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(p. 236) 10. Romania–Uneven Europeanization 

(p. 236) 10. Romania–Uneven Europeanization
Chapter:
(p. 236) 10. Romania–Uneven Europeanization
Author(s):

Dimitris Papadimitriou

and David Phinnemore

DOI:
10.1093/hepl/9780199544837.003.0010
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Summary

The road to EU membership in 2007 was a long and hard one for Romania, a country that struggled more than most after 1989 to overcome the legacies of the communist era and move beyond the faltering reform efforts of successive post-Ceauşescu governments. While public and political opinion remained solidly in favour of integration, and ultimately membership, institutional fluidity, poor administrative capacity, political factionalism, and corruption meant that processes of domestic adaptation faced significant challenges. Although the prospect of EU membership provided a strong and vital stimulus for reform, the resulting Europeanization was—and has remained—less than even and in many cases underdeveloped. Key obstacles to domestic reform have to varying degrees persisted post-accession and helped strengthen arguments that the EU admitted Romania prematurely. These obstacles have also hampered Romania’s ability to define and upload its preferences into the EU policymaking process.

(p. 237) Introduction

The study of Romania’s preparation for, and experience of, European Union (EU) membership offers a critical test case for the transformative effects of enlargement-led Europeanization. Romania, alongside Bulgaria, entered the EU on 1 January 2007, nearly three years later than the Central and Eastern European (CEE) ‘frontrunners’, but well ahead of its Balkan neighbours whose EU membership ambitions still remain in limbo. Romania’s delayed accession to the EU has reflected both the legacies of its incomplete post-communist transition and the country’s uneven pattern of domestic reform since the early 1990s. At the same time, Romania’s strategic importance—both in terms of its size and its geographical proximity to the conflicts of former Yugoslavia and Transnistria—produced powerful incentives for the EU to keep Bucharest on its ‘enlargement radar’. The fact that Romania was often regarded as ‘too big to fail’ had important implications both for the projection of enlargement-led Europeanization (and the application of EU conditionalities within it) and the way in which adaptational pressures were internalized and mediated domestically. It also highlighted the highly politicized nature of the process of EU enlargement that went beyond the ‘mechanical’ transposition of EU rules in the applicant countries.

Romania’s interaction with the EU over the past twenty years has been shaped by such contingencies. As the country’s political elites have struggled to match their pro-EU rhetoric with a credible reform agenda, officials in Brussels have remained sceptical of Romania’s ability to assume in full its EU membership responsibilities. This suspicion has necessitated a considerable degree of policy entrepreneurship on behalf of the EU in order to enhance its monitoring mechanisms and extend its conditionalities even after Romania’s actual entry into the club. The introduction of ‘post-accession conditionality’ and the launch of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for the immediate post-accession period introduced a new dimension in the relationship between the EU and its member states that is likely to affect all future entrants.

Along with assessing the Europeanization effects associated with Romania’s effort to begin and, later, complete its accession negotiations with the EU, this chapter will chart some of the early evidence of the impact of EU membership on Romania’s politics and public policy. Through this analysis we aim to identify key factors that have affected both the ‘production’ and ‘reception’ of the Europeanization pressures associated with the EU’s most recent enlargement. In doing so, we also seek to ascertain the extent to which Romania has been able to generate a consistent and sustainable momentum of domestic reform that will help the country complete—in both appearance and substance—its return to the European mainstream.

(p. 238) From Marginalization to Membership: The Changing Pattern of Romania’s Relationship with the EU

Ever since the overthrow of its communist dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, in December 1989, the relationship between Romania and the EU has been a turbulent one. The country’s transition to democracy has been delayed and idiosyncratic, shaped largely by the machinations of its reincarnated communist elites rather than a clear rupture with the previous communist order. The dominance of Ion Iliescu’s National Salvation Front (FSN) over the domestic political scene during the first half of the 1990s was met with widespread scepticism in Brussels which often expressed open frustration with the slow progress of economic reform, and voiced concern over the commitment of Romania’s ruling elite to democracy and human rights. As a result, the country’s ‘return to Europe’ faced considerable complications which resulted in its effective separation—alongside Bulgaria—from the CEE ‘frontrunners’ of EU membership hopefuls. Evidence of this ‘relegation’ became apparent at an early stage with the later signing of a Europe (association) Agreement in February 1993 which, unlike similar agreements signed with Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia in 1991, contained specific suspension clauses in case of human rights violations by the Romanian government (Papadimitriou 2002).

Despite the delay, the country’s inclusion into the association process allowed the authorities in Bucharest to claim a victory of sorts; namely that Romania had remained on the radar of the EU as a potential candidate for membership. Yet, Romania’s rapprochement with Brussels was driven primarily by security considerations rather than a recognition that the pace of domestic reform conformed to European expectations. The outbreak of the Yugoslav wars and their repercussions for the wider Balkans increased pressure on the EU to pursue an ‘open door’ policy as a means of stabilizing this volatile region. Romania and Bulgaria became the main beneficiaries of this imperative. Yet, the EU’s deepening commitment to its eastwards enlargement—as demonstrated by the elaboration of the Copenhagen criteria in 1993 and the publication of the pre-accession strategy at the Essen European Council in 1994—failed to mobilize sufficient impetus for reform amongst Romania’s ruling elites.

By the time the government of Nicolae Văcăroiu submitted the country’s EU membership application in June 1995, Romania had very little to show to its European partners. Following months of political instability, a potential breakthrough was offered in late 1996 when the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) (the successors to the FSN) was defeated—for the first time since 1989—in both presidential and parliamentary elections. The new political landscape—particularly the arrival of a new liberal-minded president, Emil Constantinescu—was warmly welcomed by EU member states and officials. Yet, as the new coalition government soon found itself paralysed by internal disputes and political miscalculations, earlier (p. 239) hopes for a rapid acceleration of the domestic reform process were dashed. The country’s economic and political stalemate had become painfully apparent by the time the Commission, in 1997, published its opinions on the membership applications submitted by CEE governments. In its assessment of Romania’s progress, the Commission concluded that the country did not meet the economic criteria set out at Copenhagen and was unlikely to do so in the medium-term. With regard to the political criteria, the Commission’s assessment was ambiguous. While recognizing that, under the new government of Victor Ciorbea, democratic standards had improved, Romania was judged only to be ‘on its way’ (European Commission 1997: 114) to meeting the criteria, one of only two applicants not to be given an unequivocal green light in this area. The other was Slovakia.

