CG/INST (9) 45
Follow-up to the information report on local and regional democracy in Romania1

Rapporteur: Mr Jean-Claude Frecon (France, L)

Summary

On 19 and 20 February 2003, Mr Jean-Claude Frecon (France), Vice-President of the Congress and rapporteur on local democracy in Romania, paid an official visit to Bucharest. Mr Frecon was accompanied by the head of the Institutional Committee secretariat, Mr Riccardo Priore.

On 19 February Mr Frecon met Minister for Public Administration Octavian Cozmanca, Mayor of Bucharest Traian Basescu, the head of the European Commission delegation in Bucharest Mr Johnatan Scheele, and a number of mayors of the country's other main cities.

On 20 February Mr Frecon chaired a joint Congress- Federation of Romanian Local Authorities (FARL) round table on the topics raised in the information report adopted in 2002 by the Congress's Institutional Committee (document CG/INST(8) rev 1 - available on the Congress's website). The meeting was attended by leading players in Romanian local and regional democracy. The following questions were discussed by the round table: the criteria for apportioning state transfers among local authorities, "political migration" by local elected representatives, the rights and duties of local elected representatives and penalties applying to them, the situation in the city of Bucharest and regionalisation.

In the round table's conclusions Mr Frecon called on all the authorities concerned to establish regular, responsible dialogue on these subjects with the aim of applying the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and improving the way local democracy was practised in Romania. (Mr Frecon's visit programme, including the round table and the list of those taking part, is appended hereto and is also to be found on the Congress website.)

I. Mr Frecon's visit arose from the decision taken by the Congress's Institutional Committee last November. Its main purposes were:

a) to follow up the information report on local and regional democracy in Romania adopted by the Institutional Committee in April 2002;
b) to meet the local and national elected representatives who had recently addressed complaints to the Congress (Mr Basescu, Mayor of Bucharest, Mr Funar, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, and Mr Pacurariu, Senator);
c) to keep abreast of regionalisation debate in Romania in consultation with the European Commission after the conference which the Congress held in Sinaia in October 2002.

II. During the visit, direct contact was made at the highest level with the leading players in local government and in public debate on regionalisation.

On 19 February Mr Frecon met:

a) the six representatives of the Association of Mayors of the Major Cities of Romania (Bucharest, Timisoara, Brasov, Giurgiu, Deva, Cluj-Napoca). This association was set up on 27 January of this year and is composed of the mayors of the cities mentioned. As the members are individuals (the purposes and articles of the association are appended hereto), the Minister for Public Administration has not recognised the association and did not wish to meet its representatives for the moment.

At the meeting the six mayors stated that "in Romania there is a political dictatorship and local self-government is seriously threatened by:

- the prefects (local-authority decisions are automatically suspended when challenged by the prefects in the administrative courts (author’s note: this procedure has already been censured by the Institutional Committee));
- the authorities of the "judets" (state funds are often apportioned by these authorities according to political criteria; also it should be noted that, following the latest "political migrations", 34 out of 41 judets are controlled by the governing party (PSD);
- certain municipal councils controlled by the government, which wishes to upset the work of mayors with different political allegiances."

Because of this, the Mayor of Brasov, Mr Ghise, said on behalf of the association that Articles 4.2, 4.4, 4.6, 8.2, 9.1 and 11 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government were not being complied with in Romania. He then handed a report (in English and French) to Mr Frecon on the defects of local democracy. That document is appended hereto.

b) The head of the European Commission delegation in Romania, Mr Scheele. In addition to discussing the problems raised in the Congress's information report, Mr Scheele confirmed that the Commission intended financing a study on regionalisation. This would be conducted by the Ministry of Public Administration in consultation with the Ministry of Development and local elected representatives (a task force would be set up for the purpose). Funding would amount to about 1,000,000 euros.

c) The Minister for Public Administration, Mr Cozmanca. This meeting lasted over two hours and produced particularly fruitful dialogue (see next chapter) on the chief problems besetting local democracy, for example those referred to in the Institutional Committee's information report.

III. On 20 February Mr Frecon chaired a joint Congress-FARL round table on the topics raised in the Institutional Committee 2002 information report (document CG/INST(8) rev 1 - available on the Congress's website). The round table brought together the leading players in local democracy in Romania (programme and list of participants appended hereto).

