Bulgaria and Romania to Enter in 2007?

Amidst all the fanfare about negotiations opening on Turkey’s membership, we shouldn’t lose sight of other things that are in the pipeline. EU enlargement commissioner G?nter Verhuegen has just given Bulgaria and Romania the green light for a January 2007 target date.

?For the year 2007 we feel that accession may be appropriate and these two countries will be ready by then,? Verhuegen said.

?Negotiations with Bulgaria are technically speaking closed. We wish to conclude negotiations with Romania by the end of the year, we are aware that this will be difficult.?

Now I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood here. I am perfectly happy with Bulgaria and Romania as EU members, under the right conditions, just as I am happy with Turkish membership. But I do think that Turkey’s point about the same standards being applied is a valid one. I personally – and based among other things on extensive converstaions with migrants from these countries – have plenty of reservations about just how ‘ready’ these societies are if we are using the yardstick currently (correctly) being applied to Turkey. Corruption and lawlessness would be among the issues that immediately spring to mind. So, if there is a time to ‘turn the screw’, it is now.

Mid-term I am still convinced that Turkey will have much more to offer economically. Both Rumania and Bulgaria already suffer from many of the major problems facing existing EU member states – low fertility, rapid ageing, serious problems in paying pensions moving forward – and they have the added problem of the meaningful functioning of their democratic processes. Turkey is already making important steps forward, it would be nice to feel re-assured that the other two were.

Addendum: North Sea Diaries has a spoof text of a speech Erdogan might have made to the Turkish parliament explaining how the EU meets Turkey’s criteria as a suitable place to be. As our diarist wryly puts it “he made it clear the EU would be allowed to join Turkey”. You can find a summary of the speech he actually made in Strasbourg here.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Transition and accession and tagged , , , by Edward Hugh. Bookmark the permalink.

About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

13 thoughts on “Bulgaria and Romania to Enter in 2007?

  1. There is no principal opposition to Romania and Bulgaria joining the EU. That is in marked contrast to the question of Turkey. Whether this is justified or not is another question. There’s no justification to hurt Romania and Bulgaria for the emotional benefit of Turkey.

    Furthermore, what you see as a benefit of Turkish membership, the demographic question, others see as the problem of Turkish membership. Two medium sized countries with standard demographics don’t matter much to the EU as a whole, yet the benefit to Romania and Bulgaria is great. So we can just get over with it and do it.

  2. “what you see as a benefit of Turkish membership, the demographic question, others see as the problem of Turkish membership”.

    Yes, well what I’m saying very clearly is that these ‘others’ have the problem upside down. I would hazard a guess that it will be easier to get hospital treatment in Ankara in 2015 than it will be in Berlin, or Rome, or Madrid.

    “with standard demographics”

    Of course if you call fertility rates of around 1.2 standard demographics……

    Or rapid ageing with minimum accumulated wealth and pension provision…..

    “don’t matter much to the EU as a whole”

    Yes, we can all sink nicely together.

    Look, I am not against helping Bulgaria and Romania, the question I am asking is who is going to help us?

    “So we can just get over with it and do it.”

    This is the approach I am complaining about. B&R really want to join, we have the possibility of bringing considerable pressure on the respective governments and politicians for making changes, changes which will benefit the vast majority of ordinary Bulgarians and Romanians. This we should do. We should be extraordinarily rigorous, as we should be with Turkey.

  3. I suspect the political difficulties are really the issue for Turkey, since it is hardly unusual for the entry criteria to be fudged when it deemed expedient. I should certainly say the notion of Romania having a functioning market economy has come as something of a surprise. While it is certainly true that Turkish membership could resolve many of Europe’s demographic and economic difficulties, the political and social factors appear the critical ones. My own feelings are ambivalent. I dislike the implicit racism that some European states are bringing to bear on this issue. On the other hand, I can’t deny that the prospect of Turkish membership could easily be a boon to far right parties in those countries.

  4. Look, I am not against helping Bulgaria and Romania, the question I am asking is who is going to help us?

    Nobody. The idea that an area with a population of the current EU could be given enough external support to matter is unrealistic. Europe must solve its demographic problem itself.
    Immigration may be a helpful to that, but it is independent of EU membership. If you take the cynical line you’d want the additional attractiveness of the EU to better be abled to choose immigrants.

    This is the approach I am complaining about. B&R really want to join, we have the possibility of bringing considerable pressure on the respective governments and politicians for making changes,

    Why would such benefits outweigh the disadvantages of a longer delay? Why would the EU have an obligation to force countries to their own good against their will?

    We should be extraordinarily rigorous, as we should be with Turkey.

    We are rigorous for our own benefits and as a delay tactic. It has no connection with Turkish welfare.

