RAJA Constanta serves as a benchmark in Romania’s rapidly developing water sector. A public enterprise operated according to the highest international standards, RAJA Constanta provides water as well as sewerage and wastewater-treatment services for more than 2.5 million inhabitants year-round. During the summer months, RAJA also serves around 1.5 million tourism visitors. Felix Stroe, Director-General, explains, “RAJA is the biggest public water company in Romania and amongst the most modern ones concerning its management and operations. We have organized the company into seven profit centres, which allows us to provide efficient services over a large area of operation.”
Commander in the Romanian navy, Felix Stroe is also the President of the Executive Board of Aqualia Management Solutions (a joint venture with its headquarters in Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and President of the Romanian Water Association, one of Romania’s biggest professional organizations. He has headed RAJA Constanta since 2003, spearheading the company’s impressive expansion. In 2003, RAJA Constanta served around half of Constanta County, while today it is active in seven different counties and continues to grow.
Highly developed infrastructure
RAJA Constanta’s highly developed infrastructure includes almost 4800 km of water supply pipes, over 2000 km of sewerage sections, 17 wastewater-treatment plants, more than 200 pumping stations for drinking water and wastewater, and several laboratories to ensure the highest possible water quality. RAJA Constanta has obtained all ISO certificates, including the ISO 22000 “Food Safety” certificate which few European companies have achieved. Felix Stroe points out “RAJA Constanta is a licensed, first-class operator and an important member of the International Water Association.”
EU funding has played an important role in RAJA Constanta’s evolution. The company managed to attract by means of the proposed projects financing in the amount of €364.2 million in EU funding for 2007-2013. “This was the largest EU investment in Romania to date for the drinking water and wastewater infrastructure sector,” explains Felix Stroe. Now RAJA is elaborating new projects aiming at obtaining funds of over €350 million through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme, developed with EU funding, and €180 million through the “Increase of Economic Competitiveness” Sectoral Operational Programme.
Impressive track record in absorbing EU funds
RAJA Constanta has an impressive track record in implementing EU funds. Compared to the national average of 50%, RAJA Constanta has absorbed 78% of its EU funding. In fact, Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, was so impressed with RAJA Constanta’s performance that he provided the EU funds needed to perform investments in the water and sewerage sector in Constanta through the Sectoral Operational Programme – Environment, needed to comply with the European Commission’s Directives in this respect.
Another diligent observer of RAJA Constanta is Benoit Nadler, Representative of the European Commission in Romania, whereof Felix Stroe says “Benoit Nadler assessed realistically our company’s capacity, its seriousness and economic efficiency in spending public money, and he recommended its management.”
In Romania, RAJA Constanta has earned the full support of the government. Prime Minister Victor Ponta has met with Felix Stroe several times to discuss issues relating to water systems, and Minister of Finance Eugen Teodorovici, former Minister of EU Funds, has been instrumental in helping RAJA achieve its high EU-funds absorption rate.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been partnering with RAJA Constanta for 20 years and provided co-financing for the company’s pre-EU-accession and post-accession programmes. Felix Stroe says “Jean-Patrick Marquet, until recently Director of Municipal and Environmental
Infrastructure for the EBRD, has contributed a lot to the achievement of our performance, getting directly involved in the economic – financial and management analysis of our company.” Another key international partner is the US government, which has provided funding and other assistance for RAJA over the years. Felix Stroe thanks the US Department of Commerce, which helped RAJA implement a cutting-edge SCADA-Motorola system, and US Ambassadors Nicholas Taubman and Mark Gitenstein, who have permanently supported the company.
Explaining RAJA Constanta’s success journey, Felix Stroe highlights the dedication of the company’s management team and employees, as well as the decision to focus on absorbing EU funding efficiently. He says, “We are the only company in Romania which formed a Directorate for EU Funds management, professionally providing both the funds absorption capacity and the development of new projects. We have also invested in extensive employee training and in ensuring modern working conditions and equipment.” In 2014, Benoit Nadler said during a press conference that Romania’s absorption of EU funds will increase if there are more companies as RAJA and, in this respect, they should clone RAJA Constanta. RAJA Constanta is also very active in informing the public about its activities, making public the involvement of the European Commission and the Romanian Government in the development of investment in the water and sewerage sector, to the benefit of population and environmental protection.
Expanding throughout the region
Building on its success in Romania, RAJA Constanta is expanding abroad. To this end, it has launched a joint-venture with the Aqualia Group (the world’s second-largest water company) and with the EBRD’s participation to form Aqualia Management Solutions based in Amsterdam. RAJA Constanta, with a 40% share in the venture, is a leading shareholder. The new enterprise has already begun a project in Moldova and is negotiating projects in Macedonia, Albania and other countries where the EBRD is present.
As a highly successful, well-run enterprise, RAJA Constanta demonstrates the potential of Romania as a target for FDI. Felix Stroe concludes, “Romania has very strong companies which can absorb a substantial amount of EU funds and perform very well. I welcome large European construction companies to participate in tenders for projects RAJA Constanta is developing with EU funds. RAJA Constanta is helping to change Romania’s international image for the better, and the projects we are planning offer outstanding opportunities.”