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INTERVIEW. Hannes SWOBODA calls on Romanians to vote. Farage’s statements, “a racist position”

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Hannes Swoboda, president of the Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)in the European Parliament, explained the importance of the European elections, in an exclusive interview for caleaeuropeana.ro.

Q: Mr President, Romania is one of the many countries where the Socialists have many expectations from these elections and we studied it a lot on our website dedicated to European affairs, caleaeuropeana.ro, which means the European Path. We promote the European vision and we analyze very deeply the platforms of  Schulz, Juncker and Verhofstadt and promote the debates between the candidates at European level. My first question is which are your main expectations for these elections with regard to Romania?

swoboda

A: First of all, a good participation in the elections. I see there is a lively debate in Romania. And secondly, I expect a strong voice from all the social-democrats, from Mr. Ponta himself and the other candidates on the line of Romania’s connection with Europe and that is a very good orientation, that people are there in the EP for Romania and Romania is working for Europe.

Q-what do you think about the Romanian Socialist Party’s slogan chosen for these elections: Proud that we are Romanians?

A- I think it has to be seen in connection to Europe…proud to be Romanian in Europe, because it is the dirty campaigns of Nigel Farage and others implying Romania is not the same as other countries in Western Europe, but that’s not the case. I think it’s a very good slogan meaning that we are proud to be Romanian in Europe.

Q- you are talking, Mr. President, about the recent statements of Nigel Farage who said he would feel in danger living in a neighbourhood where Romanians would come.

A- it’s a racist position and absolutely unacceptable.

Q- I saw that there is a strong determination to solve the economic problems and have some solutions for jobs ( job creation). How will the Socialists solve this problem in Europe? We are talking about more than 23 million people without jobs. It’s like a country bigger than Romania.

A- I think we have to invest in jobs. We have to spend money for that. We need to find the means to fight against the tax evasion by rich people who, instead of paying taxes, bring the money to differential markets with all the consequences of speculation. There is money and it’s all countries’ concern to invest in European links, which will create a lot of jobs. If you’re going just from Sibiu to Pitesti, you’ll see the need to have a highly efficient link on the road, on the rail…and I think this is what Europe is about: that we have European connections, not only inside the country, but across the borders.

Q-do you think that after this crisis we can say that mostly ordinary people suffered the costs of recovery?

A-of course. Those who have a lot of money can bring the money from one bank to another bank or can buy a property. See cities in Western Europe where the housing prices go extremely up. The rich part of the society don’t get to pay interest rates in the bank, they just build houses in London, Vienna and other places. It is visible that there are parts of the society who are not suffering and who can get some richness and wealth.

Q-do you feel in danger, now that you are in Romania? Because there is a conflict near our borders, in Ukraine. Do you feel safe as a European citizen? Many citizens in Eastern Europe are feeling uncomfortable with this conflict. Maybe those in Western Europe are feeling more secure.

A- of course, Romania is closer by. Last week I was in Kiev and then in Eastern Ukraine and I saw that the deep conflict is not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also inside Ukraine. There are two sides: Russia, who has an aggressive policy, with Mr. Putin, but there are also people from inside the country who are extremists. And I think Europe should have an influence on those responsible to bring people together, to form a unity inside the country. Secondly, we need, for the medium and long term, a common energy policy, which is reducing our dependence on Russian gas. There is a lot for Europe to do, things that countries cannot do individually. We need to go for a European strategy to give security to our citizens.

Q-this is one of the key subjects of this campaign, because, in the beginning, the Socialists seemed to be very close to winning, but after the Ukraine crisis and some misunderstood declarations of Mr. Schulz, the balance changed and some polls talk about the EPP getting a little advantage over the Socialists. Do you think this is real or not?

A-well, I think the Socialists in Romania will be no. 1 because if you look at Mr. Ponta and his government, it’s a clear vision of transforming the country, of modernizing it while respecting the social element. So, I am quite optimistic.

Q-well, this is at Romanian level, but what about the European level?

