Fresh News

Wednesday, 07 April

Press briefing by Prime Minister Florin Cîţu, Labor Minister Raluca Turcan, and Transport Minister Cătălin Drulă at the end of the Cabinet meeting of April 7

[Check against delivery]


Florin Cîţu: Good afternoon. At today's government meeting, there have been several things discussed.

First of all, I asked the relevant ministries to present their points of view on the Ministry of Labour's memorandum regarding the pay law. We must come up as soon as possible with a pay law. I have publicly expressed my opinion; I will wait and see what form the Ministry of Labour will finally put forth after discussing with those ministries, but, as I said before, I do not think that in that form we will see bonuses anymore; if they still exist, they will be only for a very, very small category, very special cases. Today, I told Ministries to come up with points of view in order to approve this memorandum next week. At the same time, there are nine Ministries that did not send the measures to be assessed and they will come up with them next week.  

We had a very good discussion about PNRR; a memorandum mandating the Ministry of European Investment and Projects to negotiate the current form of PNRR was approved today, and of course, the steps for moving forward were discussed. I asked the Ministers to get directly involved in the negotiations, to help the Minister of European investment and projects to make sure that the important projects for Romania will be included in the final form PNRR.

I presented the decision of the Prime Minister, to be published today in the Official Journal establishing the Interministerial Committee for Romania's return to normalcy on June 1, 2021. This is the first step, as we announced. We should have at end-May 5 million people vaccinated, and at the end-July, according to the schedule of receiving the doses of vaccines in the next period, we will have 10 million vaccinated, 70pct of the adults and we can talk in these two stages of reopening the economy. I want to start this discussion already, this is what I told my colleagues from the Government, to prepare, to make sure that we have the best measures.

The IMF, which is a critic of all developing economies, has come with very good news for Romania, which shows that it is confident in the measures that this Government is taking and in the programme for government, economic growth of 6% estimated for this year, much more than what the Government estimated, the Statistics Commission or the international institutions estimated. This committee will start immediately after it is approved. We discussed a bit about staff costs, for the budgetary execution on the first two months, and what we have in March shows an increase in the staff costs. I asked the Finance Minister to present on next meeting a report based on budget execution, of the staff costs until the end of the year, for all credit chief accountants, because we have a limit of 110 billion lei in the budget that we will not overrun. It seems to me that so far, the execution shows a greater increase than estimated of the budgetary spending with staff costs and I want you to know here these higher staff costs are coming from because you know very well that the legislation in force would not have allowed it. These were the discussions we have had today in the Cabinet meeting. My colleagues are here, the Labor Minister will present a draft law as well as the Transport Minister.

Reporter. Yesterday, the Secretary of State in the Health Ministry said that a 2-week quarantine can make wonders in our country”. My question is if, currently, the Government is considering other restrictions, if you take this quarantine into account?

Florin Cîţu: Before answering you, I wanted to make a call in this introductory part, as I made a call to local authorities, locally elected, presidents of county councils, even to the church, I would like to make a call to the private sector and entrepreneurs: to support the vaccination campaign. In the discussion of HORECA, I was very clear and they agreed with those in this sector, to help at the vaccination of all HORECA sector employees. A joint effort is needed, I also call on the private sector at this moment, it is necessary the involvement of each one, and this joint effort now in order to re-open the economy as of June 1st. Regarding your question, I had a discussion with the Secretary of State and she will give you a theoretical example. You know very well that all discussions about quarantine stipulated a two-week quarantine, that was the discussion about the virus: you have to stay indoors 14 days in order to get cured of the virus. It was a theoretical discussion, there was no proposal in this respect. We do not consider a national quarantine. I opposed it from the very first moment, I said that a generalized lockdown in Romania will not work, there will not be such a thing here. We are inclined to relax the economy, on one condition: we should all get vaccinated. It is important to understand that June 1st relaxation will happen only if we get vaccinated, otherwise, we have no chance.

Reporter: While you were talking about the church, BOR asked that traffic be allowed throughout Easter Vigil. Are you thinking of relaxing your measures that night?

Florin Cîţu: Tomorrow, we will take the decision, Government decision on extending the state of alert. In the previous decision, you know very well that it was until 2:00 am, in the Easter Vigil. We'll see tomorrow whether or not something changes. At this time we have not made a decision, we will make the decision tomorrow.

Reporter: You were talking about an increase in staff costs. Does this mean that in the next period the state employees could also expect redundancies?

Florin Cîţu: No, it does not mean so. I would like to understand how it happened, that's all! We have to fall within a budget expenditure of 110 billion lei this year. I want to see how it happened, if it was as a result of some normative acts that allowed some temporary expenses, I don't know, whether we paid extra for vaccination centres or for a hospital additional expenses, etc. I want to know exactly what happened, then we'll make a decision.

Reporter: What measures will you take to reduce expenses?

