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Ludovic Orban: In democracy, winner party gives the Premier, PSD to stay out of power

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Ludovic Orban

The president of the PNL (National Liberal Party, ed. n.), Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, said in an interview with AGERPRES that in democracy the prime minister is given by the winning party, saying that the PSD (Social Democratic Party, ed. n.) is the only formation with which the Liberals have clearly decided not to negotiate after the parliamentary election on 6 December.

"The only decision that we have made clear, straight, and that Romanians must know, is that we make no agreement with the PSD. The PSD must stay out of power for a long time from now on," said Ludovic Orban.

According to Orban, liberals are staking in parliamentary election on between 32 and 36 percent. He also made it clear that PNL branches have set certain targets and that leaders who do not perform will not be tolerated.

Orban said that he was leaning towards those close to the PNL's programme of government for a ruling partnership and ruled out any agreement with the PSD.

"I am truly sorry that there are some who consume a lot of energy in fighting us, not the PSD. After all, such conduct does nothing but weaken a possible future cooperation, because you cannot constantly attack one and then say that you want to ally with him," Orban stressed.

The Prime Minister also spoke in the interview for AGERPRES about increasing the testing capacity for the novel coronavirus, political appointments in the public administration, special pensions, the budget for next year, but also about the fact that Romania has requested at European level the allocation of a quota of vaccines for the Republic of Moldova.

AGERPRES: Mr. Prime Minister, in the current epidemiological context, we have somewhere around 30,000 tests a day, although there are recommendations from the WHO, the European Commission, experts, for increasing this number of tests, who is responsible for not being able to do more tests?

Ludovic Orban: We have steadily increased the testing capacity, from 400-500 tests, to a capacity of over 50,000 and the Ministry of Health continues to increase the testing capacity. Tests, on the other hand, are done in certain situations. Tests that are settled, because testing is free for all persons who fall within the case definition. The case definition is established by the National Institute of Public Health (INSP), based on WHO recommendations, practices at European and even global level. Of course, there is also the possibility of testing for a fee, for those who want to test themselves without falling within one of the situations set out in the case definition. We can test more. And now we can test more and we will further increase the testing capability.

Moreover, we have also made the decision to purchase, for strategic stocks, we have already adopted the emergency order and we have started the procurement procedure, for the purchase of three million rapid tests. Not antibody tests, but antigen tests, which are based somewhat on a test system close to Real Time PCR tests. These tests are purchased for use in certain places, for example, for medical professionals. It has already begun the use, because several tens of thousands of tests have been purchased in emergency reception units. And we will use these rapid tests in certain situations, which will be determined by the Health Ministry, together with INSP, so that, from the discussions we have had with the specialists, we can test, if a case arises in an elderly home, we can test all those people. Or if it occurs, in the case of the opening of the school, when the school will be opened, if a case appears in a class, you can test all the children in the class and all the teachers who interacted with the children.

Basically, you can see on the evolutions, especially in the last week, that we kept a relatively constant number compared to last week, it's not an increase in the number of tests. But you can see that in addition to the decrease in the number of cases, and here I am talking about comparison, say, today, compared to the equivalent day of last week: it is a decrease in the number of cases and a decrease in the percentage of positivity. That is, the number of people who are positively diagnosed in the total number of people who are tested. Whenever it is necessary to increase the test capacity, we are involved in increasing this testing capacity anyway.

AGERPRES: How much can you increase this testing capability?

Ludovic Orban: We can increase it, there is no problem. Including on Real Time PCR there are solutions that we discussed to increase testing capacity, automatic extractor, for example, that allows analysis of multiple samples in the same time frame, either by purchasing new Real Time PCR. Now, people need to know that it's not that easy to open a testing center, because it's not enough to have only the machine. You must have trained personnel, you must have the laboratory in which the testing is carried out meet some biosecurity conditions. You can't put into operation, because it's a long time before everyone who operates the machine can read the result very well, can give the right result. But know that we have been in a constant effort, practically since March, we have steadily increased the testing capacity.

AGERPRES: Regarding vaccination, do you consider vaccinating yourself publicly so that you can give a signal of confidence to those who are more skeptical?