A-I am still optimistic, because I never bore the illusion that it is some easy way to win. I think it is a very difficult job. Anyway, I think the gap between the Populars and us will be reduced and we’ll be again no. 1. I get information of people… that they will vote for the Socialists, because Martin Schulz is the top candidate. I am very optimistic, but at the same time realistic. Remember that the gap between us and the EPP is quite strong, so if we get close to the EPP, it would already be a gain, but we’ll fight ‘till the end to get to the no. 1 position.

A- We were the first to mention your Tweet regarding putting under charge President Basescu in the summer of 2012. And  you said, that night, after the Constitutional Court decided that it was legal to cancel the results, please stop all campaigns and go to work. We are now talking again about some of the President’s actions promoting the EPP and we saw a lot of debates on it in Romania. Do you think it is necessary to put the President, again, to submit to the judgement of people?

A- as it is now the elections for the EP and there will be the elections for the President next year, I think this will give the citizens a clear view to vote for somebody who will be more constructive, more helpful for Romania. Despite the differences, I think it is more important for the Government to promote Romania’s future and let’s hope for a president who will correct the image and bring the position of president of a country back to somebody who’s promoting the interest of the country and not party politics.

Q- I understand. Do you think Mr. Ponta is suitable for this position?

– I’m not judging an individual person. As for me, I think the Social-Democrats will make the right choice and I hope for somebody who is really leaving party politics behind and is going for Romania, because this is what a president should do.

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EPP MEP Vasile Blaga: The EU budget for 2022 boosted with significant additional funding for research and health

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The EU budget for 2022, the largest in the history of the Union, has been boosted with significant additional funding for research and health, said MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) for CaleaEuropeana.ro.

Last week’s session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved the European Union’s budget for next year and we are dealing with a first: €169.5 billion for 2022, the largest amount ever approved, €480 million more than the European Commission’s proposal, 

“It is worth highlighting here the €100 million annual budget increase for the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, a key programme for boosting the EU’s competitiveness and economic development. I also note an increase in next year’s budget in the health sector, with the EU’s pandemic response programme EU4Health being funded by €51 million more than the Commission’s initial proposal, for a total of over €800 million,” the EPP MEP stressed. 

“It is extremely important not to forget that the pandemic is not over and investing in health is a priority for the European Union in the coming year. A joint effort by all member countries is needed to strengthen national health systems. The same is true in Romania – the national health system has the opportunity to benefit from important funds for modernisation and response, not only to the current pandemic, but also in the long term, to the current challenges in the system”, added the EPP MEP. 

The European Parliament last week approved the 2022 budget by 550 votes to 77 with 62 abstentions. The deal, which was agreed by the EU Council on 23 November, is due to take effect from 1 January 2022.

MEPs succeeded in increasing funding for programmes and policies that they believe contribute to post-pandemic recovery, in line with Parliament’s priorities set out in its guidelines for 2022.

These include the Horizon Europe research programme (+€100 million more than the Commission’s draft budget) and the LIFE programme for environment and climate action (+€47.5 million). The single market programme is boosted by €30 million (including €10 million for the tourism sector) and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office by €3.8 million, protecting European taxpayers’ money from criminals.

The Erasmus+ university mobility programme is another programme whose budget is reinforced, with an additional allocation of €35 million. The EU’s flagship health programme, EU4Health, gets a financial boost of €51 million to build a strong European Health Union and make national health systems more resilient.

The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI – Global Europe) has been boosted by €190 million, with a particular focus on fighting pandemics, including through vaccination.

Humanitarian aid has been increased by €211 million to allow the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve to cover the increased needs of the EU Solidarity Fund in relation to natural disasters in the EU.

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HERA, essential for countries like Romania. European Union can gain strength in health crises

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© European Union, 2020

Romanian experts at national and European level argue that the European Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA) can bring important mechanisms, expected and needed at European level, but which need to be developed in complementarity with existing mechanisms that already have very good results.

National authorities, European decision-makers, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry responded to the initiative launched by Calea Europeană and the Romanian Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (ARPIM) and held an open dialogue on the role of the new instrument launched by the European Commission, the European Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA), in preventing, detecting and responding rapidly to health emergencies, by collecting information and strengthening the necessary response capacities.

