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April 13, 2021

Border country

I wonder why we don’t fancy the Germans. And, mostly, why they keep insisting on these justice ‘issues’. Why they would block our entry to the Schengen Agreement after so much effort put into border security. Is this just a question of political parti pris, as Romanian leaders not only insinuate, but also claim laud and clear?Those who have seen the film ‘Morgen’, directed by a young Salonta (at the border with the ‘Schengen area’) filmmaker will remember the drama of a Kurdish immigrant the Romanian character (played by a Hungarian ethnic) in that Bihor corner of Romania eventually helps cross over the border illegally. A few scenes capture the nigh-time ‘illegals’ hunting party organised by police force equipped with state of the art surveillance devices. Of course that the film is a ‘politically incorrect’ one, dwelling on a humanism of marginalisation capable to overcome status discrimination in some sort of universal solidarity (Euro-Asian in this particular case).

Well, European officials do not Romanians might show the same empathy with third-country nationals such as our blasé Salonta character. Or that, driven by some humanist pathos, they would affectionately offer to escort them across the border into the much coveted EU. What they are afraid of is that, system (made up of many institutions and, most of all, many individuals: customs workers, policemen, magistrates, policemen, politicians) may be permeable to what they don’t want to have: drugs, smuggled goods, potential criminals, unwanted migrants). They are not concerned about Romanians in particular, for we are already free to travel anywhere in the EU. Or the danger of Romanian migration the regulation of which goes down to different sort of decision-making. They are simply concerned about border security and its political pillars. It is true that Angela Merkel (and other EU decision-makers who count) is not very fond of the political duo in the Bucharest leadership (Ponta-Antonescu). An ‘ideological’ preference is but natural – after all, the European Parliament is a body of political parties – but it would be a naive thing for anyone to believe that it is the sufficient and determining reason. The reason is neither the concern about the stability of domestic labour market, as Germany is not among Romanians’ favourite work destinations. Any Romanians who do work in that country do it in shortage occupations (such as doctors, Germany also experiencing a drain of German physicians to other countries, which keeps the deficit), without creating issues of ‘unfair’ competitiveness or delinquency inherent to massive ethnic communities of immigrants. As Germans say themselves, their country has only been open for what is called ‘a culture of hospitality’ for a short while, making many of them distrust other nations’ integration. This is one of the explanations for the ‘security concern’ that sometimes may look quite stiff. When confronted with a similar phenomenon in the future, such as a Chinatown, African or Asian communities surging beyond a certain limit, Romania will probably not be as worried as Germany is today. But maybe the explanation pertains to justice ‘issues’, indeed. It is evident that some of the new political regime’s statements and measures did worry European partners. The fear of corruption is a superior reason to be cautious even about border security. Because this is all about the risk of corruption, that chain of political connections (in a broad sense) that could expose ‘borders’. There is a certain anecdote that may be very telling as to the Romanian mindset. A famous philosopher between the two Wars wanted to evade customs duties on a luxury limousine he had bought abroad. The customs head was himself a philosopher and a former competitor, but, being an extremely upright person (he was actually also teaching Ethics), refused to help him. The philosopher (a very influential personality as he was also a reputable journalist), turned to his political acquaintances and obtained the tax waiver via a different route. Exactly because they don’t want to have situations like that one (the automobile story was quite benignant if you think about it), EU leaders need not political friends in Romania, but an effective judiciary, independent of political moods. At the same time, Romanian politicians’ predilection for self-contained anti-EU rhetoric is strange. It must be the history’s fault, as Romanian countries have always depended on some neighbouring empire. On the other hand, to look at the EU as some sort of imperialist super-state is ridiculous. Or it may indicate that Romanian politicians wanted to harvest the fruits of integration while reducing duties to a minimum. It is a political project with its inherent political requirements.  To regard the surrendering of sovereignty within the EU as an act of enslavement is sheer demagogy, for it overlooks the context of its emergence. The question should be: what significant contribution have Romanian politicians made to the EU policy? Why aren’t they using European political institutions for gestures of actual wider consequences? A state’s European strategy is not just about trying to obtain as much funds or benefits as you can. This kind of thinking can only be disadvantageous on a longer term. Or are Romanians simple opportunists, without genuine interest in any Europhile philosophy?

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