Fresh News

Tuesday, 11 October 2022

Press briefing by Secretary of State with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Coordinator for Romania’s OECD Accession Process, Luca Niculescu, Spokesperson for the Romanian Government, Dan Cărbunaru and Deputy Director of the OECD Public Governance Directorate, János Bertók

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Dan Cărbunaru: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the press briefing organized at the Romanian Government. As you know, throughout this period, almost one year, in addition to managing the series of crises affecting the whole region once with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, adding to the energy crisis, the prices hikes, the supply chains disruptions, very many challenges that Romania like its allies and partners, had to cope with. This was one of the main tasks the Government assumed while continuing to pursue and strengthen Romania’s profile in the democratic structures, Western structures that Romanians decided to join, I refer to NATO and EU accession, important country objectives together with accession to Schengen area and to OECD - The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a benchmark for the functioning of a democratic society, both from the perspective of the government –citizens relationship, the economic relations and the functioning of the free market.

As such, it gives me great pleasure to announce to you that today, as you know, the process of joining the OECD is continuing, reinvigorated with the meeting between the OECD leadership, Mr Cormann, and the Prime Minister of Romania, Nicolae Ciucă, here, at the Victoria Palace, and with the good news of the adoption of Romania's Accession Roadmap to OECD.  Today, an event took place at the Victoria Palace, that is part of this procedure to prepare Romania for this important moment, and it gives me great pleasure to tell you that Ambassador Luca Niculescu, national coordinator on Romania's accession to the OECD, and a special guest, Mr János Bertók, Deputy Director, OECD Public Governance Directorate are now with us here. They will give you more details about today's event and Romania’s evolution in the process of joining the OECD.

First, I will give the floor to Mr Ambassador Luca Niculescu. Ambassador, you have the floor.

Luca Niculescu: Thank you very much for this opportunity to take the floor and for hosting today’s event, such an important event, alongside others along our OECD accession path. If you allow me, I will present some ideas from the perspective of the coordination process of Romania’s OECD accession. As you know, and as Mr Carbunaru has mentioned, Romania received OECD candidate status in January 2022, January 25 is a very important date for us and then the related roadmap in June. It is a country objective, it is a strategic objective, the most important, I would say, objective of systematization and transformation of Romania after Romania's accession to NATO and the EU, and the completion of this objective will allow an additional modernization of Romania in the direction of states with consolidated economies.

Accession to the OECD involves a broad and long-term administrative effort. It is probably one of the most important tests of the administration, considering the fact that Romania will be evaluated in 26 areas and will have to internalize more than 230 legal instruments at the level of our legislation, policies and practices. Therefore, it is a long-term transformation effort, not only during the accession period, but also after Romania will become an OECD member, which happens to all member states, so they all go through transformation processes even after they are members of the organization.

 I would say that our big chance is to use this accession process as an opportunity for reforms, as a lever to modernize the administration through innovative approaches, systemic ones, as indicated by OECD Report which is launched today. There are essential aspects for our future functioning, whether it is innovation, transparency, integrity or streamlining the public sector. Today’s seminar was a good example in this regard, it is a good example, as it is underway, for connecting the Romanian administration to the developed states' community debate in the field of public governance and to the exchange of expertise with them.

The OECD experts’ analyses suggest that one of the ways to strengthen trust in public governance is to improve the quality of public services, and consolidate public institutions - in other words, we need the administration to yield results, and the projects carried out by the central government, such as those that are discussed today, contribute to the foundation of Romania's public governance priorities. The OECD is a participatory forum par excellence, which does not impose rules, but debates national experiences, with the objective of determining the most appropriate course of action for a given issue, whether we are talking about digitalisation, education or the involvement of young people in society. It is at the same time a forum with vast advisory expertise on almost all public policies in all fields, on how to implement them and, I would say, maybe even especially when it comes to the field of public governance. To conclude, I would say that it is an extraordinary chance for Romania to collaborate with the best - and one of them is with us today, director Bertók, who will tell us more about what is happening today and what the two projects are. Mr Director!


Dan Cărbunaru: Thank you very much, Mr Ambassador. Mr Director General, you have the floor!

János Bertók: Thank you very much. This is a great privilege to be here and join this press briefing. First, I want to emphasize the public administration reform, this is a priority not only in Romania, this is a priority in the European Union member states, also in OECD member countries. The OECD is a knowledge bank, I want to just give an example, in the European Union, more than 80 percent of the member countries, put public administration reform as a priority in the recovery and resilience plan. Public administration reform is critical for facing all these challenges, what you highlighted, whether it is an energy crisis, whether this is a global confrontation or high inflation.

