CUPRINS nr. 116-117



The Romanian Crisis



There have been quite a lot of discussions during the last months about the future of Romania’s accession to the EU in 2007. I will try to outline the future options that Romania has in the case that the European Commission will use the safeguard clauses included in the Accession Treaty. Furthermore, I will argue why the use of the mentioned clauses is not an empty concept, and what are the possible consequences for the indigenous political elites, the public opinion and the European Union.

The sandpaper revolution and the original democracy

Romania did not follow what is assumed to be a normal transition path. There are two main reasons for this deviation, first, what I call the sandpaper revolution and second the design of original democracy.

The idea of ‘sandpaper’ revolution should be understood in opposition with the ‘velvet’ revolutions that took place in the rest of CEECs. What this assumption implies is, in fact, that the democratisation process started later in Romania than in the other former communist satellites. I was able to identify this delay as being equal with the first two years of the Romanian transition. The Stalinist regime imposed by the Ceausescu was not replaced by a democratic one, but rather by an authoritarian one. The processes that took place starting with 1988 some of the other countries, begun only in 1992 in Romania. The sandpaper revolution also implied all the benevolent transfers of democratic principles from the Jiu Valley to Bucharest during the 1990, or the unfortunate events such as the Targu Mures ethnic unrests. The reform that started in Hungary1 was a peaceful one, but in the case of Romania, violence was understood for various reasons as being legitimate, and therefore was used extensively in the politics of 1990-1992.

The second reason, as mentioned above, is the design of the ‘original democracy’. The term as used here has little or near no connection with the definition of the ‘original democracy’ offered by the political elite at the beginning of the Romanian systemic change started in 1989. The only connection is that indeed the result of the transformation in Romania proved to be original, but as a definition of democracy is far from what the post-89 leaders wanted. The originality concerns how the former communist party managed to survive and to accede to power and than to direct the change for nearly six years. It is generally accepted that there is at least a communist party successor in all the former Soviet satellites (Bozoki and Iskiama, 2000, p 34). It is also commonly known that, in general, in the post- communism the political options were split between the political movements that later on transformed into political parties, reborn ‘historical parties’, and reformed communist ones (Corrin, 1993, p. 190, Dellenbrant, 1993, p. 151). Romania had no such democratic movements, nor an officially recognised reformed communist party. What could be considered as an anti-communist movement, The National Salvation Front, proved to be led by second-hand communist elite. The new power-holders transformed the movement into institution and thus the Provisional Council of National Unity was created. However they were still confronted with questions about their legitimacy.

What better way to address such legitimacy claims that the elections? Organised rather early, the first Romanian ‘free’ elections should be understood considering two criteria. First, the ‘historical parties’ and any incipient form of democratic formations had insufficient time to prepare the campaign, therefore to obtain the electorate support. Second, leaving aside the moral aspect, the transformation of a state institution, as the Provisional Council of National Unity was, into a political party, under the name of The National Salvation Front, was quite an original thing to do. The major rationale behind this transformation was to gain access to the constitution crafting. The Romanians had chosen to adopt their new constitution using a legislative/constituent assembly, therefore whoever had the majority in Parliament had the key of the new constitution. To sum up, the Romanian original democracy meant a state institution acceding to power, and than crafting a Constitution, on which basis the democratic principles of the newly introduced political order were defined.

As reading the first phrase of the third chapter of the actual Programme of Governance proposed by the new Romanian government, I remembered a great book, which I read a few years ago, “The Anatomy of Mystification” written by Mr. Stelian Tanase. According to this formulation, “The European Integration is, for nearly fifteen years, the main political objective of all the political parties that have governed Romania” (Third Chapter of the Governance Programme – European Integration, 2004). It is a very interesting assumption indeed considering that it was made in 2004. Should it be understood that all the political parties that governed Romania have been in favour of integration since 1990? Or if we extend the meaning of ‘nearly’ the time could be reduced to ten years, roughly after the Snagov Declaration of 1995? But in this case, would have not been more appropriate to refer to this period as ‘nearly ten years’ rather than fifteen? In conjunction with Mr. Tanase’s book, I feel that another type of mystification is used by the present Romanian government. I would like to call it as Euro-mystification, which is, of course, completely different than the communist one, but still a perverted presentation of the historical perceptions. In this regard, one could question the means used by the Tariceanu government in marketing the European Integration and therefore continuing the Romanian original democracy.

The Romanian Crisis

Romania is now in a middle of a crisis, defined with political correctness by Brussels as crossroad. The three major aspects of the Romanian crisis are the desire for early elections expressed by the President Basescu, the vote of the European Parliament (EP) on 13th of April, 2005 and the safeguard clauses included in the Accession Treaty.