Ludovic Orban: Certainly, but I will vaccinate myself in the order of priorities that is set out in the vaccination strategy. If you need an example, of course I can give this example.

AGERPRES: Regarding the Republic of Moldova, the President announced that you are working on some support for Moldova. Does it also mean donating doses of vaccine from the quota Romania will receive?

Ludovic Orban: There is discussion at Commission level, we have already asked for this: to allocate a share to Moldova. And we have requested, Greece has also requested, made a request for a country that is not a member of the EU. We hope to get a favorable result.

AGERPRES: Are you considering going to the Republic of Moldova in an official visit, as the President announced?

Ludovic Orban: I will definitely go. With the election of Maia Sandu as President of the Republic of Moldova, Romania really has a serious partner. Of course we also want a government that respects democracy, is really involved in the process of European integration, economic development of Moldova. Such a government would still be a partner for the further deepening of cooperation between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, the greater rapprochement between Romania and Moldova and implicitly for the road of the Republic of Moldova to Europe.

AGERPRES: Have you talked about schools, is there a possibility that they will be open in the second semester?

Ludovic Orban: Of course that's what we want. We want the children to return to school, the teachers to go back to school. Instead, we faced a situation of increasing the number of infections. Keep in mind that when we made those unpopular decisions, which generated enough discontent and, in a way, justified, but we had to make those decisions because otherwise we couldn't stop the increase in the number of infections. For us it is extremely important to enter a downward trend and this downward trend of the number of infections is as pronounced as possible, so that we can think about returning to normality. As soon as it is possible from an epidemiological point of view, as soon as together with the specialists of the INSP, the Scientific Technical Support Board, the Anti-COVID Commission, it will be considered possible, we will make the decision to reopen the schools. And we want this decision to be as soon as possible.

AGERPRES: In the context of the measures imposed, there was a letter from the Archbishop of Tomis, who accused the Government of abuses against clergy and believers related to these measures. His last step is an invitation addressed to you and several officials to participate in the religious feasts occasioned by the celebration of St. Andrew. How do you see this invitation? Will you go?

Ludovic Orban: Unfortunately, the county of Constanta was the county with the most pronounced increase in the number of infections and yesterday was the county with the highest rate of infections. In the county of Constanta, near the municipality of Constanta, several localities have been quarantined, at present I think that in the county of Constanta are the most quarantined localities. And the quarantine measures were absolutely necessary to stop the increase in the number of infections. Of course, with the measures to quarantine the localities, decisions have also been made that take into account the health of the people. I believe that every priest, every high church hierarch must put people's health and life first. Each of us celebrates St. Andrew. We're going to celebrate it our way, without increasing the risk of virus transmission. All the more so in a county that is practically the highest rate of growth and the highest number of infected people. That is why I have urged a behaviour that is consistent, on the one hand with faith, for those who are faithful, but on the other hand to take into account the need to protect people from the risk of infection.

AGERPRES: After launching the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the PSD accused you of 26 people attending the event, although the law limits to the number of 20 for those who can take part in an event in closed spaces. How do you respond to the PSD?

Ludovic Orban: I reply that they must read the government decision more carefully and, above all, I recommend that they read the National Plan of Recovery and Resilience. The most important thing is that this Plan best responds to Romania's needs and that we can respond, following the public debate, because we have launched it into public debate, we are still not sending it to Brussels, only the plan that we have devised together with all the specialists with whom we have worked. It is in public debate. We expect improvement proposals, and our objective is that this National Recovery and Resilience Plan will best meet the needs of Romanian society, the needs of the Romanian economy. This is an important sum of more than EUR 30 billion, which Romania benefits from in the context of recovery and resilience facility, an instrument adopted at European level. And it is important that all these financial resources can be used for the development of Romania, to support the absolutely necessary investments that Romania needs, to support development in every field that needs these resources practically. The rest are bad comments.

AGERPRES: Did you say that you are waiting for proposals on this Plan, are you willing to accept proposals from the PSD?

