Romania Can Still Provide Stability Within the EU

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Ana Catauta

About Ana Catauta

Ana Catauta is a Romanian political communications consultant with a great deal of experience in electoral campaigns and institutional communication. She is founder of New Machiavelli Communications.

Despite the ruling PSD-ALDE coalition’s chaotic fiscal policy, and its ongoing attacks on the justice system, Romania can and will continue to be a factor of stability in Central and Eastern Europe. Concerns regarding the country’s evolution are justified – up to a point – but they will not affect the fact that Romanian citizens are amongst the most pro-European of the 28 EU member states. Moreover, Romania does not have the luxury of taking a path towards illiberal democracy.

Firstly, Romania is not (unlike its Central European neighbours) a Eurosceptic country. Just the opposite. Strong public discontent is directed towards local, not European, leaders. Secondly, Romania is not in the position to start hedging strategically, being practically surrounded by neighbours much less intransigent to Russian influence and propaganda. Romania is, and will remain, a staunch European and transatlantic nation. Thirdly, the Romanian ruling elite is far less sophisticated than its counterparts in the region, whose national-conservative-authoritarian ideology is far more coherent. In Romania, all we see and hear are occasional outbursts of such things.

The Romanian consensus – reached in the early 1990s and which has as its central tenet European and transatlantic integration – still holds. Both the president and the ruling coalition (otherwise locked in a Cold War-style co-habitation) agree that Romania should aim to be a part of core Europe. This is not naive or wishful thinking. Going west has been the Romanian dream for centuries and, despite all odds, has made today’s Romania and its current alliances possible.

Regional Disparities

Poor governance, corruption, a sharp demographic decline and an exodus of millions are the real problems of today’s Romania. Fiscal rectitude will return. The independence of the judiciary will be preserved, despite the current turmoil. But the absence of a balanced model of development for all Romanians, creating the bizarre situation that regional disparities have increased after 10 years of EU integration and tens of billions of euros of structural and cohesion funds – this is Romania’s real problem.

This year, Romania’s GDP will surpass the symbolic threshold of 200 billion euros. An annual growth rate of 5 per cent is perfectly possible, with other engines of growth than consumption fueling above average performance, including amongst our peers in Central and South East Europe. With smart politics and responsible politicians, Romania can transform its economic and growth models and be among the few emerging economies that can avoid the middle income trap.

So when you see on the news that young people protesting in the streets of Bucharest, they are rallying not only against one or more pieces of legislation. They know that Romania can escape its history and geography, catch up with lost time and become a prosperous, well administrated, democratic nation.

Understanding Romanian society at large, or its political class, is an extremely complex and difficult process. Romania was one of the harshest communist regimes, with a leader and an elite who relied on terror to stay in power. Starvation, fear, cold, manipulation – this was the Romanian reality before 1989. Such things remain important because neither the autocratic tendencies of a part of the political elite, nor the population’s collective memory, have totally vanished.

On the bright side, Romanians always associated freedom with the West and it was a conscious decision to join NATO and the EU. Nobody forced Romania to adopt the democratic model. It was not the United States who wanted a Strategic Partnership 20 years ago, but the Romanian political establishment of the time, which understood that there is only one viable way for the country to develop. Joining the EU was similar. A sacrifice was made, in terms of the privatisation of several economic and industrial assets (and some might even argue that the price paid was extremely high), in order to become part of the European core. The generation that is now protesting in the streets for the preservation of the rule of law and for a prosperous Romania was educated during the period when the country was in the process of becoming an integral part of EU and NATO.

Corruption, Poverty & Social Exclusion

Despite the economic growth of recent years, Romania still has two major unresolved issues: the level of corruption, and the level of poverty and social exclusion. Important steps have been made in both areas. And, despite what some might believe, it was not because Romania was forced to do so by Western institutional bodies, but due to pressure placed on the Romanian political class by Romanian citizens. They understood that true development could only come if the country embraced democratic values. And people are tired and frustrated at the low level of public and private governance.

Unfortunately, during the 10 years that have passed since joining the EU in 2007, the relationship between Romania and the European institutions has become unbalanced. Economic development did not come as fast as was needed, Romania still has a CVM in place and has not been allowed to join the Schengen Area, even though technical criteria were met (after all, Romania is one of NATO’s key Eastern borders). Moreover, the Romanian worker become a black sheep in some European countries and was even the target of several political attack campaigns.

Western democracies sometimes fail to understand is the fact that they have an undefeatable ally here – Romanian citizens. The young, educated professionals who have studied and worked abroad, the skillful workers who moved abroad for good or temporarily in order to provide for their families, the families that live from remittances – they all represent a stark defender of Western values.

