Romania and the EU in 2017: The Case for a Backup Plan

In the UK, Brexit took the establishment completely by surprise; polls showed “Remain” winning. No matter what the future holds, isn’t it better for a country and its people to prepare for a crisis and have a backup plan rather than risk being caught off-guard? If Romania and all other EU nations are to look forward to a secure and prosperous future, shouldn’t they guard against the dangers of a damaging one?

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By Georgiana Constantin l January 30, 2017

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Today, there are not many in Romania who plan for, or even speak of, the possible effects of the disintegration of the European project. This is true despite the fact that most other countries are giving this scenario the attention it demands.

This is not to say that anyone should necessarily deem it necessary to start preparing for the imminent end of the EU. Rather, one must recognize the importance of always having an alternative strategy, a plan B. The ‘para bellum’ approach must be applied if a country is to minimize as much as possible the threat of political and economic shock and long-term instability in a potential worst case scenario. So, perhaps, the conversation should be had if only for the sake of good planning.

An honest look at the situation in Romania will reveal that, despite its political ups and downs, its corruption and occasional insistence on holding on to communist mentalities, it is in fact doing quite well compared to many of its neighbors. There aren’t as many refugees interested in the country, as the state has little to offer in terms of welfare for immigrants. With the temptation of any benefits from a ‘nanny state’ removed, a Romanian refugee crisis is non-inexistent, although the country does have a mandatory migrant quota assigned to it by Brussels. Judging by the way circumstances present themselves, however, it is unlikely there will be many migrants who will want to stay.

The economy of the country is quite stable, even though it is not as well off as those of its Western neighbors. At the same time, and perhaps also because of its lack of appeal to refugees and migrants, Romania is a European country that hasn’t known terrorist attacks such as the ones plaguing the West at present.

Meanwhile, the European Union has been, in recent years, going through countless changes, some might say, not necessarily for the better. From the financial collapse of 2008, Eurozone instabilities, debt crises, and, refugee issues to the subsequent UK Brexit vote and rise in EU skepticism across the continent, 2017 brings with it hesitation and uncertainty.

Even though predictions such as the one the controversial George Soros made following the Brexit vote that “financial markets worldwide [were] likely to remain in turmoil as the long, complicated process of political and economic divorce from the EU is negotiated” did not materialize, the markets having quickly stabilized after the vote, surprising many, it is worth noting that the turmoil in Europe is real. The billionaire businessman is now urging people to “band together to save” the EU from imminent disintegration after Brexit, stating “the catastrophic scenario that many feared has materialized, making the disintegration of the EU practically irreversible.” However, Brexit did not turn out to be the apocalypse it was predicted to be, and other states with similar grievances as the UK have taken note.

In the midst of all the tumult, Romania, a country that just entered the European Union in 2007 seems to be sailing along smoothly, so far. Skepticism towards Union membership is, emerging here as well. The effects of the EU’s rigid bureaucracy are being felt in this relatively new member country, even though, or in some cases, especially because, it is one of the ‘poorer cousins.’ It may not experience the Eurozone unrest as profoundly simply because it has not yet adopted the Euro, and, it does not suffer the burden of bailing out other countries because it does not have that much to offer in terms of financial aid. However, it is acquainted with the effects of whatever mandatory principle or behavioral requirement may emerge from Brussels.

Perhaps Romania would not fare as badly in the event of EU disintegration as would the Eurozone countries. Yet, the collapse of the common currency would most likely cause a shockwave throughout European markets.

There would certainly be no more funds to be received from the EU. This would be a disadvantage for the state as it gains more than it actually spends on contributing to the EU budget.

Many efforts have been made in Romania to harmonize laws, policies, and regulations to those of the EU. While some are viewed as beneficial, others are seen as futile or ridiculous. What effect would a potential EU breakup have on these already harmonized areas?

There are many questions to be asked and perhaps not as many answers in the event of an EU collapse. As unlikely as it seems, unfortunately, it is a development which must be taken into consideration, for, we must not forget that, only recently, any exit from the EU was considered either impossible or unlikely to be a path chosen by more wealthy members of the Union.

Nevertheless, a total breakdown was still conceivable in the case of an “exit of some of the EU’s largest economies like Germany and France.” Now the third largest economy in Europe, Great Britain, has voted to exit the Union. Germany and France will have elections in early 2017, which will determine whether these two nations embark on a course of “remain” or “exit.” The stakes for these elections are high. The votes cast in France and Germany will set the stage for either the future of the European project or for its demise.

During such times one must be careful not to substitute wishful thinking for good planning. The beginning of 2016 apparently saw the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report show that “the loss of state control, the fragility of EU institutions, and the rise of populism could bring about a disintegration process in Schengen, the Eurozone or ‘even the Single Market.’” And, this was even before the Brexit vote occurred.

In the UK, Brexit took the establishment completely by surprise; polls showed “Remain” winning. No matter what the future holds, isn’t it better for a country and its people to prepare for a crisis and have a backup plan rather than risk being caught off-guard? If Romania and all other EU nations are to look forward to a secure and prosperous future, shouldn’t they guard against the dangers of a damaging one?


Georgiana Constantin is a law graduate who has studied International, European and Romanian law at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest and is presently a political science doctoral candidate at the University of Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the online-conservative-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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