Romania and the EU: There is life after the referendum

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Romania has to learn that, just as there was no easy way in, there is no easy way inside the EU club either. The European Commission is the guardian of the treaties and will act as such, as it did with other countries as well. This is one important lesson, says Radu Magdin.

Radu Magdin is a Romanian analyst and public relations / public affairs consultant focused on EU affairs, information technology and energy.

"The referendum expected to take place in Romania end of July will let some political and social steam off, no matter the final result. Society has become polarised by the debate, the two camps being very vocal either against the suspended president – Traian B?sescu – or the current prime minister, Victor Ponta.

One camp is screaming justice and payback time after austerity, the other 'coup d'état'. Unfortunately, heavy words and hasty actions on both sides have left Romania with unprecedented negative coverage in the international media. Time has come to reverse this trend.  

This commentary is meant to: clarify some – hopefully useful – facts in Romania's relationship with the European Union; point out that Romania remains a very good business destination; and make a personal bet that the political turmoil will end this year and Romania's image reconstruction will start.   
 
First, some issues on Romania's relationship with the European Union. This can be approached both idealistically and pragmatically, i.e. being part of a democratic family after decades of communism, while enjoying bigger economic growth and prosperity.

In terms of practical issues, freedom of movement in the EU, as well as access to European funds, have been the advantages most easily spotted. EU funds absorption has had mixed results, just as the justice-related Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, as the 18 July report on the topic shows.

The current political crisis did not make things any better. Looking at the European reactions to it, it is interesting to spot some features in the relationship between Bucharest and Brussels. Since the 2007 accession, politicians from different parties have used any opportunity to get at each other's throats, the opposition traditionally accusing those in power of abuse while loving to complain about it to people in Brussels, whether in the European Parliament, the European Commission or elsewhere.

When the party in power fell into opposition, the 'EU blame game' continued, with a different finger-pointing towards a different guilty – person or party. Complaints went from just criticising the government to actually asking for EU mediation sometimes.

That was a cross-party mistake since it underlined in the eyes of a lot of European officials that Romanians can't solve there national political game on their own. Consequently, it's hard to complain now that 'Brussels tell us this and this', that 'they' do not leave us do 'our stuff' etc.

Romania has to learn that, just as there was no easy way in, there is no easy way inside the EU club either. The European Commission is the guardian of the treaties and will act as such, as it did with other countries as well. This is one important lesson.

Another one is that commitments are commitments and EU-related promises are to be kept. This is the basis for trust and, consequently, for friendship or coalition building. There is political agitation in a lot of EU countries, but certain limits are not to be crossed, particularly in terms of speed, rules and predictability (this is actually the answer when people ask: 'why is Brussels so critical?').

I will not take here any of the two sides in the Romanian political infighting since I believe both are right and wrong at the same time. One camp saw it right to topple B?sescu after very good local elections results, but it was too much in a hurry to get more power and messed things up. The other camp was on the defensive after governmental and presidential erosion due to austerity – and personality – and is now back on the offensive because opponents 'forced the rule of the game'. As a transnational communications professional, one has to admit the latter did a better PR case abroad.

No matter the political blame game, nor the results of the referendum scheduled on 29 July, Romania's image abroad has suffered to the detriment of innocent Romanian citizens. Romanian Business has been affected and important news have been ignored. Romania will be the sixth most attractive European country for investment over the next three years, according to 840 business leaders surveyed by the consulting company Ernst & Young in the European Attractiveness Survey 2012 report. That is news, important ones, and it goes beyond politics.

If you are a foreign investor planning to come to Eastern Europe, come to Romania, it's worth it. It is a good business opportunity, despite the political landscape, which will have no other choice but to 'chill out' after already doing enough damage to the economy. Romanian talent, which gets yearly awards ranging from arts to mathematics or engineering, awaits for you. This talent is stable, committed and predictable, and should be Romania's true image standard abroad." 

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.