After the Irish ‘No’: proceed with optimism

1. How does the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’ look like?


The first and most obvi­ous char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Roman­ian offi­cial posi­tion regard­ing the future of the Euro­pean Union after the Irish ‘No’ is that of a mod­er­ate opti­mism. We are deal­ing with a type of ‘wish­ful think­ing’ rather than a planned and cal­cu­lat­ed offi­cial view on what the future of Europe will look like after the Irish ref­er­en­dum dead­lock.

It is obvi­ous, when we look at the dec­la­ra­tions of the Roman­ian offi­cials in the months after the Irish ‘No’, that the key theme was the down­play­ing of this result: it is not a defeat but a mere set­back; we are con­front­ed with some sort of a road inci­dent, an unpleas­ant one indeed, but it can be solved and there is no need to change the des­ti­na­tion. Thus, the Euro­pean Union has a future and this future can­not be con­ceived by the Roman­ian offi­cials out­side the Treaty of Lis­bon.

Thus, on the 22 July 2008, dur­ing a meet­ing with his Aus­tri­an coun­ter­part, the then Roman­ian For­eign Min­is­ter (and for­mer Roman­ian per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the EU), Lazăr Comă­nes­cu, empha­sised the desire to pro­ceed with fur­ther rat­i­fi­ca­tions of the Treaty of Lis­bon as every­thing will be solved as the time pass­es by: “In this con­text, we have dis­cussed regard­ing the evo­lu­tions con­cern­ing the Treaty of Lis­bon and both sides agreed that we should pro­ceed with all the efforts, so that the con­ti­nu­ity of the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process of this treaty be assured, to come into force as soon as pos­si­ble. Obvi­ous­ly, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the real­i­ties, as we very well know what the result of the Ire­land ref­er­en­dum was, and that our Irish friends them­selves need to iden­ti­fy and advance the most ade­quate ways to solve this prob­lem. I believe there are rea­sons for opti­mism, even if we look only at the past evo­lu­tions of the Euro­pean Union. This is not the first time the Euro­pean Union was con­front­ed with sit­u­a­tions of this type, but, every time, the Euro­pean Union had proved its abil­i­ty to keep walking.”[1]

The same idea, name­ly that of a Euro­pean Union mod­elled on the basis of the Treaty of Lis­bon, was stat­ed by the for­mer Roman­ian Prime Min­is­ter, Călin Popes­cu-Tăriceanu. For him, the only way for­ward was through the French Presidency’s efforts to sup­port the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Treaty of Lis­bon: “We sup­port the efforts of the French Pres­i­den­cy of the Euro­pean Union in order to find a solu­tion to get out of the cur­rent dead­lock. Europe should prove to its cit­i­zens that the Union is a source of cer­ti­tudes and not one of dilemmas.”[2]

He seemed to see the Euro­pean Union sim­ply as an instru­ment whose role is to help Romania’s devel­op­ment: “For us, the sta­tus of mem­ber states is not a pur­pose in itself, but an instru­ment to serve the fun­da­men­tal inter­ests of the Roman­ian society.”[3] There­fore, he and his gov­ern­ment ful­ly sup­port the devel­op­ment of the Euro­pean Union: “We need, there­fore, a pow­er­ful Union in the exte­ri­or, eco­nom­i­cal­ly com­pet­i­tive and polit­i­cal­ly respect­ed, capa­ble of man­i­fest­ing itself in a con­text in which the eco­nom­ic chal­lenges are dou­bled by tur­bu­lences of the inter­na­tion­al relations.”[4]