Despite the protestations of the Romanian government over the EU’s alleged discriminatory practices, the Commission’s opinion was upheld by the Luxembourg European Council in December 1997 which formalized a ‘two-tier’ approach to the upcoming accession negotiations. As a result Romania—alongside Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia—was placed on the backburner of the EU’s enlargement process, having not been invited to open accession negotiations in March 1998.1 The EU’s Luxembourg decision dealt a major blow to the ambitions of Romanian political elites who had consistently failed to match their increasingly evident pro-EU rhetoric with the necessary actions on the ground. Romania’s exclusion was also testament to the limitations of the EU’s early enlargement strategy to penetrate the dense network of domestic ‘veto points’ that prevented the country from making a clean break from its communist past.

In the face of a weak domestic advocacy for reform, Romania’s EU membership hopes were, once again, boosted by external events and wider security considerations (Phinnemore 2010). The outbreak of the Kosovo war in spring 1999, coupled with the arrival of Günter Verheugen as Commissioner for Enlargement in the autumn of that year, recast much of the EU’s enlargement strategy in Central and Eastern Europe. The new Prodi Commission was now pointing to a ‘greater awareness of the strategic dimension to enlargement’ and called for a rethink of the ‘two-tier’ approach to the EU accession negotiations introduced at Luxembourg (European Commission 1999: 4). The Commission’s new thinking and enhanced activism became a critical driving force behind the decision of the Helsinki European Council in December 1999 to open accession negotiations with Romania, alongside the other CEE applicants excluded at Luxembourg. Before the decision could be taken, however, Romania had to commit to improving its record in economic reform. As the Commission had recently noted, Romania was still not a functioning market economy. Moreover, the state of economic reform in Romania was ‘very worrying’ and had ‘at best, stabilised’ over the last year (European Commission 1999: 23). Romania would have to adopt a medium-term economic strategy—to be drawn up with significant external assistance—to address the country’s macroeconomic problems. It also had to commit to the structural reform of its childcare institutions.

(p. 240) Commitments having been made, the Helsinki European Council announced the opening of accession negotiations in early 2000 and thereby, for the first time, offered Romania a credible membership perspective. The opening of accession negotiations in March 2000 appeared to have a galvanizing effect on its political elites, unleashing a momentum for domestic reform previously unseen in the country’s post-communist history. Ironically, much of the drive towards the fulfilment of EU conditionalities, within the context of the accession negotiations, was provided by the PDSR, Romania’s former reform ‘pariahs’ who had re-invented themselves as a mainstream social democratic party on a mission to capitalize on Romania’s full integration into the EU. Indeed, under the premiership of Adrian Năstase (2000–2004) an ambitious—yet, often contested (see EU Membership and Public Policy below)—programme of domestic reform was launched aiming to secure full EU membership for Romania by 2007.

The reforms bore fruit and eventually, in October 2004, the European Commission recognized Romania as a ‘functioning market economy’. This helped pave the way for the formal conclusion of the accession negotiations in December 2004. However, Romania’s administrative capacity and political will to implement effectively the EU’s acquis was openly questioned. In particular, a number of key areas of major concern were identified, including the government’s Schengen Action Plan, the reform of the judiciary, anti-corruption measures, police reform, and state aids to its steel industry. To address these concerns, the EU introduced a range of enhanced conditionalities and additional instruments for monitoring compliance that had never previously been deployed in the context of EU enlargement. These included the introduction of super-safeguard clauses in the treaty governing Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to the EU. These provided the EU with the opportunity to postpone Romania’s membership by one year if there were ‘serious shortcomings’ in the fulfilment of the country’s obligations to the EU (Official Journal 2005: Article 39).2 Whereas in the case of Bulgaria the activation of such a super-safeguard clause required a unanimous decision by the Council, Romania’s clause could be triggered by a qualified majority of EU member states in specific instances. In addition, Romania’s progress in the identified priority areas became the subject of intense scrutiny by the Commission, which produced three separate monitoring reports in the eighteen months between the signing of the Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005 and the country’s actual entry into the EU on 1 January 2007 (see Box 10.1).3 Even though the EU agreed to admit Romania and Bulgaria as scheduled, concerns persisted about the need for judicial reform and improved efforts to root out corruption. Consequently, an unprecedented Cooperation and Verification Mechanism was introduced providing for continued Commission monitoring of both countries for compliance with a series of benchmarks in these areas. This monitoring process still remains in operation four years after Romania officially became a member of the EU (see Romania’s EU Membership Experience in Comparative Perspective below).

Romania’s accession to the EU has been the culmination of a long and often difficult relationship that was inextricably linked to the complexities of its post-communist

(p. 241)

Box 10.1 Romania: from marginalization to membership

February 1993:

Romania signs a Europe Agreement with the EU.

February 1995:

EU–Romania Europe Agreement enters into force.

June 1995:

Romania applies for EU membership.

July 1997:

Publication of the Commission Avis. Romania fails to meet the economic Copenhagen criteria and it is ‘on its way’ to meeting the democratic criterion.

December 1997:

The Luxembourg European Council does not invite Romania to begin accession negotiations with the EU.

November 1998:

Commission publishes first Regular Report on Romania. Six more follow (at yearly intervals).

December 1999:

The Helsinki European Council agrees to open accession negotiations with Romania.

February 2000:

Accession negotiations between the Commission and the Romanian government begin.

January 2002:

Romanian citizens gain visa-free access to the Schengen area.

March 2003:

Romania signs protocol governing accession to NATO.

May 2004:

EU enlarges to include ten new member states.

December 2004:

Romania’s accession negotiations with the EU closed. The European Council sets 1 January 2007 as target date for accession.