Ludovic Orban: I do not know if the PSD is capable of proposing something constructive for Romania. But we expect from civil society, from employers, from professional associations, from trade unions, universities, from local governments, because local communities will also benefit from important financial resources and we want to know what they consider to be the priorities of these local administrations. We expect these improvement proposals from potential beneficiaries.

AGERPRES: The PSD has proposed a national health pact so that no matter who wins the election, health is a priority. The PSD sent the parties such an invitation.

Ludovic Orban: It's kind of hard for me to make a health pact with a party where there are the most deniers and with a party that has sabotaged the whole struggle of the Government and the health authorities against the epidemic, against the spread of this virus. In terms of health, it really is a priority for us. Just this year we managed to mobilize very important resources, in addition to public resources, from the state budget, from the health insurance budget, which have increased significantly compared to previous years, from European funds we have managed to mobilise about 1.3 billion, money that has gone into investments, in the purchase of equipment, modern equipment, systems, installations, protective equipment. In the program, in our development plan, health is among the areas that will benefit from the greatest funding. In addition to the 1.3 billion we mobilised in the 2014-2020 financial year, on the multiannual financial year 2021-2027 and on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, we have allocated about EUR 6 billion for the construction of hospitals, modernization of hospitals, for the support of the development of the system of preventive medicine and outpatient medicine, for the digitization of the health field, for the increase of the quality of services that are provided to citizens.

AGERPRES: Because you talked about the government program, which you launched, will the three regional hospitals be built in 4 years?

Ludovic Orban: The multiannual financial year is for 7 years, we have signed the financing contracts. I mention: we signed the financing contracts, under the conditions that from 2014 until we came to power, on 4 November 2019, no European financing contract was signed on this hospital. The design services are contracted, the design will take 14-16-18-20 months, while the design lasts, after which it will reach the construction phase. We will carry out all stages of construction of these regional hospitals as soon as possible.

AGERPRES: In this programme of government there is talk of the fact that no new taxes and duties will be increased or introduced, but that at the present stage the main effort will be made to improve the collection of revenues, by "eliminating distortions and gaps that allow the reduction of the tax burden". This is one of the provisions. Are the revenues of IT workers and construction workers covered?

Ludovic Orban: As far as construction workers are concerned, we have also publicly announced what we will do. There, the minimum wage is set at a level higher than the minimum wage on the economy. There will be a gradual increase in the minimum wage in the economy until it reaches the minimum wage in construction. There will be a period of grace in which this area, the constructions field, will benefit from a facility, let's say, minimum wage higher than the minimum wage for the rest of the economy. As far as it is concerned, it does not affect them, as we have not affected them this year. Of course, as things evolve, only through dialogue, only through consultation, we will gradually try to find solutions, so as to ensure fiscal fairness, because this is important.

And improving collection is really important. Let me give you just one example, on VAT, Romania has the lowest rate of VAT collection. It is only by improving the rate of collection of the Value Added Tax that extremely important financial resources can be made. And here we have the e-billing plan, so to speak, of digitizing the circulation of invoices, which will allow very large increases in VAT budget revenues. Italy introduced a similar system that we studied and had a spectacular increase in the cashing. In conditions where they didn't leave at such a low level of collection as we were. Obviously, cash registers will be connected to servers, we are digitizing the entire tax collection system, the digitization of ANAF (National Agency of Tax Administration, ed. n.) is among the priorities of the governance program. At a time when Romania needs a rapid recovery and a boost of economic growth, higher taxes and duties is something that can generate a brake on economic growth. However, our objective is to ensure the greatest economic growth, if possible even the largest economic growth at European level over the next 4 years.

AGERPRES: When will the draft budget for next year be adopted?

Ludovic Orban: After the new Government is sworn in. (...) On 6 December there will be election, the mandate of the current Parliament expires on 20 December, most likely on 21-22 the new Parliament will be sworn in. Negotiations for the formation of the new Government will begin as soon as the results of the election are known. We hope that in a short time the new Government can be formed, so as to draw up the draft law of the state budget. As far as we are concerned, we have already started legal procedures for the composition of the law of the state budget and the law of the state social insurance budget. We've already got two bills ready. On the other hand, we have to wait for the outcome of the election, see exactly what the structure of the Government will be that will be able to obtain the vote of investiture and, depending on this, we will present the law of the state budget and the law of the budget of state social insurance. If possible by the end of the year, if it is not possible, obviously, as soon as 2021. We can even have an extraordinary session as soon as possible, in January, for the adoption of these two fundamental laws.