In the round table's conclusions, the various sides pledged to establish dialogue and thereafter adopt measures compatible with existing legislation, putting right that legislation and practices connected with it where they contravened the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Specific matters:

a) The problems resulting from inequitable distribution of state funds by judets authorities and from allocation of new responsibilities to local authorities without transfer of matching resources: Mr Cozmanca undertook to find solutions within the local-finance bill which he intended making public in March. In this connection, Mr Frecon said he expected the bill to be forwarded to the Congress for information and to the FARL at the earliest opportunity. The FARL should arrange for it to be circulated to all the elected representatives concerned, including the Mayor of Bucharest.

b) "Political migration" of local elected representatives: there had been an increase in this over the previous few months, to a point where it had even begun to embarrass the governing PSD, which was the primary beneficiary of these changes of party alignment by local elected representatives. Mr Frecon said that representatives would probably be less tempted to go over to the government party, which was in the majority in the judets (currently 34 out of 41), once the rules on the apportionment of state funds had been amended according to clearer, simpler and more precise criteria. The practice was unacceptable in a fully functioning democracy. It was also unacceptable that, since the 2000 elections, the proportion of government-coalition members of local elected bodies should have risen from 35% to over 60%. It was highly desirable, without limiting the freedom of local elected representatives to express their political preferences, that central government should endeavour to find ways of curbing this tendency to "migrate" after elections.

c) *The rights and duties of local elected representatives: Mr Cozmanca promised to do his best to ensure that the Local Elected Representatives Bill was finally adopted, after deletion - as recommended by the Congress and agreed to by the Prime Minister - of the provision on setting up a disciplinary committee composed of mayors. As regards the criticisms by the Institutional Committee concerning central authority supervision of local authority decisions and organs (see Chapter VII of the information report), Mr Cozmanca confirmed that the relevant provisions of Act No. 215 (2001) would be amended when the new Administrative Code was prepared. A draft of this code should be ready for September 2003. He added that the prefectoral body would gradually be professionalised. Mr Frecon noted this information and recommended that the minister "keep his promises" since it appeared that, in practice, the provisions of the act were already giving rise to abuses.

d) The city of Bucharest, the situation had altered little since the adoption of the Institutional Committee's report (April 2002). The city council had been dissolved by the government in January 2002 pursuant to Act No. 215 (following the adoption of three consecutive rule-making decisions, all of them set aside by the competent judicial authorities). After an appeal by 21 councillors, the government's decision had been suspended by the administrative courts. Following a defence of constitutionality under Act No 215, which was ultimately rejected on 20 February 2003, the Supreme Court (Litigation Division) had postponed to the following June the final ruling on the validity of the government decision to dissolve the council. The upshot was that tensions between Mayor Basescu and his council were steadily worsening and the city was becoming ungovernable. There was further conflict over use of some substantial funding from the EIB and EBRD which the mayor had negotiated but the council and Parliament had blocked on grounds of procedural irregularity. In addition Mr Basescu informed Mr Frecon that the government "was continuing to harass him by taking responsibilities and resources away from him and giving them to the borough mayors" (all PSD members). According to the information obtained, the President of the Republic, Mr Iliescu, was the only person who could mediate between the different parties in dispute. He had reportedly started consultations with the Mayor of Bucharest on the one hand and the representatives concerned of the PSD (which was also his party) on the other. Because of the party-political implications of these affairs, it was difficult to predict the outcome of presidential mediation. What was quite clear was that the real and only victim of all this was the population of Bucharest, for the city was in a disastrous situation. In the light of this information, Mr Frecon hoped that the courts would soon rule on the council matter and he urged Mr Cozmanca to introduce the bill on the capital city which he had promised the Congress in February 2002. The minister undertook to present the bill during the coming weeks and to circulate it to all parties concerned, especially the Mayor of Bucharest. Mr Frecon requested the minister to send a copy of the bill to the Congress as well.

e) Regionalisation: since the Sinaia conference internal debate does not seem to have got very far. It could be revived by the task force set up with European Commission funding (see above) under the aegis of the ministries concerned. Mr Cozmanca still seems determined to create "political" regions in Romania. However, his time table is now different from that of the previous year: today he is talking in terms of the year 2005. On his side, Mr Frecon drew attention to the conclusions of the Sinaia conference, referring to the possibility of creating regions by increasing the size of the judets and giving them more responsibilities and resources. Such a course would have the advantage of not creating a third tier of devolved government and make it unnecessary to amend the country's constitution, which, it will be remembered, currently allows the existence of local authorities only.