February 2005:

Commission issues positive opinion on Romania’s Treaty of Accession.

April 2005:

EP adopts Moscovici Report and approves Romania’s accession to the EU.

April 2005:

Romania’s Treaty of Accession into the EU is signed.

October 2005:

Commission publishes first Monitoring Report on Romania.

June 2006:

Commission publishes second Monitoring Report on Romania.

September 2006:

Commission publishes third Monitoring Report on Romania.

December 2006:

EP approves Leonard Orban as first Romanian member of the Commission

January 2007:

Romania accedes to the EU.

June 2007:

Commission publishes the first Cooperation and Verification report on Romania. Regular reports follow (at six-month intervals)

(p. 242) transition and the politicized nature of the EU’s enlargement strategy. At one level, Romania’s delayed and somewhat contested entry into the EU can be seen as a manifestation of its ‘Balkan exceptionalism’ and a testament to the resilience of its domestic ‘veto points’ in resisting the adaptational pressures of enlargement-led Europeanization. It is also arguable that the country’s eventual membership of the EU has been primarily the result of wider security considerations (e.g. relating to the volatility in the Balkans) and the inclusive dynamics of eastern enlargement, rather than the outcome of a consistently applied process of conditionality (see Phinnemore 2010). Yet, the country’s considerable progress in the aftermath of the Helsinki European Council decision also points to the significant pulling power of the EU and its empowering effects on domestic reform coalitions. In this sense the Romanian experience provides further evidence that EU conditionality works more effectively by reference to anticipated rewards rather than an opportunity for domestic elites to reflect on failure. In subsequent sections this chapter explores in more detail the extent to which a reform momentum emerged during Romania’s pursuit of EU membership and has been sustained in the aftermath of the country’s accession to the EU.

Public Opinion and Party Politics

Party political attitudes in Romania towards European integration and EU membership have evolved over the last twenty years from a state of apparent agnosticism through rhetorical and substantive enthusiasm to selective critical engagement with EU priorities. During the early post-communist period, Romanian political parties were clearly consumed by domestic agendas and generally paid little attention to European integration. A cross-party declaration supportive of eventual membership was adopted in 1995 but the commitment was more rhetorical than it was reflective of a substantive appreciation of what accession either required or entailed (Papadimitriou and Phinnemore 2008). Subsequently, particularly as avowedly more reformist governments took office after 1997, as public opinion showed itself to be overwhelmingly in favour of integration with the EU, and as Romania became involved in the EU’s ‘inclusive and evolutive’ accession process, launched following the 1997 Luxembourg European Council, the country’s political parties became more actively supportive of accession and vied to present themselves as pro-EU and pro-integration. Indeed, by the time they regained power in 2000, the former PDSR, and now Party of Social Democrats (PSD)—the successors to the National Salvation Front that had been responsible for the laboriously slow progress with economic and political reform during the first half of the 1990s—had not only declared its ‘European vocation’ but also adopted a distinctly more ‘European’ and pro-integration discourse. It would be under PSD stewardship of the country that most progress would be made with accession negotiations.

(p. 243) While the PSD’s period in office has attracted harsh criticism of the levels of persistent corruption and allegations that Romanian politicians deceived the EU into believing that accession-related reforms were being pursued when in fact they were not (Gallagher 2009), it nevertheless delivered formal progress. The period also saw integration with the EU gain prominence in domestic politics, especially as the PSD sought unsuccessfully to capitalize on the progress in negotiations during the 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections. These took place as accession negotiations entered their final few weeks. Indeed news that the negotiations had been technically closed came coincidentally an hour before a live television debate between the two remaining candidates in the second round of the presidential election: Prime Minister Năstase (PSD), and Traian Băsescu of the Justice and Truth (DA) alliance of National Liberals (PNL) and Democrats (PD). Năstase nevertheless lost. Băsescu’s victory led to the third alternation of power in post-communist Romania. It was therefore representatives of the new DA-led government that, once negotiations had been concluded in December 2004, assumed responsibility for implementing the necessary reforms to secure accession on 1 January 2007 and thereby avoid the possibility of a one-year delay.

Throughout this pre-accession period, Romanian public opinion remained the most optimistic about the benefits of membership. As late as autumn 2003, Eurobarometer was reporting that more than four-fifths of Romanians were anticipating that membership would be ‘a good thing’. Only 10 per cent of respondents viewed the prospects of membership negatively (see Table 10.1). Few observers were therefore surprised that, when a package of constitutional reforms which included provisions allowing for accession to the EU and to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was put to a referendum in October, 89.7 per cent of voters gave it their backing. Much commentary at the time suggested that the figures reflected a high degree of naïve optimism about the benefits that would flow from membership. Indeed, as Romania entered the final stages of accession negotiations and the terms of membership became known, respondents became more cautious in expressing optimism. By the time the Treaty of Accession was signed in April 2005, the proportion of respondents who believed that membership would be a ‘good thing’ had decreased to 64 per cent. The figure remained high compared to public opinion in all other CEE states but nevertheless had declined, and significantly so by Romanian standards.

Nevertheless, at the time, accession to the EU retained widespread support both publically and among Romania’s political parties. Such support was important for keeping the new government focused on pursuing reforms concerning the judiciary, the police, corruption, state aids, and the steel industry. Failure to meet obligations contained in the Treaty of Accession could have triggered a delay to the date of accession. Progress with reforms was such that accession did take place on 1 January 2007. It did so against a backdrop of increasingly acrimonious infighting within the government and especially between the prime minister, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu (PNL), and the president, Băsescu. Indeed within a matter of months of gaining EU

(p. 244)

Table 10.1 Romanian public opinion prior to EU membership

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Membership viewed as:

Autumn

Autumn

Autumn

Spring

Spring

Spring

‘a good thing’

Romania

80

78

81

70

64

62

Candidates

59

61

62

58

EU(25)

54

55

‘neither good nor bad’

Romania

11

8

10

17

22

23

Candidates

22

22

22

23

EU(25)

27

28

‘a bad thing’

Romania

2

2

2

3

6

7

Candidates

10

10

10

11

EU(25)

15

13

Note: Candidates = Candidate average including CEE countries, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey.

