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Thursday, 15 December 2022

Prime minister Nicolae-Ionel Ciucă attended the OECD Council meeting

 

Remarks by Prime minister Nicolae-Ionel Ciucă at the meeting with the OECD Council

Paris, 15 December 2022

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General.

Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,

 

As I said during our press conference, it is a special honor for me to be here today. I would like to use this opportunity to share with you some of our key lines of sustaining our endeavor to join the OECD. I would like to start with a recollection, from the beginning of this year. Immediately after Romania received the letter of invitation to start the OECD accession process, the Secretary-General, Mathias Cormann, visited Bucharest. I have always mentioned that it was our first meeting but we very soon realized that we have very good chemistry, there is very good chemistry between us, so, thank you very much for visiting us at that time.  It was at the end of January and I remember very well the long discussion we had about the imminence of a Russian attack against Ukraine. There were several scenarios and, unfortunately, the most dramatic of them happened. A few weeks later, Russia launched an atrocious, illegal, unprovoked, and unjustified war against a peaceful neighbor. Many people died, entire cities have been destroyed, unimaginable atrocities were committed against civilians and millions of Ukrainians have become refugees.

As the EU Member State with the longest border with Ukraine, Romania and the Romanian people have done their utmost to help Ukraine and the refugees that sought shelter from the war. Since the beginning of the conflict, over three million Ukrainians have crossed the border into Romania, some traveling to other EU Member States, others staying in Romania for a short period of time. Almost 100 000 [HUNDRED THOUSAND] of them decided to call Romania their home for at least the medium term. Ukrainian refugees benefit from support with free shelter, medical services, education, and public transport. They have been also granted access to the labor market. We constantly adapt our support infrastructure to their concrete needs and think in perspective. I would like to let you know very shortly that our government was the first one for providing the plan for integrating the Ukrainian people into our society. So, the Ukrainian children have access to Romanian schools or they can use an online platform which is connecting them with their schools or with the designated schools in Ukraine so that they can continue their educational program. We have provided them with laptops, tablets, and everything that was required for them to have them connected with their country. So, we are very proud also for offering the Ukrainians to choose where they can work, and there are a lot of Romanian companies which already hired them.

Besides the refugee dimension, our efforts focused on political and practical solutions to facilitate the transport and transit of Ukrainian grain to the international markets.

Romania is, thus, at the frontline of the international effort to prevent the deepening of the global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We are receiving Ukrainian grain by road, rail, sea, and the Danube River. Since the start of the invasion, the Romanian Black Sea Port of Constanța has become the main gateway for Ukrainian grain shipments to the outside world.

Around 10,1 million tons of grain and related products have transited and have been exported through or with the support of Romania to third countries.

The next challenge for us and for you, our like-minded partners, will be to agree on the pace and priorities for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Just two weeks ago, the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers took place in Bucharest, where we committed to strengthening the partnership with Ukraine as our neighbors advance their Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The discussions reconfirmed the crucial role of the transatlantic relationship in ensuring European security.

The atrocious war waged by Russia against Ukraine has a destabilizing potential for the entire region and the world. We follow with great caution what is happening in the Republic of Moldova as well. To help the Republic of Moldova, Romania established, together with Germany and France, to whom we are grateful, a Support Platform for the country. On a bilateral level, Romania today provides almost 90 percent of the electricity supply needs of the Republic of Moldova. Romania’s gas infrastructure also offers to the Republic of Moldova an alternative route for alternative supply.

 

Mr. Secretary-General,

Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,

 

I became Prime Minister a year ago, and joining the Organisation was the top priority from day one. My enjoyment was even greater when, at the end of January, I received the letter by which we were invited to begin the accession process. I have already mentioned your visit to mark that event, in Bucharest. A few months later, in June this year, we had the pleasure to receive the Accession Roadmap, followed by the kick-off mission to Bucharest. And here I would like to express my gratitude to all members of your team who were coming to Bucharest and they were really sharing with us their evaluation and showed us the way to complete the Initial Memorandum. Thank you very much for their professionalism and dedication.  

We have mobilized to respond to this challenge. I have reorganized the OECD Inter-ministerial Committee into a National Committee for accession that I chair and a special structure within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by a state secretary, who is the national coordinator of the accession process. I am sure you know who is this state secretary, he is here, somewhere on my right side.