  5. Why would the EU have an obligation to force countries to their own good against their will?

    This is the accession process in a nutshell. Your transition country has to take on the acquis to gain admission to the EU. Many things in the acquis injure domestic special interests. Many things annoy local potentates. Many things require the bureaucracies to try to be on the up and up, which they often weren’t.

    The blue and gold bulldozer pushes all of these narrow interests to the side and clears the field for EU membership.

    While special pleading might have a chance if reform efforts were just a matter of partisan wrangling in Sofia (or Riga or Valletta or Prague…), when the issue is framed as “reform or block EU admission,” change happens.

    The Union is a mighty engine for the general interest rather than the particular. That this change engine can also spew money gives it more power.

    As to why, I’d say it’s like what Truman purpotedly said about his job, “Why do I have to spend all day on the phone getting people to do what they ought to have sense enough to do already?”

  6. Oliver has an excellent point, which needs to be underlined.

    Turkey cannot “save” the EU. Its population growth rate is already declining quickly and will continue to do so over the 15 years remaining. Europe is too big and too rich to be saved by someone from outside.

    If the demographic change is a huge problem, then Europe can only save itself.

    Don’t believe that by admitting Turkey you solve whatever problem you believe exists. Turkey is to o small and too poor to save Europe from whatever it is you think will happen.

  7. Your transition country has to take on the acquis to gain admission to the EU. Many things in the acquis injure domestic special interests.

    That’s done for the benefit of the common market and has no element of charity.

    While special pleading might have a chance if reform efforts were just a matter of partisan wrangling in Sofia (or Riga or Valletta or Prague…), when the issue is framed as “reform or block EU admission,” change happens.

    That is among the chief things that breed an unrealistic, even childish, political culture. Turning Brussels into the bogeyman might work in the short term, but that doesn’t help us. We need to learn that our problems must be solved and the sacrificies thereby necessitated endured because they are our problems, not because Brussels demands it.

  8. “I should certainly say the notion of Romania having a functioning market economy has come as something of a surprise.”

    The same could be said about Bulgaria. Turkey undoubtedly has a much more diverse and dynamic economy than either of those two. Both countries suffer from the same demographic problems that the west does.

    On a cultural level R & B fit much more easily into the EU and have much better educated populations.

  9. “Don’t believe that by admitting Turkey you solve whatever problem you believe exists.”

    Point taken. I don’t believe that Turkey alone will solve the problem. I just believe it will be a step in the right direction. What I am arguing is that we need to change the way we think about these things, re-order our priorities.

    Clearly we also need a major rethink on immigration, and there is some evidence that this is starting to happen.

    As for B&R and the other recent 10, we should be aware that these countries are going to face major fiscal liabilities that it will be difficult for them to shoulder alone, since they have rapid ageing and do NOT HAVE substantial provision in place in terms of accumulated wealth to face this.

    I am a practising agnostic (with major downside fears) on the future of the EU, but if we accept the bright-side hypothesis of all this working, then we could try to cast our minds forward 10 years and see what specific problems could confront a “federal type” agency in Brussels (and this, IMHO, is what you will need to make the euro work) in balancing needs and resources across the widened EU. Turkey in this context could be a positive factor.

    I also don’t think we are talking about such a poor Turkey come 2015.

  10. Full agreement with Edward’s initial point and Doug’s comment. The breaking point in the remaining enlargement steps in the Balkans is rule of law, transparency and serious anti-corruption efforts.

  11. I also don’t think we are talking about such a poor Turkey come 2015.

    If the GNP of Turkey doubled till 2015, which is a very optimistic assumption (7% growth per annum), it would still be about the same GNP per capita as Hungary is today. In terms of EU buget Turkey is a net drain for the forseeable future. See:
    http://www.worldbank.org/data/databytopic/GNIPC.pdf

  12. On the other hand, I can’t deny that the prospect of Turkish membership could easily be a boon to far right parties in those countries

    I don’t buy into this argument. J?rg Haider, for example, is pro-Turkish membership. Besides, are we going to let ourselves be blackmailed by fascists?

    On a cultural level R & B fit much more easily into the EU and have much better educated populations.

    The education point is dubious in the case of Romania, EU-serf (though correct in the case of Bulgaria). While the Romanian ?lite are undoubtedly well educated, well, so are the Turkish ?lite. And doesn’t Bulgaria have a large and well integrated Turkish minority?

  13. “We need to learn that our problems must be solved and the sacrificies thereby necessitated endured because they are our problems, not because Brussels demands it.”

    You can say it easily but politicians are as they are. I was happy with Brussels pressuring my countries’ politicians to do a few things they wouldn’t have on their own or even on their voter’s demands. In fact, I would have welcomed some more pressure on certain issues (the situation of Gypsies among them).

Comments are closed.