AGERPRES: Are there government-level plans to reduce the budget apparatus or measures to cut or freeze public sector wages?

Ludovic Orban: The objective of our government programme is to increase the income of Romanians, whether the income comes from salaries in the private sector or salaries in the public sector, pensions, or dividends or other categories of income, income from royalties. Our objective is to increase these revenues. Of course, growth in the public sector always has to follow private sector growth - that's the rule. Unfortunately, here the PSD has practically turned the pyramid upside down. Public sector growths must follow private sector growths because the sustainability of public sector wages, public sector spending must be given by the economic power that leads to the revenues that the state budget collects. We want a modern, digitised state with an entrepreneurial spirit and a partner of the initiatives coming from society.

Simplification, debureaucratisation, digitisation will probably reduce the number of officials in certain areas, but here I pass on to any civil servant doing their job, who is prepared, that they must not feel in danger, that those who do not do their job may feel in danger. Anyone who doesn't do their job has to leave the administration, it's a normal and natural thing. We also want to improve the performance evaluation systems of civil servants, so that we can reward those who have results, who are correct, who do their job well, and to discourage those who go on the principle: "Time goes by, money is paid anyway." Digitization itself gives you some tools, including for public institution leaders, with whom you may well know what the officials in the institution you run are actually doing.

AGERPRES: What happens to political appointments with no administrative experience? We have a recent case, the media has written about: the son of a PNL mayor of the Gura Raului in Sibiu County has been appointed director of the Apele Romane with no experience.

Ludovic Orban: I said I would make an assessment of what happened at Apele Romane. The message I am sending is very clear: competence, fairness, hard work are fundamental to the occupation of public jobs. I wish that all public positions, whether they are public execution positions or public management functions, are filled only through competition. Let's change the competition rules in which they operate today, in which competitions can be rigged. It must be transparent, with previous publicity, so as to allow any person who wants to participate in the competition and who meets the conditions, evaluation criteria, must be well known and the evaluation committees, not be made up only of political decision-makers and participate representatives of professional organizations or in different specialized fields, representatives from the universities of different specialities. I wish to make a clear difference - and this is what the first president of the National Agency of Civil Servants says, I used to be the first president of the Agency of Public Servants to start implementing the legislation by which we were to introduce standards and good practices at European level regarding the functioning of the administration in Romania.

I want a separation between politics and a career. The political level must remain the one that is set by political appointments. Otherwise, all positions in the administration must be occupied by competition, without the specific subjectivity of appointments. It must now be borne in mind that we have had a period in which, after switching from a state of emergency to a state of alert, by Law 55, Parliament has practically banned the organisation of contests for public office - execution or leadership. We had to maintain interim appointments, appointments with delegation, we had to find all kinds of solutions, including in health we had to adopt another piece of legislation allowing the hiring of people, for the administration began to make exceptions. But we, for a long time, have not been able to occupy. People need to know very clearly that the performance of an institution depends on the quality of the people, the quality of the management and the quality of the people who work in that institution. The evaluation of the activity, both at the institutional and individual level, must be done strictly on the basis of professionalism, the actual performance that each employee has and not on the basis of political subjectivity.

I am the very follower - this will be able to be discussed when the parliamentary majority will be formed for the support of the Government - the total depoliticization of the public office in Romania, so that there is no longer this temptation of some to join the party in the hope that they will be able to find a job in administration on the basis of a privileged relationship, but simply to have equal conditions for each participant in any competition for employment of any public office. Equal opportunities for career promotion to public office in each institution. (...) If you do not have quality people, employees who are performing, it is very difficult to achieve performance and the objective of any manager, any person who is made to run a public institution following the formation of the Government, must have this objective: to surround themselves with well-trained, correct people who work hard whenever it is needed.

AGERPRES: When do you estimate that you will complete that assessment you were talking about?