A sim­i­lar atti­tude was adopt­ed by the Roman­ian Pres­i­dent, Tra­ian Băs­es­cu. After the Euro­pean Sum­mer Coun­cil he declared that the pri­or­i­ty should be the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Treaty of Lis­bon as its non rat­i­fi­ca­tion would affect the Euro­pean Union enlarge­ment and it would gen­er­ate a series of prob­lems relat­ing to the num­ber of the Com­mis­sion­ers and mem­bers of the Euro­pean Parliament.[5] The issue of the Com­mis­sion­ers became more vis­i­ble in the fol­low­ing months due to the per­ceived risk by Roma­nia to lose ‘its’ Com­mis­sion­er. This elicit­ed a strong reac­tion on the part of the Pres­i­dent: “We do not believe that Roma­nia will be in the sit­u­a­tion to lose a Com­mis­sion­er for a very sim­ple rea­son: Roma­nia sup­ports that, by the Decem­ber Euro­pean Coun­cil at the lat­est, solu­tion to be adopt­ed that does not cre­ate dis­cus­sions inside the Euro­pean Union before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lis­bon. There­fore, our pro­pos­al is for an exten­sion of the Treaty of Nice in all its effects, includ­ing the one that every coun­try had a Com­mis­sion­er in the Euro­pean Commission”.[6] The solu­tion to the cri­sis is, and should be, an Irish one. Thus, in the same press state­ment made after the meet­ing with the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Ire­land on the 23 Sep­tem­ber 2008, he declared that “[…] Roma­nia respects with­out any hes­i­ta­tion the deci­sion of the Irish peo­ple as expressed in last year’s ref­er­en­dum. In no case, does Roma­nia see any oth­er solu­tion, but to wait for a new deci­sion of the Irish peo­ple regard­ing the entry into force of the Treaty of Lis­bon. We reject any solu­tion of lack of sol­i­dar­i­ty in the Euro­pean Union of the 27 […].”[7] The prob­lem of the num­ber of Com­mis­sion­ers fea­tured promi­nent­ly in the pres­i­den­tial speech: “[…] our point of view is that the num­ber of Com­mis­sion­ers can­not be reduced […].”[8]

If the Roman­ian offi­cials had a more reserved opin­ion and empha­sised the need to con­tin­ue the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process, the media cov­er­age of the Irish ‘No’ was some­how less favourable. For instance, Dan Alexe, a Roman­ian jour­nal­ist, wrote in an arti­cle about how every­one lost due to this ‘No’. Iron­i­cal­ly, he remarks that the first ones to lose are the Irish them­selves, to whom this ‘No’ gives no chance to leave the Euro­pean Union if they ever want so. If they want­ed to leave the Union, the Irish had to first of all approve this doc­u­ment. The treaty defines a legal mech­a­nism through which the mem­ber states can leave the EU. In the present con­di­tions, a coun­try does not have any for­mu­la for divorce. By reject­ing the treaty, Ire­land finds itself trapped in the EU as an insect in amber, also pre­vent­ing the oth­er coun­tries to endow them­selves with a sim­u­lacrum of constitution.”[9] The idea is that every­one has lost (the mem­ber states, the can­di­date coun­tries, and the Union in itself) and it will take a while in order to recov­er; that it will be impos­si­ble with­out a more open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and with­out a wider trans­paren­cy: “The final impres­sion is that, once more, the EU showed that it does not know how to com­mu­ni­cate and that, even though Europe impreg­nates the dai­ly life of its cit­i­zens, a major­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues not to see its benefits.”[10]

The future of the Euro­pean Union seems to get dark­er in the eyes of a Roman­ian colum­nist for whom “[…] the Euro­pean Union starts to realise that it is becom­ing ungovernable.”[11] Dinu Flămând takes this is a sign that the Euro­pean Union as a whole should low­er its expec­ta­tions and become more mod­est. There is, he says, a fine line that nation states are not ready to cross, a line that defines what they con­sid­er to be some inalien­able attrib­ut­es. Yet, this accep­tance of a low­er lev­el of expec­ta­tions implies some risks as the evo­lu­tion of the world is not on hold and glob­al­i­sa­tion con­tin­ues to work even against Europe. “Prob­a­bly the Euro­pean Union will have to be more mod­est. To accept that there is a lim­it beyond which the nation­al states are no longer will­ing to give up their pre­rog­a­tives. Just that the glob­al­i­sa­tion is already a steam-roller start­ed on a very steep incline. And unit­ed, but also divid­ed, Europe risks to be quick­ly flat­tened by this steam-roller. If it does not assume even a rev­o­lu­tion of the mentalities.”[12]