The European Commission's stance on this subject is clear2. On a recent visit, Commissioner Barnier stressed that what particularly interested Brussels was an effective system for distributing Community funds at regional level and that for the moment it was not particularly interested in how the regions concerned were organised in terms of institutional structure.

In accordance with the conclusions of the Sinaia conference, and following discussions with the representatives of the European Commission delegation in Bucharest, it was proposed that the Congress's Chamber of Regions be involved in the future activities of the regionalisation task force financed by the European Union. This possibility was forcefully advocated by the President of the Chamber of Regions, Mr Giovanni di Stasi, at the last meeting of the Congress Bureau (19 March 2003).

During the discussion with the minister, the question of Romania’s position regarding the proposed Charter of Regional Self-Government was also raised. Mr Cozmanca said that despite the negative position which the Romanian Government had adopted at the Helsinki conference his country's authorities were keeping an open mind and taking national debate into account.

During the two-day visit and discussions a key role was played by the State Secretary for European Integration at the Ministry of Public Administration, Mr Profiroiu. At Mr Profiroiu's urging, the ministry has recently concluded important co-operation agreements with the Italy’s Veneto region and France’s Midi-Pyrenees region. These agreements relate respectively to devolution and decentralisation of the country.

The visit to Bucharest by the Institutional Committee's rapporteur on local democracy in Romania produced some progress (see the items covered in this mission report).

Before leaving, Mr Frecon stated: "The parties involved in local government in Romania have finally spoken to each other and listened to each other’s views, in some cases bringing their positions closer: we must now hope that this dialogue will lead to concrete results."

The Institutional Committee should monitor developments and check that the promises made are kept. In the light of that it can be decided whether it is necessary to prepare a second monitoring report on local democracy in Romania.

Appendix 1

Programme of meetings on the Follow-up Report on local and regional democracy in Romania

19 February 2003

Preliminary meetings

3.30 pm Meeting with Mr Traian BASESCU, general Mayor of Bucharest, Mr Gheorghe FUNAR, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, Mr Ioan GHISE, Mayor of Brasov, Mr Lucian ILIESCU, Mayor of Giurgiu, Mr Mircea MUNTEAN, Mayor of Deva and Mr Tudor PENDIUC, Mayor of Pitesti (Bucarest City Hall)

5. 30 pm Meeting with: Mr Johnatan SCHEELE, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Romania, Mr Nicolas BULTE, Second Secretary, Team Leader Political /Economic/Trade Issues and Mrs Sonia LANGUILLE, Social and Economic Analyst, (Str. Jules Michelet, No 18, Sector 1, Bucharest)

7.00 pm Meeting with Mr Octavian COZMANCA, Minister of Public Administration, Mr. Constantin Marius PROFIROIU, State Secretary for European Integration and Mr Ionel FLESARIU, State Secretary for Parliament Relations, Ministry of Public Administration of Romania

9.00 pm Official Diner offered by Mr Constantin Marius PROFIROIU and Mr Ionel FLESARIU,

20 February 2003

Round table on local democracy in Romania
(House of the People – Casa Poporului, Premises of the Federation of Local Authorities of Romania)

Welcome speeches by:

09.00 – 09.10 Sen. Jean-Claude FRECON, (France) Vice-President of the CLRAE, Rapporteur on local democracy in Romania

09.10 – 09.20 Mr Emil CALOTA, President of the Federation of Local Authorities

09.20 - 09.30 Presentation of the meeting’s objectives by Mr Riccardo PRIORE, Head of the Institutional Committee Secretariat of the CLRAE

Statements by:

09.30 – 09.45 Mr Ionel FLESARIU, State Secretary for Parliamentary Relations, Ministry of Public Administration of Romania

09.45 – 10.00 Mr Ioan OLTEAN, Chairman of the Commission for Public Administration, Territorial Planning and Ecological Balance, Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of Romania

10.00 – 10.15 Mr Iuliu PACURARIU, Member of the Romanian Senate

10.15 – 10.30 Mr Traian BASESCU, General Mayor of Bucharest (to be confirmed)

10.30 – 10.45 Mr Gheorghe FUNAR, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca

10.45 – 11.00 Mr Mircea COSMA, President of the National Union of County Councils of Romania

11.00 – 11.15 Coffee break

11.15 – 13.00 General debate, moderated by Mr Riccardo PRIORE

13.00 – 13.15 Conclusive remarks by Sen. Jean-Claude FRECON

13.30 – 14.00 Press Conference at the Ministry of Public Administration with the participation of Mr Octavian COZMANCA, Minister of Public Administration of Romania (or his representative), Sen. Jean-Claude FRECON, Mr Riccardo PRIORE, Mr Emil CALOTA.
Appendix 2

