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#Romania hasn't managed to draw any EU funds from the financial allocation



European flagsRomania has not managed to draw any EU funds from the 2014-2020 financial allocation and the absorption rate estimated for the big programs for this year is zero, according to the European Commission.

The EU has allotted Romania over €30 billion to spend in the 2014-2020 period. However, without having its management authorities accredited with the Commission, Romania cannot send payment requests for 2014-2020 funds.

The current Government has already drawn over €2billion worth of EU funds this year and the amount for the whole year will be over €3.2 billion. These are EU funds from the 2007-2013 allocation.

The lack of absorption, as it is known in EU jargon, by the Romanian state was confirmed by the Commission in a letter from Romanian Socialist MEP Victor Boştinaru.

The letter, from Corina Cretu, EU commissioner for regional policy, was published on Tuesday and refers to European funds programing for 2014-2020.

According to Boştinaru, the €722 million that the  Commission granted to Romania are advance payments to be allocated at the beginning of each budget year, and they cannot be classified as absorbed funds.

The MEP told this website that the technocrat government headed by former  EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos “cannot take any credit” for the increase of absorption for the 2007-2013 programme because this ended on December 31, 2015.

It is a big issue in Romania with the caretaker government which, among a number of other stumbles, is being widely blamed for failing to move swiftly enough.

Boştinaru. who is deputy leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament and a member of the regional development committee, said the delay is “on account of a lack of timely accreditation of the managing authorities.”

Essentially, EU financing is used to help the local economy catch up with its more mature peers in Western Europe. In the long term, this is designed to help build Romania’s case in its attempt to join the Eurozone, which most economists agree will happen in early 2020, in an optimistic scenario.

However, the issue is that the authorities are currently scrambling to put everything in place so that Romania can start using the funds allotted under the 2014-2020 programming.

Cristina Ghinea, the technocratic minister of EU funds, says that Romania had missed a window of opportunity in 2014-2015, during the mandate of former PM Victor Ponta, and failed to launch project calls under the new financial framework.

“Realistically speaking, there shouldn’t be any reason for public hysteria,” she said.

The EU average for absorption amounts to around 1.5 percent at the moment. The official absorption rates are: Bulgaria, 0.07 percent; Cyprus, 0.23 percent, Spain, 1.87 percent, Hungary, 0 percent, Italy, 0.39 percent, Poland, 0.87 percent, and Romania,  0.18 percent.

Ghinea has predicted that Romania will receive €3.6 billion from the EU once all the management authorities for EU-funded projects are approved.

However, Romania is still the second poorest economy in the EU so there is greater need for funds than in, for example, Italy, whose GDP per capita is around four times larger than Romania’s.

With Romania now having been a member of the EU for close to a decade, specialists working with EU funding have gained experience and international financial institutions such as the World Bank (WB) have provided training to ease the absorption of funds.

Even so, Romania remains on a watch-list of EU anti-fraud authorities.


EU/US agreement will reassert the co-operation of open societies



Today (30 November) ambassadors will gather in Brussels to prepare for next week’s Foreign Affairs Council and European Council of heads of government. Top of the list will be the future of EU/US relations.

The discussions will focus on five building blocks: Fighting the COVID-19; enhancing economic recovery; combatting climate change; upholding multilateralism; and, promoting peace and security. 

A strategy paper places the emphasis on the cooperation of open democratic societies and market economies, as a way of addressing the strategic challenge presented by China's growing international assertiveness.

The European Council president Charles Michel will be consulting with leaders over the next week and will also coordinate with NATO to plan a summit in the first half of 2021.

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Italy reports 26,323 new coronavirus cases, 686 deaths



Italy reported 686 COVID-19-related deaths on Saturday (28 November), against 827 the day before, and 26,323 new infections, down from 28,352 on Friday (27 November), the health ministry said, writes .

There were 225,940 swabs carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 222,803.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 54,363 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain. It has also registered 1.564 million cases.

While Italy’s daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed, suggesting the latest wave of infections was receding.

The health ministry said on Friday it would ease anti-COVID-19 restrictions in five regions as of 29 November, including in the country’s richest and most populous region, Lombardy.

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German minister says partial lockdown could last until Spring 2021



Germany’s partial lockdown measures could be extended until early spring if infections are not brought under control, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday (28 November), writes Caroline Copley.

Altmaier told Die Welt it was not possible to give the all-clear while there were incidences of more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in large parts of Germany.

“We have three to four long winter months ahead of us,” he was quoted as saying. “It is possible that the restrictions will remain in place in the first months of 2021.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Wednesday to extend and tighten measures against the coronavirus until at least 20 December.

Germany imposed a “lockdown light” in early November, which closed bars and restaurants but allowed schools and shops to stay open. The measures have stopped the exponential growth of cases but infections have stabilised at a high level.

There were 21,695 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday, bringing total cases since the pandemic began to 1,028,089.

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