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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Press briefing by Prime Minister Florin Cîțu at the end of the Cabinet meeting

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Florin Cîțu: Good afternoon! Today I have received from the USR PLUS colleagues the nomination for the Minister of Health, Mrs Ioana Mihaila. I immediately sent the nomination to the President of Romania. I think that today, she will take the oath of office and we will have a full Minister of Health to take over this portfolio. Secondly, today, we had a very good meeting with the representatives of the religious denominations that celebrate Easter in the next period and we wanted to discuss a little about how that night ceremony will unfold, what will be the rules and of course, about the vaccination campaign. And things are very simple for that Easter night. From our point of view, we are only interested in complying with the rules we have: mask-wearing, social distancing and disinfectant. We will only be there to provide support, but the way the religious services are carried out does not interfere with these rules. So, from our point of view, it is very important to comply with these rules throughout that Easter night. We also received a set of recommendations from the Romanian Patriarchate, we take them into account.

My colleagues were there too, so I think things are very clear now and we will definitely have an Easter night without any problems. I have sincerely thanked the representatives of the religious denominations for their involvement in the vaccination awareness campaign so far, and I have further asked for support to speed up the vaccination campaign. As aforementioned, it is very important to have a successful vaccination campaign in order to have holidays in the future, without a mask, without disinfectant, without social distancing. In today's Cabinet meeting, there were several draft normative acts. The most important is the Emergency Ordinance that extends the mandate of the ICR leadership, it expires on Sunday, but we extended it until the appointment of the next leadership. The others were just important government decisions that we will communicate in a press release. Thank you.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, the PNL Chairperson Ludovic Orban stated many times that when a Minister attacks the Prime Minister or the Cabinet, should hand in his resignation at the same time. From your point of view, if the situation repeats with Mr Drula, he criticized you publicly, do you consider reshuffling any Minister, irrespective of the coalition’s decision?

Florin Cîţu: I do not think that such a thing will happen. Thank you!

Reporter: Some months ago, you sent the Control Body to the Romanian Waters. I have not seen any report there. How long does it take to see that report?

Florin Cîţu: I will ask for this report from the Control Body. Some are more complicated, others, easier to make, but I will make them public if they are ready. I will ask for an assessment and ask me an update next week. Thanks!

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, you have just submitted a nomination for the Ministry of Health. Did you have any discussion with Ioana Mihăilă? I ask you this question in the context in which you saw what is in the media, and you were informed and I ask you why you have not intervened so far given the repeated requests of Vlad Voiculescu to change the Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of Health, who is proven to have collaborated with the Securitate, he is accused of anti-Semitism, because, I quote: " told on Jews", I quote from the media. At the same time, this man has remained so many times, in offices at the Ministry of Health, in so many Cabinets. Have you discussed this new nomination of USR PLUS so that this man be withdrawn from this position?

Florin Cîţu: I also asked for an assessment of that gentleman, I still don't have a factual assessment. Here things must be very clear. He was appointed in March 2016 and has remained in that office ever since. I had no explanation as to why he was kept in the ministry then and did not leave, and there was no request at that time to leave. At the same time, it does not solve the problem if a person with such problems is brought from the Ministry of Health to the Government because he would come as a governmental inspector. We solve the problem, and here I am waiting for a reorganization of the respective ministry that may dismantle that position and then, of course, remove that person from office.

Reporter: Did you have any discussion about that?

Florin Cîţu: I had a discussion before. This reorganization did not come and I can tell you, for us, we have some important targets. One of them is to keep public sector wage spending within a certain limit. Reorganizing ministries, as we did at the Ministry of Finance by reducing the number of general directors, for example, general directors become directors, means savings on the budget. So these things can be done. Posts may disappear through reorganization. So you can do this and I am waiting, of course, for these solutions.

Reporter: The question was, why didn't you do it when Vlad Voiculescu presented you seven times, according to the document he showed, he asked you to do it?

Florin Cîţu: I told you that I had no justification, no document arrived as to justify why. Secondly, no justification why it remained in 2016 there. But we cannot play with people’s lives. There is a file telling this, if that decision was made, we would not have sold that problem. I told you, it was a move from Ministry to Government. If that was a real problem, we would have solved the problem, by dismantling the post which can be done only by the respective Minister through reorganization. But there is no explanation yet why he remained in that office in 2016.

Reporter: Second question: you mentioned the staff costs a little earlier, the IMF representatives were said to come with...

Florin Cîţu: They have come!

