Context

On November 13th, a decision issued by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban concerning the attributions of the Vice Prime Minister was published in the Official Gazette, part I, no. 915. Pursuant to this decision, the Vice-Prime-Minister, Raluca Turcan, will be responsible for coordinating the activities of several Ministries and for mediating the relations between the Government and the Parliament. The justification provided by Orban is that this way the priorities included in the Governing Program will have a greater chance of being satisfied.

The Ministries which will be under the supervision and coordination of Raluca Turcan are: the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Works, Development and Administration, the Ministry of European Funds, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. Furthermore, she will constantly inform the Prime Minister regarding the implementation of the stipulations included in the Decision, in order to ensure that these are coherent with the Governing Program.

Precedents

According to Law no./2001, the Government can include vice prime Ministers, provided that they are included on the list of Ministers presented to the Parliament when the latter institution votes for the approval of a Government. It is the second time in recent history when a vice-Prime Minister receives extended powers through a decision of a Prime Minister. The first time, Paul Stănescu, former Minister of Regional Development and Public Administration, was nominated by former PM Viorica Dăncilă as the person that would extend her attributions concerning the operational activities of the Government during her holiday. However, that decision was only available for a week (August 6 – August 13, 2019). Furthermore, given the lack of any reference to the possibility to delegate the functions of the Prime Minister, at that time the Vice Prime Minister acted as an Interim Prime Minister.

Significance

The present situation is different, although in both cases we can talk about an expansion of the attributions of the Vice Prime Minister. On one hand, it becomes easy to understand why Turcan was included on the list of Ministers without getting a specific portfolio. She will thus be able to have under her coordination more than just one Ministry. On the other, it is curious to what extent Turcan will also be responsible for deciding on the priorities of each Ministry. The language used in the Decision is somewhat ambiguous. While Article 1 specifies that Turcan will “coordinate the activities which fall under the responsibility of the following Ministries.”, Article 2, paragraph A explicitly states that Turcan will “approve the measures drafted by those Ministries”. Thus, we can expect a greater deal of involvement on Turcan’s part, especially taking into account that on the list of Ministries are included important ones such as Education, Health, Justice, European Funds and Public Works, the latter being an umbrella Ministry covering both Development and Administration.

Orban’s decision presents us with the difficult task of ascertaining who is responsible for the measures that are going to be taken in those fields from now on. Take Health for instance. During the auditing in the Parliament, Victor Costache was mostly passive. In the public declarations from the past couple of weeks concerning the field of healthcare, PM Ludovic Orban was much more active than Victor Costache. Does this mean that the responsibility for health care will ultimately be the Minister’s or the Vice-Prime-Minister’s (and, by extension, of the Prime Minister, who must be informed regularly concerning the implementation of the sectorial measures from those strategic fields)? For instance, last week 28 normative acts had been withdrawn from public consultation or from the inter-ministerial approval process by the Ministry of Health. Who was responsible for this decision? Orban, Turcan, or Costache? In the specific field of health-care, it must be mentioned that as of November 18th, only 1 Secretary of State had been nominated.

Conclusion

Ludovic Orban has shown already that he intends to be a Prime Minister present “where the action is”, in the middle of the activity of each of the Ministers that make up his Cabinet. This is one of the reasons why Orban participated at the auditing of each of the nominated Ministers in the Parliament, and this is why he was so active in the public sphere. The recent decision to nominate Raluca Turcan in charge of supervising the activity of some strategic Ministries further consolidates this trend.

It remains to be seen whether this measure will lead to more coherent public policies, which is probably one of the unstated intentions of this decision, or if it will have the opposite effect, of stifling the development in one sector and making it more dependent on what happens in other sectors. For instance, a good decision that would increase the rate of absorption of European Funds would have a positive spillover effect in Education. On the other hand, a bad decision that would lead to the loss of access to some European Funds would have the opposite effect. By increasing the attributions of the Vice-Prime-Minister, Ludovic Orban made the sectors under her supervision more interconnected.

 

Adelin Costin Dumitru, Issue Monitoring