#2019PresidentialElection/INTERVIEW Kelemen Hunor: President, by his legitimacy, can impose pact on education, environment, infrastructure, healthcare

The president, based on his/her legitimacy, can impose a pact on important areas, such as education, environment, large infrastructure and healthcare, says Kelemen Hunor, the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) candidate for the presidential elections, in an interview with AGERPRES. He considers that the president, in his/her capacity as mediator, can bring together all the political leaders and put up for debate the respective topics, for half a year. The UDMR leader invokes the example of other European states that have established consensus in several important areas. In terms of foreign policy, Kelemen Hunor appreciates that "there is too little talk" about this area and advocates for more active cooperation with the countries of the Western Balkans and those of Central and Eastern Europe. He further states that Romania's entry into the Schengen area should be "the number one priority" and says that our country accepts a "double measure", a "pretext", despite the fact that it already meets the technical criteria. The chairman of the UDMR places the environment in second place among his priorities, after education, but announces that this is a theme he will promote in local or parliamentary elections, becoming "an important chapter" in the party's political programme. In the interview for AGERPRES, Kelemen Hunor also argues for a constitutional review, adding that the president can be a promoter in this regard. He appreciates that for Romania a parliamentary republic "would be more appropriate", but that there should be a clearer separation between the powers of the two Houses of Parliament and that an administrative reform would be necessary. At the same time, the UDMR leader criticizes the some candidates' "shying away of debate" in the presidential elections, adding that the lack of dialogue represents "an attack on democracy". AGERPRES: Why do you think the electorate should vote for you? What are your strengths when compared to other candidates? Kelemen Hunor: First of all, my vision, my programme, what I think about where we should be five years, ten years from now. A vision about Romania's future, based on respect, trust. Reforming education - if we need reform, even a revolution, because since 1990 we have not had a major decision about where our education system should be. There were good initiatives: Miclea, Funeriu, but none of these initiatives were successful. The environment - because the two resources of a society, the human being and the natural resources, determine what will happen to us. Large infrastructure - because we have to talk about investments, the economy. And, of course, healthcare. When we talk about these principles - respect, trust - we refer to all aspects: the respect of the citizen towards the citizen, because this is where we must start from. If the citizen feels that he/she is not respected, if he/she feels lack of respect, of trust, he/she has a choice: he/she leaves and looks for another state, another society. And that's how Romania has reached 17-18 million inhabitants. It continues to go downwards. The state has no choice. It is not the citizen for the state, but the state for the citizen. That is why I think that this change of mentality must be our main concern, because everything starts from here. We don't trust each other. Each has a suspicion that the other does not want the common good. Without trust, nothing can be built, not even a family, a friendship, a small business. Therefore, these principles, these values must be put back in their proper place. And then, of course, we also dismantle prejudices. But we also dismantle prejudices between communities. We cannot share the past, but the future belongs to us. I am a man with experience in politics, in administration, I am a balanced man, a mature man. With me you will not fail. This is the right choice. I have said many times that, from this point of view, the only good choice in the first round is to vote for me. Some shy away from the debate. When we talk about what a president wants to do, what their vision is, some run away. They no longer want debate. Which is a complete lack of responsibility. As a politician, no matter how popular you are, no matter how arrogant you are, no matter how confident you are in your chances, to say that you do not want debate, to say that you do not want to sit and talk, that means you are making an attempt on democracy. Democracy means dialogue, debate. Those who shy away from debate, in fact, shy away from this responsibility to show who they are and what they want to do. Anyone can say that these issues I am talking about are not presidential duties. We cannot discuss much about the presidential duties. In ten minutes I'm done. They are written in the Constitution, there we cannot debate who signs the law faster, who sends back more quickly to Parliament or the Constitutional Court. But what the future president thinks about the society, what messages he/she has, what model he/she shows to society - all these shape the society, change mindsets and influence decisions. That is why, I believe, the candidates should talk, debate their vision. Foreign policy is an area about which there is far to little talk. It is absolutely insufficient to speak only of NATO, the EU, the Strategic Partnership with the USA. This is Romania's path. These are established things. No one is questioning them. But why are we missing from the Western Balkans? Why aren't we in close cooperation with our neighbors in Eastern Europe, Central Europe? Why do we have nothing to say about important EU issues? About the security of external borders. About immigration. About the deeper integration and the division, if necessary, of the duties from national level to community level. Romania looks like the actor without words, without voice in this construction. It's like a lonely rider on the seashore, on a beautiful horse. It walks down, up. And that's about it. It looks good, it's spectacular, but it