Regarding the first aspect of the crisis, the President declared recently his support for early elections, arguing that the Alliance should have all the political power in order to be held politically responsible (President Basescu quoted by - Accessed on 09/03/2005). The signal sent by the President is that the coalition is not functioning well, which means that the actual coalition may be in a similar situation as the previous one. However, after discussion with the PM, it has been agreed upon organising a new election in the autumn of 2005, after the Accession Treaty will be signed. The Liberal Party, the other member of the Democratic Alliance, agrees on the importance of such elections but extents the blame to the opposition as well. The main question raised by this initiative is how these elections will reflect in the Commission’s Comprehensive Monitoring Report that is to be issued in the autumn of 2005. According to the Romanian President, there will be no negative reflection on the Commissions evaluation. But the only constitutional provision that allows the President to dissolve the parliament is conditioned by the refusal of the Parliament to consent upon the Prime Minister (Article 89 of the Romanian Constitution). Any such measure should not leave room for interpretation regarding its constitutionality. For Romania, the major risk would be a Commission decision stating that Romania does not fulfil the political criteria anymore.

The vote of the EP is needed as a ‘go-ahead’ for signing the Treaty. But only recently Mr. Markus Ferber, the leader of the German Christian Democrats in the EP, declared that the EU should freeze the Romanian application on the basis of the widespread corruption. If his opinion is shared by his party colleagues, a ‘no’ is then more likely to be the result of the 13th of April, as the Christian Democrats have the majority in the EP.

The safeguard clauses constitute the last of the aspects of the Romanian present crisis. As affirmed at the European Council in December 2004, ‘EU membership is now an imminent certainty’ (Conclusions of the European Council Summit, 16-17 December 2004) for Romania and Bulgaria, but it is not a guarantee for membership, as safeguards clauses were included in the Accession Treaties. These mechanisms were defined by Mr. Rehn, Commissar for Enlargement, in its speech in Bucharest on 28th of February, 2005. There are two such mechanisms, one regarding the both applicant countries, and the second one only Romania. The common one could be triggered by a recommendation of the Commission and require unanimity in the Council, just in the case of serious risk. The one regarding Romania needs only qualified majority, and refers to the specific conditions in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs and Competition. Both these safeguard clauses are applicable at any time, and may result in a postponement of enlargement for only one year. Unfortunately, there are no specific provisions what the course of the action will be, if even after one more year these countries will still fall short. The safeguard clauses should be taken seriously by the Romanian government if we consider the position adopted by the British House of Commons, which questioned the European Minister, Mr Denis McShane, about his support of the accession timetable ‘which we felt called into question the extent to which the safeguard clauses he mentioned were to be taken altogether seriously’ (British House of Commons – European Scrutiny – Third Report, 2004). I have chosen this specific British interpellation considering especially the general euroscepticism expressed by this country, and the fact that Britain is, in general, more in favour of widening the Union rather than deepening. Combined with the Brussels declarations, the safeguard clauses should be taken more seriously.

Another interesting aspect of the crisis is the brilliant pampering of Bucharest by Brussels. The political correctness is not taken to the extremes but it may be misunderstood by the Romanian politicians. All the messages, sent are in favour for the generally accepted accession timetable, but there is a real demand of effective reforms, as resulted from the declarations of Mr. Rehn, Borelli and Moscovici. The Romanian political class is usually perceived as having confused goals and interests, and its reactions to the pressure put by the EU in the attempt to obtain the needed results, may seem inappropriate2. On 25th of January 2005, the Romanian PM warned the EU that any delay will disappoint the Romanian electorate (Prime Minister Mr. Tariceanu, 2005). Even if the Romanians are the most supportive with regard to the European Union, as the last Eurobarometer pool showed, it is not a sufficient reason for the EU not to use any of the safeguard clauses.

Three Scenarios for the future

As defined by the European Union, Romania is at a crossroad. There are three possible developments, and I will attempt to draw the main reasons why they might be proffered.

Romania will join in 2007 if the ‘anticipation’ of the Council is correct, and if the Romanian government will manage to effectively implement all the aquis (Conclusions of the European Council Summit, 16-17 December 2004). As specified in the roadmaps for both Bulgaria and Romania, there will be a considerable increase in the financial assistance offered by the EU to these countries after the 2004 enlargement. The financial implications were setup in the Annex of the Roadmaps, and they are as fallows: 2004 860 million, increased in 2005 to 931 and finally in 2006, the year before accession to 1 billion (Roadmaps for Bulgaria and Romania, 2002). Moreover, Romania will be the beneficiary of 10 billion per year after the accession between 2007 and 2009. Of course there are strings attached, as the Commission’s recommendation was for Romania to improve its absorption capacity. The importance of accession in 2007, except for its obvious implications, will have an even more important national one. The success in this race is possible only by a combined effort of all the political forces; the accession will therefore prove that such an effort is possible.

