Motorway crossing the Eastern Carpathians to link the Romanian regions of Moldova and Transylvania with Western Europe

Strasbourg, 05 July 2018

Ref: Motorway crossing the Eastern Carpathians to link the Romanian regions of
Moldova and Transylvania with Western Europe (TEN-T core motorway)

Dear President Juncker,

I am writing to you about an issue that has remained unresolved for a generation, becoming
ever more painful for over four million Romanian citizens, inhabiting the historical region of
Moldova, in East and North-East Romania: the absence (among others) of a motorway
linking this region of Romania with Transylvania, then onwards with Central and Western
Europe. The Targu Mures-Iasi-Ungheni motorway has been part of the EU’s TEN-T core
network since 2012. Of course, besides the 4.18 million Romanians living in Moldova, other
millions of Romanian and European citizens, in neighbouring counties, in Transylvania and
the rest of Europe have been missing economic opportunities because of Moldova’s longstanding
geographic and economic isolation. For the same reason, citizens of the
neighbouring Republic of Moldova are all the more isolated from Europe. It suffices to take a
look at the map, and you may easily realise that the Romanian province of Moldova has one
of the most difficult geographic locations in Europe, facing complex geopolitics and poverty
in the post-Soviet space to its East, and the physical barrier of the Eastern Carpathian
Mountains to its West. The latter are separating it from the historical Romanian province of
Transylvania and the rest of Europe. These impressive mountains are crossed mostly by onelane
roads, making transport difficult and costly, and effectively isolating Moldova from any
viable pole of structural, long-term economic growth, innovation and progress, except
perhaps Bucharest to the South.

Now, it is obvious that building motorways is primarily the responsibility of national
authorities. The lack of progress is first and foremost caused by their endless inaction, poor
action and/or incompetence. While paying our respect to the many notable exceptions,
Romania is a great country that could be led by a more competent political elite and public
administration. This incompetence has not harmed Moldova only. Romania is, unfortunately,
the EU Member State that has the lowest ratio of km of motorway per population – 2.7
km/100.000 inhabitants, compared to 15.25 km/100.000 inhabitants in Hungary or 7.3
km/100.000 inhabitants in Bulgaria. But in Moldova the situation is truly sad: not only there
isn’t a single kilometre of motorway, but for more than ten years now the authorities have not
been able to get their act together to at least have decent quality feasibility studies done. And,
with a surface of 46.173 km2, we are speaking about a region larger than Belgium or the
Netherlands.

It is true that economic development does not depend on road infrastructure only: however,
for an economy like Romania’s, this is still very important to cut costs and link markets. We
cannot wait for drones to transport goods and people from Iasi or Piatra Neamt above the
Carpathians. Beyond any economic argument, this motorway has become a key issue for
Moldova’s status within Romania: the region feels ignored and marginalised, which is very
sad in the year when Romania celebrates 100 years since its Great Unification. The region
feels that Romanian political elites are neglecting it, with most focus being on Transylvania –
always fashionable – and Wallachia, where Bucharest is located, with most post-communist
key decision makers coming from these two regions. While the Sibiu Summit of 2019 is very
welcome, its taking place there will add an extra feeling of neglect also by European elites:
all the action, everything good happens West of the Oriental Carpathian chain.

Finally, it is also clear that we are dealing here with a failure of political representation: the
Romanian citizens of Moldova vote, of course, in Romanian elections, so somehow their
voice and their priorities should make their way up into national decision-making. This is all
the more paradoxical as they tend to vote left (PSD), so the current government would have
an even higher political and indeed moral duty to deliver. Nevertheless, despite promises and
commitments, nothingness seems to prevail, and a never-ending series of unclear and
unconvincing explanations replace progress even with the indispensable first step of goodquality
feasibility studies. While I have always discarded as nonsense theories according to
which the PSD (my former party, too) may be deliberately or instinctively keeping people in
poverty in order to profit electorally from their fragility and dependence on government
support, I am beginning to wonder whether I may not have been wrong all along. More and
more people I talk to in the Commission itself, as well as other independent experts, seem to
shift their explanations for the failure of the process to even start from incompetence to
deliberate inaction.