Indifferent No More

Unlike Hungary or Poland, who are increasingly being drawn towards an illiberal, anti-European model, Romania is still a stable part of the EU. And this stability will continue, despite the current situation, because things have already become embedded. What the current political majority fails to understand (or in some cases pretends not to), is the fact that Romanians will no longer tolerate this level of indifference towards their genuine need to live a decent life. The real concern is that there is no credible alternative in Romania. President Klaus Iohannis was elected precisely because he was different, but has so far been disappointingly quiet.

Having a more balanced Romania is in the interest of everybody, especially the West. Russian propaganda has not been slow to react: its message that the West is selfish and decadent, and its promotion of the need for a more nationalist Romania has had a positive response from some: after all, everybody gets tired of being always portrayed as the black sheep eventually.

So instead of always threatening infringement penalties, maybe the European institutions should focus more on truly understanding a country that has known a form of democracy for only three decades, not centuries. And provide real help and open up to dialogue. The lack of the latter might sometimes be regarded as arrogance. And, in a time when we all try to understand the new world order, it is collaboration, and not arrogance, that is key. Because at the end of the day, we all have something to gain from working together.

The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy. 

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Breaking With Imitations of the Past

Ask for Georgian Campaign Set to Expand Abroad

Traditional Georgian carpet. Carpets with typical geometrical patterns are among the most famous products of Georgia.

CEE Is Key to China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Shanghai skyline Panoramic view of shanghai skyline and huangpu river Shanghai China

Growing Rzeszów

Rynek Glowny in Rzeszow. Rzeszow Podkarpackie Poland.

Estonia Leading CEE Country in WEF Competitiveness Index

pharmaceutical factory woman worker operating production line at pharmacy industry manufacture factory

Banca Transilvania Concludes Moldovan Deal

banca transilvania

Serbia Drafts New Competition Law

serbia belgrade flag

Hungary and Israel: the Collision of Past and Present

Budapest synagoge

Bulgaria: Real Estate’s New Frontier?

CEE-Benefits and Disadvantages of Joining the Eurozone

forint zloty euro

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

Lithuania Wants to Bring Home its Skilled Workers

VILNIUS - FEBRUARY 25: Many people choose books at the indoor book

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

New Start-Up and Innovation Report Names Estonia and Slovenia as Market Leaders

Tallin, Estonia - July 06,2017: Scenic view of the modern part of the city of Tallin, Estonia

Romanian Cyber Security Firm Valued at 600 million US dollars in Private Equity Swoop

cyber security

A Risky Evaluation of Croatia’s Economy?

ZAGREB, CROATIA - JULY 17, 2017: Square Ban Josip Jelacic with tourists and trams on a summer day in Zagreb. City of Zagreb is the capital of Croatia.

Trans Adriatic Pipeline Will Fuel Albanian Growth

Xanthi. Greece - July 30 2017: aerial view of construction of gas pipeline Trans Adriatic Pipeline - TAP in north Greece. The pipeline starts from the Caspian sea and reaches the coast of southern Italy

Kosovo: A Population of Talented Young Entrepreneurs Waits at Europe’s Door

Polish Enterprise Salaries Climb Steeply

Money of National Bank of Poland. Polish zloty banknote on red velvet background; Macro photo; Depth of field

Why the Baltic States Should Reject the Nanny State

man smoking a cigarette Cigarette smoking Cigarette with smoke

Slovenia Sets Green Vehicle Deadline of 2030

ljubljana

CEE Must Improve Infrastructure and Logistics

Aerial view of Gliwice Sosnica motorway junction. There are international traffic in four directions

Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

Bad Payers Still Causing Problems for Romanian Firms

Close up Romanian currency note, LEI or LEU, Romania

Poland’s Unicorn, Slovakia’s Flying Car and the Future of Europe

Azerbaijan Showcases ICT Potential

BAKU AZERBAIJAN - SEPTEMBER 25: People goes by the seafront of Baku on September 25 2016. Baku is a capital and largest city of Azerbaijan.

Investors Eye Opportunities in Emerging European Infrastructure

infrastructure

LGBT in CEE — A New Acceptance Is Being Born From Migration

A Bosnian Referendum Shows Russia’s Influence in the Balkans—As Well As Its Limits

EY: Belarus’ IT Scene Is Thriving

High tech park minsk

Ukraine to Make New Privatisation Push

Bulgarian PM Sets Out Priorities at EPP Group Debate

Prague Czech Republic - February 15 2016: The Prime Ministers of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov is speaking during a press conference after meeting of The Visegrad Group (V4) in Prague Czech Republic.

