The Guest Blog

For already more than 20 years Romania has adopted the European way – there is no doubt about that. The declaration signed on June 21 1995 at Snagov by representatives of all political parties at that time in Romania, clearly expressed its intention to support European integration. It was a huge step on the road to EU accession. 10 years after that, Romania concluded its negotiations with the EU for membership, concluded before the current crisis.

Over 6 years after entry into the EU – in an EU torn by financial crises and subsequent political crises – it is hard in Romania to fully comprehend what EU membership actually means. Romanian citizens are confused about the current puzzle that Europe represents, far from their daily reality. The aim of this message is to outline some concrete steps to develop a European Romania.

To connect a country of over 20 million people to the European Union is very complex and a difficult achievement. A particular person, a political party or even state institutions, not one in particular can be blamed for failing to reach this goal. Paradoxical, the “macro procedure” of the national-European relationship is mostly a technical algorithm, requiring multiple expertises in specific sectors (legal, social, business sector, communication, etc.). The political will is important, but it must be supported by a strong technical procedure.

No doubt there is a problem with the Romanian human resources allocated to this system of “fine tuning to link Romania to the EU”. It is clear that systemic inertia does not lead to solving current problems that Romania has with the European Union. There must be a quick, organic intervention, because current trends are not stopped and corrected. The proposed solution is to launch a (Romanian) Government program building European expertise on two levels (national and local).

The persistence of the “top-down” administrative culture in Romania stems from historical reasons and is still anchored in the collective mindset. This culture is integrated in people’s characters – decision making is done in the advisory offices in different ministries, without refining them by consulting the stakeholders. The risk is that they are not shared and be challenged by those whom they are addressed to. Moreover, the lack of consultation makes it difficult to have European legislation implemented by the beneficiaries whose expertise and interests have been ignored. It is especially difficult since the decision was taken in Brussels, where national interests in various policies are so varied. In conclusion, formulating national positions with stakeholders (beneficiaries) proves to be necessary, taking into account the skills, technical knowledge and legitimate sectoral interests on which to express them before the political decision is taken.

Over 100,000 people are involved in the dynamics of European affairs in Brussels, supported by another 700,000 – especially in capital cities of the member states. There are over 100 events per day in Brussels focusing on topics such as the future European Union. As an EU member state you cannot afford to lose track of any of these debates. At each meeting one can set up initiatives, build upon the interest of participants, eventually resulting in new rules and procedures, new alliances and ultimately – legislation.

Romania is currently “playing” in the European arena, but its playing field is uneven, unpredictable and unsustainable. We might not want it, but over 75% of the legislation in Romania has its origins in Brussels, in EU law. This legislation does not necessarily cover the national security, foreign policy or defense policies. It is mainly about consumers and markets, air quality, water management and transport. It deserves attention; this Europe of the “small” topics, as decisions in these policies addresses citizens’ daily life. In some cases the position of Romania is well founded, while in others our country positioning is at best circumstantial, if not carrying out a policy reminiscent of the “empty chair”.

I find it hard not to point out that to develop and sustain the country’s EU connection we need about 5,000 Romanian representatives in Brussels and 25,000 people in Romania actually involved in the Community Mechanism. We currently have only about 2,000 in Brussels and 10,000 in Bucharest (especially in the public sector).

Where can Romania find help to do better in the EU? What additional training should a national expert in European affairs have? It is a paradox, but Romania has about 25 European Studies Faculties and 95% of graduates do not find a job related to their studies. Is it enough to study at such faculties in order to have the perfect resume as EU expert? Even though it is important to understand the Community institutional system, there are many other qualities that you must have as well.

What do we, Romanians, lack in order to do better at the European level? Romania is in the EU but we feel that is not enough – it seems something is missing and the “picture” does not come out perfect. We are competitive, but it takes a more pragmatic approach, both individually and in the structure of the Romanian education. We lack the practical side. I want to underline the importance of non-formal education in this context. Romanian formal education is currently not sufficient in the sphere of European competitiveness.

Someone recently suggested that it might not be bad to think about introducing the subject ‘European culture and civilization’ to the curriculum of high schools. Something very practical, not content dry and full of statistics. Teaching courses on what European citizenship means, and what rights and obligations the European citizen has what opportunities we have as Romanian in Europe. And the exercise of Europeanization and internationalization should be continued also in higher education. Foreign teachers must become a normality in all universities and masters could possibly take place in international languages ??to accustom young Romanians to globalization.

Romanian civil society has a fantastic potential, certainly within the EU, but there must be a coherent structure, articulated, which may propose projects with huge impact. It is strategic to have as many such networks in Romania as possible and not only in the country’s capital. There should be structural support to the activities of the non-governmental sector in Romania.

I cannot draw attention to those who represent Romania in the European policy making process, especially MEPs. You first called to integrate Romania into the European Union, and not with a message often heard from populist or anti-European oriented politicians. Romania and the EU are not two systems, rather it is only one: a European Romania. You are the missionaries educating the Romanian people to engage in European affairs and possibly to have an opinion on technical details. You are asked to debate in the European forum. You can double the debates on the same issues by organising public hearings, like those in the European Parliament, involving Romanian stakeholders. These debates should be hold in Romanian, in multiple Romanian cities, involving local experts from all sectors. Bring Europe to the “Romanian streets” and then the press, so beloved to politicians, will certainly look for interviews with you on the first page.

Romanian state institutions and structures should be helped by complementary mechanisms. About 100 representatives at the Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU can not do miracles with the mountains of technical documents from the European system. “Powerful filters” are built, involving hundreds of Romanian officials from the European Commission, who arrived there because their country’s EU membership, and representing the Union now. It can strengthen the association of Brussels European Romanians, making it more functional, with the support of at least one Romanian think tank located in the European capital.

I do not think that political polarization, artificial segmentation or certain barriers between Romania and the Romanians abroad help the macro project that became reality with the entry of Romania into the EU.

But I do believe in the ability of the Romanian people to think and act European!

Romania wants to be European!

Dan LUCA / Brussels

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