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Romania and the European UnionHow the Weak Vanquished the Strong$

Tom Gallagher

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780719077432

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719077432.001.0001

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(p.265) Appendix

(p.265) Appendix

Romania and the European Union
Manchester University Press

Speech given by Jonathan Scheele Cuza University Iaşi, 26 May 2006

Mr. Rector


Your Holiness

Mr and Mrs Professors

Dear students,

Of course, the honour you do me today is hard to be described in words. To receive this honorary title from the oldest1 and one of the most prestigious Romanian universities, from the heart of the cultural capital of Moldavia, is an absolute privilege.

Being the chief of the Delegation from the European Commission in the last five years was also an absolute privilege that life has offered to me. Therefore, I receive this title in the name of the entire Delegation team. Without them, I wouldn't be able to achieve anything.

In this period we mark the ending of a major historical phase in the history of Romania, started back in 1821 or even earlier and consisting of the gradual detachment from the Orient, represented back then by the Ottoman Empire, and the country's movement towards Europe. This phase was marked by convulsions, recoveries and devastating historical dramas.

The political or geopolitical integration, not simple at all, being the subject for international power struggles in the past, has been achieved through the country's adhering to NATO and it will be strengthened by adhering to the European Union, a moment that will mark the end of my mission in your country. However, this type of integration, extremely useful, will only be an integration of substance, meaning that it will not necessarily make Romania a Western-like society. The true challenge is the integration through a deep transformation, by modernising the country and its institutions, followed by (p.266) a gradual re-orientation of mentalities. The true challenge remains the filling of substance with essence. The debate on this topic from the Romanian culture is well known for you.

Romania's integration in the European Union means that important steps have been made towards the ‘filling of the substance with essence’. The European Union has exported its regulations – the substance – in Romania, and then it pressed on for these to be applied, which means to fill the substance with essence. Theoretically, the integration can take place only when these two dimensions overlap or are about to overlap. But is Romania's modernisation problem solved this way? Not by a long shot.

One of the greatest and most frequent mistakes made by Romanians, including the intellectual ones, is that they sometimes think that the country's integration into the European Union also means a profound and integral transformation of the country, of the economy and the society. It really isn't like that.

The famous European acquis is not made to build modern states in fact most of it assumes that modern and functional states already exist. The acquis is just what these states, members of the European Union, decided to be considered as common rules. It is limited because of its nature. It might mean good regulations, applied in a certain domain of activity, but it might be missing in others. Especially in the domains tied to the political organisation of the state, the acquis is absolutely inexistent. The acquis transfer has positive effects on the reform and transformations going on in a candidate country, but it does not mean complete modernisation it does not mean the reforming of the state, for instance. The complete modernisation of Romania, the reconciliation between substance and essence, through the combining of local specifics with the European-like universality, can only be the result of a Romanian political project, a political project of the elites and the Romanian society.

In other words: the integration in the European Union does not mean that Romania will suddenly change for the better, if Romanians will not make it better. The integration in the European Union will not save Romania from reality. Only you, Romanians, and not someone else, from Brussels or God knows where, can be the miracle.

The European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Romania project also had a negative effect for Romania, mainly because it offered everything as granted – prêt à porter – saving the political and the elite class from the effort of judging by themselves and deciding what needs to be done for Romania, both in specific domains, as well as overall, including fundamental data of the country's evolution. Through misunderstanding, it was expected that Europe will somehow solve the problems of the Romanian rural area, the problems in the Romanian justice, the Romanian administration etc.

(p.267) What can be the outlines of a Romanian political project? First of all, the Romanian political class should proclaim a number of ideals, that belong to it and to the nation, rather than import already made ones, copied or assumed through rebounding. Ideals that are meant to make a difference in people's lives. Ideals like:

  • corruption is a crime against the nation and the political class, ‘helped’ by an independent justice system, will give up legal immunity, choosing real equality with the rest of the citizens; in this process, the political class will be forced to change itself;

  • that in ten years Romania will possess one of the strongest economies from Central and Eastern Europe, with the friendliest business environment in the area;

  • that in ten years, not a single talented child from the countryside will be left without education, because of poverty;

  • that in ten years, the indicators for the quality of the health and education system will be at the European average;

  • that in ten years, a rich and reformed Romania will be a model for the Republic of Moldavia and a regional power, by being an example (and not by showing discursive progressions);

  • that through a modern and efficient administration, Romania will truly become the seventh power in the European Union, contributing to the Union's progress and fulfilling its own identity and mission.

Some of these ideals are certainly realistic, but for others a lot of hard work needs to be done. What's most important is that they have to be formulated in the most serious and credible way possible, so that they can be debated; once they reach the public conscience, sooner or later they will become an electoral offer, obligations assumed by politicians, they will become the nation's project.

The fundamental role of this project is for Romania to defeat its biggest complex, the lack of trust in itself.

I think this is the most important message I can send you, today, here: that you are all free people and responsible of your own destiny and of this country's destiny, that Europe is a favourable context that will help you tremendously, but Europe cannot live and make performance in your place, the Romanians.

The Romanian intellectual elite, your university, your students, you all can and have to contribute to the creation of the Romanian political project, as well as to its application.

As long as I will represent the European Commission in Bucharest, but also in the future, I will stand beside you and you can count on me if you will need (p.268) my experience or my ideas. I am a person who learned to love Romania, who wishes Romania all the best and will always remain beside Romania.

Thank you once again for the honour you gave me and I wish you a lot of success!


(1) 1860.