Press statements by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and members of the Cabinet, at the start of the Cabinet meeting of October 14

14 October

Press statements by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and members of the Cabinet, at the start of the Cabinet meeting of October 14

 

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Ludovic Orban: Good afternoon. We begin the Cabinet meeting. Together we adopted the memoranda on the basis of which Ministers Virgil Popescu and Nicolae Ciucă paid the visit to the United States. I will invite the two colleagues to brief the government colleagues on the concrete outcome of this visit and the extent to which the objectives set out in the memoranda have been met. Minister Virgil Popescu.

Virgil Popescu: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Yes, on Sunday I returned from a visit to the United States. There, at the Department of Energy, I initialled with Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, the Intergovernmental Agreement between the United States Government and the Government of Romania, whereby the United States clearly states its intention to support the construction of reactors 3 and 4 and to participate in reactor 1 re-technologization.  Also, in that intergovernmental agreement, the United States clearly states its intention to find and provide funding  to carry out these projects, and this was done by signing a memorandum with the Export-Import Bank of the United States, US EXIM, the same day. We signed the memorandum between the Government of Romania and US EXIM, signed by the President of US EXIM, through which the Export-Import Bank of the United States makes available a financing line of 7 billion dollars for projects in the field of energy and energy infrastructure, we are talking about nuclear and liquefied natural gas, and in the field of infrastructure, roads, railways and storage stations.

More importantly, we also had a discussion with the DFC Investment Fund of the United States Government, which is also included in the intergovernmental agreement, as a source of funding. We had a meeting there with the president of the fund and from there we will clearly have support for the financing of reactors 3 and 4 from Cernavoda and re-technologization of unit 1, and also, in addition to this, we discussed the possibility of financing projects in the energy field and here we are talking about natural gas. Therefore, in addition to that memorandum. Yesterday I notified the European Commission, because, according to the EURATOM Treaty, this intergovernmental agreement must be approved within 30 days by the European Commission and, in the next 30 days, we are waiting for the approval of the European Commission regarding this intergovernmental agreement.

In addition, both at the Department of Energy and at the State Department, where we had meetings, we reaffirmed that we want the construction of reactors 3 and 4 from Cernavoda and the re-technologization of unit 1 with partners from Canada and France and this was very well received by American partners. What we promised and what you said, will be achieved in 2030, we expect to complete the investment ...

Ludovic Orban: Our clear objective since the investiture was to complete these fundamental investments for the development of the energy system and, obviously, with strategic partners ...

Virgil Popescu: Strategic and Euro-Atlantic.

Ludovic Orban: NATO, the European Union and not with partners invented by others who anyhow would not have had the ability to endorse such investments.

Virgil Popescu: I think it is clear...

Ludovic Orban: You gave me the good news. We are sure that we are on the right path.

Virgil Popescu: Thank you.

Ludovic Orban: Minister Ciuca.

Nicolae Ciuca: Mr Prime Minister, Ministers, the activity took place in the same period. Before presenting you the conclusions, allow me to thank Minister Aurescu for the support we received through our Embassy in Washington, as all activities were prepared, organized and coordinated with their support. The activity focused on the signing in Pentagon, together with the Defence Secretary Esper, of the roadmap which establishes the lines of the efforts that the two Ministries will focus their activities on, for the next ten years: it is about a roadmap for 2020 -2030. The elements are about to be materialized in specific activities for each line of effort. They aim at the bilateral relationship between Romania and the United States, the cooperation at the Black Sea, also in the cyber and intelligence areas, also the rotational presence of the US forces on the territory of our country and respectively, in the Black Sea region.

We had meetings with the Deputy Secretaries of the Air Force, Land Force, and the Head of the Cooperation Department. All these activities basically aimed at the specific elements we unfolded and they identified the majority of possibilities we can focus on, over the next period, so that we can have medium and long term effects at the level of the Strategic Partnership with the United States.

We also carried out activities together with companies in the defence industry with which we have relations in building and developing our own capabilities. All these elements aimed at the strengthening and developing capabilities, and industrial cooperation I discussed with Minister Popescu before this visit. These were Prime Minister, the main elements of the visit. Thank you.

Ludovic Orban: The result is very important, the fact that we agreed on the partnership coordinates for ten years, in the military field, in the defence industry field. It is a fundamental element in our policy, and I am sure that the results can be seen not only in the military field but in other areas of activity, beneficial effects.