The Romanian PM is right in mentioning the public support that the EU has in Romania, especially in the context of rather disastrous results of the last elections for the European Parliament in the new member states (Chan, 2004). Romania is the biggest country in size in the actual group of negotiating candidates; therefore, maintaining the positive attitude is assessed as enhancing positive results. One of the main reasons for the EU eastwards enlargements was the need of security in the region (Jones, 2001, p 463 and Barnes: 1995, p.395). Postponing Romania’s accession could cause some turbulence in the country, by providing the nationalist parties with the means for transforming their ideologies in euroscepticism. The last important reason is the moral one, as the EU is not willing to accept failure in the context of increased financial assistance and constant monitoring.

For Romania the only objective is to join in 2007. In the context of a successful integration, the main beneficiary would be the Democratic Alliance. If successful, the Liberal Party and the Democrats will be the main political parties to alternate to power in the European Romania. The role of the Social Democrats will be diminished, especially in the case of a witch hunt against corruption.

Romania will join by 2008 if any of the safeguards clauses will be used. If Romania will not produce the much needed results by the autumn of 2006, the safeguards may come in effect.

Why would the EU use the safeguards? First, it does so to protect its image in the world. It is not the aim of EU to show any form of weakness, and the risks of having an improperly prepared member are too high for the Union. Following the rationale behind the previous enlargements, the EEC/EU never accepted more than one country after a big enlargement. Greece acceded in 1981, following the 1973 momentum, when Denmark, Ireland and United Kingdom joined. The unofficial 1990 enlargement by inclusion was preceded by the inclusion of Spain and Portugal, and followed by the 1995 one when Austria, Finland and Sweden joined. The only big enlargement that was not preceded by a small one was in 2004. After the inclusion of the new ten member states it is possible that the Union preferences to be in the favour of another small enlargement saying ‘yes’ to Bulgaria only.

Romania has no reasons to aim for the use of the safeguard clauses. If the safeguards are used, first, there will be the real possibility for the country to be adequately prepared for accession, and second, it is most likely that Romania will benefit from extra financial assistance. Internally, it may produce undesired results, in the terms defined above, when referring to the possible rise of the euroscepticism. In this case, the early elections will be called by the Social Democrats, and the result might be the exclusion of the Democrats from the political life. The parallel is based on the National Peasants Christian Party exclusion, after the 1996-2000 government. If so, it is more likely that Romania will have a two party system or if taken to the extremes it may transform into a democracy based on one and a half party system.

Romania’s accession will be postponed until further notice under three circumstances. First, if the EP will vote against signing the Accession Treaty on 13th of April, 2005 the Romanian application will be put on hold. Second, if the Commission will conclude that Romania does not fulfil the political criteria, in the case of early elections. If the safeguard clauses will be used, it is then expected that Romania will join the EU in 2008. However, there are no provisions at this stage for a further failure of integrating the aquis into the national law after the 2008.

This is the worst scenario for Romania, because it will delay the accession by more than few years. If the early elections will not be held before 2008, than that should be the year for Parliamentary elections. The electorate is most likely to cast its votes for the Social Democrats, blaming the failure of accession on the current coalition. Also at a general level, the delay may trigger not only a decrease in the support of the Romanians for the Union, but also some sort of political apathy, which will cause non – political involvement.

For the EU as well, the postponement of Romania is not the best option. It will be a three level failure including political, economic and social aspects. On the political level, the Union will fail to negotiate effectively, while the use of more extra budgetary resources is likely to raise questions especially from the ten new members. Addressing the social level, EU will lose its public support, and this is not the aim.


Whether Romania will join the EU in 2007 or not is still uncertain, but there are positive signals being sent by Brussels. The willingness of the EU in offering the ‘membership card’ to Romania cannot be denied, but for now when it will be offered, depends only upon the Romanians government actions. It is up not only to the actual government but to all the political forces to reconsider their position towards European integration. If there was any truth in the Snagov Declaration, then the EU should become once more the goal of the developments. During the years, the EU became an electoral slogan used by the political parties, not to say an instrument of acceding to power, used both by the democratic forces and by the reformed communists. The Romanian bid for European membership in 2007, could become reality only by a combined effort of both the government and the opposition.


1 I have chosen Hungary as an comparison subject due to its geographical proximity to Romania, and the complete political antithesis at the beginning of the ‘90s
2 I am considering the declarations of Mr. Basescu regarding corrupt country labeling.

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http://www:// (Accessed on 09/03/2005) (Accessed on 09/03/2005)

- BA in European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania 2003. Institutional Affiliation: Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Enrollment: Honours of Masters of Arts, by research, commenced September 2004. Topic: The Guided Transition, Romania’s Exceptional Transition Path. Conference Papers: December 2004, Melbourne, Australia, “Theories of Transition”; February 2005, Canberra Australia, “Romania’s Exceptional Transition Path”; March 2005, Canberra Australia, “The Blind and the Legless – a perspective on the EU – CEECs relations”; April 2005, Oxford, UK, “The Winding Road to Europe”.




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