Statement by Mr. Liviu RADU, Secretary of State, Ministry of Administration and the Interior of Romania

(Strasbourg, 16 March, 2006)

Dear Mr. President
Distinguished members of the Congress
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be for the second time in Strasbourg and to take part in the meeting of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. I want to thank to the president Di Stasi for the kind invitation addressed.

As you are aware, during its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, Romania attached great importance to the further strengthening of the cooperation between the member states of the Council of Europe and the local authorities of the Congress.

In December last year, the 6th Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe was held in Sinaia, Romania. The event brought together local and regional elected representatives from South East Europe as well as all NGOs and experts involved in the promotion of local democracy in this part of Europe.
In the Final Statement, the participants agreed upon the need to enhance mutual cooperation in order to provide an adequate framework for local and regional development. They also delivered a strong support for the establishment of the Black Sea Euroregion and encouraged the Romanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers to organize a Conference for the launching of this initiative. The Romanian side offered to host this event in Constanta, on March 30, 2006.
This project is of crucial importance for Europe, given its links with Central Europe – through the Danube and other rivers – and taking into account its geographical location – at the cross-roads between East and West – and its access to the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, in environmental, economic and social terms, the Black Sea region is one of the most sensitive European areas and the Congress wishes to contribute to fruitful cooperation among authorities in its vicinity.
The main topics to be tackled during the Conference refer to the international and inter-regional cooperation in the Black Sea area, the challenges of the Black Sea basin and steps to be followed towards the establishment of the Black Sea Euroregion.
The Conference will be attended by ministers of the countries of the larger Black Sea area, representatives of the interested international organizations, the European Commission, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, the Stability Pact of the South East Europe, and the local and regional authorities of the interested countries.
We encourage the representatives of the local and regional authorities and the members of the Congress to attend the Conference in Constanta.
We hope that this event will enjoy the same success and a large participation as the Conference in Venice which established the Adriatic Euro-region. Coming to this point, I would especially like to commend the Congress and President Di Stasi for their decisive role in making this project a reality.
The second issue I would like to refer to is the strong commitment of the Romanian Government to achieving a real and consistent public administration reform. In January, following a process of consultations with all the main actors involved – national association of local authorities, political parties, civil society - we elaborated a set of important laws aiming to create an appropriate framework for administrative and financial decentralization. These laws consistent with the European standards are now under debate of the Parliament and they will be soon adopted.
Government’s priorities were the following:
- strengthening the administrative capacity of the institutions managing European funds;
- administrative and financial decentralization and deconcentration
- local and regional public administration reform
- civil service reform;

1. Strengthening the administrative capacity of the institutions managing European funds
In the extraordinary meeting of 29 January 2006, the Romanian Government adopted a set of laws aimed at:
- amending the organisational structures of the central public institutions managing European funds;
- increasing with 8564 the number of positions in the public institutions managing European funds;
- simplifying the procedures for recruiting the personnel to be hired on these positions.
- the personnel scheme of the Ministry of Administration and Interior was enlarged with 47 positions. Aut of them, 30 are allocated for the Sectoral Operational Program for Developing the Administrative Capacity, and 17 are allocated to the prefectures in order to improve the activities concerning the national minorities

2. In the administrative and financial decentralization / deconcentration field
The Ministry of Administration and Interior developed, after a comprehensive consultation process with all stakeholders, especially with the local governments’ representative associations, a set of draft laws on local public administration. In this process, the Ministry of Administration and Interior was also supported by the civil society, international donors (the European Union, World Bank, United States Agency for International Development, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development /SIGMA).

    · The set of laws on public administration reform comprises:
    1. E.G.O. for amending and completing Law no. 340/2004 on the institution of the prefect

In order to increase the efficiency of the prefect’s activity, the law clarifies the issues concerning the professionalizing the prefect’s competence and his role in leading the de-concentrated public services.
The main innovations comprised in this new regulation include:

    - The current prefect and deputy prefect are no longer political appointees. Starting with January 1st 2006, they become senior civil servants and are fully regulated by the Statute of civil servants;
    - The general secretary position of the prefecture becomes deputy prefect position;
    - The prefects and deputy prefects are politically neutral and they follow the general rules on mobility, applicable to all senior civil servants;
    - Clarifying the relations between prefect and the authorities of local public administration in order not to allow the prefect to involve in their activity.

