Corina Cre?u, Romania’s commissioner –designate for Regional Policy, left MEPs with mixed feelings following her confirmation hearing yesterday (1 October). The centre-right EPP reproached her for providing few ideas, and for lacking a proposal as to how to solve a major budgetary problem concerning her portfolio. EURACTIV Romania contributed to this article.
As the fate of Spanish commissioner-designate Miguel Arias Cañete for Energy and Climate, who is EPP-affiliated, hangs in doubt following mounting pressure among MEPs that he should be replaced, the centre-right political family has apparently chosen Cre?u, a Socialist, as a possible victim to restore the balance.
Cre?u, a former journalist and ex-spokesperson of the then-President ion Iliescu, has been an MEP for almost eight years and holds the post of Vice President of the European Parliament. However, she lacks professional expertise in her assigned field.
The Romanian government and the Prime Minister Victor Ponta has personally fought with President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker to obtain for Cre?u the post of Commissioner for Regional Policy, considered as extremely important in a country which is a net beneficiary of such funds.
Answering the questions by MEPs, Cre?u conveyed the impression that she is dedicated to European policies, European integration and sticking to European rules. However, she didn’t discuss issues in depth, and provided no answer on how to solve the issue of unpaid invoices in cohesion policy that had already amounted to €23 billion by the end of last year.
As MEP Lambert Van Nistelrooij (EPP, the Netherlands) said: “It is good that Cre?u is aware of the problem, but she did not come up with any crystal clear idea on how to tackle it.”
As EURACTIV Romania reported, Cre?u’s long and complex answers were often followed by the observation “please keep the timing” repeated by the Committee president. She answered almost all the questions in Romanian. Apparently, she did it on the advice of Leonard Orban, the Romanian former commissioner for multilingualism in the first Barroso Commission.
Besides the payments delay subject Cre?u was also criticized for not answering concretely and not being creative in expressing her ideas.
For example, Cre?u was asked about the Code of conduct for the member states under the EU long-term budget for 2014-2020. The Code says that local authorities and NGOs (social partners) must be actively involved in all stages of preparation and implementation of the Partnership Agreements. The question for Cre?u was “how will the European Commission verify if this Code is actually applied? What will happen for the member states if they don’t apply it?” Her answer was long, but not really clear.
Another subject for which she did not provide a clear answer was the possibility of extending the implementation period for the 2007-2013 framework beyond 2015. She said the issue will be discussed, but the focus should be on helping the Member States to make the best use of the funds.
Beside the vulnerable parts of the hearing, Cre?u made a few important points, indicating clearly where she stands regarding some relevant issues withnin the regional policy.
- the concern that the hurry to spend European funds could damage the quality of this spending;
- less bureaucracy for beneficiaries and a proper management of funds – among priorities;
- high quality operational programmes for the next 7 years; adoption of Programmes as soon as possible;
- fund suspension: to be the last step after many warnings that a Member State should receive;
- focus on the administrative capacity of the member states, in order to reduce errors; including specialists (economists) to be sent by the European Commission to help member states;
- sticking to the Stability and Growth Pact; with additional comment: “I think we do not use enough the flexibility already existing within the limits imposed by the Stability and Growth Pact”.
Cre?u showed that she already embraced her neutral Commissioner role during the press briefing, when she refused to answer to a question about a recent Romanian Government decision in the field of European funds. “I am not here to judge any Government”, she repeated several times.