Anoth­er point where the Roman­ian offi­cial posi­tion regard­ing the future of the Euro­pean Union and the Treaty of Lis­bon dif­fered sharply from that of the civ­il soci­ety was that regard­ing the num­ber of Com­mis­sion­ers. Why should we stick our ground and demand that the prin­ci­ple ‘one mem­ber state, one Com­mis­sion­er’ be the cor­ner stone of any future advance­ment? In a press arti­cle, Cris­t­ian Ghinea pro­pos­es an alter­na­tive view: “There is an alter­na­tive strat­e­gy that could bring us more real influ­ence at the EU level.”[13] So what would that strat­e­gy be? In essence, he pro­pos­es to give up the pres­tige grant­ed by hav­ing our own Com­mis­sion­er and to choose the real influ­ence. Why have a Com­mis­sion­er with a mere­ly dec­o­ra­tive func­tion and not have some Deputy Com­mis­sion­er with real pow­er that can bring us more pow­er at the EU lev­el? “Before reject­ing the Treaty of Lis­bon there was the idea that the coun­tries that will lose their Com­mis­sion­er to receive some func­tions of Deputy Com­mis­sion­er at some real impor­tant port­fo­lios. In anoth­er words, we could nego­ti­ate to give up a Com­mis­sion­er for mul­ti­lin­gual­ism (1 per­cent of the EU bud­get) for a deputy Com­mis­sion­er at the agri­cul­ture (40 per­cent of the bud­get). We could put the con­di­tion that in the future for­mu­la the new rep­re­sen­ta­tives could main­tain their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Com­mis­sion­ers col­lege, where the col­lec­tive deci­sions are taken.”[14]

How­ev­er, despite all these opin­ions, the Decem­ber 2008 Euro­pean Coun­cil appears to be favourable to Roma­nia and the future of the Euro­pean Union. The Roman­ian offi­cial lob­by for main­tain­ing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of ‘one mem­ber state, one Com­mis­sion­er’ was accom­mo­dat­ed, since the Euro­pean Coun­cil decid­ed that: “On the com­po­si­tion of the Com­mis­sion, the Euro­pean Coun­cil recalls that the Treaties cur­rent­ly in force require that the num­ber of Com­mis­sion­ers be reduced in 2009. The Euro­pean Coun­cil agrees that pro­vid­ed the Treaty of Lis­bon enters into force, a deci­sion will be tak­en, in accor­dance with the nec­es­sary legal pro­ce­dures, to the effect that the Com­mis­sion shall con­tin­ue to include one nation­al of each Mem­ber State.”[15] Fur­ther­more, it offered a series of guar­an­tees to Ire­land, if the Irish gov­ern­ment suc­ceeds in rat­i­fy­ing the Treaty of Lis­bon “by the end of the term of the cur­rent Commission.”[16]

The deci­sion was warm­ly wel­comed by the Roman­ian offi­cials who saw in it a suc­cess of the French Pres­i­den­cy and a rea­son of hope for the future. There is yet lack of debates in Roma­nia regard­ing the future elec­tions for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment that are to be held on the 9 June 2009. The polit­i­cal par­ties are now recov­er­ing from a very cost­ly and long polit­i­cal cam­paign for the domes­tic par­lia­men­tary elec­tions and have not yet decid­ed what their strat­e­gy or who their can­di­dates will be. There is also a lack of debates and offi­cial state­ments regard­ing the appoint­ment of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

As for the posi­tion of Com­mis­sion­er, up to now, there is no offi­cial state­ment but only rumors. A pos­si­ble strong can­di­date is the for­mer For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter, Lazăr Comă­nes­cu, which is seen by the Roman­ian media as the most like­ly can­di­date and so far the strongest in terms of his polit­i­cal exper­tise: “Asked on the occa­sion of a press con­fer­ence whether he would accept the posi­tion of Com­mis­sion­er, Lazăr Comă­nes­cu avoid­ed a direct answer and told with a smile that he could not pro­nounce him­self on some­thing that does not exist. “The cur­rent Com­mis­sion has anoth­er year of exis­tence. There are dis­cus­sions regard­ing how the future Com­mis­sion shall be con­sti­tut­ed, how many mem­bers it will have, if it will be con­sti­tut­ed based on the Treaty of Nice or not. I hope that by that time the Treaty of Lis­bon will be in force”[17] the for­mer min­is­ter declared. “Also, there has to be a clar­i­fi­ca­tion on how the future port­fo­lios of the Com­mis­sion will be arranged”[18], under­lined the then head of the Roman­ian diplo­ma­cy. “ […] I am among those who, tak­ing into account the speci­fici­ty of our coun­try, are in favor of offer­ing Roma­nia the port­fo­lio of agri­cul­ture and rur­al devel­op­ment, of ener­gy or of infra­struc­ture. These are absolute pri­or­i­ties for us”[19].

