The state of votes
Fulfilling requirements is not enough, external support is necessary
Liliana Gheorghe|translated by: Kummer Lívia
Fulfilling requirements internally is necessary before accession
Topan Bogdan| translated by: Kummer Lívia
Liliana Gheorghe | translated by: Kummer Lívia | 2013. July 31. 08:48
The integration process to the Schengen Area has been opened as soon as Romania entered the European Union. Despite its efforts, Romania cannot achieve its objective, above all because of the lack of consensus of current member states, whose unanimous vote would be crucial.
Upon accession to the European Union in January 2007, Romania embarked on the process of further European integration. This back then implied a commitment to a future integration to the Schengen Area. In the Accession Treaty of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union, integrating the Schengen Area is defined as a priority. Moreover, Romania wanted to participate in all forms of cooperation that made a deeper integration of the country possible. Nevertheless, after more than six years, Romania has not reached its goal. The few European countries that oppose the integration point to the fact that Romania has not completely solved its problems of corruption as well as the issue of border security. Given that membership must be voted in unanimously by the members of the Council, Romania is blocked in midstream. It is however not solely responsible for this situation, as some may suggest. The lack of a clear position from the side of the European Union has left many disappointed
As was already mentioned, the process of integration of the Schengen Area was opened during the accession of Romania to the European Union. On 28 June 2007, Romania presents a declaration of preparation by which it is committing itself to the integration process of the Schengen Area. Thus, negotiations are opened for three areas: visas, police cooperation and border protection. Between 2009 and 2010 several technical assessments occur, which are intended to decide whether Romania has attained the prerequisites of Schengen accession in the forementioned areas. In June 2011, the Council of Justice and home affairs decided that the evaluation process has had a positive outcome for Romania, who fulfills the conditions. This influences the opinion of the European Parliament which decides in favor of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria.
Despite all these steps were seem to go well for Romania, the process has been blocked repeatedly by the opposition of different member states. Recently (March 2013), Germany has shown its opposition to the entry of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen Area. That was not the first time that a member state showed reluctance. Before Germany, the Netherlands and Finland have expressed the same position, invoking (as always) the argument of persisting corruption. Consequently, despite their efforts, the two countries cannot achieve their goals mainly because of lack of consensus among the members of the Union. It is the process of decision-making by unanimous voting that has repeatedly blocked Romanian and Bulgarian access to the Schengen Area. At the end of the day, what should be reformed? The internal situation in Bulgaria and Romania or the functioning of the European Union?
The first signs of opposition to the Romanian and Bulgarian membership came in 2010 with the affair of Roma immigrants in France and their forced deportation back to their countries of origin. This was followed by the opposition of the Netherlands, Finland and more recently, of Germany. In 2010, Romania has committed itself further to the fight against corruption. Nevertheless we have to accept that corruption is still one of the major diseases that prevent the development of the country and, unfortunately, one of the legacies of the communist regime that promoted relationships, family relationships and abuse of power rather than meritocracy, a system in which people can access higher positions based solely on their merits. However, in the post-communist period, the fight against corruption was one of the priorities of Romania and has become a primary goal for the country in the process of European integration. Regarding corruption at the borders, several steps have been taken to combat this phenomenon. Campaigns remind that giving and receiving bribes is an offense have been implemented in all public institutions, including those that deal with border control. In addition, repeated anti-corruption raids were carried out in the border areas of the country: we may recall the controls of 2011, when many officials working in Customs have been sanctioned for corruption. Controls in 2011 were held in several border areas, such as the naval port of Constanta.Thus, we can see that Romania is actively engaged in the fight against corruption. However, this practice is still rooted in attitudes and romanian habits and it takes time to change that.
The issue of Romanian accession to the Schengen Area is far from being resolved. However, the President has recently reiterated that the main objective of the country remains the integration of the Schengen Area and the adoption of the single currency, which will allow Romania a real European integration. As a result, negotiations with Romanian authorities continue, but we have to understand that efforts must come not only from the Romanian part, but also from the European Union, whose members should agree in order to reach a consensus.