We strengthened the team at the center of the Government. We are also strengthening the OECD team in our Embassy in Paris. We have mobilized the entire Romanian administration for a structured dialogue with OECD.

That is why, now, when I arrived in Paris, I did not arrive empty-handed. A few minutes ago, I handed to the Secretary-General, Mathias Cormann, the Initial Memorandum of Romania. We are happy about taking this first step and confident that our Memorandum provides a solid basis for the next stage of our journey toward OECD membership.

I know that this process does not start from scratch. Over the years, Romanian institutions have worked with the OECD structures and your expertise has been of great use to us in many areas: corporate and public governance, competition, investment, state-owned enterprises, fiscal policy, education, environment, and development assistance to name a few.

The accession process places us in a different paradigm. Romania does not see the OECD Accession as a purpose in itself. Romania wants to use the process of accession as a catalyst for reforms, and as an engine for change, as pointed out by the Secretary-General. As someone well said, “The journey is as important as the destination". We will walk this road together and we will reach our destination together.

As highlighted in the OECD Economic Survey of Romania: in less than 20 years, Romania has reduced the gap in GDP per capita to the OECD average by half, from close to 70% to around 35%. The population at risk of poverty or social exclusion had fallen to 30% in 2020, from around 50% thirteen years before.

I can offer other figures: in the last 30 years, Romania's GDP has increased nine times, the biggest increase in the European Union. The growth continues, despite the crises, we are going through. The latest OECD Economic Outlook anticipates an increase in Romania's GDP of 6.5% for 2022, which reflects a strong recovery following the economic impact of COVID-19.

Of course, there are still issues requiring attention such as rising inflation. The Romanian government has taken measures, especially to protect the most vulnerable people to pass these hard times. At the same time, I have always believed that one of the effective answers to the crisis is investments. My Government allocated the largest investment budget of the last 30 years, amounting to almost 18 billion euros, aiming at relaunching the Romanian economy and supporting the business environment. And we increased, even more, the investment budget for the next year - more than 20 billion euros.

However, I would like to let you know that yesterday, our Parliament has approved the budget for next year so the figures which I shared with you, are already approved. It is for the first time in Romania that the budget is approved before the end of the first half of December.

 To this, EU funds are added in support of reforms and investments that will accompany Romania’s green and digital transitions. Our Government is decided to use every euro of the almost 90 billion provided by the EU through NRRP and MFF.

Romania supports a determined collective action, involving all relevant stakeholders, in order to implement the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement objectives. We have an integrated approach to combating climate change: nature-based solutions in the carbon capture process, green technologies to reduce emissions from the energy and industrial sectors, behavior change through awareness, and advancing education on climate change.

I appreciate, at the same time, that the OECD continues to ask the right questions at the right time, such as the ones addressed during the recent conference organized by the OECD in Luxembourg, Building Trust and Reinforcing Democracy. Rebuilding trust in democracy in a period of successive and concurrent crises should be part and parcel of our collective effort for resilience.

 

Mr. Secretary-General,

 Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,

For Romania, joining the OECD does not only mean joining the group of countries where 70 percent of global trade and 90 percent of global direct investments take place. It also means new openings: we will have the opportunity to share experiences with like-minded countries from North and South America, to Asia and Oceania, as well as with our European partners. It means joining a group of countries that believe in the same values.

We will work with the 26 committees, with the Secretariat - which I want to thank for its permanent support - and with you, the member states - so that the accession process takes place in the best terms possible.

 In times of crisis, more than ever, it is important for like-minded countries to stand together and support each other. Romania offers concrete proof that is such a country. Our democratic course of the last 30 years has demonstrated it, and our action for the defense of fundamental values since the beginning of the war in Ukraine confirms it.

After the accession to NATO and the integration into the European Union, the OECD accession represents a milestone objective in further accelerating the adaptation of Romania for the 21st century.

I trust we will walk this path together, successfully.

I would like to thank you again for all your support. I would like to thank you for your attention and for listening to my speech, and also, I would like to let you clarify if you have any questions, I am available to answer whatever you want to know about Romania and about our process to access the OECD.

Thank you very much for your time.

 

 

 



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