Sources: Candidate Countries Eurobarometer (2002:1; 2002:2; 2003:4; 2004:1) (via http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/cceb_en); Eurobarometer 65 (Spring 2006) and Eurobarometer 63 (Spring 2005) (via http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion).

(p. 245) membership, the DA coalition had disintegrated. First the foreign minister was forced to resign, and then Tăriceanu dismissed the remaining PD members of his government. An important casualty was Monica Macovei, the minister of justice widely respected within the EU for her efforts to reform the Romanian judicial system and root out corruption more generally. Provoking a genuine constitutional crisis was the government’s decision to seek the impeachment of the president.4 In the absence of accession conditionality, political disorder now appeared to reign. The government certainly had no appetite for proceeding as planned with elections for Romania’s thirty-five seats in the European Parliament (EP). These were postponed from May until November 2007.

The rescheduled EP elections provided little comfort for anybody concerned that the political chaos might alienate voters. Just under a quarter (24.96 per cent) of the electorate voted. Those who did turn out voted overwhelmingly for pro-EU parties following an election campaign which did at least focus in part on European issues (Maxfield 2008). Indeed the vote of the nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) fell to below 5 per cent and it therefore lost its presence in the EP.5 The winner was Băsescu and the PD, which secured thirteen of Romania’s thirty-five seats in the EP. The PSD gained ten seats pushing the ruling PNL into third place (see Table 10.2). Two years later, at the 2009 EP elections, the PD’s share of the vote and MEPs dropped significantly despite a merger with the Liberal Democrats. The PSD increased its share of the vote by one-third. Notable gains were also registered by the Hungarian Democratic Union (UDMR) and the PRM. With the exception of the PRM gains, the results were similar to those in the parliamentary elections a year previously. The turnout in the EP election (27.7 per cent compared to 39.2 per cent) was, however, markedly lower, a reflection of electoral fatigue as well as a relatively quiet campaign, albeit one in which issues with a European dimension—global recession, economic migration, and Russia and Georgia—did feature (Maxfield 2009). The presence of such issues should not distract from the fact that the election focused more on domestic concerns than on EU policy matters. In this respect, the Romanian experience of EP elections is not dissimilar to the experiences of most other member states. Romania, nevertheless, does stand out with regard to the generally observable trend of increasing support for EU-critical or Eurosceptic parties. Although the PRM talks of a ‘Europe of Nations’ (Maxfield 2009), it, as the most obviously nationalist party in Romania, can hardly be regarded as Eurosceptic. Such parties do not exist in Romania, a reflection of the continued support for membership in the country.

Indeed, during the three years since accession, Romanian public opinion regarding membership has remained relatively stable with around two-thirds of respondents to Eurobarometer polls continuing to indicate that membership is both a ‘good thing’ and has benefited the country (see Table 10.3). Certainly until 2010, Romanian public opinion’s support for membership remained well above the average for the EU as a whole. With the consequences of recession being felt, and reflective of a feeling that EU membership was not providing the protection from the global

(p. 246)

Table 10.2 EP elections in Romania

2007

2007

2009

Observer MEPs

%

Elected MEPs

%

Elected MEPs

Democrat Party (PD)

5

28.8

13

-

-

Liberal Democrats (PLD)

7.8

3

-

-

Democratic Liberal Party (PDL)

-

-

29.7

10

Social Democrats (PSD)

12

23.1

10

31.1

11

Conservative Party

2

2.9

0

National Liberals (PNL)

6

13.5

6

14.5

5

Hungarian Democratic Union (UDMR)

3

5.5

2

8.9

3

Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania

1

-

-

-

-

Independent

1

-

-

-

-

Independent –- László Tőkés

-

3.4

1

-

-

Independent – Elena Băsescu

-

-

-

4.2

1

Greater Romania Party (PRM)

5

4.2

0

8.7

3

Others

-

10.8

0

2.9

0

Total

35

100.0

35

100.0

33

Notes: PD and PLD merged in 2007 to create the Democratic Liberal Party; PSD ran a joint list with the Conservative Party in 2009.

Source: Maxfield 2007, 2009.

financial crisis many had hoped, support levels dropped by ten percentage points to come much closer to the EU average. The reality of EU membership being less than a panacea for the country’s ills was evidently hitting home. All the same, the tendency was for mild agnosticism as opposed to opposition to EU membership. Only 11 per cent of respondents could bring themselves to say that membership was actually ‘a bad thing’.

For many voters, the EU continues to offer a higher degree of stability than afforded by domestic politics. The 2008 election saw a fragile coalition of the new Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), which comprised the former PD and a number of

(p. 247)

Table 10.3 Romania in the EU—public opinion

2007

2008

2009

2010

Spring

Spring

Spring

Spring

Membership viewed as:

‘a good thing’

Romania

67

64

66

55

EU (27)

57

52

53

49

‘neither good nor bad’

Romania

24

23

22

30

EU (27)

25

29

28

29

‘a bad thing’

Romania

5

6

6

11

EU (27)

15

14

15

18

Country has:

‘benefited from membership’

Romania

69

65

63

56

EU (27)

59

54

56

53

‘not benefitted from membership’

Romania

13

15

19

26

EU (27)

30

31

31

35

Sources: Eurobarometer 73 (Spring 2010); Eurobarometer 71 (Spring 2009); Eurobarometer 69 (Spring 2008); Eurobarometer 67 (Spring 2007) (via http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion).

defectors from the PNL, and PSD take office. Within a year, however, the PSD had left the coalition. Political crisis ensued as Băsescu saw successive nominees for the post of prime minister rejected by parliament. Eventually the previous, and by now caretaker, prime minister, Emil Boc (PDL), was called on to form a minority government with the UDMR. Adding to the sense of perpetual political crisis was the disputed outcome of the Presidential election in December 2009. Contrary to most opinion and exit polls, Băsescu emerged the victor in the second round run-off against Mircea Geoana (PSD), Romania’s foreign minister during the accession negotiations. The PSD maintained the result was rigged and set about challenging the result in the Constitutional Court. A partial recount ensued before the Constitutional Court rejected the PSD’s request for a re-run.

