Work is the best medicine for social equality and wellbeing.
- Vice-President Jyrki Katainen -
Right now, Europe is at a turning point. It is an opportunity for us to leave behind what separates us.
- Prime Minister Dacian Çiolos -
Getting the citizens on board: European Commission Vice-President Katainen discusses with citizens in Bucharest how Europe can stimulate jobs, growth and investment
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen was joined in Bucharest by the Romanian Prime Minister, Dacian Cioloş, for the launch of a series of Citizens' Dialogues on the Investment Plan for Europe. Discussing with more than 250 citizens, VP Katainen said that investment "is a synonym of job and growth creation", while PM Cioloş stressed the importance of investment in health and education, "without which we cannot have sustainable growth".
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen kicked-off the Dialogue by congratulating the Romanian projects which will receive funding under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) through Agricover, an intermediary bank that facilitate access to finance for SMEs in the agricultural sector.
In reply to a woman whose son is a researcher who had studied abroad only to come back to Romania to be unemployed for years, PM Cioloş said that thanks to initiatives such as the Investment Plan, Romania has the opportunity to bring researchers back to the country.
Replying to questions about use of the various EU funds in Romania, VP Katainen explained that the Commission has put in place many instruments that finance research (Horizon 2020, the Structural Funds, and EFSI). "The question is not the availability of resources, but how this money is being used", he said.
PM Cioloş agreed that the main problem is not the availability of funds, but Romania's capacity and efficiency in using them. "We need coherence, predictability and continuity of political decisions because funded projects are long-term and we cannot change focus every time there is a new government", he said. He also pleaded for simplified, less bureaucratic procedures. VP Katainen added that it is crucial to have a solid public administration and transparency in handling Structural Funds, so that money goes where it should go. "It is important that taxpayers' money is used efficiently – every single cent should be spent properly."
The Vice-President also stressed the importance of education throughout Europe. "If I could rule Europe for one day, there is just one thing I would do. I would harmonise the quality of teacher training throughout the EU", he confessed. His focus on education was backed by participants: asked about which sector needs more investment in Romania, 50% replied education, while 22% gave their preference to infrastructure projects, 17% to health and 11% to research and innovation.
Replying to a direct question from PM Cioloş to the members of the public about why they felt the people's voice in Romania has not been heard in the past 20 years, a participant said it was "because our political representatives are underqualified to understand the problems of the people and to pass them on to Europe". Other participants asked for access to Schengen for Romanians.
The discussions also touched upon unfair profit shifting: "Taxes must be paid somewhere. It is a matter of fairness and an example of why we need the EU. Without the EU this would not have been possible", according to VP Katainen.
Asked if they felt the Dialogue had improved their knowledge about the EU, 71% of participants said it had. VP Katainen concluded the Dialogue by saying that his knowledge of what Romanian citizens think had certainly improved thanks to the event, and that this had given him a perspective of what the priorities are.
The event in Bucharest was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.