21st century Manufacturing Arrives at Great Stone

Great stone

Belarus Foreign Minister Hails Success of Visa-Free Travel Programme

Great noble deer surrounded by herd.Portrait of a deer, while looking at you.Adult deer with big beautiful horns on snowy field on forest background.

Economic Confidence Rises Across Eurozone

Poland: Is it Ready, and is it Time to Adopt the Euro?

A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

Is there any prospect of ‘Polexit’?

poland european union polexit

Beyond Borders: Immigration Within the EU

refugees immigrants

IMF Concludes Latest Moldova Review, Releases New Money

Reflection of a Soviet building in Chisinau Republic of Moldova

Examining How a Strong Swiss Franc Could Single-Handedly Topple Poland’s Economy

Bulgaria Needs a Reform-Oriented Government to Take Full Advantage of its EU Membership

bulgaria emerging europe

A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?

Bulgaria Keen on Euro Adoption

FRANKFURT GERMANY - MAY 16 2014: Euro Sign. European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank for the euro and administers the monetary policy of the Eurozone in Frankfurt Germany.

Hungary’s Solar Dreamer

hand sun and blue sky with copyspace showing freedom or solar power concept

Will a Two-speed European Union Side-line the Visegrad Four?

Poland Must Preserve Wilson Spirit

Meghri Becomes Armenia’s Third FEZ

armenia emerging europe

Prepare for a New Europe

Efficient Innovation: Entrepreneurship in Bulgaria

Beautiful photos of modern buildings under blue sky. Europe, Bulgaria, Sofia.

Latvian Deputy Prime Minister Highlights Riga’s Potential

riga

Tech Giant Expands Romanian Operations

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

IMF Wants Banking Sector Reform in Western Balkans

croatia national bank

Assaults on the Judiciary: How CEE Governments Are Trying to Restrict Judicial Independence, and Why It’s Not Working… For Now

poland romania justice system

Swimpassing Dniester Without Prejudice To Democracy

Parliament of the republic of moldova in chisinau, national flag, stefan cel mare street, spring time with blue sky

European Commission Withholds 600 Million Euros from Ukraine

kyiv, kiev, ukraine

ICT Given Huge Boost in Belarus

MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 15, 2016: Aerial view of the southwestern part of the Minsk with Palace of Sport and old and new other buildings. Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus.

Emerging Europe Looking Good in Best-Performing Cities Index

Budapest, Hungary. Aerial view of the old city Budapest, Hungary with river and Parliament Building with cloudy blue sky

Sarajevo Stock Exchange Connected to SEE Link

sarajevo stock exchange

Bulgaria Takes on EU Presidency

Sofia, Bulgaria - September 12, 2017: Architectural complex in downtown of Sofia in which the Presidential Administration is located, Sofia, Bulgaria

Moldova’s Briefly Suspended President is Still in Business

chisinau moldova parliament

Poland’s Capital Saturation Lower Than the Czech Republic’s

deloitte fdi poland

Romanian Transport Infrastructure Failures Pile Up

Cernavoda Romania - June 20 2012: Construction works at the A2 highway connecting Romania's capital Bucharest to Constanta.

Polish Government in Climbdown on Social Contribution Hike

All for One, and One for All

GE

Moldova Falls Victim to Politicising

moldova emerging europe

EU Commissioner Launches Veiled Attack on Poland and Hungary

eu commission

OECD: Tightening Labour Markets Sustain Growth in Emerging Europe

workers, employment

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Moves from Frozen to Kinetic

Nagorno-Karabakh

We, the Post-Communist Generation, Have the Skills to Rid of the Past And Create Our Own Future

Doing Business Across Eurasia Could Be Easier

Eurasia emerging europe schneider group

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

Changes Are Making Ukrainian Banking More Aligned with International Standards

Mixed Results for Emerging Europe in Legatum Prosperity Index

prosperity

Budapest and Warsaw: Marriage of Convenience or Union of Values?

Slowly, Tech Brand Belarus Emerges

belarus tech

Slovenia: An Optimistic, Export-Led Economy with First-World Problems

Big cranes in port of Koper in Slovenia

World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016 Resume For Emerging Europe

ICT Growth Continues to Boost Bosnian Economy

ict, it

Nadiya Savchenko: I Dream of a Great Ukraine

Panorama of the top part of the Andrew's Descent from Castle Hill in springtime in Kiev Ukraine.

Baltic States to Launch Combined Capital Market

capital markets

World Bank: Brexit Hides Greater Challenges to the European Union and the CEE Region

The Problem With Central European City-States

Budapest Hungary - Panoramic skyline view of the famous Buda Castle Royal Palace with the Buda Hills and Matthias Church at background at sunset

Regional News Outlets: The Real Target of Poland’s New Media Law?

poland media

Emerging Europe’s Economies Are Booming

Budapest’s Property Boom Goes Nationwide

building

Polish Labour Market Deficits Are Impacting All

Construction site with crane and building. Construction site in western europe - in Poland.