Among the lat­est Roman­ian offi­cial remarks regard­ing the future of the Euro­pean Union, we can cite the cur­rent gov­ern­ing pro­gramme for 2009–2012 of the Roman­ian gov­ern­ing coali­tion from Decem­ber 2008, which stip­u­lates as a Roman­ian pri­or­i­ty, that “the ver­ti­cal insti­tu­tion­al devel­op­ment con­sti­tutes the guar­an­tee of the sta­bil­i­ty and of the effi­cient func­tion­ing of the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ty; in that con­text, Roma­nia sup­ports the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Treaty of Lis­bon by all the mem­ber states, until the date of the elec­tions for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment of the year 2009”[20].

2. Transatlantic relations renewed after President Bush: top priorities


A strategic partnership — to be continued on European premises

In light of Romania’s strate­gic part­ner­ship with the Unit­ed States, a part­ner­ship achieved dur­ing the eight year tenure of George W. Bush that meant a strong Roman­ian mil­i­tary com­mit­ment in the com­bat areas in both Iraq and Afghanistan and mate­ri­alised in the US sup­port for Romania’s bid to become a NATO mem­ber. Romania’s ori­en­ta­tion in terms of for­eign pol­i­cy was gen­er­al­ly regard­ed as pro-Amer­i­can. In the pre-EU acces­sion peri­od, this meant that Romania’s posi­tion was con­trary to that of some of the most promi­nent EU mem­ber states – as it hap­pened for exam­ple over the divi­sive issue of Iraq. After becom­ing an EU mem­ber state, Roma­nia gen­er­al­ly backed the points of a com­mon Euro-Atlantic agen­da. The notable excep­tion was the issue of Koso­vo, when Roma­nia went against the US view and that of the major­i­ty of the EU mem­ber states, cit­ing the need to abide by the rule of respect of a state’s sov­er­eign­ty and ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty, and oppos­ing Kosovo’s inde­pen­dence.

The first pri­or­i­ty in the quest for redefin­ing the transat­lantic rela­tions is per­ceived in Brus­sels as con­sist­ing of the need to dis­cov­er in the new US admin­is­tra­tion a phi­los­o­phy of part­ner­ship and a per­spec­tive inclined towards mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism. Although nev­er offi­cial­ly and explic­it­ly stat­ed, the Roman­ian per­spec­tive as regards to the need for a mul­ti­lat­er­al­ist Amer­i­ca may be inferred from two of the major pro­vi­sions in the new gov­ern­ment pro­gramme, name­ly the two gov­ern­ment objec­tives which refer to “the strength­en­ing of Romania’s role in the EU as an active and influ­ent mem­ber” and “the advance­ment of the strate­gic part­ner­ship with the US”.[21] In this con­text, Roma­nia wants both a con­tin­u­a­tion of the US engage­ment in the Black Sea area and a stronger EU pres­ence in this region, and this can only be achieved in a mul­ti­lat­er­al frame­work of coop­er­a­tion in which a uni­lat­er­al­ist, ‘go it alone’ Amer­i­ca, would only bring about more Euro­pean frus­tra­tion.

While still at the draw­ing board of the transat­lantic rela­tion­ship, a sec­ond pri­or­i­ty relates to the secu­ri­ty dimen­sion, more specif­i­cal­ly the role and pre­em­i­nence of NATO in the present Euro-Atlantic secu­ri­ty struc­ture. The events dur­ing the sum­mer of 2008 in Geor­gia ques­tioned the nature of the col­lec­tive secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits the Alliance could pro­vide for states which belong to the so-called Russ­ian ‘near abroad’. They also ques­tioned the EU con­flict response capac­i­ty on the back­ground of the French EU-Presidency’s attempts at ush­er­ing in the end of NATO pre­em­i­nence over Europe in mat­ters of secu­ri­ty.

Roma­nia remains com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing NATO enlarge­ment, an engage­ment reit­er­at­ed by the for­mer Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Lazăr Comă­nes­cu, in Decem­ber 2008 at the NATO reunion in Brus­sels, and “all the deci­sions of the NATO Sum­mit in Bucharest regard­ing the per­spec­tive of Ukraine and Geor­gia to become NATO mem­bers remain per­fect­ly valid”[22]. Objec­tive­ly, after the events in Geor­gia, the Roman­ian Pres­i­dent, Tra­ian Băs­es­cu, clear­ly stat­ed that “Roma­nia will not change its posi­tion regard­ing the grant­i­ng of the Mem­ber­ship Action Plan for both Geor­gia and Ukraine”[23].