Minister Oros, you know that we committed, to all agriculture beneficiaries that we will speed up payments to be made from European funds, for the various categories of beneficiaries and also, we will make the assessment and we will pay compensations for the areas hit by drought, and the spring crops, please inform your colleagues about our situation, when payments start, and who are the beneficiaries, when payments are completed, and all the other information.

Adrian Oros: Mr Prime Minister, Ministers, on October 16, tomorrow evening, the Agriculture Ministry will start the advance payments, both for the direct payments schemes, and the rural development measures. 1. 94 billion euros have been allocated, from the Ministry’s budget, there are 826.964 beneficiaries for an area of 9. 81 million hectares. As regards the damage to spring crops by drought, the damage assessment committees centralized the information, we have the synthesis reports, 1.21 million hectares have been affected, out of which, more than 700,000 corn hectares.

91,600 farmers have been affected. We identify amounts and solutions for these farmers to receive compensations. In this period, we are paying schemes for the compensation of losses due to the pandemic evolution, and here, we are using European money – 150 million euros, and 1. 4 billion lei from the national budget, so that we covered all the array of activities in the agriculture and food industry. These procedures are taking place in this period and will continue in November.

Ludovic Orban: Thank you, Minister. What is the exchange rate for direct payments?

Adrian Oros: For direct payments, where the level of advance payments will be 70 percent, payments are in lei, at a rate of 4.87 per 1 euro, established by the Central European Bank, on December 31. For the PNDR measures we implement through APIA, where advance payments are up to 85 percent, payments are in lei, at 4.78 lei per 1 euro, established by the Central European Bank, on December 31, 2019.

Ludovic Orban: Yes, there are different ways of establishing...

Adrian Oros: Yes.

Ludovic Orban: Therefore, this is the procedure according to the regulation, established by the European Central Bank.

Adrian Oros: There are two funds ...

Ludovic Orban: And how long does it take for each beneficiary to get the money? Therefore, starting ...

Adrian Oros: We, until December 5, pay all the advances, after which we pay the difference, the advance being 70% to direct payments and 85% to the FADR fund.

Ludovic Orban: I will follow the evolution carefully, possibly speed up the payments as much as possible because it is clear that farmers need this money, especially since the crops are being established and have been affected by drought or other / .. ./.

Adrian Oros: This year, Mr. Prime Minister, we gave certificates from May 16, we negotiated with all commercial banks and farmers received certificates, being able to borrow from banks with an interest rate negotiated by us, in an amount of 80% of the amount they will now receive from us.

Ludovic Orban: I have a question. For the payments, we will make in the form of ... compensations for farmers whose areas have been affected, for spring crops, it is a different state aid scheme, which requires separate approval from the European Commission?

Adrian Oros: Yes, we will have to draw up another emergency ordinance, we will send it to the Commission, it will be the same as for the crops in autumn 2019.

Ludovic Orban: All right.

Adrian Oros: Thank you!

Ludovic Orban: Thank you! Minister Popescu, even if you paid a visit to the United States, I can't help but ask you about the grants for SMEs, the billion euros made available. What is the situation and what is the launch schedule and deadlines for these grants?

Virgil Popescu: Mr Prime Minister, on Monday, we kicked off the first scheme, the micro-grant scheme of 2,000 euros. So far, 14,328 micro-enterprises, SMEs enrolled ...

Ludovic Orban: These are the 2,000 euro grants, right?

Virgil Popescu: 2,000 euros for SMEs that do not have employees. Out of a total of 50,000, we have a budget of 100 million euros for this scheme, basically, 50,000 companies.

Ludovic Orban: And when does the call end? Virgil Popescu: The call normally closes on Friday, 16. If all these places are not occupied ...

Ludovic Orban: It can continue.

Virgil Popescu: We will extend it by another week, until all the 50,000 ...

Ludovic Orban: The other two working capital grants ...

Virgil Popescu: Next week ...

Ludovic Orban: And for investments?

Virgil Popescu: Next week, we want to release the working capital. I tell you honestly, I would have liked to start the investment scheme before, but there are still some adjustments to be made to the investment scheme. Next week, we will not wait, we will start with the working capital scheme, then another week, the investment scheme. Basically, by the end of October, we will have all the schemes, all the functional schemes, released.

Ludovic Orban: It will take time for investments and for the evaluation of the submitted applications.

Virgil Popescu: For investments, we will have an open call for 30 days to submit projects, after which there will be an evaluation. The principle of first-come, first-served is only in scheme 1 and scheme 2.