has nothing to say. Apart from a beautiful image, it has nothing to say. It's a big mistake. The president must play an extremely active role here. I would strengthen cooperation in the Western Balkans, Romania's presence in diplomacy, politics, cultural life, long-term economy. And the relationship with neighbouring countries and cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. AGERPRES: Please detail the relationship with the Central and Eastern European states. Romania is a powerful pro-European state. In Hungary or Poland there have been official stances which, at least lately, were at odds with positions in Brussels. How do you see cooperation? Kelemen Hunor: This is a wrong conclusion and an approach based on not too finely nuanced information and conclusions. I see this completely differently. Poland and Hungary are not anti-European and are in no way against Brussels. If we look at the absorption of funding, at all the policies, they are on the top position. Had we made it to a position like Poland's, for example - not to compare ourselves with Hungary - I would have been very proud, very happy. If we had absorbed the European funds, if we had efficiently spent these funds, if we had a say, as Poland has in Brussels. ... Romania is doing it wrong. It looks at Berlin or Paris and waits to see what it should say. Those who raise their voice and criticize certain decisions don't do so because they are anti-European. They simply want to support their national cause and try to harmonize with everything that happens in Brussels. That's why I do not believe in this approach, that Romania is much more pro-European. No! All EU states are pro-European, only that some have a vision, others don't. And they just sit and wait to see what the big players are saying in order to not upset anyone. No, one must have a vision, one must know what one wants to do at the edge of the EU. Because at least in the near future Romania won't be an equal actor with France or Germany. This is not possible for various reasons: from the economy to the number of citizens and the geographical position in Europe. But if there is a central-European cooperation, then, for this area of Europe, for the former communist countries, representing interests and also taking the decisions in the area where you are much more involved and interested, is far easier than standing to attention, or possibly with the head submissively dipped, to see what others say. Being pro-European means wanting things to turn for the better for each nation, each state and for the entire European continent. Every time I approach this subject a lot more nuanced. What are we doing? We don't spend the money. No matter what happens to us, we point the finger at Brussels, suggesting that they are the reason why this is impossible. That's not true! It's false! And if we get a "to do list", then we try to trick those who gave it to us, saying that we'll carry it out, but in reality we do nothing. Let's be more nuanced, let's be more critical of ourselves and see what others have done better than us. Under the Large Infrastructure Operational Programs the money is left unspent, despite our pro-European position. Others succeed, they build motorways. Just take a look at what happened in Poland, how Poland has risen thanks to European funding. AGERPRES: Should the President, as Romania's representative in the European Council, more actively promote certain topics? Kelemen Hunor: Much more actively. As for our joining the Schengen - this should be the number one priority, because we have been accepting this approach, this double standard, for years. The technical criteria are met. The rest is pretext. You cannot forever accept such pretexts. And, of course, Romania's interest is that the enlargement doesn't stop. And that the Eastern Partnership should work. Enlargement to the Republic of Moldova, of course, and to the Western Balkans. AGERPRES: What would "not accept such pretexts forever" mean? For Romania to have a stronger attitude regarding the Schengen? Kelemen Hunor: In the Council, decisions are made by consensus. There are many interests at play, when the President can say, "OK, I'll support you. But we also have a problem, the Schengen accession, because we lose economically and in all areas. We've met the criteria, will you please look for an argument, for a possibility to support us". But if you permanently participate and support all causes but never ask for anything for your country, if you don't try to take a step forward, of course nothing will happen. Nothing is for free in politics. That's why I believe that the President of Romania, if he were to have some major levers at hand, has them right there. Then again, about the budget. What will the EU budget look like and what will Romania get. This is where it has a huge word to say. Which are the areas where we should not take one step back: the Common Agricultural Policy or other areas. This is why I believe that a President can be more active in the Council than what we've seen so far. AGERPRES: What would be the levers in the President's hands for supporting education, the area that you have placed on top of your priorities? Kelemen Hunor: By getting the message through, by shaping the society, by putting pressure on the Government and by attempting to bring all political leaders to the table, because he is a mediator. And by saying: "Let's do a debate for half a year on three to four important topics, which are key for the future of Romania". And let's all agree: on education, on the environment, on large infrastructure - let's break through the Carpathians, let's connect the historical provinces - and healthcare. And leave the other areas for us to grind ourselves in the domestic political battle whenever we want, when we want and how we can. But there should be a consensus at least on these three or four primordial areas, because Romania's future resides in: human resources, natural resources, the people's health and the economy. If you don't have large infrastructure, you will never be able to attract funds, because the products must be brought somehow to the European