A sec­ond dimen­sion of the Roman­ian NATO engage­ment relates to the con­tin­u­a­tion of the Roman­ian mil­i­tary pres­ence in the the­atre of oper­a­tions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The neces­si­ty to car­ry on with the Roman­ian pres­ence in Iraq has been much debat­ed in the media, most argu­ments focus­ing on the idea that the “coali­tion of the will­ing” is slow­ly but sure­ly break­ing up and the Roman­ian moti­va­tion of still hav­ing troops in Iraq is, by now, obso­lete. The cur­rent For­eign Min­is­ter, Cris­t­ian Dia­cones­cu, explained this neces­si­ty from the view­point of com­mit­ments pre­vi­ous­ly tak­en by Roma­nia: “One can make the dif­fer­ence between an oppor­tunis­tic state and a state that takes on a set of oblig­a­tions in a seri­ous and respon­si­ble man­ner and car­ries them through. At this point, Roma­nia is not an oppor­tunis­tic state.”[24] Fur­ther­more, in the light of the help pledged to the Iraqi side with­in the frame­work of the bilat­er­al Roman­ian-Iraqi rela­tion­ship, but also from the per­spec­tive of a NATO mem­ber, “Roma­nia aims to be a secu­ri­ty sup­pli­er, not only a secu­ri­ty receiver”[25]. This last state­ment holds good if we also con­sid­er the Roman­ian pres­ence in the mon­i­tor­ing or rule of law mis­sions with­in the Euro­pean Secu­ri­ty and Defence Pol­i­cy frame­work in the South Cau­ca­sus or the West­ern Balka­ns, a pres­ence that the admin­is­tra­tion in Bucharest wish­es to make more sub­stan­tial in the future.

Still in terms of secu­ri­ty, Roman­ian offi­cials will con­tin­ue to stress the strate­gic impor­tance of the Black Sea area, espe­cial­ly in the con­text of the need to diver­si­fy ener­gy resources and tran­sit routes: “The Black Sea region’s strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance also resides in its gate­way posi­tion for ener­gy resources, which makes it piv­otal for Europe’s ener­gy pol­i­cy. […] we have encour­aged the inclu­sion of ener­gy secu­ri­ty as a clear-cut top­ic on the agen­da of the North-Atlantic Alliance. This is a dimen­sion in which NATO has the capac­i­ty to con­tribute to increased secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in our region.”[26]

A recon­fig­u­ra­tion of the transat­lantic rela­tion requires mutu­al trust, and this seems to be a third pri­or­i­ty for the par­ties, espe­cial­ly from the Euro­pean side. Sev­er­al mem­ber states, Roma­nia includ­ed, when speak­ing about this sense of trust also refer to the need for their cit­i­zens to be exempt­ed from the cur­rent US visa regime. Even if a bilat­er­al US-Roman­ian agree­ment was signed in Octo­ber regard­ing the ful­fil­ment of the “Visa Waiv­er Pro­gram” require­ments, the main imped­i­ment in the inclu­sion of Roma­nia in the pro­gramme is far from being over­come: the rejec­tion rate of the Roman­ian appli­ca­tions for US visas remains well beyond the 10 per­cent for­mal US threshold.[27] Roma­nia opt­ed so far for an EU frame­work of nego­ti­a­tions instead of a bilat­er­al approach and the results of this strat­e­gy have been rather unsat­is­fac­to­ry if one con­sid­ers that EU mem­ber states with which Roma­nia had a com­mon bid in this respect have been includ­ed in the programme[28] while Roma­nia has not. The lack of results makes some voic­es- like that of Ioan Mircea Paşcu, MEP for the PSD,[29] to argue that the nego­ti­a­tions car­ried through in an EU-US frame­work are “the least attrac­tive option as far as the solv­ing of the visa issue is con­cerned” and that this is a frame­work that the new mem­ber states “are forced to choose”[30].

Having Europe as a partner – the need for a single European voice

“Behold the Oba­ma change! Europe gets a part­ner of dis­cus­sion clos­er to its taste; more com­plex and thus more nuanced and more mul­ti­lat­er­al­ist. By Oba­ma-ther­a­py, the US ceas­es to be the cul­tur­al infant of Europe and is bestowed African-Euro­pean ori­gins. This will bring into the transat­lantic rela­tion the melan­choly which must have swept through the Hel­lenic world when the bar­bar­ians became emper­ors in Rome. Being deprived of their chil­dren, the Euro­peans have an addi­tion­al rea­son to stand togeth­er for their needs”[31]. Leav­ing aside the metaphor, what Adri­an Sev­erin, MEP for the PSD, and for­mer Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, tries to sug­gest is the need of a com­mon Euro­pean voice in a renewed transat­lantic rela­tion­ship.