    2. Three draft laws were approved during Government’s meeting on 26th of January 2006 and sent to the Parliament in order to be passed under emergency procedure

      a. The draft framework-law on decentralization

This draft law aims to establish an integrated set of principles, rules and steps that have to be respected by each ministry which decentralizes its activity.
The main innovations brought by the new draft law are:

    - a comprehensive set of principles regulating the decentralization process;
    - a set of clear rules and precise steps to be observed in any sectoral decentralization initiative;
    - a chapter on the assignment of functional competencies to local public authorities. The main innovation is the new structure of these competencies. They are separated according to the administrative level - the county level and the communes and towns level respectively – and according to the type of competence into exclusive, shared and delegated ones;
    - a set of framework provisions on local budgets equalization. These are also included and further developed within the draft law on the local public finances.

b. The draft law for amending and completing the law on the local public administration
The main objective of this draft law is to consolidate local autonomy by creating the necessary tools for strengthening the administrative capacity and increasing the efficiency of local governments.
The main amendments are as follows:

    - the introduction of the inter-communality concept;
    - clarifying the statute and role of the Deputy Mayor and his relation with the Mayor;
    - the secretary of the local government unit is recruited, appointed and dismissed according to the general procedures applicable to the leading civil servants regulated by the Statute of civil servants. Thus the prefect’s intervention in theses procedures is eliminated;
    - the validation of local and county counselors, as well as the ascertainment of their mandate’s cease and of the dissolution of local and county councils will be performed exclusively by the Courts;
    - the introduction of the public administrator position (city-manager), optionnaly. The public administrator might undertake the role of local public services manager.

c. Draft law on local public finance
The elaboration of the draft law on local public finance was necessary for improving the principles and the financial procedures, based on the European countries’ experience, in order to consolidate local financial autonomy and improving the quality of local public services.
The main provisions of the draft law are as follows:

    - clarifying the types of fiscal intergovernmental transfers, annually foreseen in the state budget law, in order to increase their transparency and efficiency;
    - the allocation of funds for balancing the local budgets will be performed by the de-concentrated services of the Ministry of Public Finance at county level, instead of the county councils. This measure will ensure the transparency of the process, the strict application of the allocation formula, the increased predictability of the balance system in general, as well as eliminating the favoritism and political conditions in allocating the funds. The funds for local budgets equalization will be focused on poor localities through the enforcement of an exclusion criterion for the communes and towns with a fiscal capacity higher than the county average;
    - increasing the local government public debt limit from 20% to 25%. The 5% increase of the public debt limit takes into account both the local governments’ need for financial recourses and the budgetary caution rules;
    - the development of a new chapter on the insolvency of the local government units;
    - imposing new clear rules for ensuring local budgetary transparency.

3. Civil service reform
In the meeting of 26 January 2006, the Romanian Government approved the draft Law for amending Law 188/1999 on the Statute of Civil Servants. The draft was submitted to the Parliament in order to be approved under emergency procedure. This law brings changes in the following areas:
- introduction of the decentralization principle in the area of recruitment of the civil servants. The recruitment for the vacant public positions will be made directly by the local public administration authorities, excepting a limited number of special managing public positions. For all the public positions in the local public administration, appointment, change of the working relations, sanctions and relegation will be made by mayors, respectively presidents of the county councils;
- restructuring the category of senior civil servants, in order to include, starting from 1 January 2006, the positions of prefect and sub-prefect. Senior civil servants will be recruited through national contest, organized by an independent permanent commission, whose members will be appointed by Prime Minister’s decision. The procedure for nominating the members of the commission is designed in such a manner to eliminate the possibility that a Govern could decide during its mandate the replacement of more than 50% of the total members of the commission. Appointment of prefects and deputy prefects in senior civil servants positions will be made by the Government, for the prefect position, and by the Prime Minister for the deputy prefect position, according to the results of the national recruitment contest;
- including further restraints on the political activity of the senior civil servants and of the managing civil servants. Thus, they are allowed to run for elections or to occupy statesman positions, only if they drop out the civil service;
- provisions on the special protection measures for civil servants having responsibilities concerning the control, inspection and forced execution of the budgetary claims, and for other categories of civil servants who carry on activities with a high degree of professional risk, as well as for the civil servants in the areas vulnerable at corruption;
- changes concerning the rights of the civil servants, mainly for ensuring a carrier in civil service.
The draft law was subject to large debates with the main civil service trade-unions, an agreement being also concluded.
Thank you for your attention.



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