or global market. We do not have motorways, the railway infrastructure is in tatters, the Port of Constanta is in the state it is. I consider that right after election, the President, with his legitimacy and engagement, should be capable to impose a pact on three or four areas. This is what all the states have done, they had a consensus for 5 - 10 - 15 years, on particular areas. Just look at what Finland has done in education! For 12 years they didn't touch the system. They wanted to see what the results would be. After that, they made minor corrections, did some fine-tuning and the system has become even better. It's the best system in Europe. Norway, when it came to uncovering resources, said: "Let's forge a consensus, we won't attack each other on the exploitation of natural resources, but let's do so that Norway wins in the long term". I think it is the President's role to try. As regards the Army's endowment everybody agreed - 2 percent. OK! There was no debate there. AGERPRES: I saw that in the online environment you actively promote the topic of the environment. Do you believe that Romania should assume more ambitious objectives? Beyond the presidential campaign, does the UDMR intend to take over this topic, given that it is not very present? Kelemen Hunor: Yes, we will take this topic further. From my point of view, the greatest risk when talking about the environment and the problems that need to be solved is for the environment policy, ecology to be monopolized by one part of the political spectrum because then a debate starts immediately. The environment is neither Liberal, nor Christian Democrat, nor Social Democrat, nor conservative. The environment is for each person. It is about tomorrow. I believe that in all the programs of the political parties, regardless of orientation, there should be a concern for the environment. It must not be monopolized by a single doctrinal or ideological area. We have had this concern, but I admit that we have spoken far too little about it. When I was a journalist, I had a first brutal meeting with the environment as a reporter, with what the environment means, at Capusu Mic, near Medias. Everything was black. Then, we saw everything that happened with Baia Mare since the cyanide spill. I see that we throw away six thousand tonnes of food daily. This has some social implication, but also an environmental one. We are not managing to implement selective collection of waste. There are some cities, for example Cluj is trying. We are not educating the children. We are not informing, we are not changing the mentality. We cannot change global issues, because we are not the ones to emit carbon dioxide in large quantities. Five states are responsible for 60-65 percent of carbon dioxide emissions on the globe. But the way in which we stand for ourselves, in relation to the environment, how we educate children, will change things. Each in his place has a responsibility. This is what we want to show and we are trying to change our way of life. Sustainability - not using all the resources, leave some for your children, for your grandchildren. Sustainable development means this: not using more than you need. Sure, we can talk about planting forests. I said that in five years we could devise an afforestation programme for about 600,000-700,000 hectares. Romania has 13 million hectares of agricultural land, of which around 9 million are currently cultivated. Another two million could be cropped. But that still leaves two million where we could find alternative methods: planting forests and so on. Romania aims to reach 29.7 percent renewable energy in the national mix by 2030. I believe it's a very small ambition. We should have a more ambitious programme, we should aim towards 40-50 percent until 2030, not as we are doing now. Both in solar energy, as well as in wind energy there is much to be done. In hydro power we have a lot to do. They are clean matters. They are things that generate energy and do not destroy the environment. I have a programme to discuss with youths 16-17 years of age, up to 28-30 years old. Each time, everywhere I go, environment issues are raised very fast. We're the only ones who believe that they're concerned with the rule of law, with justice. No! The day before yesterday, I had a meeting with 350 youths in Iasi, with Paleologu. There was one question in the audience about justice and the rule of law. The rest: education, environment, economy, problems of demography and migration. If the political class does not give an answer to these expectations, people feel non-represented, they feel, in a way, abandoned. That is why we very consciously approached this subject and will move it further in the local elections and the parliamentary elections and it will be an important chapter in our political programme, because it is about the future. AGERPRES: President-player or president-mediator? Kelemen Hunor: No! A dedicated president, committed to the problems of the society. You don't have to be a player. Nor a president that watches very carefully what is happening. Sometimes, he issues a statement. You need to be a person dedicated to the problems of the society, a person that wishes to understand the problems and who wants to find solutions, to have priorities. You don't have to take care of all domains, because that's impossible. But your vision for development, your vision for the future matters. How many times you send messages to Parliament and in what domain. How many times you show up for a government sitting, to show a certain model, a certain thinking, a certain vision. You do not make the decisions, but it's impossible - if you are present, if you are speaking up - for there not to be consequences at the government level. Because people are paying attention at what the President says, he's the person with the greatest legitimacy. People then put pressure on their representatives, pressure on the Government. I am firmly convinced that a committed and dedicated president changes society, shapes society. AGERPRES: You talked about constitutional revision, even a new Constitution. Do you believe this is