The wonderful, amazing and paradoxical Romania is, no doubt, a country where nobody can get bored and for media it must be a real haven. Breaking news every day, sometimes even more than once a day, as in the past seven days. Now the hot topic is joining the Schengen area. There were plenty of commentators on talk shows, articles and debates mainly about the attitude of Germany in this case. Hans Peter Friedrich, the German Minister of Interior Affairs, said his country will use its veto to keep Romania out of the border free zone, mainly because of the many problems Romania has, especially the high level of corruption.
His statement heated tempers in Romania and speedily the media, the politicians and the people divided in two teams. On the one hand, those who think this new rejection is a normal result of the government’s poor performance, especially in foreign affairs. And on the other, those who consider that Romania is a victim of the politics of the European Popular Party. These two visions are a genuine “mirror” of the Romanian society, which tends to see all problems either in black or white. Of course, I don’t want to generalize but the experience of the last 22 years in such matters made me conclude this. But there’s a third perspective, which includes the first two.
In my opinion, the German attitude is related to the next electoral process, in which Angela Merkel’s party do not appear to have good prospects. The fight against the so called invasion of ‘Romt’ is probably normal in politics. So, with the electoral perspective in mind, the Democratic Christians Union representatives did what they thought would win votes. At the same time, I agree with those who think our authorities were weak in foreign affairs and that they were unable to demonstrate why Romania should be part of the Schengen area. I’m not referring to the technical requirements. I am referring to the level of corruption.
I know that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report is another story and it is not directly linked with Schengen admission, but Romanians should recognize the corruption level in our society, and the authorities should do the same. Taking a dispassionate view, we can see the Germans and others (for instance, in other circumstances, the British) have the right to fear the total openness of their borders. Beyond these two perspectives which belong to the two “camps,” I’d like to add the third point of view. When the Berlin Wall fell, all of Europe was enthusiastic and passionate, but very few thought of the consequences of European enlargement, from the economic, financial, social and political perspectives. The economic “boom” made many Europeans divert attention to the potential complications. It opened the doors for foreign labor forces. But the economic boom was only a bubble and when the entire world faced to the financial crisis, the foreign work force created problems for the inhabitants of Western and Nordic countries. The EU countries didn’t have alternative scenarios and so, now, when thousands of local jobs get axed everywhere, the number of foreigners reduce the chances of locals finding work. Now, many Western Europeans would take on any job, even the so called ‘dirty jobs’, but they’re all taken. This deepened the locals’ fear of the future, and the EU rule setting market openness in 2014 has made it even worse. If we add the crimes – even minor ones – committed by some Romanian citizens to this in my opinion justified fear, the painting is almost complete. Taking into account all these perspectives my conclusions are:
1.Saying No to Romania’s Schengen admission has political and economic causes multiplied by the crimes committed by some Romanians in the Western/Nordic countries and by the inconsistency of the Romanian fight against corruption.
2. The European citizens from the richest parts of Europe fear of opening borders for Romania and Bulgaria for economical and social reasons which are multiplied by the ineffective Romanian foreign affairs activity. Many westerners have good intentions; many of them are open minded and are not racists, but they don’t have the complete, clear and coherent information about Romania and Romanians.
3.The EU is off the beam due to the poor and almost tragic results of the austerity policies applied, which in many cases deepened the economical and social problems. The alternative scenarios don’t seem to exist yet.
Concluding, I think the Schengen area enlargement should wait until:
- The positions of European political forces are clarified
- The alternative economical and financial scenarios for the austerity policies will be discovered and set
- Romania will improve its fight against corruption
- Romania will built a fresh image for itself, a good brand eventually
- Several EU economical indicators improve, leading to a more optimistic view from all over Europe.
But I am afraid that the EU, because of its political parties’ interests, will rush into it and the Schengen expansion will take place when only the first issue is clarified, meaning the position of political forces. Which I think is not enough on a medium and long term for EU’s economic, financial and social health.
By Mariana Ganea, Guest Writer, email@example.com