The main lessons learned by the European Union from the beginning of the pandemic to date were discussed, as well as the need to achieve a Health Union, which cannot be possible without the implementation of European mechanisms involving all Member States in preparing a joint response in the event of a future health crisis.

The European executive has succeeded in laying another “milestone of a Health Union” by launching a new instrument, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). This Authority was launched on 16 September and aims to guide the entire EU health system towards the vision of ‘One Health’. HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union 2020 speech and will fill a gap in EU health emergency response and preparedness.

HERA and its new tasks for a stronger Union in the face of health crises. How HERA becomes a key pillar of the European Union

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Romania, Ramona Chiriac, welcomed the new measures taken by the European Commission to improve the EU’s health security, as this authority is “the result of lessons learnt during the pandemic, which showed the limits of what the EU can do in health crisis situations.”

  • HERA reinforces the EU’s powers on health under the existing treaties. HERA’s mandate is forward-looking. HERA’s aim is to anticipate health crises by gathering intelligence, strengthening the necessary response capacity. So far, action in different policies has been taken reactively and not as part of an overall anticipatory management system.
  • This will be the new task, to ensure that the European Union and Member States are much better prepared to act in the face of a cross-border crisis, because the pandemic does not stop at national borders or even at European borders. HERA complements the agencies already in place.

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Romania, Ramona Chiriac, also stressed that HERA is chaired by the President of the European Commission, but is constantly mandated by the Council, which means that the will of each Member State is relevant in this construction.

Cooperation with industry within HERA will be essential to develop, manufacture, distribute countermeasures. Such a structured, responsive cooperation mechanism is vital for the implementation of robust supply chain strategies and supply chains with strategically autonomous states.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Member States have felt the need for a mechanism such as HERA. Romania must have a work core

Valeriu Gheorghiță, President of the CNCAV, present at the debate on the role of HERA, presented a preparedness and response structure in case of a health crisis, based on three pillars that should represent a working core: the prevention part, the pre-hospital part and the hospital part. According to the Romanian specialist, this preparedness and response strategy should have the following structure:

  1. Prevention strategy: vaccination as an effective means of limiting the spread of contagious disease, complemented by a population education strategy, because accessibility to vaccines is not enough. The population needs to be prepared and to understand that vaccination is a matter of course. Today’s children, who will be tomorrow’s adults, need to understand that vaccination is an added value. For the next health crisis, children must not be exposed to so many misinformation theories. We also need to improve training in diagnostic, surveillance and sequencing capacity: testing and diagnostic capacity is essential.
  2. Preparedness of the pre-hospital ambulatory medicine system for the identification and treatment of most forms of infections, of infectious diseases that can be very well managed in pre-hospital. There is a need for trained doctors and centres for diagnosis, treatment and access to effective therapies. HERA will enable easy accessibility and a centralised supply chain.
  3. Hospital preparedness: In pandemic conditions we need to have a response capacity, which means having modular structures and being able to quickly adapt hospital structures to a pandemic crisis or an epidemiological alert.

Stocks of health supplies and medicines were the main challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

Călin Alexandru, director in the Department for Emergency Situations, says a unified approach is now needed at European level.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for production mechanisms at European level for medical equipment and medicines to ensure that EU citizens can meet their needs in such a situation. An important element that HERA is aiming for is centralised procurement. Romania has so far made centralised purchases, but only at national level. Centralised procurement of vaccines at European level is a very good example of the fact that in such a situation cooperation is mandatory.

There is a need for collaboration and integration of public health response measures and HERA can bring a plus and a positive element. The measures taken by different countries in the first waves of the pandemic were not coordinated and even created difficulties in collaboration within the EU. Measures must be taken in the future that do not affect collaboration, either economic exchanges or the free movement of citizens between countries.

HERA will be the instrument that will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment among Member States.

Cristian Bușoi MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee, explained the benefits of HERA for the resilience of Member States’ health systems.

  • HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union which President von der Leyen announced in her annual speech as being of paramount importance for the European Union to be much better prepared in the future against health emergencies. HERA is not the only answer. We also have the EU health programme, EU4Health, which is totally different from the health programmes of the past. Decisions on health remain with the Member States, but the EU and the European institutions aim to contribute more and more in the years to come.
  • HERA will prevent, detect and respond quickly to health crises. HERA will also have to anticipate certain potential health threats and crises. HERA will be that instrument that will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment among Member States.

HERA, along with other European health initiatives, is essential for countries like Romania

Andrei Baciu, State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, reiterated the importance of HERA for a European Union better prepared to face new health threats, as well as Romania’s essential role in the HERA working groups.

  • HERA can be an extremely good opportunity for Romania because it will accelerate the development of internal mechanisms that mirror the work that HERA does. Romanians expect a high level of performance and Romania’s membership of such a European mechanism will force progress in Romania.
  • HERA, along with other European health initiatives, are essential for countries like Romania and the benefits of these efforts can be seen in everyday life. Such mechanisms are really the ones that have made it possible for Romania to have vaccines at the same time as any other Member State.The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), essential for countries like Romania.

Romania has started the designation process and is aware of everything that is going on. Work is underway to set up these task forces. There is a lot of activity. Romania is already part of all the mechanisms within HERA and is on track with everything that has been requested so far.

Moreover, the Ministry of Health wants to make the most of these opportunities that this European initiative represents, precisely in order to generate in Romania a health system that can provide European advantages.

The Ministry of Health has said that it is essential for Romania to be part of such mechanisms, but the big problem in our country is that there is no institutional culture to learn from the difficulties we are going through. We have so many things to learn and so many things to improve in European health systems, and the most important advantage of this authority is that it institutionalises this ‘lessons learned’ mechanism and then comes up with concrete proposals.

National legislation must be drawn up to regulate the powers of each institution

The ANMDMR has informed its colleagues in the specialist structures about the HERA regulations. According to the ANMDMR representative, a crucial importance for HERA is the collaboration between HERA and national authorities. Even the Medicines Agency will be involved in this process, but at the moment it is not clear how. ANMDMR argues that a national regulatory act will have to be developed to regulate the tasks of each institution. Different aspects need to be regulated in order to be able to implement the regulation at national level as well. The ANMDMR will indirectly provide support in the working groups within HERA.

In order to ensure a rapid launch and building on the HERA incubator launched in February 2021, HERA will be established as an internal Commission structure and will become fully operational in early 2022. Its operation will be reviewed and adapted annually until 2025, when a full review will be carried out.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The European Social Security Passport, a first step in protecting the rights of Romanian workers in the EU

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© Vasile Blaga / Facebook

The European Social Security Passport is an instrument to protect the rights of workers in the European Union, MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) told for CaleaEuropeană.ro on Monday.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution at last week’s plenary session in Strasbourg calling on the European Commission to speed up the procedures for introducing the European Social Security Passport.

“This passport will play an extremely important role especially for mobile workers in the EU and will actively contribute to the fight against social fraud and undeclared work. Moreover, it will make it much easier to protect the rights of workers and their social security contributions. At the same time, this passport will be an extremely useful tool in simplifying and streamlining bureaucratic and administrative procedures in the area of the mobile labour market”, said EPP MEP Vasile Blaga.

He pointed out that the number of Romanian workers circulating in the European labour market is extremely high and drew attention to the many cases where Romanian workers have been abused, had their fundamental rights ignored by employers in other countries or have not been paid social security.

“This passport can be a first step in protecting their rights much more rigorously across Romania’s borders in the European Union. The complexity of implementing the European Social Security Passport comes from the fact that it will have to take into account all the particularities of the national social security systems, while not becoming a condition for exercising free movement”, added the EPP MEP.

The European Parliament has asked the European Commission for a legislative proposal on a European social security passport before the end of 2022, to reduce the administrative burden on mobile workers.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday by 598 votes to 59 with 38 abstentions, MEPs urged the European Commission to speed up plans for a European Social Security Passport (ESSP) to facilitate the portability of social security rights for mobile workers.

The European Social Security Passport will allow real-time verification of mobile workers’ data by the national authorities of the Member State where they intend to work. It will help combat social fraud and undeclared work, while making it easier to track and claim workers’ social security rights and contributions.

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