feasible? You spoke in favor of a parliamentary regime. Would this mean a reduction of the President's duties? What levers would you see modified? Kelemen Hunor: It can't be done this year, not even in 2020, but at some point we should have a constitutional reform. You must start a debate on this chapter, with all the political parties, with the Government. You must, at one point, reach that moment in which Parliament revises the Constitution or writes a new Constitution. Yes, a constituent assembly is necessary, these things can be prepared technically. But the president may be - again, the legitimacy of the position - a promoter for revision. I say that we need a revision, because we copied a French system that has already changed. We copied, but not how we should have, we didn't take into account a lot of matters. We made a republic neither semi-presidential, nor parliamentary. There is this necessity of cohabitation between President and Government, but things are not clear and I believe Romania would need a clear system. Either semi-presidential republic - not presidential, because there is no tradition for this in Europe, there are a few states with semi-presidential system - or a parliamentary republic. A parliamentary republic does not mean the prerogatives of the President are fewer. Maybe a bit fewer. But they are clearer and do not interfere with the Government. But to be able to attack laws, to be able to send back to Parliament, to the Constitutional Court and many, many other things are important prerogatives. But we should decide: either this or that. From my point of view, for Romania, a parliamentary republic would be more appropriate, as it is in most EU countries. There are also constitutional monarchies. Another option would be a constitutional monarchy. From my point of view, it's preferable over a pure semi-presidential system. The pure semi-presidential system means placing all the power in the hands of a single person, which is dangerous for Romania. Because OK, today there is a balanced person at Cotroceni [Presidential Palace]. But we don't know what might happen tomorrow. If he/she can dismiss the Government at his/her discretion, if he/she can dissolve Parliament at his/her discretion, if at his/her discretion he/she has the power to intervene in the executive, then you have a problem. I don't think that for Romania, with our traditions, with our mentality, with our social structure, it's appropriate to have such a semi-presidential system. That is why I would opt for a parliamentary republic. Or we can always return to a constitutional monarchy. There is a discussion to be had here. Parliament's powers must be separated. From this point of view, I am in favour of bicameralism, but an even clearer separation. Because at this moment there are many delays and they are due to this system. All laws must go through both Chambers, with small nuances. For some laws, the Senate is the deciding chamber. Or the other way around. I believe that you must leave everything that has to do foreign policy, defence, national security for the Senate. Nothing else. The rest, to the Chamber of Deputies. And there are several matters where we should exercise our prerogatives together: the investiture of the Government, the censure motion, approval of the budget. Then, we must carry out an administrative reform through the Constitution, not through laws. We should say, because it's an outdated system, from the communist era. The outline can be drawn through the Constitution and then you move forward in the law, in government decisions. If we hold on to this administrative system for long, we will lose enormously. There are many aspects that must be revised in the Constitution and that's why I said, in the period after the parliamentary elections, there should be such an initiative, because we have four years at our disposal. Then, in 2024, in a single year there's all the elections and we have four years again. In fact we have eight years, when you can build, you can have ambitious projects, not from one day to the next: who do we have to "neutralize" in politics, who has to disappear, who doesn't have to disappear. I believe we have a huge chance from this point of view. There is economic growth, the necessary adjustments can be made and we can look further with serious projects. AGERPRES: What is your project for the Hungarian community? Kelemen Hunor: The large majority of problems are identical. We have a problem more, as compared to the majority. Compared to the majority, a minority has a problem, that relates to keeping the ethnic, linguistic, cultural identity. For this, we need institutional guarantees. We must show, we must try to tell the Romanian majority that what we desire takes nothing from Romanians. We will not be poorer, less happy or with less chances in life. When shared with others, freedom is that value which multiplies, it does not decline. From this point of view, I believe that we, at this moment, should say that we cannot share the past, but we can build the future together. Prejudice needs to be taken down, we must say that we are not a national security risk, as some institutions consider, that we do not want to harm Romania. We want to have a better country. We want a better country too. We do not want a worse country, if we've stayed in our country. At the same time, we must ask from Romanians more openness. The Romanian majority must convince us that it does not wish to assimilate, it wishes to keep this wealth, this multiculturalism, that for Romania I think is a bonus, not a minus that should be erased. That must be gotten over, as a candidate said. He didn't have a solution, a proposal. He said: "Let's get over it". We cannot get over it. From this point of view, the Hungarians only desire a better country, a country where they feel safe and safety means respecting rights, identity, this linguistic and cultural difference. AGERPRES (RO - author: Irinela Visan, editor: Mirela Barbulescu; EN - author: Simona Iacob, Simona Klodnischi, Razvan-Adrian Pandea, editor: Simona Iacob, Maria Voican)

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