Mrs. Ileana TUREANU
State Secretary Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Housing of Romania
7 June 2001
Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the UN Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT 11+5)
New York, 6-8 June 2001

Mister President,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In assessing progress toward the Habitat Agenda commitments and strategies, the Government of Romania wishes to present to the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly the state-of-the-art in implementing its national programmes and actions.

The Istanbul Declaration underlined the importance of situating housing development issues in a sustainable perspective. Therefore, the Government of Romania is being committed to support by concurrent policy measures the sustainable development of human settlements and increase the ability of all stakeholders to mobilize resources toward solving housing issues.

The major policies and actions of the Government are centered on two main lines:

· A continuous legislative activity in support of the sustainable development of human settlements
· Enhancing the role of the Government as facilitator and catalyzing factor in the development of the housing sector.

The medium-term strategy of the Government of Romania reflects the close links that have to be established between the sustainable development of human settlements and an accelerated reform toward a well functioning market economy. The overall framework of such an approach is provided by Romania's National Programme for Spatial Development (NPSD).

The specific programmes and policies spelled out in the NSPD concentrate on the major issues that require government measures, in order to achieve the overall goals of the socio-economic reform and the sustainable development of human settlements. They relate to:

. The main transport infrastructure
. Water Management
. Areas of cultural and natural heritage
. The network of human settlements
. Prevention of natural disasters

The documents of the NSPD have been adopted by the Parliament of Romania as framework laws and they represent guidance for action to all relevant actors -- at central and local levels, orientating both government programmes and private investment in the respective fields.

The network of human settlements is of special concern for the Government of Romania. As important economic and social changes are being brought about by the reform, restructuring and re-modeling of urban and rural settlements are crucial for improving the living conditions of their inhabitants.

A comprehensive analysis of human settlements (based on 30 indicators) revealed the challenges that should be addressed with priority:

. To increase the polycentric character of the network of cities by reducing the disparities between the capital-city Bucharest, on the one hand, and the other towns and municipalities, on the other hand;
. To enhance the role of small- and medium-size towns in their surrounding area, with a view to disseminating higher quality social and communal services in the territory;
. To arrest further decline of living conditions in rural areas and to set a positive course for economic and social development, through better infrastructure and public services.

The draft law for the Network of Human Settlements formulated the basic principles that should guide the development and structure of the network of urban and rural settlements. The objective of the proposed structuring is a more balanced development of the network of settlements, a better use of resources by the development of complementary functions and decentralisation. We consider that the ranking of settlements, in a hierarchy of functions, would stimulate competition between cities and between rural settlements. It would, as well, open-up gateways for European and international integration.

Particular attention is given to rural settlements. The .scope of the issues related to rural areas stems from the specific conditions of Romania, where rural areas cover about 90% of the country's area with about 54% of the total population; moreover, rural areas are the depositories of most of the country's natural wealth (agricultural land, forests, considerable tourist resources) and through their cultural values are part of the national and international heritage. Several government programmes aim at setting a positive course for the economic and social development of rural areas. They are directed mainly to up grading and extending basic technical infrastructure (water, sewage, road connections) and social amenities (gymnasiums). We expect that the impact of these priority actions would reverse present negative trends, as a pre-condition for the long-term improvement of living conditions in rural areas.

A special section of the NSDP is dedicated to natural disaster prevention -- earthquakes, floods and landslides. It is stipulated by law that local governments, together with specialized institutions, shall identify and map risk prone areas. They shall take special planning and technical measures that would protect settlements and families from the consequences of natural disasters.

Mister President,

Housing is ranking high on the agenda of the Government Programme for the period 2000?2004. After a decade of economic and social reform it is largely recognized that housing is an important sector of the economy, with a substantial contribution to gross capital formation; it is also a key-factor for the development of human settlements, for social stability and for the well being of individuals and families.

The basic attitude guiding government action is its commitment to achieve a competitive market economy. This commitment is reflected in the main principles of the Romanian housing policy, i.e.:

· A better definition of the role of the state in facilitating. the development of market mechanisms and in assuring the functioning of an efficient housing market;
· Facilitating the access to the market for all the actors involved in the development of the housing sector;
· Provision of a safety net for the most needy.

The National Strategy for Housing for the 2001-2004 period, developed by the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Housing, aims at:

· Mitigating the ratio between the market price of housing and the average family income;
· Facilitating the access to the market for specific categories, especially young individuals and families;
· Providing incentives for private investment in housing;
· Enhancing the role of the National Housing Agency as a developer and a loan?funding institution, the NHA becoming also instrumental in developing a functional mortgage market.

By its firm commitment to carry out over a short period of time an ambitious programme of housing, the Government of Romania assumes its. role as facilitator for the development of the market mechanisms in the housing sector. The facilitating policy pursued means increasing output, enlarging access to the market, providing a larger choice of a better quality housing, as well as a safety net to families who by their own efforts could not accede to a dwelling. The policy relies also on a close cooperation between the central and local authorities.

Mister President,

We take note with satisfaction that our priorities and concerns are well reflected and included in the Declaration which will be adopted by this Session. Romania re-affirms its commitment to continue the implementation of the provisions of the HABITAT Agenda, to take part in the international cooperation in this very dynamic field, further benefiting of support and assistance in carrying out its national programmes.

Thank you for your attention.