List of participants of the Round Table on the Information Report on Local and Regional Demcoacy in Romania (2002)
(Bucharest, 19-20 February 2003)

Council of Europe

Mr Jean-Claude FRECON
Vice-President CLRAE
Rapporteur on local democracy in Romania
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg

Mr Riccardo PRIORE
Head of the Institutional Committee of the CLRAE
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex

Mrs Mariana NITELA
Director of the information center of the Council of Europe in Bucharest
70224 Str. Al. Donici, nr.6 sec.2
Bucharest, Romania

Mr Corneliu-Liviu POPESCU
Vice President of the Group of Independent experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government of the Council of Europe
Universitatea Bucureti, Facultatea de Drept, 36-46, Blv M. Kogalniceanu, Sec 5
Bucharet, Romania
European Commission

Mrs Sonia LANGUILLE
Social and Economic Analyst for the Delegation of the European Commission in Romania
48A, BD, Primaverii , Bucharest 71297

Romanian Government

Mr Viorel CRISTEA
General Secretary in the Ministry of Public Administration in Romania
Str. Piata Victoriei, Nr.1, sector 1
Bucharest Romania

Mr Ionel FLESARIU
State Secretary on the Parliament Relations in the Ministry of Public Administration of Romania
Str. Piata Victoriei, Nr.1, sector 1
Bucharest - Romania

Mr Constantin Marius PROFIROIU
State Secretary for European Integration and International Relations for the Ministry of Public Administration in Romania
Str. Piata Victoriei, Nr.1, sector 1
Bucharest - Romania

Mr Dorin CIOMAG
Director for the relations with the ONG for the
Ministry of Public Administration in Romania
Piata Victoriei, 1
Bucarest – Roumanie

The Parliament of Romania

Mr Ioan OLTEAN
Chairman of The Commission for Public Administration, Territorial Planning and Ecological Balance,
Parliament of Romania,
Chamber of Deputies
Palatul Parlamentului 2-4, Strada Izvor,
Sector 5, 70647, Romania

Mr Iuliu PACURARIU
Member of the Romanian Senate,
Bd. Eroilor nr.2, Cluj-Napoca
Juetul Cluj
Romania

Representatives of Local and Regional Authorities in Romania

Mr Emil CALOTA
President of the Federation of Local Authorities
Mayor of Ploiesti
Bulevardul Republicii nr 2
2000 – PLOIESTI - Romania

Mr Traian BASESCU
General Mayor of Bucharest,
Primaria Municipiului
Bld. Regina Elizabeta, nr.47
Bucharest - Romania

Mr Gheorghe CIUHANDU
Mayor of Timisoara
Bd CD Loga nr 1
1900 Timisoara – Roumanie

Mr Mircea COSMA
President of the National Union of County Councils of Romania
President of the Prahova County Council
Bulevardul Republicii nr 2-4
2000 PLOIESTI, Judetul Prahova
Romania

Mrs Diane Paula Corina VANCEA
Vice-Presdient of the Constanta County Council
Bd Tomis nr. 51
Constanta - 8700

Mr Gheorghe FUNAR
Mayor of Cluj-Napoca
Tel Str. Motilor 1-3 ;
3400 Cluj-Napoca
Romania

Mr Ioan GHISE
Mayor of Brasov
Bd. Eroilor, nr.8,

Mr Lucian ILIESCU
Mayor of Giurgiu
Str. Mircea cel Batran, nr.19, 8375, Giurgiu,
Romania

Mr Tudor PENDIUC
Mayor of Pitesti
Str. Victoriei, nr.24, Pitesti, 0300
Romania

Mr Iosiv CERBUREANU
President, Association of Secretaries within the Romanian Association of Municipalities
Str. Victoria, nr 24, 0300, Pitesti, Romania

Mrs Sirma CARAMAN
President of the Association of the Economic Directors of the County Councils of Romania and General Director of Tulcea County Council
Consiliul Judetean Tulcea
Str. Pacii, nr. 20, Tulcea, Romania

Mrs Mariana BONCEA
President, Association of financial Directors within the Romanian Association of Municipalities
Str. Victoria, nr 24, 0300, Pitesti, Romania

1 Document CPLRE(CG/INST (8) 55 rev. 1)

2 Romania is a candidate for accession to the European Union.



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