The events in Geor­gia in the sum­mer of 2008 involved high geopo­lit­i­cal stakes for both US and EU as inter­na­tion­al actors. In the opin­ion of Ioan Mircea Paşcu, MEP for the PSD, this was a turn­ing point of the transat­lantic rela­tions, a set of events that may either weak­en or strength­en the ties across the Atlantic, because it sig­nalled the mil­i­tary come-back of Rus­sia which seems to make use of its recent­ly regained ener­gies to recov­er after the loss­es incurred in the 1990s.[32] Much more than a mere ‘syn­er­gy’ is need­ed in the area of the Black Sea and that calls for a deep­er com­mit­ment on behalf of the EU.

The issue of ener­gy seems to splin­ter the Union in almost every con­text and the recent gas cri­sis involv­ing Ukraine under­lined once more the weak­ness of the Euro­pean posi­tion fac­ing an ener­gy depen­dence on Rus­sia, which in turn affects the EU posi­tion as a uni­tary glob­al actor. For Roma­nia, the les­son the EU should learn from this last episode of the gas saga is sim­ple – the rem­e­dy is a sin­gle, coher­ent approach. The Roman­ian For­eign Min­is­ter, Cris­t­ian Dia­cones­cu, under­lines that the mere bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship between states was not enough to unblock the cri­sis and this ques­tions the effi­ca­cy of this approach in a sim­i­lar con­text in the future: “In all EU reunions, ener­gy is looked at as mat­ter of secu­ri­ty and a very impor­tant issue that every­body agrees ought to be tack­led in a uni­tary man­ner […]. This just goes to prove that both the EU and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion have to move beyond words, to action”[33].

3. Financial crisis and challenges of global governance: the EU response


Crisis report: more concern for the new member states

Daniel Dăianu, MEP for PNL[34] and for­mer Min­is­ter of Finance, addressed at the end of Octo­ber 2008 a writ­ten ques­tion to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion regard­ing the fate of emerg­ing economies, i.e. those of the new EU mem­ber states, in the cur­rent and future con­text of the cri­sis. The main objec­tion of the Roman­ian MEP is that “most talk about res­cue pack­ages in the finan­cial indus­try, in the EU, con­cerns, basi­cal­ly, Euro­zone mem­ber coun­tries and oth­er old­er EU mem­ber states. The EU new mem­ber states are hard­ly men­tioned in this regard”[35]. The trou­ble with these mem­ber states is that their economies “do not ben­e­fit of the advan­tages of hav­ing a reserve cur­ren­cy of their own, have large cur­rent account deficits, and are feel­ing the pain of the flight to safe invest­ments. All this is putting tremen­dous pres­sure on their cur­ren­cies and is com­pli­cat­ing immense­ly the tasks of local cen­tral banks”[36]. Fac­ing such risks, the ques­tion asked by the Roman­ian MEP is obvi­ous­ly legit­i­mate: “How does the Com­mis­sion intend to address the spe­cif­ic prob­lems of these economies against the back­drop of the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial cri­sis and a spread­ing reces­sion in Europe?”[37].

In this con­text, one jour­nal­ist notices that the bor­der­line between the ‘old’ and the ‘new Europe’, between the West and the East, is in force again, “and this time it relates to very real eco­nom­ic and finan­cial aspects”[38]. Fur­ther­more, the media speaks about the illu­sion of a sin­gle Euro­pean plan cre­at­ed to avert the effects of the finan­cial cri­sis and the ensu­ing reces­sion, a plan which the Union can­not force on the mem­ber states: “Even though the Euro­pean bank­ing sys­tem is more pru­dent than the Amer­i­can one, the gust of the cri­sis has long crossed past the ocean. But Europe can­not come up with a ‘fed­er­al’ type of answer for the cri­sis, it can only put for­ward a ‘coor­di­nat­ed’ one. The EU has no polit­i­cal, tech­ni­cal and juridi­cal means in order to imple­ment a com­mon plan. Each EU mem­ber state main­tains its sov­er­eign­ty in terms of bud­get, and the answer to the cri­sis remains a nation­al one”[39].