Ludovic Orban: This completion will obviously be done after the election. People must have the guarantee that the future Government that will be formed will impose these rules by law, by government decision and by ensuring very clear mechanisms. Including the National Agency of Public Servants needs to be rethought. At present it is subordinated to the Government, the President of the Agency is appointed by the Prime Minister and, in a way, if the Prime Minister does not do any kind of steps to intervene in a procedure, this subordination somewhat determines the Agency to a behavior not always very objective. I think we need to rethink the way in which the subordination of the National Agency of Civil Servants is constituted, so that we have the guarantee that there is an independent Agency that oversees the implementation of the legislation, is involved in the organization of objective competitions, which allow the best to occupy the positions of execution or leadership.

AGERPRES: About this last case in Sibiu you consider requesting a resignation, as was the case in Mures?

Ludovic Orban: I don't know the case. I'll do some research.

AGERPRES: If such cases occur again, what happens? What are you going to do?

Ludovic Orban: Now it is very difficult for a prime minister to control what is happening in every institution, in every county in the country. But when I receive information and think that a decision must be made, I do not shy away from making a decision on one subject or another.

AGERPRES: Recently there has been a dispute about special pensions. Why didn't you promote an emergency ordinance to disband them, except for those of the magistrates and the military?

Ludovic Orban: Because you cannot adopt an emergency ordinance when you have a law in the debate or when a law is subject to constitutional control. This is an aberration. Whoever said something like that must read the Constitution, read all the case-law of the Constitutional Court and, above all, know what stage it is in - at present a bill is under consideration in the Constitutional Court that establishes an overtaxation of special pensions that exceed a certain level. It's on trial in the Constitutional Court. I can't adopt an emergency ordinance in a field. In addition, there needs to be a serious public debate in society. The PNL is the only one to vote against special pensions for MPs. Now we have seen that there is a whole championship between different parties to show which supports the abolition of special pensions more strongly, but until another, the only party that voted against special pensions is the PNL.

We also have a bill tabled to amend the law on the status of deputies and senators, for which only the joint plenary must be convened and it must be adopted. I guarantee that all PNL MPs, in the first legislature, will have as a priority to amend the law on the status of deputies and senators, so that these special pensions are no longer granted to parliamentarians. The more PNL MPs there are, the more certain it will be that this will happen. I've seen various discussions about this, that some are resigning on the end of their term in the election campaign. There's no other solution, there's only one solution. I don't care if Ciolacu gets it or not, or that someone else gets it or not. I'm interested in the need for that right not to exist. Anyone who wants this right to exist no more must vote on this bill, which is initiated by the PNL.


AGERPRES: Are you intending to issue a piece of legislation delaying the application of the provision of the Administrative Code on the granting of special pensions to mayors, deputy mayors, presidents and deputy-presidents of county councils again?

Ludovic Orban: Yes. I believe that any person who holds a position of public dignity, be they a parliamentarian, a mayor, a minister, must have a decent income. And here we must know that the incomes for the parliamentarians, and for ministers, and for mayors, and for presidents of county councils have increased. When you have a decent, reasonable income, reflecting the responsibility and importance in society of that function, you will benefit from a higher pension. So there's no need for a special pension. In general, the principle of contributiveness must remain a dominant principle in terms of how pensions are calculated, because that is right, correct. The more you contributed through your social security contribution during your activity time till retirement, that's about all you have to have in your pension. It's a fundamental principle. For military personnel, it's something else. They are military cadres the long of their lives. (...) For example, in all NATO countries, on the comparative analysis we have done, there is this service pension that varies 75 pct - 80 pct, compensates for the income from the military pay, but otherwise must be based on contribution.

AGERPRES: By what kind of piece of legislation should that provision be deferred?

Ludovic Orban: It can be through the law of the state budget until the legislation as a whole is clarified. However, the Administrative Code that was adopted by the PSD still has a lot of improvements that need to be made and it will have to be a serious debate. A bill with a serious debate in society, including for the improvement of the Administrative Code. Many laws need to be improved, including the public sector pay law, the pension law, the education law. Almost every area requires an improvement in the legislation to enable the achievement of the objectives of our Romania's development plan.