The Romanian political scene since accession to the EU has been dominated by government instability and constitutional crises. While this has had no direct impact on party political and public attitudes towards the EU, it has severely undermined the capacity of successive governments to ensure that Romania meets its obligations as a member of the EU both generally and more specifically regarding judicial reform and the fight against corruption under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism. Moreover, it has distracted attention away from efforts to gain from the opportunities afforded by membership to move from policy-taker to policy-shaper.

(p. 248) EU Membership and Public Policy

Both the management of the accession negotiations and the adjustment to the demands of EU membership have posed a major governance challenge for the Romanian authorities. The collapse of the Ceauşescu regime in 1989 left the country with a public administration starved of resources and expertise and ridden with corruption and favouritism. Romania’s troubled transition to democracy ever since has been unable to create a conducive environment for much needed administrative reform at all levels of government. The extreme politicization of the civil service during the transition years has created major problems of institutional fluidity and a very high turnover of personnel. Despite strong EU pressure to insulate the public administration from the worst excesses of party political dominance, a number of high profile legislative initiatives in this direction have failed to produce the desired effects (Papadimitriou and Phinnemore 2008). As a result, the lack of transparent public policy rules and proper administrative oversight have created a fertile ground in which widespread corruption and instances of ‘state capture’ have been common occurrences.

A similar pattern of instability has also been witnessed at the very heart of the Romanian government. The process of coalition building—a key feature of all post-communist Romanian governments—against the background of a severely underdeveloped party system, has necessitated short term deals which produced paralysing effects for the government. This has been evident in the overwhelming experimentation with the size and structure of the Romanian Cabinet and the array of administrative bodies directly responsible to it (or personally to the PM). The many ‘institutional houses’ of the European policy portfolio (as part of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Regional Development, as a separate Ministry of European Integration and, more recently, as an independent service under the PM) offer the most striking example in this respect. Since the early 2000s successive Romanian PMs have sought to address the centrifugal tendencies within their government through the establishment of stronger ‘core-executive’ institutions (such as Deputy PM offices, a Government Secretariat, and a Chancellery, to mention just a few), but the results have been rather disappointing in the face of coalition infighting and fundamental Cabinet disagreement over policy direction (OECD 2005).

Against this background, it is arguable that whereas the EU—both in the context of the accession negotiations and the post-accession period—has been able to discipline the agenda for domestic reform in terms of targets, it has been unable to change the underlying logic of Romanian public policymaking based on factionalism and ‘closed’ networks of power. The same also holds true with regard to the EU’s effect on the heavily centralized nature of the Romanian state. In the run up to Romania’s accession to the EU, a number of laws passed through parliament (1999, 2001, and 2004) aimed at decentralizing state power and preparing the country for the management of the EU’s structural funds. Many of the new structures created, however, (p. 249) have been severely under-resourced and expertise on EU-related matters remains very limited (causing significant problems with the absorption of EU funds since 2007). In any event, few of these regional institutions were invested with sufficient powers to be able to claim either a meaningful representative function for the local people or strategic local resource to counter-balance the influence of the government in Bucharest (Turnock 2001).

Romania as a Policy Taker: Implementing the EU Acquis

Given the relatively short period of time since Romania’s accession into the EU, a full assessment of its implementation record is not yet possible. In the yearly data on infringement proceedings against member states published by the Commission, Romania does not appear as one of the most frequent offenders. In 2009 Romania received twenty-nine formal notices and six reasoned opinions by the Commission whilst it was referred to the European Court of Justice just once (European Commission 2010c, statistical annexes I to III). These figures placed the record of the Romanian government half-way down the league of offenders amongst new EU entrants, which, as a group, fare considerably better than most of the EU’s more established members.

The substantial discrepancies in the number of infringement proceedings between new and old member states may be partly explained by the nature of accession negotiations that led to eastern enlargement. Unlike previous enlargement rounds, the Commission’s ‘screening process’ prior to the opening of each of the thirty-one chapters of accession negotiations subjected domestic legislation in the CEE countries to an unprecedented level of scrutiny. By the end of the accession process, the Commission’s hard line over the granting of derogations from EU law had effectively ensured that the new member states had transposed the vast majority of the EU acquis well before they were actually admitted. The profound power asymmetries between the two negotiating parties ensured that the EU’s wishes on this front met little opposition. The relatively ‘thin’ legal framework in most CEE countries (given its radical overhaul since the collapse of Communism) also provided fertile ground for the transformative power of enlargement-led Europeanization in re-shaping the legal underpinnings of public policy.

Yet, formal indicators on the implementation of EU law may obscure some of the limitations of enlargement-led Europeanization to change established ‘ways of doing things’. Romania is a good example in this respect. The country’s well-documented problems with corruption and the erratic administration of justice prompted the EU to launch the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in 2007 as a means of applying pressure on the Romanian government to pursue further reforms in these areas post-accession. Although neither field officially forms part of the acquis, their all-encompassing effects on the functioning of the Romanian society and especially the country’s public administration produced serious ‘horizontal’ problems for the implementation and upholding of EU law. In its regular reporting since the inception (p. 250) of the mechanism, the Commission has grown increasingly frustrated with the progress made by the Romanian authorities. A recent Commission report claimed that Romania has taken a number of backwards steps in this regard during the course of 2010 (European Commission 2010b).

The Romanian Economy: From Bust to Boom … to Bust?

Romania’s trajectory of economic transition since the early 1990s has broadly followed that of its democratic consolidation: uneven in its pace, and uncertain in its direction. At an early stage, the process of economic reform was shaped by the terrible legacies of the Ceauşescu regime and the unwillingness of the FSN to engage in a fundamental reconfiguration of the country’s economic structures (and the political power associated with them). Subsequently, as the failures of economic gradualism became apparent, the appetite for change grew stronger, but its success was ultimately compromised by an unsuccessful policy mix, poor implementation and political infighting within successive coalition governments (Papadimitriou and Phinnemore 2008).