Reporter: They came, but if you can tell us at the moment where are the highest staff costs in the first three months of the year from the budget execution? Was it presented to you and for what reasons? And at the same time, I include in this question the fact that today you also had a memorandum on ministers. Did they have to send the assessments, their own assessment, if they were sent? The ones from USR PLUS.....

Florin Cîţu: There are three questions there. The memorandum is being evaluated. And regarding the staff costs, there are certain sectors, some of them justified, such as health, because we have a series of bonuses that have been extended for the staff working in intensive care and so on. There are certain increases granted during the alert state.

Reporter: First of all, regarding Easter night, we know that all the relaxation measures have been announced so far, practically, an extended schedule for stores, the fact that there will be no need for a statement and that you can travel all night. .

Florin Cîțu: For no one.

Reporter: However, in order to prevent certain protests, private parties with large crowds, did you discuss with the Ministry of Interior some checks or measures?

Florin Cîțu: Of course. Except for traffic, everything is closed. So there are no restaurants open, no parties. All parties are closed. It will be, from this point of view, only of parties, it will be a normal night. But in terms of travel, there will be no need for a statement that night.

Reporter: So, can those who plan to organize something expect checks?

Florin Cîțu: I understood that you don't have to ..., it's a special night and it should stay that way.

Reporter: And, a second question: the people from HoReCa said, after talking to you, that they would like to open before June 1 and, of course, accept the vaccination condition. Will such a thing be possible?

Florin Cîțu: On condition, they get vaccinated. If the personnel get vaccinated, it is a challenge for everyone. I clearly stated that if we succeed to vaccinate, we can open earlier.

Reporter: Minister, again, this memorandum for the assessments of ministers has been postponed.

Florin Cîțu: Yes.

Reporter: This is the third or fourth postponement. What happens, because you specified there a quarterly assessment. When will it actually take place?

Florin Cîțu: I postponed it because I wanted to see exactly what we have received so far and when I bring it to the Cabinet meeting, after analyzing all the assessments I received. Today, I think I have received almost all of them, but I want to have them, take a look at them first, and then we put it on the agenda.

Reporter: And when could we have a first evaluation, the first results?

Florin Cîțu: Let's put the memorandum on the agenda and then we will discuss it.

Reporter: There are studies that show that by the end of the year we will be able to vaccinate only 30% of the population, we are talking about the end of the year. What will be the Government's strategy?

Florin Cîțu: These studies are pessimistic. In Cluj, we have 30% of the population vaccinated, Bucharest had 20% a week ago. I know it's a challenge for people in rural areas, but you'll see that we have a solution for everyone, especially since we have vaccine doses now. This is a very, very pessimistic scenario that I don't even consider.

Reporter: Good afternoon. Mr Cîţu, you said that you want digitalization now. Can you tell us what you refer to more precisely and if you impose fines the townhalls which are not registered on ghiseul. ro, as the Minister of Communications conveyed?

Florin Cîţu: /.../ operates for the payment of taxes. Townhalls need motivation, we need to find it. I do not know if a fine can be a positive motivation. I prefer to create positive motivations, not to apply fines. We need to show them that life has become easier for everybody when we digitalize, and there will be higher tax receipts to date. Perhaps, our effort is needed, a more careful awareness campaign regarding the benefits of digitalization, although I do not believe, perhaps, it is necessary. When I say digitalization, I refer to the entire administrative apparatus, but we will see the benefits right away. The cash registers are already connected to the Finance Ministry. An important challenge for the Finance Ministry is e-billing. This year, I expect to have e-billing functional as it will bring important revenues to the budget. With important budget receipts, we can discuss other things.

Reporter: The European Commission data shows that Romania has the highest traffic-related death rate and I have here some figures: 85 per million inhabitants, the EU average is 42, and Sweden has 18 deaths per million inhabitants. How can we reduce this death rate?

Florin Cîţu: There are several solutions. What we see working, is a correlation, I do not know if there is a direct relationship, the infrastructure. When there is a developed infrastructure, the number of traffic accidents is declining. There are other measures as well, but we have already allocated clearly resources in the programme for the government in order to develop road infrastructure in Romania. Thank you.

Reporter: Thank you too. Mr Prime Minister, the political agreement concluded last evening, stipulates: „ the coalition establishes a permanent working group to render effective the state functioning”. Can you tell us more? Why is such a working group necessary? What will do this group? Who will be part of it, when does it become operational?