AGERPRES: What is the score the PNL is aiming for at the parliamentary election?

Ludovic Orban: Our objective is to win the election, obviously with the highest score - 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 pct - how much confidence people give us. And I urge them to come to the vote, to give us confidence, because I would bring back the film a little bit: in 2016 there was not much interest in the vote and the PSD with the votes of about 14 pct of Romania's citizens almost captured Romania. The absence from the vote allowed the PSD to do so. For three years, President Klaus Iohannis, the PNL and opposition formations, along with civil society, had to fight to stop the daily harm caused by the ruling PSD. We succeeded on 4 November (2019, ed. n.) to stop the PSD from doing harm to Romania, we assumed the responsibility of the government. Although, if you remember, not many wanted to take responsibility for the government. Basically, we were the ones who took responsibility for the government, although in the first place the Government had to be a transitional Government that didn't have to do very many things because we didn't have a parliamentary majority, that's the truth.

From the Transitional Government we have reached the Government of Crisis and we have been the Government that has faced the greatest difficulties of the last 30 years: pandemic, economic crisis, drought like it has not been in decades in Romania, we have also had floods. With a hostile Parliament, with institutions captured by the PSD, who did everything they could to sabotage all the government decisions,whether it was economic recovery, support for companies and employees, fight against the coronavirus. And yet, in a year of government, we have succeeded in keep Romania afloat. That's all we've been able to do in a year, under the extremely difficult conditions we have. Think about what we can do in the next four years, in the good old days that will surely come.

AGERPRES: If the PNL doesn't win the election, will you assume that? Are you willing to give up your position as president of the PNL?

Ludovic Orban: All data indicates the PNL as favourite in winning the election. The PNL I am convinced will win the elections, as it won the elections for the European Parliament when no one expected, the presidential election - President Iohannis won to the most crushing score that ever existed in the presidential campaign from a right-wing candidate, with almost two-thirds of the Romanians' votes. At the local election, although we fought with 29 red barons and 1,700 mayors, many of them satraps, who keep the games under control, the PNL managed to win. And I am convinced that Romanians appreciate what we have done and, above all, I am confident that our development plan is practically the only serious programme presented in this election campaign. It is a well-developed programme, which has been worked on by hundreds of specialists, which is subject to a permanent public consultation and is well-phased, for which the financial resources have been designed to support the achievement of each objective. In addition, the PNL is prepared to achieve every objective of the national development plan.

AGERPRES: At the local election, branch leaders who got less than 27 pct resigned. Do you have a percentage set now?

Ludovic Orban: In the party we must encourage performance. We have set targets for each organization, taking into account the reality that the PNL potential is not similar in all counties. We have set goals taking into account the actual ability of a subsidiary to achieve a score and that's what we'll judge. We encourage performance. Think about what the leaders of powerful organizations say, seeing that I, as president, tolerate the leaders of organizations that consistently don't perform. A management change at the level of a county branch can create a chance to improve election performance and that's what we want - to gain people's trust and to have better results.

AGERPRES: To whom are you leaning towards a partnership in government?

Ludovic Orban: To those who are closest to our programme of government, to those who understand the absolute need to implement Romania's national development plan in the next four years.

AGERPRES: That's it?

Ludovic Orban: I prefer not to give you names that are known. The only decision that we have made clearly, precisely, and that Romanians must know is that we are not making any agreement with the PSD. The PSD must stay out of power for a long time from now on.

AGERPRES: Do you see Pro Romania on that position too?

Ludovic Orban: Let's see the election results. Depending on the results of the election, we will know very clearly what the proportions are and with whom it should be negotiated, because we want to implement the Romanian development plan with which we presented ourselves to the Romanians. This is our fundamental objective and that is why we need partners who are with us in achieving the objectives we have set.

AGERPRES: President Iohannis has said publicly that the PNL will govern with the USR, but USR PLUS (Save Romania Union - Party of Liberty, Unity and Solidarity, ed. n.) have a proposal for prime minister - Dacian Ciolos. Would you give up being prime minister just to form a majority with USR PLUS?