The coor­di­nat­ed response giv­en at the com­mu­ni­ty lev­el, essen­tial­ly a sin­gle Euro­pean anti-cri­sis plan made up by a piece­meal approach at the lev­el of mem­ber states, is meant to take effect in a high­ly inter­de­pen­dent eco­nom­ic world. Thus, going from a micro to a macro approach, the actors will con­tin­ue to be inter­de­pen­dent but in order to restore con­fi­dence in the sys­tem, the sys­tem itself will have to under­go a series of changes in reg­u­la­tion. This is what the EU aimed at in Novem­ber in Wash­ing­ton, at the G20 Sum­mit, and the Union’s per­for­mance in terms of the mea­sures put for­ward and the way it was rep­re­sent­ed was inter­pret­ed as a strong achieve­ment: “The image in Wash­ing­ton was that of a great suc­cess of the Euro­pean Union, present in the sum­mit both by means of its mem­bers in the G7 (the group of indus­tri­alised nations) and as a insti­tu­tion­al body per se. […] The Euro­pean Union offi­cial­ly (not to men­tion sub­text ref­er­ences) called for a fun­da­men­tal restruc­tur­ing of the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial sys­tem, based on strong reg­u­la­tions and checks from states or inter­na­tion­al struc­tures which have been del­e­gat­ed author­i­ty in this respect by the governments”[40]. The eco­nom­ic ana­lyst and for­mer Reform Min­is­ter, Ilie Şer­bă­nes­cu, goes on to argue that the pack­age of mea­sures put forth by the Union is “coor­di­nat­ed, sol­id and very broad. There were vir­tu­al­ly no prob­lems result­ed from the cur­rent cri­sis that the Union’s plan did not address and for which a treat­ment pro­pos­al was not pre­sent­ed: trans­paren­cy on the finan­cial mar­kets; risk pre­ven­tion sys­tems for high risk invest­ment funds; cen­tral role of the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund in a more effi­cient finan­cial archi­tec­ture; hold­ing in check rat­ing agen­cies and off-shore territories.”[41]

At the offi­cial lev­el, Roman­ian Pres­i­dent, Tra­ian Băs­es­cu, unveiled that the major direc­tions of the Union’s posi­tion at the G20 Sum­mit were drawn up on the occa­sion of the infor­mal reunion of the heads of state and gov­ern­ment of the EU mem­ber states that took place at the begin­ning of Novem­ber and that the EU opts for a reform of the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial sys­tem. This struc­tur­al vision that the Union has in address­ing the cri­sis, which ulti­mate­ly relates to a ‘nev­er again’ type of phi­los­o­phy, is wel­comed by the Roman­ian Pres­i­dent by virtue of the impor­tance that he attach­es to the EU posi­tion in the new glob­al con­text: “By address­ing the issue of the reform of the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial sys­tem, the Euro­pean Union – and I am mak­ing this state­ment in all respon­si­bil­i­ty – is open­ly tak­ing on a leader voca­tion in glob­al economy.”[42]

The rip­ple effect of the finan­cial cri­sis comes at a time of change in the glob­al archi­tec­ture. The world is turn­ing increas­ing­ly mul­ti­po­lar as the rise of Brazil, Rus­sia, India and Chi­na (the ‘BRICs’) has deep eco­nom­ic and geopo­lit­i­cal implications.[43] In the opin­ion of the Roman­ian Pres­i­dent, Tra­ian Băs­es­cu, the pow­er of the emerg­ing economies can under no cir­cum­stance be ignored: “It is clear that the cur­rent sys­tem, agreed in Bret­ton Woods, is a sys­tem that needs cor­rec­tions that reck­on both the strength that the EU has gained in time and the emerg­ing mar­kets. The inter­na­tion­al finan­cial sys­tem can­not be frozen in its ini­tial archi­tec­ture, because of the eco­nom­ic real­i­ties of the Euro­pean Union and those of the emerg­ing economies like Chi­na, India and Brazil.”[44]

