2006-12-29 Nick Champeaux
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Romania and Bulgaria are joining the European Union

An elderly Romanian man pins the European Union flag to a Romanian flag hanging from his balcony on the outskirts of Iasi, northern RomaniaAn elderly Romanian man pins the European Union flag to a Romanian flag hanging from his balcony on the outskirts of Iasi, northern Romania
It’s normal that European citizens have fears, at the same time I think that we have duties, and these involve explaining to our citizens what is really happening, because inaccurate information about new member states can be misleading, and we want to avoid that. With regards to the labour force, we are again in the area of made-up stories and tall tales, because according to our estimations, we have reached the maximum of people who have left Romania to work abroad. Still on the issue of this labour force which is scaring everybody, according to studies made by the European Commission, free movement has been very useful for the economic growth of Europe, and it has helped to eliminate or to diminish the grey economy, it has been the success, and not the non success, of Europe.

Do you have the feeling that people in Romania and mainly farmers and owners of small and medium sized companies, are well informed with regards to the implications of EU membership ? Their products, whether manufactured or not, will have to meet EU standards. Are they ready?

Romania's EU integration Minister, Anca Daniela BoagiuRomania's EU integration Minister, Anca Daniela Boagiu
You are never well informed in Europe, because things are changing at such a fast pace. It’s always tough to change mentalities. Romania is a rural country, forty per cent of our population live in rural areas, 20 per cent work in the agricultural sector. But it’s the beauty of the work, to be capable to give them the right arguments to convince them, that in Europe, we have such rules because protecting the environment is good for all of us, because applying the new rules means a good access to the internal European market, these are things that they should understand, and they do understand them I have to say.

A sign welcoming Bulgaria and Romania into European UnionA sign welcoming Bulgaria and Romania into European Union
Another reason why people in Western Europe are sceptical, is that new member states tend to align with Washington on foreign policy issues. Member states from the former communist block have sent troops to Iraq, so did Romania, and there is also the issue of secret CIA prisons in Romania. Is Romania really willing to help the EU draw-up a genuine foreign policy, or will it be stuck between Brussels and Washington ?

I know that this is one of the widespread false concerns about Romania in Europe, and I will not be diplomatic this time, because I think sometimes we are exaggerating and are inventing stories about countries. Romania showed its political will to fulfil all its commitments according to the treaty, Romania showed that it can be an excellent partner inside the EU, an excellent partner dealing with the security issues of the EU, an excellent partner who understood that being the second external border of the EU is a huge responsibility. So I don’t think it is fair to blame Romania and to spread rumours like this one, when Romania is proving that it’s acting as a European country. Also, we never said that the partnership with the US was Romania’s priority.

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