Europe in My Region

I live a few kilometres from Focșani and Râmnicu Sărat. The benefit of this location is that it lets me come home by two routes: coming from Bucharest either to Focșani or to Râmnicu Sărat. I’ve rarely seen both roads in good condition at the same time.

This is a repost of Uniunea trăiește alături de tine, originally published in Romanian by Mădălin Blidaru (@blidaru, also on Facebook) and translated into English by the European Commission as part of the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.

Most of the time, driving there has been a real adventure, although I believe the area does have potential. What’s lacking is initiative or a broader horizon, and it’s like the infrastructure is persuading you to do nothing, considering you would wreck your car every time you ran into potholes, cracks, and other improvisations as a result of landslides.

One of the roads is a national road, the other one is a county road. The national one was repaired around the parliamentary elections of 2012 and people were satisfied with its condition at the time. The change had come after many years. I was still a child when they first paved that road. Now, four years later, you can still tell it’s been paved recently, but it’s got worse over time. It was done hastily. They laid the asphalt inadequately and I personally had some doubts concerning its quality, which have been confirmed over time. Moreover, nothing else was done around the road in addition to pouring the asphalt layer.

euregiopor02[1]On the other side, there was a county road. I can’t remember the last time that one was overhauled. It must be decades. What’s clear is that it had become unusable.

Since December 2015, it looks better, much better. It’s been rebuilt with the help of European funds through the regional development policy. I can say it’s now a pleasure to drive there, especially since the county road overhaul project included not just paving and widening the road, but also a range of related developments: ditches, bridges, culverts, consolidation of sliding areas.

It has now become the number one option for travelling. Moreover, it encourages other activities in the area. When you’ve got an upgraded road infrastructure, you can foster business and non-governmental environment development, with the public sector ultimately deriving benefits from that as well. People appreciate the investment. You can see the results, you can see the benefits.

Rehabilitation of DJ 203H with support from the European Regional Development Fund

euregiopor07[1]DJ 203H was thus rebuilt between Râmnicu Sărat and Buda on a 16-km segment. The funding was provided through priority axis 2 within the Regional Operational Programme 2007-2013, “Improving the regional and local transport infrastructure”, the purpose being to rehabilitate and upgrade this county road.

euregiopor04[1]Considering the size of the local and regional budgets, the financial support provided by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is definitely welcome. The total project value (RO, pdf) was around 58 million lei, with 39 billion coming from the ERDF as non-refundable support, 5 million from government funds, and the rest being the co-financing provided by the beneficiary, namely Buzău County.

euregiopor01[1]The project was implemented over the course of 11 months (January-December 2015) and the works took eight months to perform. The rehabilitation of DJ 203H is one of those investments that have a real impact and could be replicated in many places in Romania, as they are quite necessary. This particular case concerns three municipalities that now have a modern road looking better than ever.

Over 50,000 people enjoying this support

Around 37,000 people in the three municipalities drive on that road and another 14,500 cross the area, so the rehabilitation of DJ 203H opens up new opportunities for development, because:

  • getting to your destination is now faster;
  • consumption is lower;
  • you don’t wreck your car because of the potholes anymore;
  • municipalities now have an improved image at the main road;
  • the private environment can enjoy these benefits;
  • investment and tourism have become more appealing.

Miracles don’t happen overnight, but it would have taken much longer for such a project to find support from government and local funds alone. Actually, I don’t think we need to view the improvement of basic infrastructure as a miracle. I gave the example of this investment in my home region to show that we and the Union live side by side every day.

Perspectives on the ERDF for regional development

euregiopor05[1]There are tens of thousands of projects in Romania that could be improved with European support. This example – the rehabilitation of DJ 203H – and other projects carried out with the help of European funds are compelling reasons for the Romanian Government to prioritise allocating funds for such investments in its annual budget.

There are five structural funds that can be used to support development. The ERDF supports improving economic and social cohesion among regions. It now focuses on innovation and research, the digital agenda, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and the transition towards low-carbon economies, with several priority topics being identified at national level. Romania has a chance to get 6.7 billion euros through the ERDF between 2014 and 2020 (RO). So far, the amount is zero. 3.9 billion euros were allocated for 2013-2014, with 2.5 billion euros absorbed through the ROP until now (RO, pdf).

The improvement of locally and regionally relevant road infrastructure gets approximately one billion euros in the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework through the Regional Operational Programme (RO). County councils will be the beneficiaries of this amount. The amount is much larger than the one allocated during 2007-2013. I hope it’s used smartly and that, just like this investment, it will encourage mobility, development, and involvement.

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