The European Commission produced 5,000 copies of a brochure promoting the accomplishments of its regional policy chief, Corina Crețu, after questions were raised about her work habits and staff turnover.
The 78-page pamphlet, published only in Romanian, is being distributed to politicians and media by the Commission’s office in Bucharest and is available online. It cost €6,673.81 to produce, according to a Commission spokesperson.
In addition to describing the work done by Creţu on regional policy and highlighting EU spending on projects in Romania, the brochure includes 20 full-sized pictures of the commissioner. Full-page quotes from the commissioner cover 12 pages in the publication.
Crețu, a former Romanian politician who joined the Commission in November 2014, drew fire last year from former staff members who left over concerns about what they said was a lax work schedule and tendency to ask employees to do personal tasks. POLITICO reported December 10 that almost half of the members of her cabinet left during her first year in office.
The brochure was sent a week later, December 17, to the Romanian government, parliament and national media, as well as to Romanian MEPs and to the 31 “Europe Direct” EU information centers across the country, according to Commission officials.
A Commission spokesman gave no other examples of individual commissioners being promoted with similar communications resources after their first year in office.
Sweden’s Cecilia Malmström, the high-profile commissioner for trade, was featured in 2015 on the cover of a 10-page regular newsletter called “Fokus Europa,” but the newsletter does not focus solely on her. There is only a two-page article on Malmström explaining the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Commission spokesperson Jakub Adamowicz said it was not unusual that Crețu would be featured in communication material more than other members of the institution.
“Given the diversity across the EU, no Commission representation operates in a fully linearly comparable environment,” Adamowicz said. “Representations conduct their communication strategies in accordance with local needs.”
In a list of significant moments of her first year in office, the brochure notes Crețu’s participation in a September 2015 special meeting of the European Parliament’s regional committee addressing regional policy measures meant to support Greece. The list also includes her participation in the EU’s Open Days event in October 2015, an activity that promotes the work of the EU institutions to the general public.
Although the Commission often emphasizes that its decisions are taken as a group and not by a single commissioner or directorate-general acting alone, the brochure makes it seem at times that Crețu has the power to approve programs and requests unilaterally.
The brochure credits the commissioner with adopting a €222 million program for cooperation among countries in the Danube region. In another part of the brochure, she gets credit for approving a Romanian request to use regional funds instead of loans to finance the construction of a highway.
“Commissioner Crețu approved, in 2015, Romania’s demand to finance from the Cohesion fund the investment part that was initially covered by loans for the highway Arad-Timișoara and for the ring road of the city of Constanța,” the pamphlet states.”Together with these new allocations, the European Commission contribution to the two highway segments is as high as €439 million.”
Sources in Crețu’s office told POLITICO last year that she had informed her staff that she plans to run for office in Romania after her term as Commissioner is done. A Commission spokesperson declined to comment.
“Regional policy does not have any political color,” says a Crețu quote on the brochure cover. “It is for the people.”
Mihai Roşioru, a spokesperson for the Commission’s representation in Romania, said the promotion of Crețu in Bucharest was an effort to mark the first year in office of the Juncker Commission, and was unrelated to political developments in the country. The government in Romania changed in November last year when Victor Ponta — who appointed Crețu — had to step down amid street protests against corruption.
The European Commission in Brussels refused to comment on whether Crețu’s cabinet worked with the Romanian office on drafting the brochure.
“The representations are those that communicate the European Commission policies in the EU member states,” said Adamowicz. “Based on the mandate received from President Juncker, the commissioners are themselves communicators from the European Commission’s side in the countries they know best.”
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