by Tanguy de l’Espinay

Rumania will enter the EU on 1st January 2007 with Bulgaria, 3 years after the last enlargement of the union. Let us try to know what do Rumanians think about Europe, and what can they really bring to it through the point of view of a ‘Convinced European”, Arnaud Castaignet, who’s studying Political Sciences in Bucharest.

Rumania is going to enter the EU in one month. How do the Romanians live that? Can you feel enthusiasm, impatience, or maybe indifference?

The first thing that is obvious, at least among the young and the intellectuals, is that Bucharest is impatient! Impatient to make the world forget the images of dictatorship, misery and the dismay; impatient to become an European separate capital; impatient to discover completely the democracy, and impatient, above all , to find an international echo for its voice.

But what do they think concretely about what will really bring Europe in their daily lives?

That is paradoxical: According to a poll realized by the Institute of the Free initiative, more than 90 % of the Rumania’s population is for the integration of Rumania in the European Union, and 10 % is against. But the same poll reveals that those who think that their life will be better after the membership are only 43 %, whereas 26 % think that the situation will remain equivalent, and that 16 % estimate that their life will be worst.

So there are some fears…

Exactly. They know that the integration in the EU is going to attract more foreign investors, but they are afraid of increasing prices and taxes, unemployment…They do not want the country to become just a profitable market for the other states. The “lambda” citizens, those who have seen their pensions being broken and their salaries evolving very slowly, are afraid of empowering the foreign companies which pay Rumanians very badly.

But if they are so sceptical, why do 90% want to enter?

It is a typical Rumanian problem: They think that profits will not be immediate. Why? Because there is a really big mistrust towards the Rumanian politicians that everybody is convinced they will deceive the European funds. So people here expect Europe to educate the leaders. People rely more on the EU than on the Rumanian leaders. Thus, Rumanians are curious and want to enter the EU, because it is going to bring them money, safety (Let me remind you that in 2004 we just avoided here a “Ukrainian” election, and that the Russian threat, via the gas, is still very strong), and allow them to fight more efficiently against corruption. But they don’t think that it is going to immediately change their daily life.

Do Rumanians feel that Europe wants or needs them? What do they think of the way they are described by Western European countries?

As far as the European treatment of Rumania is concerned, there were recently two big disappointments : the wallet of the Rumanian police commissioner (multilingualism…) and the limitations concerning the free traffic of the Rumanian workers inside the EU. That seems not to be important, but Rumanians have this feeling that the other European countries do not want them. It is very easy to see that through the exchange experience : A Rumanian student who comes to France has to face many administrative difficulties and many clichés about prostitute, beggars, gypsies…

And what are the advantages that Rumania can bring to Europe?

Nobody explained what the Rumanian market does mean for Europe, whereas the integration of Rumania can promote economic growth on the European market. Rumania offers attractive possibilities of development in almost all the sectors: Let us take the example of real-estate sector: If the European market is becoming very stable, we cannot say the same for the Rumanian real-estate market, in continuous growth, with a strong demand for the next 10 years. The agricultural lands are also a very important stake: in Rumania, one hectare of agricultural ground cost between 1000 and 1500 euros while in the Union these prices are between 16.000 and 20.000 euros… And the “average Romanian” is a big consumer. With twenty million inhabitants, Rumania is a really big potential market, compared to Bulgaria.

Is the position of Rumania, in the borders forget that Rumania has the vocation to play a diplomatic role in its region of Europe, a force?

Of course. The member countries of the European Union know perfectly that Rumania has a key geographic position. The harbour of Constanta is the biggest harbour of the Eastern Europe and it is a big economic force. The axis Danube-Black Sea offers to Europe a new commercial interface that was targeted for a long time. All things considered, let us not also forget that Rumania has the vocation to play a diplomatic role in its region.