Florin Cîţu: I can tell you that this Government is working every day at the operationalization of state institutions. We have proven this through the measures we have taken so far. At the Finance Ministry, you could see that we advance with digitalization. There is a desire for reform and my request is to make reform in state institutions. We approved that draft law which repealed the law passed last year, in Parliament whereby you could not sell state shares (...). Therefore, we are working at the Government and the Government’s decisions show very clearly that we want state efficiency.

Reporter: And I would also like to ask you, after what happened at Victor Babeș Hospital, you requested an investigation, I would like to ask you if you don't think that an investigation or at least an analysis would be required regarding what happened at Foisor Hospital? People were marked by the image of the sick taken on ambulance stretchers ...

Florin Cîţu: I asked for a report on this topic.

Reporter: ... There is a perception that no one is really responsible for such incidents. Investigations will be carried out to see if it was abuse at work, negligence at work, which employees were wrong if the director of the hospital was wrong and on how the gendarmes acted, with some clear conclusions and some culprits to answer for?

Florin Cîţu: I also had discussions that evening with those who dealt directly or indirectly with this transfer. Yes, I have asked for a report to see exactly how the whole procedure was carried out. When I have it, I will come up with conclusions. Thank you!

Reporter: Good afternoon! Would you agree with the appointment of Vlad Voiculescu as honorary adviser to the new Minister of Health?

Florin Cîţu: From what I found out, he is on vacation in the next period. So I don't think it is an issue. Thank you!

Reporter: And the second question. In PNL there are leaders who are dissatisfied with several USR PLUS Ministers, and here we refer to Stelian Ion, Claudiu Năsui and Cătălin Drulă, are they also about to be reshuffled?

Florin Cîţu: I don't know why you want again reshuffling and no ... it's a situation which you take to the extreme. At this moment, the coalition is working very well, we have a government programme and we are advancing and making decisions in this direction, nothing as such is being taken into account at the moment.

Reporter: I saw in the public space that the presidential administration enjoys a higher trust from the people towards the government and its related institutions. The question is...

Florin Cîţu: Why?

Reporter: No, no! Why not start a pro-vaccination campaign in which the president is actively and directly involved because I saw in important moments he could go out every day to speak against or for something?

Florin Cîţu: The president is directly involved in this vaccination campaign and helps a lot with this vaccination campaign and I am sure he will do it in the next period as well. And we get as involved as we can in the framework we have.

Reporter: The European Medicines Agency said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has greater benefits than risks. Will we start vaccination too?

Florin Cîţu: Yes, yes. Following this EMA decision, we will start vaccinating with Johnson & Johnson as well. It was the solution for these mobile centres, initially. We've used Pfizer now, but we'll see if we get back to these mobile centres with Johnson & Johnson. Thank you!

Reporter: We know that in last evening's discussions within the coalition, there was also talk about your evaluation as prime minister. If so, who will do it? Knowing that ministers will be evaluated by you?

Florin Cîţu: The citizens of Romania and the MPs. You know very well that the Government’s activity is assessed by the citizens of Romania, and the Parliament, through motions of censure, also assesses the Government’s activity. So, my assessment is constantly made, every day, by the citizens of Romania.

Reporter: And a second question is related to a normative act that provides 40 lei for family doctors for each vaccinated person. If and at what stage is this normative act?

Florin Cîţu: It is in the approval circuit at the Ministry of Finance.

Reporter: And what will this entail?

Florin Cîţu: It is in approval at the Mystery of Finance, let me see the form that comes out of there and then I can tell you what exactly it will mean, that there are more ...

Reporter: Would there be funds for such a measure and if so, when could it enter into force?

Florin Cîţu: There are funds and if it is submitted next week in the Cabinet meeting, it will take effect immediately after it is published in the Official Gazette.

Reporter: You said that you spoke today with the representatives of the religious denominations and about the vaccination campaign.

Florin Cîţu: Yes, I did.

Reporter: Specifically, how will they get involved in the vaccination campaign or in spreading the word that it is good to get vaccinated?

Florin Cîţu: There are several examples of information, of course. We had an example of a religious denomination that immediately contacted the prefect and made a list of the persons who want to get vaccinated. So, there are many ways to back this campaign. It is important that they get actively involved and positively answered our request. We all want to have a successful vaccination campaign as there would be no need for decisions regarding Easter night, etc. We could get back to our normal life, without the CNSU decision to allow us to do something or not.

Reporter: Did they tell you or will they talk to people, including at Sunday service, for instance?

Florin Cîţu: I have not requested such details, they told me they would endorse the vaccination campaign and will carry further the message to inform the citizens about the benefits of the vaccination campaign.

Reporter: Thanks.


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