Tag Archives: reform

EU Enlargement: Enjoy the process!

The Economist has quite a good commentary about EU enlargement and the limited influence of the EU once a country has joined the club:

A common feature in all these tales is the limited leverage of Brussels. It is often said that the EU‘s enlargement policy has been the most potent tool yet devised to entice its neighbours along the road to free-market democracy—far more effective than anything the United States has found to wield over its southern neighbours. But the corollary is a loss of influence after a country actually joins. The pattern of intensive reform to qualify, followed by a let-up in the process once membership is achieved, is too common to be mere happenstance.

(…)

There is another big problem with this game: the behaviour of old EU members. Mr Rehn notes that, if one took the worst features of every old EU country, one could easily come up with an amalgam that would barely meet any of the criteria for EU membership. To take just one example often cited by new members, Italy can hardly claim to be free of organised crime.

Click here to read the whole article!

While reading the article I remembered a very good comment made by Osman Topcagic, the Director of the Directorate for European Integration for Bosnia and Herzegovina whom I met a few weeks ago. He was fully aware of the above mentioned problem and instead emphasized the importance of the enlargement process in itself. Basically he said something along these lines (unfortunately I did not write down the exact words of the statement): It is not important when Bosnia joins the EU, it is important that we reform our country which is the most challenging task ahead of us. The EU helps facilitating this process and therefore we should enjoy the process because this is the time of improvements. And ultimately everyone would like to see improvements.

So, I guess the times are changing. The EU has learned from its mistakes and introduced stricter benchmarks, that can trigger restrictions also after EU accession. At the same time, politicians, especially in the Balkans (Turkey is indeed a different case), see EU accession as a chance to reform the respective countries.

Now only the old EU member states should start thinking about the issue…

Dysfunctional Romania

The Financial Times has a very accurate analysis of the state of politics in Romania:

One word probably best describes the political process in Romania, little more than a year after the country joined the European Union. It is dysfunctional.

A minority government is forced to scrape together a spendthrift budget with the erratic support of its sworn opponents. A venal parliament votes to protect its members from any investigation for corruption. Political parties baulk at obeying the orders of their elected leaders. A populist president blocks the prime minister’s decisions and appointments, but lacks the power to sack him. The bureaucracy itself is paralysed by fear of taking any initiative, lest it be accused of the very corruption its political masters refuse to acknowledge. All seem to conspire to undermine any hope of coherent decision-making.

“Who rules Romania?” is a perfectly valid question to ask. No one can give a clear answer. The government has been effectively hamstrung for the past year, ever since the ruling coalition fell apart bitterly in March last year just 90 days after the heady celebrations that marked EU accession.

(…)

It is unclear whether the real problem lies with the personalities, or the ambiguous constitution they inherited as part of the erratic post-Communist transition that Romania has pursued since the violent overthrow and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s dictator, in 1989. (read the rest of the article here)

Unfortunately the article does not elaborate on the institutional shortcomings that are in my opinion the major underlying problem of the constant political crisis in Romania.

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Romania needs a new constitution!

After all the political scandals in Romania, it becomes clear that only a new constitution can bring the much needed reform to the country. But first lets look at some problems that the country is facing:

It seems that, after EU accession, reform willingness has somewhat disappeared. This can be seen as a result of letting Romania join the EU although it was not fully prepared. However, the European Commission is still monitoring progress in key policy areas and also has the power to activate several safeguard measures that could for example make every judicial verdict not valid throughout the EU, a truly humiliating step for any EU member state. The latest progress report of the European Commission concludes:

Delays have occurred in implementing a coherent recruitment strategy for the judiciary (benchmark 1), in the establishment of a National Integrity Agency (benchmark 2) and in developing an overall strategy and implementing flagship projects to fight local corruption (benchmark 4). Romania should particularly step up its efforts in the fight against high-level corruption (benchmark 3) and should strengthen its efforts to maintain the legal and institutional stability of the Romanian anti-corruption framework.

That sounds rather diplomatic, but actually Romania has deep-rooted problems and the Commission should not hesitate to trigger the safeguard clauses if no improvements are reported by June, when the next report is due.

Constitutional Court RomaniaEspecially the judiciary produced quite a number of scandals lately. The Romanian Constitutional Court declared that the law regulating the work of the CNSAS (the institution dealing with the Securitate files) is partly unconstitutional. This highly controversial decision forced CNSAS to stop its operations, at least for the time being! Read here about the background story of Romanias’ “Sluggish processing of the past”. Quite a strange coincidence is that just this week CNSAS announced the first results of an ongoing investigation that showed that 1 in 5 Romanian judges were key collaborators of the infamous secret police Securitate.

And now the same Court decided that the President has the right to reject the first candidate (proposed by the Prime Minister) for a ministerial post. (The case was brought before the Court following President Basescu’s refusal to appoint Norica Nicolai as Minister of Justice.) However, according to the ruling, he can only block the candidate once, which can be seen as a rather weak competence. The problem is that the very same Constitutional Court came to a contradictory ruling a few months ago in the case of Foreign Minister Cioroianu. In this case, the Court ruled that the President does not have the right to reject any proposed candidate. It is now an open secret that the rulings of the Romanian Constitutional Court are politically biased.

This has to be put in context with the developments from last year, which I covered here and here. But all these problems are related and, in fact, could be seen as results of the ill-conceived Romanian constitution or, as Mircea Marian (translation via eurotopics) puts it: “The constitution, contrived in 1991 and corrected cosmetically in 2003, is a disaster. Romania needs a new constitution. And it must be designed either for a presidential republic or a parliamentary republic. But not for a ‘semi’-republic, a monster with two heads that spit fire at each other.”

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