Georgia’s Sweetest Export Targets EU & Japan Expansion

Kiwi fruits growing on the branch on autumn

Ukraine’s Economic Recovery: Good, But Slow

ukraine money

Poland Is Set To Become a Large Economic Zone

Aerial view over the building materials processing factory. View from above.

What Went Wrong in Ukraine – And When?

New Political Crisis Hits Moldova

Vladimir_Putin_and_Igor_Dodon_(2017-01-17)_01

Slovakia: Growth Continues But Problems Remain

Ex-Transition Economies’ FDI Recovery

dollar euro fdi

Moldovan Government Hails Business-Friendly Legal Reforms; NGOs Remain Cool

Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, Eastern Europe, 29th June 2017: view to the Parliament Building in Chisinau, Moldova

Lviv Region in Double Logistics Boost

goods train logistics

Can Armenia Keep a Foot in Both Camps?

European union armenia russia emerging europe

Continental Launch Largest Ever Lithuanian Greenfield Investment

kaunas lithuania

Hungary Seen as Riskiest Country in CEE

risk

The Peculiar Growth of Poland

KRAKOW POLAND - JUNE 2017: logo of Galeria Krakowska shopping center.

Hungary’s Nationalist Assault on Free Enquiry

victor orban ceu

Lech Wałęsa: Hard Options Can Force Nations to Get Down to Work

Czechs Hold Emerging Europe’s Most Powerful Passport

EconMin: Bulgaria — Number One Outsourcing Destination And an Island of Stability in Europe

Polish Shoppers in Hunt for Eggs

eggs in rack

Estonia Posts EU’s Highest Inflation Rate in November

Rising food and grocery store prices is estonia and cost of living concept. Man counting food and consumer goods money with pen, paper and calculator at home. Budget of disadvantaged and low income family.

Romanian Cabinet Reshuffled as New Splits Emerge in Ruling Party

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 25 2014: The Victoria Palace. Victoria Square.

Ukraine to Restart Privatisation to Realise Profits

Pricatisation electricity ukraine

After Its Significant Rise the Georgian Economy May Now Fall

Panorama of Tbilisi, Georgia in sunset rays. Vivid, saturated, splittoned image.

Romania Warned Again by European Council Over Budget Deficit

romania finance ministry

Warsaw City Guide: 48 Hours in Poland’s Reborn Capital

WARSAW POLAND - DECEMBER 28 2016: Downtown Warsaw Financial center in Warsaw Poland. Warsaw is one of the most economical successful capital in Europe in last few years.

Fish in the Bath and Other Christmas Traditions

Christmas Market On The Dome Square With Riga Dome Cathedral In Riga, Latvia. Christmas Tree And Trading Houses With Sale Of Christmas Gifts, Sweets And Mulled Wine. Famous Landmark.

Kraków: Officially Emerging Europe’s Most Elegant City

Krakow. Image of Krakow Market square, Poland during sunrise.

After 25 Years of Restructuring, the Romanian Power Sector Is at a Crossroad

EU Visa-Liberalisation Strengthens Georgia’s Pro-Western Path

georgia emerging europe eu

IMF: Institutions Key to Sustainable Growth

IMF

Poland & Ukraine Should Join Outsourcing Forces

outsourcing

Partnership is the Key to CEE-Indian Business

Next Christmas in Belgrade? The EU’s Move into the Western Balkans

Belgrade, Serbia, July 22, 2017.Belgrade cityscape at sunset with national assembly, aerial view

Lithuania Gives Innovation a StartUp

MILAN ITALY - MAY 2: People visit Lithuania pavilion at Expo universal exposition on the theme of food on MAY 2 2015 in Milan.

Georgian Wine Posts Record Results

Glass of wine at tasting area of annual city festival Tbilisoba with crowd of people around. Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia country

Skiing in Emerging Europe

gudauri ski georgia

CEE Governments Still Can’t Resist Tampering with Legislation

legislation

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

One in Five Poles Unaware of Source of Funds for 500 Plus Programme

China-Georgia FTA Takes Effect

TBILISI GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 28: Top view of Tbilisi downtown Georgia on September 28 2016. Tbilisi is a capital and largest city of Georgia.

Romanian Competition Council Approves OTP Purchase of Banca Romaneasca

BUDAPEST HUNGARY - JUNE 22 2014: People walk by OTP Bank in Budapest. OTP is the biggest commercial Hungarian bank with 1500 branches in 9 countries.

Where’s My Cheese? – The GREAT British Food Tour 2014

Cheese Shop

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

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