A year after the Romanian Government and the Orthodox Church have signed an agreement saying the priests would inform the villagers all over Romania how to access EU funds for agriculture, the results of this unusual approach are unknown. What can be known is that only few priests are aware of the EU funding procedures, meaning those who had already taken European money for small agricultural projects, the Romanian TV Digi 24 reported.
Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Orthodox Church decided the priests would be involved in the efforts to improve the capacity of accesing EU funds in the Romanian villages. But the agricultural programs, with hundreds of millions of Euros to be spent, were already advertised in the villages by a special agency, with a 5 mil Euros budgets, the journalists noted.
Priests are considered key persons in the communities in all the Romanian villages, with a lot of influence among people. Those interviewed by journalists said they were not invited to any training on EU funds, in order to know how to explain this better to the villagers. Finally, the reporters found two priests who started on their own, small projects with EU money, one cultivating vegetables and the other making honey, both saying they only use their personal experience in order to advertise the EU funds to the villagers.
While the Orthodox Church officials refused to speak to media, the Minister for Agriculture, Daniel Constantin, said he considered “the Church can be involved in delivering punctuala information to the villagers”. “If the 10 000 priests in the Romanian villages can do it better than the 8000 specialists in agriculture, then he have a big problem. It means we should go home and let the priests to lead the agricultural sector”, former Agriculture minister Stelian Fuia commented.