Topan Bogdan | translated by: Kummer Lívia | 2013. July 31. 08:48
Morals do not change as quickly as the political situation. Romanian societal logic must evolve in order to meet the standards of a society governed by the rule of law before the country can enter the Schengen area. Above all, we must stop fulfilling empty shells and concentrate on the substance of the requirements.
Germany has refused the Romanian entry to the Schengen Area because of "technical problems" or in other words suspicions of corruption at the national level. Before that, the Netherlands had also rejected the possibility of including Romania in the Schengen Area because of "unsatisfactory results" concerning the mechanisms of cooperation and verification. Because of several examples of corruptionat customs and illegal border businesses, the chances of an imminent integration remain thin, especially since an opposition at the national level is now present. This opposition is represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Titus Corlăţean who got into a querrel with President Traian Basescu, the latter having ordered to remove his proposition. These suspicisons of corruption jusitify the prudence of the European Union vis-à-vis Romanian integration of the Schengen Area.
Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007. Everyone agreed back then that Romania and Bulgaria were two countries still suffering from internal problems both from an economic and from an organizational point of view. Although enormous progress has been made since then, corruption - a legacy of communist systems - remains an area where improvement is still necessary. Some, however, question the consistency of their position; inside the European Union but outside the Schengen Area.
It is necessary to emphasisze once again that the European Union and the Schengen Area are not identical. If the EU grants certain benefits from an economic standpoint, the Schengen Area is a guarantee of security against external threats. If the outcome of rapports was favourable for Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 at the time of their entry into the EU, the actual situation was not as bright. The biggest concern on the part of Western countries is that Romania and Bulgaria are the last countries on the border of the "other Europe", that is to say, the last two countries with direct borders to regions that are not part of the territory of European security. Smugglers from Turkey are directed to Bulgaria and Romania, as well as arms trafficking with the Republic of Moldova. Human trafficking from the two countries is still quite high. Concerns about potential new sources of criminality are the main arguments of the other European countries. And they are right. However, the biggest problem of European leaders who rejected the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, is the expected wave of emigration after the entry of the two countries to the Schengen Area. The constant wave of immigration after the fall of communist regimes in 1989-1990 shows that the immigration flow will more than likely remain constant after a possible accession to Schengen. Another potential source of problems is the fact that Romania and Bulgaria do not have the Euro yet. The conversion rate between the euro and the local currency will affect the level of the cost of living in these countries. So many concerns which seem to jusitify the cautiousness of other member states as well as a part of the Romanian elites vis-à-vis the country's integration to the Schengen Area.
It has been difficult to change recurring habits in the national landscape for long. Morals do not change as quickly as the political situation. The problem of widespread corruption at the national level is not goign to be solved if a quick accession is granted to Romania and Bulgaria. The inhabitants of the neighboring countries are wary about the arrival of Romanians and Bulgarians, and access without serious preparation will create as an effect a rather difficult acceptance of the new immigrants. One can see already the campaign that the British press has carried out as an example showing the reluctance of people in the affected countries. The example of the 2011 corruption scandals at the borders, when dozens of customs officers were sanctioned, shows that corruption remainsan issue to be dealt with. The system which still works under a communist logic in some areas, that is to say, with power relations determined by familly relationships and illicit affairs supported by politicians, shows that Romania still has to adapt to enter a formation of such importance as the Schengen Area.
Romania makes efforts to join the Schengen Area, but that is not enough. Societal logic must evolve to meet the standards of citizens governed by the rule of law. We must stop developing "forms without substance". Thus it would be wiser to wait and access Schengen on appropriate terms, rather than trying to break in and en dup being poorly received.
Liliana Gheorghe|translated by: Kummer Lívia
Topan Bogdan| translated by: Kummer Lívia
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