Romania’s inclusion in accession negotiations in 2000 was arguably the single most important factor in kick-starting the process of previously stalled economic reform. By that time, the PDSR had returned to power with a dominant position in the Romanian parliament. Moreover, the new prime minister, Năstase, was keen to project his party’s newly-found reform credentials and economic managerialism. Although his stewardship of the Romanian economy was not without its critics (particularly over his government’s timidity to reduce the role of the state in the economy), the period 2000–2004 marked a significant improvement of all macroeconomic indicators and registered some of the highest GDP growth rates in Europe (see Table 10.4). It also paved the way for the Commission eventually recognizing Romania as a functioning market economy. By the time accession negotiations were concluded in December 2004, the Romanian economy was experiencing an unprecedented boom fuelled largely by domestic consumption and investment growth (assisted by an explosive expansion of credit).

The return to dysfunctional coalition politics following the 2004 election had an adverse effect on the Romanian economy. Although GDP growth remained strong during the first few years of EU membership, fiscal discipline was compromised, leading to a growing budget and a current account deficit problem. Early criticisms by both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Commission (European Commission 2005: 29) were ignored by the Tăriceanu government amidst a rather misplaced euphoria that high GDP growth could mask the country’s macroeconomic imbalances.

The structural weaknesses of the Romanian economy, however, became vividly exposed as the result of the global financial crisis in late 2008. As Romania’s banking sector (90 per cent of which was under foreign ownership) experienced severe liquidity problems, lending to the private sector collapsed, leading to a rapid contraction of

(p. 251)

Table 10.4 Romania: Main economic indicators (% of GDP, unless stated otherwise)

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

GDP growth

-1.2

2.4

5.7

5.1

5.2

8.5

4.2

7.9

6.3

7.3

-7.1

0.8

Government borrowing

-4.4

-4.7

-3.5

-2.0

-1.5

-1.2

-1.2

-2.2

-2.5

-5.4

-8.3

-8.0

Inflation (HICP)

45.8

45.7

34.5

22.5

15.3

11.9

9.1

6.6

4.9

7.9

5.6

4.3

Current account balance

-4.1

-3.9

-5.6

-1.1

-4.9

-5.8

-8.9

-10.6

-13.6

-12.7

-4.2

-4.4

Unemploym ent rate

7.1

7.3

6.8

8.6

7.0

6.1

7.2

7.3

6.4

5.8

6.9

8.5

Domestic demand

-4.0

4.9

6.9

4.4

8.7

12.9

8.6

14.2

15.9

8.2

-14.4

0.6

Labour productivity growth

3.5

3.2

6.8

17.0

5.3

10.3

5.8

7.1

5.9

7.6

-6.2

2.5

External debt

21.7

22.5

25.7

24.9

21.5

18.7

15.8

12.4

12.6

13.3

23.7

n/a

Real effective exchange rate (1999=100)

100

129

142

116

118

112

148

159

189

192

180

n/a

Figures for 2010 are estimates.

Source: Eurostat.

(p. 252) the construction, manufacturing, and service sectors which had previously driven economic growth in the country. As a result, Romania’s GDP fell by 7.1 per cent in 2009; the national currency (the leu) depreciated against the euro by nearly 30 per cent; and the capitalization of the Bucharest stock exchange decreased by over 80 per cent from its 2008 peak (see Table 10.4; International Monetary Fund 2009). With the Romanian economic bubble now burst, the government was left with no option but to seek external support. In May 2009, a financial assistance package worth €19.9 billion was agreed by the government and its major international creditors including the IMF (providing over half of the total assistance), the EU, and the World Bank (International Monetary Fund 2009). The conditionalities attached to this assistance brought a programme of severe cuts in wages (-25 per cent) and pensions (-15 per cent) which sparked a wave of protests in the spring of 2010). The Commission forecast Romania’s return to modest GDP growth in 2010, although it warned that the key to economic recovery would be the government’s ability to continue with its fiscal consolidation programme (European Commission 2010a: 132–4). This would be no small undertaking for Romania’s fragile governing coalition.

Foreign Policy: Still to Shape EU Policy

In terms of foreign policy, there can be little doubt that the accession process transformed Romania’s relations with its neighbours by promoting peaceful conflict resolution, cooperation, and interdependence (Bechev 2009). Since accession, however, Romania has been unable to fulfil its initial aspirations to shape EU policies both generally and regarding key neighbours such as Moldova and Ukraine. The same applies to the Black Sea where pre-accession Romanian-sponsored proposals for an EU ‘Black Sea Strategy’ (e.g. Asmus et al. 2004) were generally overlooked and instead the EU adopted a less substantial ‘Black Sea Synergy’. Romania’s limited impact on EU foreign policymaking can in part be attributed to the ambiguities surrounding the overall direction and substance of EU relations with these countries. As Bechev (2009) observes, however, it also reflects a combination of Romania’s limited administrative capacity to define and upload its preferences into the EU policymaking process and unresolved issues in bilateral relations.

This combination has been particularly evident with regard to EU–Moldova relations, the promotion of which has long been a priority for Romania. However, bilateral relations between Bucharest and Chisinau remained strained for much of the second half of the 2000s as the presidencies of Vladimir Voronin in Moldova equated Romanian efforts to support the country’s integration into the EU with a bid to undermine Moldovan statehood. Relations almost reached breaking point in April 2010 when Voronin accused the Romanian government of fomenting civil unrest in Chisinau following the Moldovan general election. The Romanian ambassador was expelled and visa requirements introduced for Romanian citizens. In response, the Romanian government further eased the requirements for Moldovans (p. 253) to obtain Romanian—and thus EU—passports, a move that simply intensified accusations from Voronin and his supporters that Romania was determined to undermine Moldova’s independence. The easing caused concern among Romania’s EU partners, in part because it was announced without any consultation, more importantly because of the potential it created for increased migration into the EU. Since the creation in August 2010 of a pro-EU ‘Alliance for European Integration’ government in Chisinau, relations have improved with the Romanian government providing technical, administrative, and political support to the new Moldova government. Its fragility, exacerbated by the failure to elect a president, has, however, meant that there has been only limited domestic capacity to make progress in pursuing closer integration. Four years of membership have seen Romania thwarted in its efforts to bring its north-eastern neighbour significantly closer to the EU.