In view of the real­i­ties of a mul­ti­po­lar world, and bear­ing in mind the Euro­pean wish for a mul­ti­lat­er­al­ist approach in the inter­na­tion­al realm, the Euro­pean Union has to stand ready to share the respon­si­bil­i­ties derived from its increas­ing­ly impor­tant role in the glob­al archi­tec­ture. Objec­tive­ly, this trans­lates into a more effi­cient ‘bur­den-shar­ing’ in all aspects of glob­al gov­er­nance, from the com­mit­ment in Afghanistan to the chal­lenges of glob­al warm­ing. As to what the future holds, Daniel Dăianu’s com­ments may offer a glimpse at what comes next: “The EU and US will come out of this cri­sis with reshaped economies (with larg­er pub­lic sec­tors) and will con­tin­ue to be, fun­da­men­tal­ly, lib­er­al democ­ra­cies. But the finan­cial cri­sis has already weak­ened them and will not halt the ascen­dan­cy of the new glob­al pow­ers. The future will be dri­ven by a com­pe­ti­tion between lib­er­al democ­ra­cy and author­i­tar­i­an forms of cap­i­tal­ism (prin­ci­pal­ly exem­pli­fied by Chi­na and Rus­sia). […] West­ern coun­tries will have to come to grips with their weak­ened rel­a­tive sta­tus in the world econ­o­my and shed much of their hubris in deal­ing with the rest of the world, for their own sake”[45].




[1] See: (last access: 9 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[2] See: (last access: 9 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[3] See: (last access: 9 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[4] Ibid.
[5] See: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[6] See: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[7] Ibid.
[8] See: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[9] See: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[10] Ibid.
[11] See: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009)-
[12] Ibid.
[13] See: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[14] Ibid.
[15] Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union: Brus­sels Euro­pean Coun­cil 11 and 12 Decem­ber 2008. Pres­i­den­cy Con­clu­sions, avail­able at: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[16] Ibid.
[17] See: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] See chap­ter 26 of Romania’s gov­ern­ment pro­gramme, Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[21] See chap­ter 25 of Romania’s gov­ern­ing pro­gramme, Decem­ber 2008, Chap­ter 25, avail­able at: (last access: 20 Decem­ber 2008).
[22] See: (last access: 20 Decem­ber 2008).
[23] See: (last access: 20 Decem­ber 2008).
[24] See: (last access: 17 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[25] Ibid.
[26] See: (last access: 20 Decem­ber 2008).
[27] In Sep­tem­ber 2008 the rejec­tion rate reached 25.5 per­cent. See:|displayArticle/articleID_14087/Dosar-Relatiile-UE-SUA.html (last access: 17 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[28] The Czech Repub­lic, Esto­nia, Latvia, Lithua­nia, Slo­va­kia and Hun­gary were includ­ed in the “Visa Waiv­er Pro­gram” in Novem­ber 2008. See: (last access: 17 Jan­u­ary 2008).
[29] Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty- Par­tidul Social Demo­c­rat (PSD).
[30] See:|displayArticle/articleID_14087/Peste-Atlantic.html (last access 17 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[31] See Adri­an Sev­erin: Schim­barea numită Oba­ma (“The change called Oba­ma”), Jur­nalul Naţion­al, 11 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 20 Decem­ber 2008).
[32] See:|displayArticle/articleID_14662/Situatia-din-Georgia-dezbatuta-si-in-Parlamentului-European.html (last access: 20 Decem­ber 2008).
[33] See: (last access: 28 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[34] Nation­al Lib­er­al Par­ty — Par­tidul Naţion­al Lib­er­al (PNL).
[35] See: (last access 15 Jan­u­ary 2009)
[36] Ibid.
[37] Ibid.
[38] See Mircea Vasiles­cu: Noua şi frag­i­la Europă (“The new and frag­ile Europe”), Dile­ma Veche, 6–12 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 17 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[39] See Rod­i­ca Palade: Autism romanesc in vreme de criza (“Roman­ian autism in times of cri­sis”), Revista 22, 15 Octo­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 17 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[40] See Ilie Şer­bă­nes­cu: G 20 – pri­ma con­secinţă majoră a crizei (“G20- the first major con­se­quence of the cri­sis”), Jur­nalul Naţion­al, 13 Jan­u­ary 2009, avail­able at:‑20–prima-consecinta-majora-a-crizei (last access: 15 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[41] Ibid.
[42] See: (last access: 15 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[43] See Daniel Dăianu: Keynes, not Marx, is back, Euro­pean Voice, 21 Octo­ber 2008, avail­able at:,-not-marx,-is-back/62757.aspx (last access: 17 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[44] See: (last access: 15 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[45] See: Daniel Dăianu: Keynes, not Marx, is back, Euro­pean Voice, 21 Octo­ber 2008, avail­able at:,-not-marx,-is-back/62757.aspx (last access: 17 Jan­u­ary 2009).