Whatever the explanation, something must be done to wake up Romania’s political elites to
this issue. While clearly national prerogatives in the first place, transport policy and regional
policy are shared competences between the EU and the Member States. Therefore, you and I
(among others) do have both some responsibility and the legitimacy to become involved with
this matter: we also represent and serve the EU citizens of the Moldova region.
Consequently, the following suggestions and proposals are based on your treaty
competences, and I would also like to ask you to clarify certain aspects which would help
bring light to the case:

1. I suggest you consider paying a visit to Moldova to see for yourself how important
this project is, by realising first-hand the economic remoteness of this otherwise
extremely beautiful region. I am happy to offer suggestions and accompany you, but
it need not be so: this is not some electoral or PR trick, the only thing I am interested
in is having the case for the motorway presented to you in a truthful and professional
manner.

2. The motorway (dubbed ‘A8’, stretching from Targu Mures in Transylvania to DitrauTargu
Neamt – Iasi, the historical capital of Moldova – Ungheni in the Republic of
Moldova), as part of the TEN-T core network, is eligible for cohesion and regional
funding from the EU. Indeed, Commissioner Corina Cretu1
has been calling on the
Romanian authorities to submit projects for the various segments for approval by the
Commission. So, money is available in Romania’s envelope, and it could even be lost
if not used (1.8 billion has been decommitted for 2007-2013 from cohesion and
structural funds). To counter various conspiracy theories and lies suggesting that in
fact ‘Brussels’ does not really want to build this motorway, it would be great if you
could confirm and reinforce the message that the all the segments of the motorway are
perfectly eligible for EU funding. Interesting point is that money being available – and
lost- should mean that all of Romania’s regions could benefit from support: it is
feasible not to abandon anyone.

3. While the motorway is part of the TEN-T core network, it is not part of a TEN-T
network corridor. The corridor crossing Romania is Rhein-Danube. It would be great
if the Commission proposed the inclusion of the Targu Mures – Ungheni motorway
into this corridor. This would not change anything in terms of eligibility for funding,
but again it would focus minds as a major (for the region) political statement at EU
level. TEN-T core network corridors have coordinators who follow progress, liaise
with national authorities, and are therefore useful focal points of coordination,
cooperation and follow-up, all of which would be badly needed in this case.

4. Regulation 1315/2013 on Union Guidelines for the development of the Trans
European Transport Network (“TEN-T Regulation”) identified the segments of the
EU transport network that are of “the highest strategic importance” for the EU and
should be in place by 31 December 2030. In order words, Member States have a legal
obligation to build the core network. Can you please clarify through which
instruments the European Commission is currently monitoring the progress made
towards the completion of the TEN-T core network, and in particular A8? Aren’t
there any instruments at the European Commission’s disposal to prompt the
Romanian authorities to advance their work on this project? Would they risk an
infringement procedure at some point?

5. The European Commission has recently made legislative proposals to modernise EU
cohesion policy in the next long-term EU budget (MFF 2021-2027) based on “a tailor
-made approach” and “new criteria aimed at better reflecting the reality on the
ground – youth unemployment, low education level, climate change and the reception
and integration of migrants”. These general guidelines seem well suited for the EU as
a whole, but regional stakeholders fear that they are not necessarily good for poor and
peripheral regions such as Moldova, which, as explained, is still the prisoner of
geographic isolation and needs more road infrastructure. Given the huge delay in even
starting work on the feasibility studies for the various segments of A8, they fear that
money may no longer be available for this motorway in the next EU budgetary cycle.
Could you please confirm that the design of the new MFF and the future cohesion
policy will still allow for EU funding for this motorway past 2020?

6. I wonder whether you might consider symbolically ‘adopting’ this motorway,
endorsing it politically and morally, once – and if – you agree the case for it is very
strong. It goes without saying, this wouldn’t mean any shortcut in terms of rules or
funding priority or respecting national prerogatives. But it would greatly help focus
minds in Romania, it would give the issue the desperately needed political impetus to
start moving. I would be very proud if the motorway crossing my region and linking it
to Western Europe were to be popularly known as ‘the Juncker motorway’. It would
improve not only the physical geography of Moldova, but its symbolic and emotional
geography, too, creating a visible, tangible, ever-lasting bond with the ‘core’ of
Europe. A small push by you could turn out to be a very productive thunderstorm at
the other end.

Looking forward to your answer, I remain at your disposal with any support and information
you may require in order to make a decision on any support you may be able to offer for this
vital project.
Yours sincerely,
Sorin MOISĂ

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Publicat de Sorin Moisă
Subiect: Engleza