18, we do not have a law issued by Parliament, what will happen, will the prices surge? Because the hauliers ar telling this.

Sorin Grindeanu: I do not believe they are saying this. I told you that several discussions took place with hauliers, through our commitments to the European Commission, we need to take certain measures. In the shortest time possible, this law which is being discussed in Parliament, will be passed following discussions I had with leaders of parliamentary groups in Parliament, so that we make things clear. I want us to honor our commitments to the European Commission and to be as clear as possible from this point of view. I do not see such possibility of a surge in prices in the period following the civil liability insurance for car owners.

Reporter: But the cap is not extended for other three months..

Sorin Grindeanu: No, because we will have the decision fast enough in Parliament and then..

Reporter: I would ask you, Mr. Prime Minister if you discussed with the PSD President, Liviu Dragnea, about the pardon law, because it was discussed in the plenum, then returned to the committee. (...) Did you have other discussion with the Justice Minister, with Mr. Tudorel Toader?

Sorin Grindeanu: We submitted it to Parliament under a form, we clarified what the Government endorses, an applied discussion on this full topic relative to pardon law. I did not have a discussion with President Dragnea, but I talk very often with Mr. President.

Reporter: Did you discuss with Mr. Minister about what has happened in Parliament?

Reporter: The latest amendments to the law in Parliament, the reduction in punishment in accordance with imprisonment conditions, the air conditioning...

Sorin Grindeanu:No, we have not had discussions of the kind. Thank you. 

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