Florin Cîţu: I answered the question. Thank you very much!

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, last week, the Romanian Parliament adopted a statement on combating anti-Semitism.  Can you present us more details about the case of Maia Morgenstern, which revolted the entire society in the country and abroad, was widely covered in media around the world. Can you give us more details about this case?

Florin Cîţu: In the first moment when I received that information, I talked to the Minister of Internal Affairs, who further took measures and you know very well that the guilty person was identified in less than 24 hours, so after that, of course, that justice will take its course.

Reporter: What happens to the draft law on the closure of restaurants that do not comply with the decisions of the Ministry of Interior and why it is delayed, given that this measure has been talked about for a long time?

Florin Cîţu: Yes, the draft law had all the approvals, but at CES today, although the practice allowed it to be discussed in plenum, the draft law was delayed and does not have the CES opinion. CES as we got accustomed to other times, either comes with proposals to increase salaries or to increase expenditure. I told you that reform is necessary with CES too, and we go further with this. The PNRR includes some money for reform in this sector. It seems an odd obstruction, but we do not stop here, we will come up with this draft law. We will have a Cabinet meeting tomorrow too, so, if not tomorrow, then, the draft law will be surely debated next week.

Reporter: I understand that it arrived late at CES, that they didn't have time to debate it.

Florin Cîţu: No. I repeat, it arrived at CES, it could have been directly discussed in plenum, they did not want to do it, but we will have it next week.

Reporter: I wanted to ask you if you are still considering changing those rules regarding the burial of people who have died of coronavirus. We understand that this draft law has been blocked at the Ministry of Health for three weeks. What's its situation?

Florin Cîţu: As you have mentioned, it is blocked at the Ministry of Health, I will ask what is happening with that draft law. Tomorrow is the extension of the alert state and if things change until tomorrow, we can make a decision. I am waiting for the opinion of the specialists from the Ministry of Health.

Reporter: But have you discussed this with the Minister?

Florin Cîţu: We have always discussed, not only about this topic, there are several things we discuss and this inter-ministerial committee has exactly this role, to introduce draft laws on relaxation measures in the inter-ministerial committee, and this is one of them, and then to put it on the discussion agenda as soon as possible.

Reporter: Mr Prime Minister, I would like to ask you something about the transfer of the Judicial Police to prosecutor’s offices. As you know, there are live public discussions and discussions within the coalition. The measure is included in the programme for government, authorized voices in the judiciary are pleading for this transfer, arguing the fact that policemen waste a lot of time with administrative activities to the detriment of criminal prosecution. On the other hand, Interior Minister Lucian Bode do not see this idea as feasible, and in their turn, some police trade unions threaten with protests, stating: "All Romanian Police is standing by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, nobody else should interfere in the Police’s activity”. At the same time, I assume you know that they are publicly discussing the struggle over the control of files, interceptions etc. I would like to ask you how do you see this issue, will they follow the programme for government, will they follow a formula of compromise?

Florin Cîţu: You are talking about a small part of what is happening with the justice law. Yesterday, the ruling coalition took the decision of establishing a working group to look at all justice laws and put them in accord with the Venice Commission and the programme for government. Let us wait for the conclusion of this working group and afterwards, we can talk. Thank you.

 Reporter: You said that June 1 is only possible if we have a successful vaccination campaign. However, what can people expect from June 1? What will the relaxations look like, concretely, what will open?

Florin Cîţu: First of all, we should think that all the measures we took, we took them in a certain order, the simplest, from immediate measures, then they were more and more harsh measures. They will be in reverse order, we will begin to relax from the moment they were introduced. For example, the simplest thing would be to relax the measures that we took now, lately, a week ago and that we have been talking about. That would be the easiest way to get back to normal. If we have, for example, all the people vaccinated in the HORECA sector, we can talk maybe about the HORECA sector that no longer depends on the incidence rate or otherwise depends on the incidence rate, not being the same as the others ... There are several options. But, there are two horizons: June 1, in which we have 5 million vaccinated, that means almost 35% of people, and the end of July, when we have 10 million people, that means 70% and then we can talk about an even greater relaxation of restrictions. Thank you very much!


Reporter: Did you receive any clarifications regarding what went wrong with the quarantine in Timisoara? We know that after three weeks they had a higher incidence than before.

Florin Cîţu: But now they are at a 5% incidence rate, quarantine works.

Reporter: The total quarantine, as they had it, did not work.

Florin Cîţu: It didn't work in the short term, because it was a quarantine in which, we know very well, not all the rules were followed. After the quarantine was extended, we now see that it worked, and Timiș County is an example in this respect. We see that everywhere - and I think there are no cases, maybe an exception or two - everywhere where quarantine was introduced, especially in smaller areas, where all the rules could be followed, it worked in the Timiș county too. Thank you very much!




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