Ludovic Orban: In democracy, the prime minister is given by the party that wins the elections. Whoever wins the election will have the right to nominate the prime minister. What I can tell you is that between President Iohannis and the PNL is a well-known partnership, which is a beneficial partnership for Romania. I would recall only the remarkable success of President Klaus Iohannis, and together with us, in terms of the European funds that Romania will benefit from in the coming years. We are talking about EUR 80 billion from the EU budget 2021-2027, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, in addition to this we still have EUR 4.99 billion which are allocated to Romania to finance the measures active under the SURE programme. There is also about EUR 6 billion, which is money from the Modernization Fund that Romania benefits in order to increase energy efficiency, to develop production capacities in the cogeneration system, to develop renewable energy sources, to modernize the networks.

The results in these negotiations are remarkable results, and a government that is partnering with the President of Romania presents additional guarantees. There will be four years without an election, and it is really important that the president has a government with which he is a partner in all efforts. I could even say that the president's support for a programme is an additional guarantee for the implementation of the programme.

AGERPRES: What relationship do you have with the USR, because lately there have been mutual accusations of shady agreements with PSD, of populism, of betrayal?

Ludovic Orban: Have you heard that from me?

AGERPRES: From Liberal colleagues...

Ludovic Orban: For us, the only opponent is the PSD, because the PSD is doing bad to Romania. PSD means poverty, corruption, abuse, lack of democracy, lack of compliance with the norms on the rule of law. I am truly sorry that there are some who consume a lot of energy in fighting us, not with the PSD. After all, such conduct only weakens a possible subsequent cooperation, because you cannot constantly attack one and then say you want to ally with them. It is very complicated, because any such attacks, many of them unjustified, leave traces, on the other hand, benefit the PSD. Because anyone who hits the PNL, indirectly, serves the PSD, because only the PNL has the strength to fight on an equal footing with the PSD and especially to defeat the PSD in the elections, which we have demonstrated so far. I believe that any possible partner is good to consume its energy in promoting its messages, projects and in the fight against the PSD, to keep the PSD out of government in the coming years.

AGERPRES: The USR has several conditions for entering government, an example of the referendum for "No Culprits (in public positions, ed. n.)".

Ludovic Orban: This is not a condition, since we cannot be given a new condition, because we have initiated a process of revision of the Constitution in accordance with the will of the citizens in the referendum initiated by the President of Romania, once with the European Parliament elections - the referendum for justice. We initiated the revision of the Constitution, a project that includes all the necessary changes following the referendum and which includes the initiative "No Culprits". That's not a condition, this condition is met before. This is a matter of political marketing from our potential partners, through which they want to stand out. We've already done that. For us, that's not a condition. We are convinced that it is very important that the amendment of the Constitution, in addition to the referendum for justice convened by the President, in addition to other necessary improvements of the Constitution, to include this citizens' initiative which is promoted through over a million signatories.

AGERPRES: Does the PNL have conditions for team formation?

Ludovic Orban: It is premature to discuss conditions, we are on the campaign trail. I believe that Romanians must understand the programmes of the formations, what the political formations offer as a perspective and decide in the knowledge of the cause. Negotiations will follow after the election.

AGERPRES: How many of the current ministers will remain in the next Government?

Ludovic Orban: This too will depend on the negotiations that will be done after the elections.


AGERPRES: Which ministries is the PNL not willing to give up?

Ludovic Orban: This will be discussed after the elections, but the basis of the negotiations, in our view, is the national development plan of Romania. It is the only coherent plan, well thought out, step by step, step by step on existing resources and allowing Romania to realize the economic leap it deserves, which allows Romania to use all the opportunities it has, all the advantages and all the resources at its disposal. Any discussion about ministerial portfolios will have to be based on the quality of candidates, but it is premature to open discussions now about post-election negotiations.

AGERPRES: Do you have a message for those who will go to the polls on 6 December?

Ludovic Orban: To come with confidence to vote. The 6 December elections are vital for Romania's evolution. We will ensure voting conditions that minimise the risk of infection. Health protection measures will be implemented very seriously and anyone who comes to the polls will not be subject to any additional risk of contacting the virus. We will ensure compliance with sanitary conditions in the exercise of the right to vote.

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