The Moldovan case also reveals an appreciable willingness on the part of successive Romanian governments to prioritize bilateral relations over a collective EU approach to Chisinau. The domestic salience of relations with Moldova demands as much. The same can be said of Romania’s outlier position on Kosovo, whose independence Bucharest refuses to recognize for fear that it will lead to intensified claims for territorial autonomy from ethnic Hungarians in Romania (Linden 2009). The possibility of granting autonomy remains a taboo domestically with many politicians and officials convinced of its destabilizing potential. Romanian governments would rather resist conforming to the majority position than risk a domestic political backlash and possible internal instability.

Romania’s EU Membership Experience in Comparative Perspective

Many of the challenges that Romania has faced in coming to terms with EU membership have also been experienced to varying degrees by other ‘new’ members. But to what extent is the range of Romania’s experiences peculiar to it or symptomatic of particular characteristics? Two obvious comparisons to make are with Poland, the other medium-sized CEE country that joined the EU as part of eastern enlargement, and Bulgaria, with which Romania has long been informally coupled throughout the process of integration with the EU and alongside whom Romania joined the EU in 2007. The Polish and Romanian experiences of membership offer interesting contrasts in terms of their respective successes in shaping EU policy and their willingness to doggedly pursue a national preference (see also Chapter 8). On the former, both Poland and Romania have suffered setbacks in their efforts to promote increased engagement with neighbours. The developments in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), and in the EU’s engagement with the Black Sea region, (p. 254) have fallen short of both countries’ expectations, particularly as Ukraine and Moldova still lack anything approaching a clear membership perspective. However, whereas Poland has achieved some success in promoting an enhancement to the ENP through the Eastern Partnership initiative, and a more proactive EU stance towards Belarus, Romania has proved far less successful in increasing beyond ‘synergy’ the EU’s engagement with the Black Sea region. In part this reflects varying domestic capacities to define and then upload realistic preferences. It also reflects, however, Poland’s more effective pursuit of partners to promote initiatives. As Bechev (2009: 222) argues, Romania has failed to take ‘decisive steps’ in framing agendas and crafting coalitions. On the other hand, however, Romania has not sought to use its size and status as one of the larger ‘new’ member states to demand concessions from its fellow member states. By contrast, Poland in 2007 unsuccessfully threatened to veto progress towards the adoption of what became the Treaty of Lisbon. Its demand was the retention of an inequitable voting system that gave it almost a disproportionately large number of votes—twenty-seven compared to twenty-nine each for France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom—despite having already agreed, in previous negotiations on the Constitutional Treaty, to abandon both it and an alternative ‘square root’ voting system. Romania has—so far at least—spared itself the political loss of standing that befell the Polish government in 2007.

Indeed Romania has generally adopted a low profile in EU debates. The same can be said of Bulgaria, which like Romania, has yet to develop the necessary administrative capacities and networks to be able to make a noticeable impact on EU policymaking. Neither, however, is wholly absent from policy-makers’ thinking on the future of the EU. Both countries in fact continue to cause concern within the Commission and among other member states because of the limited progress that they have made in pursuing judicial reform and rooting out corruption. Hence questions continue to be raised about their respective capacities to assume their obligations as EU members. Indeed, in December 2010, these concerns led France and Germany to call for a postponement of any decision to admit Romania—and Bulgaria—to Schengen. The perception persists that they secured membership prematurely. Unless domestic reform records improve, such a perception threatens to stigmatize their membership for years to come.

In turn it has implications for the future of enlargement. Indeed, the abiding legacies of the 2007 enlargement to include Romania and Bulgaria are undoubtedly an increase in ‘enlargement fatigue’ and an evident tightening of the conditionality requirements would-be member states have to meet (İçener et al. 2010). Croatia and, to a lesser extent, Turkey have certainly had to meet greater demands as a consequence of negotiating EU membership in the shadow of Romania’s accession. Moreover, Romanian membership of the EU has intensified debate about the consequences, particularly in the light of the furore in 2010 surrounding French moves to remove Roma from France, of granting free movement to the citizens of acceding states, and admitting these states to the Schengen area. It has also focused attention on the (p. 255) progress that acceding states have made in integrating marginalized and often disadvantaged minority groups, once again increasing the demands being made of would-be members before they can be admitted.

Conclusion

The Romanian case reveals a mix of results regarding the transformative effects of enlargement-led Europeanization. On the one hand, the prospect of gaining entry into the EU acted as a major driver for economic and political reforms in the country from the late 1990s onwards. Without the incentive of membership, the EU’s conditionalities and its guidance—and irrespective of the criticisms regarding their deployment—economic and political reform in post-communist Romania is likely to have remained piecemeal and stalled. On the other hand, however, and as critics pointed out at the time, and most observers and EU officials have come to acknowledge since, there has often been a considerable mismatch between the commitment to reform and the reality on the ground. Notable examples include judicial reform and the combating of corruption where domestic resistance to the adaptational pressures emanating from the accession process has proved—and continues to prove—resilient. This has not only tarnished Romania’s image within the EU, but it has also done little to assure doubters that high levels of popular support for EU membership reflect a genuine understanding of what membership entails or what is required of Romania to make a success—whether economically, politically, or socially—of being a member of the EU.