Public administration is also critical for building trust, this is what came up this morning. Building trust in government, in public institutions, in government’s decisions. And morning’s discussions and also the following sessions, they focused on the – these are the key levers, these are the areas which are supporting, fostering trust in public institutions and government. So, we had discussions about the role of open government, public consultations engaging, involving stakeholders, and citizens but also the role of innovation, how digital transformation, and digital government services, they are more providing, on time, online services to the public.

Discussions also covered sustainable development, and the role of the centre of government for setting the priorities and also coordinating, align implementation across the different sectors.

I would like to also mention that a critical element is integrity. There were some discussions about anticorruption measures in specific sectors such as education, or state-owned enterprises or health. So, we see as economic organization, public governance not only for the society but also for the economy. A level of playing field, so, in that sense, we are looking forward to consolidating the results, the assessments, and also moving with the implementation in line with recommendations. I would like to emphasize that the OECD is on your side, secretary general Cormann came here, which was half a year ago, in March, and the Ministerial Council meeting in June opened for Romania the accession process. So, we are looking forward to the Initial Memorandum and starting the Committee process as soon as possible.

Dan Cărbunaru: Mr János Bertók, thank you for these clarifications. If there are questions for today’s guests, please tell them your name, the name of the media outlet you represent, and to whom you address this question. Thank you.


János Bertók: So, alarming levels of trust and I have mentioned in the OECD survey it showed that four out of ten, these are the survey citizens, trust government, and this is a very low level. And this is even lower in Romania, and some of the countries in the region, but also on other continents. This is the first time when we also surveyed what are the influential factors for building trust, and engaging transparency and engaging citizens, this is one of the most influential. In that sense, not only the quality of services, not only the final delivery but also how the services and the decisions are prepared, how the citizens and the stakeholders, the users of these services are involved in this design process matters a lot. I gave also a very concrete example, Romania is in a leading group of OECD member countries, this is involving citizens but also the stakeholders, and the various departments, so, the public institutions in the preparation of the anticorruption strategy. This full inclusion provides not only a very consolidated vision in the anticorruption strategy but also ownership, ownership for the implementation. This is helpful to making more efficient and more impactful this type of anticorruption strategy. But this is just one concrete example

Dan Cărbunaru: Thank you! I would add here the fact that including today's event can be considered as part of the recommendations regarding transparency and the way in which, at the level of the Government, all the relevant and interested stakeholders are connected to stakes such as the accession to the OECD and not only. I would just like to remind you that since taking office, Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă had dozens, maybe even hundreds of meetings with representatives of the business sector, of civil society, of all those who are connected and interested in what happens at the government level, in the sense that a transparent and open relationship is needed between those who govern and those who are governed. This is also the meaning of the approach in which, at the end of the first part of the day, with the courtesy of the national coordinator for the accession to the OECD and OECD Director Bertók, we wanted to come before you to present to you the developments, the stakes of the accession to OECD. And I must tell you that together with government and the OECD officials, attending today’s debates were representatives of civil society and the business sector, which confirms the fact that it is a joint effort, which the Government understands to place in this important context for the economic and social development of the country, which can certainly contribute to raising that percentage of trust in the government that you also referred to in the question. Please if you have any other questions.

Reporter: Mr Director, you mentioned integrity. What should Romania do more in this respect and what is your country’s position on this issue, compared to other OECD member states?

János Bertók: Thank you so much, this is a very important, another lever.  I would like to emphasize that there is a difference between existing indicators for civil society, for example, the Transparency International corruption perception index, because the OECD is actually collecting information on objectives, this is experience of the people, but also these are the objectives' implementation. This shows, I called one of the public integrity indicators, it shows that in the development of formal institutions, passing the legislations, some of these are like the prosecution, the concrete cases, Romania is quite advanced. Building a culture of integrity takes much more time, and of course, this is the way that we can provide all the insights, all the specific information, how to sustain, how to focus more on the risks identified, mitigated risks, and how to involve the business. And just maybe to combine with the previous question, how to involve the business sector in consultations, because the experience or data shows that involving the business sector creates not only positive feedback but also we see a significant increase in the compliance level. So, when the business was involved in specific regulations or measures, the level of compliance was higher by ten, fifteen percent. This is also an economic factor producing not only compliance in the sense of integrity or anticorruption, but it is also an economic factor reducing the cost, increasing again the efficiency cost for the business but also for the public administration. So, the OECD takes this holistic approach, bringing all this together. And we are supporting with data on what measures are to take, what are the conditions and how these can be implemented.

Dan Cărbunaru: : Thank you very much! If there are no more questions, I would like to thank Ambassador Luca Niculescu and OECD Director János Bertók for their presence here. Good luck in the future on this path of preparations for Romania's accession to the OECD, an important country objective that we will talk about again as we achieve further progress. Thank you once again.

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