In 2017, Romania celebrates 10 years since its accession to the European Union, a project designed to bring peace, prosperity and unity across the continent. This accomplishment marked an important landmark not only in the Romanian history, but also in the process of reunification of the European continent after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Most remarkably, this national objective has been supported enthusiastically, along the years, by the Romanian society as a whole, both by the Romanian citizens and the political actors, and reflected clearly Romania’s firm attachment to a European community centred on fundamental values and principles, the rule of law and a longstanding model of economic and social development.
It was not an easy-ride, given the complicated and volatile global and European context and the various crises that have tested the Union in the past years, internally and externally. Against this complex background, we can say without doubt that Romania’s accession has brought added-value to the Union. During this period of time, Romania has proved to be not only a reliable partner, but also a firm promoter of policies that contributes to advancing the European integration process, on one hand, and, on the other hand, of actions and strategies that enhance its capacity to project more democratic stability in the region.
Our country has constantly advocated for the consolidation of the European project and actively contributed towards increasing EU’s strategic role, both within and beyond its borders, allowing to better cope with the current European domestic or global challenges.
On this momentous anniversary, it is important to remember what the last decade has meant for us and how our society reaped the benefits of EU integration. 10 years of membership have represented for Romania a period of consolidation of our democratic governance, of profound socio-economic development, modernisation and growth, as well as of progressive, yet visible improvement in the lives of the citizens.
First of all, the membership status offered the opportunity to be directly involved in the European decision-making process, shaping policies that bring an added value and prosperity to our societies. It has also provided the chance to participate in the development of the European common action, establishing strong partnerships and promoting our national interests in a more effective manner, fully consistent with the European common interests.
The accession process provided a strong incentive for a profound transformation and modernization of our society. The efforts of harmonizing the national legislation with the ‘acquis communautaire’ involved a comprehensive demarche of irreversible reform processes in various sectors, such as public administration, agriculture or the justice system. This process has brought more than legislative change or alignment in various fields; it has actually supported a better and more effective policy making for the benefit of the citizens.
From an economic perspective, the increase in trade with our European partners, the rise of foreign direct investments in our economy and the stimulation of entrepreneurship in a competitive environment are just some of the positive consequences of the accession.
The use of EU structural and cohesion funds has substantially contributed to the economic growth of Romania, which now ranks among the highest in the European countries. Sustained economic development led to a higher employment rate, an increase in the average wage and standard of living, while bringing overall social progress.
Romanian citizens, together with the other European citizens, are benefitting from the opportunities generated by the four freedoms of the internal market (free movement of goods, services, capital and persons), an asset which is widely considered to be one of the most valuable gains deriving from their European citizenship. Furthermore, cultural exchanges and the access to the network of European educational systems for Romanian students are only some examples of benefits with wide-ranging positive consequences for our country and the future of its human capital.
There is certainly plenty of scope to acknowledge the EU benefits among its Member States and citizens alike. Europe is surely inherent in the everyday life of Romanian citizens, an aspect testified by the predominantly positive image of the European Union within our country.
This year we mark an important milestone in the history of the EU. The signature of the Rome Treaty in March 1957 honoured the pledge of great European leaders for a peaceful continent and the revival of the European nations united under the same values. Now, 60 years later, we stand in front of a symbolic landmark in the evolution of the European integration, but also in front of a propitious moment of reflection for our common future.
The challenges associated with Brexit and the ongoing security crises beyond our borders create a volatile context, which will significantly alter the pace and shape of the European agenda. The way in which we manage this process will be a test for the unity and strength of the Union. Therefore, it is essential to uphold the fundamental principles and freedoms that underpin European integration, to preserve the integrity of the EU internal market, and to maintain the adequate instruments for reducing disparities between EU Member States.
Now, more than ever, the EU needs strong and committed members. Romania is determined to be one of them. After 10 years of membership, we are now a mature member of the EU family. The consolidation of the European integration process remains a strategic objective for Romania, intrinsically linked to our long-term national development project.
The fact that Romania is today a safe and predictable European country in a region characterized by various challenges, along with the significant benefits we have acquired during these years, compels us to act resolutely together with other like-minded Member States in finding ways of reviving the European project. Whether it is about our strategic security, our economic prosperity, our neighbouring countries, or about keeping alive citizens’ positive perception of the EU, we are aware of the relentless efforts it must undertake to maintain, but also to advance healthy and responsible policies to generate tangible results for our societies.
In terms of added value to the European community brought by Romania’s accession to the EU, it is worthwhile mentioning that we have managed to consolidate our position as a regional player and promoted various cooperation initiatives, such as the EU Strategy for the Danube Region – a Romanian-Austrian initiative with a great potential for economic and social development of riparian countries.
In the field of energy, Romania is committed to the objective of completing the European internal energy market and ensuring energy security for our countries. To this end, Romania plays an active role in developing strategic infrastructure projects such as BRUA (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria – natural gas pipeline), a Project of Common Interest that seeks to create an interconnection between the various countries involved.
Internal affairs are another example of policy area where Romania has not only benefited from joining the EU, but has also made substantial contributions. Currently, our country is among the most important contributors to the operational capacity of the European Agency Frontex. Moreover, Romania is also a security provider for the EU by successfully ensuring the security of a large part of the Union’s external border.
Romania remains also a firm supporter of the enlargement policy, undoubtedly regarded as among the most successful stories of the EU due to its efficient transformative effect on the candidate countries. The EU, together with the concerted action of its Member States, is in a good position to promote a more stable, secure and prosperous EU neighbourhood. Romania actively supports instruments such as the European Neighbourhood Policy and its Eastern Partnership dimension, as well as the European course of our partners, particularly for the Republic of Moldova. We also advocate for more EU cooperation and involvement in the Black Sea region. These have been among our most important objectives in terms of external action, an utmost priority for Romania, clearly stemming from our pivotal role as an EU Member State in the Eastern part of Europe.
History has shown us that the European project has the capacity of reinventing itself in times of crisis and is able to transform challenges into opportunities. The Bratislava Declaration adopted last year by the EU27 Member States formally opens the reflection on the Union’s future by restating the need “to broaden the EU consensus” on a set of priorities and reiterating that the EU remains an indispensable project for us all. In March this year, the European Commission will present its ‘White paper on the future of Europe’.
The re-launch of the European project needs a visionary spirit of renewed enthusiasm and the firm political will of its Member States to overcome obstacles and generate solutions. Romania expects an ambitious vision, with clear, deliverable and visionary proposals that will accommodate the expectations of Member States and citizens alike amid today’s political and economic turbulences. The lynchpins of the European project should remain solidarity and inclusion. Under their auspices, Romania is prepared to play a role in countering rising trends of xenophobic and anti-European political forces that aim at dividing European societies.
At the same time, better communicating to the European citizens the concrete benefits of a reloaded European project will contribute to restoring the credibility and attractiveness of the EU for the young generations and to ensuring in the long run a more united and cohesive stance in defending the European principles and values.
In 2019, Romania will assume for the first time the Presidency of the EU Council – an important exercise and opportunity for our country to reaffirm its European commitment. We will plead for strengthening the cohesion of EU action, based on defining and pursuing concrete and common objectives, in accordance with the interests and expectations of the European citizens from all Member States. Our efforts should allow the EU to tackle the unprecedented challenges that it is currently facing, avoid potential drawbacks in the European integration process and advance the European construction, in full respect of its core values and principles. Romania is fully committed and ready to bring its contribution to a secure and prosperous European future.