Ludovic Orban: Thank you very much, Minister! The Government Decision on the prolongation of the state of alert will be on the daily agenda, as an important point on the Cabinet meeting agenda. Yesterday, the National Committee for Emergency Situations convened, whereby we decided to propose to extend the state of alert by another 30 days, and also to complete the Government Decision and the three addenda of the Government Decision on the state of alert, with a few additional measures, which have already been presented after yesterday’s meeting of the National Committee for Emergency Situations. The compulsoriness of mask-wearing in certain crowded spaces, such as bus stations, railway platforms, markets, fairs where there is no possibility to ensure the physical distance.  At an incidence between 1.5 per thousand and 3 per thousand, and in localities where the number of cases exceeds 3 per thousand, the index of 3 per thousand, the National Committee for Emergency Situations propose mask-wearing to be compulsory in all open spaces, not only in crowded spaces, as an additional protection measure for citizens.

We also had consultations with representatives of the creative industries, cultural institutions and, at the same time, we had consultations with HoReCa representatives. Following these consultations, we decided to change the regulations on the operation of theatres, cinemas, entertainment institutions, but also public catering units, restaurants, cafes, using a system somewhat similar to the system we used in schools, with only one difference: instead of 1% the first threshold, we set the first threshold of 1.5%, because more caution is needed for schools, as it is about our children and the threshold is 1% precisely to ensure additional protection. Basically, we establish three intervals: the virus spread index between 0 and 1.5% - theaters, cinemas operate at a capacity of 50%, obviously, in compliance with the rules established by the joint order of the Minister of Health, Minister of Culture, Minister of Economy, as appropriate; the spread index between 1.5 and 3 per thousand, we allow the operation of these cultural and economic activities, but with a reduced capacity, with a 30% reduction in the maximum number of people compared to the number of existing places, and only at an infection rate of over 3 per thousand, we decide that starting September 15, these activities will be closed, obviously, for a maximum period of 14 days and will be able to reopen, when the spread rate drops below 3 per thousand.

Yesterday, it was a media debate. I have publicly stated that the number of people in a locality based on which the index is decided is the one that exists in the Population Register. It is known that weekly, on Mondays, the number of citizens in a locality is updated, based on data from the Population Register. Why should this index be taken into account? That this is the closest to reality because the Population Register knows very clearly who has the domicile and who is resident of the respective locality. Please no longer tolerate INSP employees providing public information that does not comply with our decisions. Precisely for this reason, we decided, together with the Ministry of Interior, to include this very clearly in the annexe of the government decision, to make it clear that the index is calculated in relation to the population which is updated weekly by the Population Register. We also made some clarifications regarding the decisions - finding the meeting of the indexes and taking the measures related to exceeding each index must be done by the County Committees for Emergency Situations, within 48 hours, and the Public Health Directorates - they must announce within 24 hours from the moment they receive the information, to announce the County Committee, respectively the Municipal Committee for Emergency Situations, that we are in a situation with changing index and that change can occur up or down. And the County Committee for Emergency Situations should take the decisions related to the regulations we have established.

We also deemed it necessary to decide for the care centres for the elderly, for the care centres for the disabled and for other centres to diagnose weekly, to ensure the weekly testing of the staff. It is extremely important so that we can quickly identify the situation in which someone of the staff could be tested positive, to protect all those who benefit from care in those centres.

Of course, there are other measures. Basically, this will not be included in the government decision, but we waited two weeks for a decision to be taken at European level. There has not yet been a decision at the European level on the measures to be taken depending on the level of the spread of the virus. And we made the decision to impose measures for citizens coming from countries that have a higher infection rate than Romania's, measures that have been publicly announced. For persons coming for a maximum period of three days, including three days, if they have been tested, they must not be quarantined; if they come for a longer period, they should be quarantined, having the opportunity to take a test on the eighth day, if there are no symptoms, they can possibly leave the quarantine.

I would also like to tell you that we are in a moment of balance. We can stop the increase in the number of cases, but in order to achieve this goal, all institutions involved in the prevention, in ensuring protection measures, in constantly and correctly informing citizens about the evolution of the pandemic must be mobilized to the maximum and especially, we must direct all the human resources we have and all our actions, including controls to those areas where the spread rate is higher and where there is a higher risk of spread. We have already taken some of them through the decision we are proposing to the Government from the National Committee for Emergency Situations (...).

 



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