It is certainly too early in the country’s membership to offer a definitive assessment of what sort of EU member Romania is or will be. The evidence so far suggests a country still coming to terms with the obligations and realities of membership and struggling to evolve from policy-taker to policy-maker. Much of this stems from underdeveloped institutional capacity and the tensions within the country’s executive that have led to the initial years of membership being undermined by domestic political disfunctionality. Romania’s efforts to present itself to other members as a reliable partner have been further constrained by its shaky record in complying with the demands emanating from the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and concerns about its reaction to strategically important developments in its neighbourhood, such as Kosovan independence and the political uncertainties in Moldova. All this is not to deny that Romania has responded to Europeanization pressures associated with accession. It certainly has. Romania would not have been admitted to the EU otherwise. The first four years of membership have, however, very much confirmed that the extent of the country’s Europeanization remains uneven and less developed than in many of the other participants in the EU’s two-stage eastern enlargement. This has consequences not only for Romania but also the future of enlargement.

Further Reading

There are few comprehensive studies of Romania–EU relations. Papadimitriou and Phinnemore (2008) and Gallagher (2009) provide the most detailed academic analyses to date of Romania’s accession to the EU. A special issue of the journal Perspectives on European Politics and Society (10:2, 2009) contains a number of articles examining the process and early years of accession. An edited volume by Phinnemore (2006), compiled shortly before accession, offers a range of perspectives on Romania and its forthcoming membership of the EU. On the post-communist period more generally, and Romania’s efforts at reform in the context of European integration, see Pridham (2005), Gallagher (2005), and Light and Phinnemore (2001).

Web Links

www.gov.ro is the homepage of the Romanian government and provides links to all ministries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (http://www.mae.ro/en) contains some useful pages on Romania’s position within the EU, as does the homepage of the Romanian Permanent Representation to the EU (http://ue.mae.ro) which offers links to more general information on Romania too.

References

Asmus, R. D., Dimitrov, K., and Forbig, J. (eds) (2004), A New Euro-Atlantic Strategy for the Black Sea Region, Washington D.C.: The German Marshall Fund of the United States, http://209.200.80.89//doc/GMF_book.pdf.Find this resource:

    Bechev, D. (2009), ‘From Policy-Takers to Policy-Makers? Observations on Bulgarian and Romanian Foreign Policy Before and After EU Accession’, Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 10/2: 210-24.Find this resource:

      European Commission (1997), Commission Opinion on Romania’s Application for Membership of the European Union, DOC/97/18, 15 July.Find this resource:

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          European Commission (2005), Romania: 2005 Comprehensive Monitoring Report, Brussels, COM (2005) 534 final, 25 October.Find this resource:

            European Commission (2010a), ‘European Economic Forecast-Spring 2010’, European Economy, 2/2010, Brussels.Find this resource:

              European Commission (2010b), Report on the Progress in Romania under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, COM(2010) 401 final, 20 July.Find this resource:

                European Commission (2010c), 27th Annual Report on Monitoring the Application of EU Law (2009), Statistical Annexes I to III, COM(2010) 538, 1 October.Find this resource:

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                    Gallagher, T. (2005), Theft of a Nation: Romania since Communism, London: Hurst and Co.Find this resource:

                      Gallagher, T. (2009), Romania and the European Union: How the Weak Vanquished the Strong, Manchester: Manchester University Press.Find this resource:

                        Içener, E., Papadimitriou, D., and Phinnemore, D. (2010), ‘Continuity and Change in the European Union’s Approach to Enlargement: Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe Compared’, Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 10/2: 207–23.Find this resource:

                          International Monetary Fund (2009), Press Release, No. 09/148, 4 May.Find this resource:

                            Light, D. and Phinnemore, D. (eds) (2001), Post-Communist Romania: Coming to Terms With Transition, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

                              Linden, R.H. (2009), ‘The burden of belonging: Romanian and Bulgarian foreign policy in the new era’, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 11/3, 269–91.Find this resource:

                                Maxfield, E. (2007), ‘Europe and Romania’s Presidential Impeachment Referendum, May 2007’, EPERN Referendum Briefing, No. 15, October, http://www.sussex.ac.uk/sei/.Find this resource:

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                                          Papadimitriou, D. (2002), Negotiating the New Europe; the European Union and Eastern Europe, Aldershot: Ashgate.Find this resource:

                                            Papadimitriou, D. and Gateva, E. (2009), ‘Between Enlargement-led Europeanisation and Balkan Exceptionalism: An appraisal of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s entry into the European Union’, Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 10/2: 152–66.Find this resource:

                                              Papadimitriou, D. and Phinnemore, D. (2008), Romania and the European Union: From marginalization to membership, London: Routledge.Find this resource:

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                                                  Phinnemore, D. (2010), ‘And We’d Like to Thank …: Romania’s Integration into the European Union, 1989–2007’, Journal of European Integration, 32/3: 291–308.Find this resource:

                                                    Pridham, G. (2005), Designing Democracy: EU Enlargement and Regime Change in Post-Communist Europe, Basingstoke: Palgrave.Find this resource:

                                                      Turnock, D. (2001), ‘Regional inequalities and regional development in post-communist Romania’, in Light, D. and Phinnemore, D. (eds), Post-Communist Romania: Coming to Terms with Accession, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 150–74.Find this resource:

                                                        Notes:

                                                        1. The CEE countries invited to open accession negotiations were the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia. Cyprus was also invited.

                                                        2. All 2004 entrants (as well as Bulgaria and Romania) were also subjected to: (i) a ‘general’ economic safeguard clause (allowing EU member states extra protection for a period of up to three years after accession in case of ‘serious deterioration in the economic situation of a given area’; and (ii) two ‘specific’ safeguard clauses relating to the internal market and third pillar issues (such as cooperation in criminal and civil matters) which allowed the Commission or individual member states (in the case of the JHA safeguard clause) to take ‘appropriate measures’ in cases where new member states failed to meet their EU obligations. For more details, see Gabanyi (2005) and Papadimitriou and Gateva (2009).

                                                        3. A similar number of reports were produced for Bulgaria.

                                                        4. The constitutionally required referendum took place in May. The result was a convincing victory—74.5 per cent vs. 24.8 per cent—for Băsescu (Maxfield 2007).

                                                        5. Prior to the election, Romanian voters were represented in the EP by observer MEPs. Of these, five came from the PRM. Their presence in the EP facilitated the creation of the short-lived right-wing Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty political group. Its demise was triggered by the departure of the PRM in November 2007.