Press briefing by Prime Minister Florin Cîțu, Labour Minister Raluca Turcan, Minister of Economy Claudiu Năsui and Secretary of State, Ministry of Internal Affairs Raed Arafat, at the end of the Cabinet meeting of June 9

09 June

Florin Cîțu:  Good afternoon! In today's Cabinet meeting, we approved the draft law on some measures for the continuation of activity for persons who meet the retirement conditions. It is a draft law that is submitted to Parliament in the emergency procedure and eliminates the cumulation of pensions with the state salary and, at the same time, provides for the optional increase of the retirement age to 70 years. The details will be presented by the Minister of Labor, after my short presentation. Another important draft law on today's agenda, which was approved, a draft Emergency Ordinance to supplement Law no. 49/1991 on the granting of allowances and bonuses to invalids, veterans and war widows. It addresses 2,521 people, 2,374 of which are over 95 years old. One month ago, unfortunately, we had 2,600 veterans. These people need assistance, and the benefits will only go to veterans, not to their descendants. And, thirdly, again, a document that is highly anticipated, especially by the business environment, a draft Emergency Ordinance amending GEO 130/2020 on some measures for providing financial aid from non-reimbursable external funds related to the Program Operational Competitiveness 2014-2020, in the context of the crisis caused by COVID-19, as well as other measures in the field of European funds. What is this about? It is about the transfer of the amounts that were allocated to Measure 3,. to Measure 2 in order to continue with the payment to Measure 2 until the problems we had at Measure 3 are clarified.

And, last but not least, Minister Năsui who is here, will go into details and answer your questions after I finish my presentation. And, last but not least, the draft decision on extending the state of alert by another 30 days in Romania, starting with June 12, 2021, as well as establishing the measures to be applied during it, to prevent and combat the effects of the pandemic COVID-19. Mr Raed Arafat is here for details. I will give you some important elements: first of all, the border crossing point with the Republic of Moldova at Rădăuți-Prut, Botoșani County has been reopened; it is allowed on June 28, 2021 to participate in the sporting event organized on the Romanian territory within the eighth-finals of the UEFA 2020 European Football Championship, with up to 50% of the maximum capacity of the stands. The third important thing: allowing the organization and conduct of outdoor events, election campaign rallies the related to the local  by-elections of June 27, 2021, with the participation of up to 1,000 people. The conditions will be explained by Mr Raed Arafat. Number four: larger number of people allowed for private events, weddings, baptisms, to a maximum of 200 people indoors and ensuring an area of two square meters for each person. Other novelties are not brought to this draft legislative document, but the details will be presented by the Secretary of State Raed Arafat. These were the important acts adopted today in the Cabinet meeting. I am at your disposal for a few questions. There are also colleagues here who will present details.

Reporter: The Legislative Council stated that this draft law restricts the right to a pension, and it also affects several principles of the Constitution.

Florin Cîțu: The opinion of the Legislative Council is an optional one. I took it into account. We will go to the Romanian Parliament, which is the legislative forum in Romania, and there I am sure that the draft law can be improved, although I believe that this form is the right one for Romania at this moment.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, I would like to ask you about child benefits. There is a whole debate in the public space about it. You stated on December 30, 2020, that you will include in the state budget the increase of the child benefits from July 1, if the draft law adopted by the Senate will be passed by the Chamber of Deputies. The draft law is still under parliamentary debate. Is the money for child benefits provided in the state budget regarding the increase from July 1, 2021?

Florin Cîţu: So, at that time, the budget was built on the legislation in force, but at the same time I told you, I also approved a fiscal-budgetary strategy that shows very clearly our objective to reduce the budget deficit in the next period, by 2024, below 3% of GDP. At the same time, in the Senate, the amendments that show a new timetable for increasing the child benefits, the next deadline being January 1, 2022, was voted by all members of the Coalition. In the Chamber of Deputies, I do not know why this was delayed, although we all have the same goal of predictability, transparency and reduction of the budget deficit in the next period. I see there is public information that the draft law, although approved in this form, you could see on Monday evening, that the Coalition decided to accept the variant at the Senate, we have received signals from the Opposition that this draft law will be challenged at the Constitutional Court. In these conditions, I see myself compelled to approve an emergency ordinance in the Cabinet meeting to make sure that we maintain Romania’s financial stability in the next period.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, what will happen with the fourth and fifth increment, as the bill passed by the Senate clearly provides that starting January 2022, the amount of child benefit is yearly indexed with the average annual rate of inflation. There is no mention of the fourth and fifth increment of benefits.

Florin Cîţu: There is no fourth, fifth increment, therefore...

Reporter: The child benefits assumed by Orban Cabinet will eventually be doubled.

Florin Cîţu: Here, it is not about doubling, it is about increasing in a predictable way the child benefits every year, not just until this moment. We will create a transparent formula to raise child benefits every year, the way we will do with pensions, and we will have a transparent formula for the minimum salary, and that means that we will use this formula in the future.

It does not mean that we will stop when it doubles or triples, etc, therefore, things will go ahead. Thank you.

Reporter: A clarification, please, to the questions that my colleague asked earlier if the promises made by the Liberal government are still being taken into account at the moment. You said that it is not about a doubling, nevertheless, both Ludovic Orban and the members of the Coalition said that benefits will not reach 300 lei until the end of the timetable, 2022, is this still possible?

Florin Cîţu: Maybe there will be even more, let's see the formula we will have for adoption in the next period and why stop at 300 lei? We tell you that the benefits will increase every year in the next period and will go up, so why stop only at doubling the benefits, when they can be tripled and so on? If we have a clear, transparent, predictable plan, we can increase the benefits every year. If not, and we increase them ad-hoc, as they were in the past, which we do not want to do, then we face problems of fiscal sustainability and they cannot be prevented in the future.

Reporter: Also, an important topic discussed yesterday in the public space is the CVM Report.

Florin Cîţu: Yes.

Reporter: Although you said in a post that it is a report that shows positivity, a good growth, this report still remains and the Special Section mostly criticized in the CVM Report lately is still blocked in Parliament, there is no consensus in the Coalition you belong to.

Florin Cîţu: We cannot deny what the report says. This government has made significant progress in removing everything that has been destroyed or misplaced in the legal system in recent years, so we are making progress - no one can deny that. At the same time, again no one can deny what I said from the beginning, that the European Commission supports the elimination of MCV as soon as possible for Romania. As for the Government, we have made a very quick decision to approve a draft law that disbands the Special Section. It was sent to Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies passed it. I have always said that the variant we approved in the government is the one I support, and I think it is optimal. There are of course, debates in the Coalition, and I have seen that things have been delayed regarding child benefits too. I will explain again in the Coalition why this report is important, and the fact that we approved in the government, is what we endorse. I will further try to persuade the coalition leaders, the party chairmen, that this is the variant we follow. But I repeat that we have several commitments, one of them is to approve the laws of justice and we will submit all the laws of justice to Parliament for approval. I will get directly involved there.

Reporter: Will the Special Section be disbanded by the end of the year?

Florin Cîţu: It should be.

(...)

 



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