Romania, 15 years in EU. Missed chance for Republic of Moldova. Op-Ed by Anatol Țăranu



Today, Romania’s identity is intrinsically related to the Union’s identity, the liberal-inspired values and principles on which the European project was built. Instead, the Republic of Moldova, failing to assume the Romanian historical identity, frozen in the colonial identity of a Russian province or a former Soviet republic, misses the shortest path to its identification with the European identity, remaining in the zone of Eurasian civilization and geopolitical pretentions...


Anatol Țăranu

The decisive moment for Romania and the Romanian nation that started its path of European integration occurred on June 21, 1995, when the Snagov Declaration was signed by the President of Romania Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae Văcăroiu, the Presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies and by representatives of all the parliamentary parties. According to the text of the document entitled “National Strategy for Preparing Romania’s Accession to the European Union”, which was drafted by the specially set up commission and consisted of representatives of parliamentary parties, the Government, the academia and civil society, Romania was firmly determined to center its development on the promotion of the attributes of a democratic society – the rule of law, political pluralism, separation of powers, free elections, observance of human rights, including of persons belonging to national minorities, creation of an efficient and sustainable market economy compatible with the principles, norms, mechanisms, institutions and policies of the European Union.

On June 22, 1995, Romania submitted the official application for accession to the European Union as a full-fledged member, together with the National Strategy for Preparing Romania’s Accession to the EU. This was the providential and salvaging wish of a decided nation that was firmly determined to get rid of the impasse of the Communist past that was imposed on the country from outside. Unlike Romania, the young state Republic of Moldova that appeared on the world’s a map only in 1991 has never witnessed national consensus at political and societal levels about the Soviet past and the selection of the development model as a civilization option. The striking dissimilarities of the development trajectories of two European states, Romania and the Republic of Moldova, which were primarily populated by Romanian ethnics, derive from here.

Most “successful” operation for distancing Republic of Moldova from EU

Another important moment on the Romanians’ path of European integration occurred on December 10-11, 1999, when the heads of state and government of the EU member states met in Helsinki. At that summit, the leaders of the 15 EU member states agreed the list of potential accession candidates and approved the opening of talks with six Eastern European states, among which was Romania. The Republic of Moldova also had chances of being put on this list, but governmental crises started then in Chisinau, caused by the Communists and PPCD and supported by President Luchinski. As a result, the pro-European Sturza Government was removed. In the absence of a functional government in Chisinau, the European cause of the Republic of Moldova in Helsinki could not be pleaded and the unique development chance was missed this way. At that moment, there was performed one of the most “successful” operations to distance the Republic of Moldova from Romania and the EU and to maintain the Moldovan state in the area of influence of the Eurasian civilization, dominated by oligarchic and authoritarian political regimes.  

€66bn and €146bn for Romania from EU

When Romania was accepted as an EU accession candidate, Romanian society received an enormous stimulus for a major reform and on January 1, 2007 already, Romania became a full-fledged member of the European community. On January 1, 2022, it was 15 years of Romanian’s accession to the EU. That moment marked the country’s separation from the post-Communist period and the accession to the most powerful political-economic integrationist project with important benefits for the over 20 million Romanian citizens who, on January 1, 2007, became citizens of the European Union. Romania, during 15 years of membership in the EU, benefited from over €66 billion from European funds. According to data of the Ministry of Public Finance of Romania, the evolution of the financial flows between Romania and the European Union recorded the receipt of €66.2 billion, while Romania paid only €22.8 billion membership dues to the EU. This way, after 15 years of association with the EU, Romania has a positive balance of €43.39 billion European funds received over the mandatory membership dues paid into the community budget. At the same time, Romania ended the 2020 year with a record, managing to obtain almost €80 billion at negotiations on the €750 billion recovery plan Next Generation EU and on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. These funds could be used in 2021-2027. In total, by the 20th anniversary of its entry into the EU, Romania would have benefitted from at least €146 billion EU funds for development.

Civilization jump for Romania

The accessing of enormous European funds by Romania was conditioned by the profound reforms in all the spheres of life of Romanian society, finally contributing to a real civilization jump, including with an impressive content of economic and social development. From economic perspective, this is most evidently seen in the evolution of the indicator of the Gross Domestic Product of Romania that, according to Eurostat, grew from 34% to 64% of the EU average after the accession. Currently, Romania’s GDP is €220 billion, as opposed to about €98 billion in 2005.

The impressive economic development radically changed the living standards of Romanians. During the 15 years of affiliation to the EU, Romania continuously climbed in the rankings of living standards resulting from effective consumption. In 2008, a Romanian citizen afforded less than half of the consumption of an EU citizen. Now Romania rose to 70% of the EU average and for the first time left the “poverty rostrum” that was the shameful inheritance of the transition period from the Ceausescu dictatorship to the European state. Eurostat data show the living standards of the Romanians exceeded those of the Bulgarians that were at 56% of the European average. The Croatians and Hungarians come next with similar percentages – 63% and, respectively, 64%. As regards the net average income in Romania it exceeded the sum of €700 even if the European standard is of €1,600 and the Luxembourgers are the best paid citizens. In Luxembourg, the net average salary is €3,500. This is a living standard objective for all the EU member states.

Underdevelopment and stagnation, for the Republic of Moldova

Unlike Romania, the multidimensional standard curve of the development of the Republic of Moldova in the period followed a different trajectory, of underdevelopment and stagnation. During all these years, Moldova’s economy regressed or saw slow development, frequently facing crises. As a result, the Moldovan economy didn’t manage to recover after the economic decline of the 1990s, while the GDP level registered in 1990 has never been achieved. Today, Moldova’s GDP represents slightly over ¾ of the level of 1990. This is an eloquent proof of the economic underdevelopment of the state.

The economic problems had an impact on Moldovans’ living conditions. At the beginning of the period of transition, the residents of the Republic of Moldova had earnings comparable with those of the population from other states of the region. This way, in 1990 the income per capita in the Republic of Moldova was lower than the value of the similar indicator in Bulgaria or Ukraine, but was higher than the income of the population in Albania or the Caucasian states. Also, in 1990, the ratio of the income per capita in Moldova to that in the EU was 1:41.1%, comparable to that in Romania. However, owing to the “delay” in economic development, Moldova became one of the poorest states in Europe. In 2020, the ratio of the GDP per capita in Moldova to that in the EU was only 1:29.6%, which is lower than in 1990. This way, during 30 years, owing to economic development problems, Moldova became the state with the lowest income per capita in Europe.

High level of poverty and depopulation, for the Republic of Moldova

The precarious wellbeing of the Republic of Moldova’s population is also confirmed by the high level of poverty. Currently, over ¼ of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. The Republic of Moldova has one of the highest poverty rates in the European states. The most recent data for 2020 show the poverty rate was 27%. At the same time, poverty is much more pronounced in rural areas. This way, the poverty rate in towns in 2020 was 14%, while in rural areas was over 35%. Taking into account the fact that the Moldovan-Romanians constitute the largest part of the rural population, it means the natives are the poorest section of the republic’s population and, respectively, are the most disadvantaged ethnic group in the own state.

The precarious economic conditions made so that during 30 years of independence of the Republic of Moldova, its population declined by 1 million persons. At the beginning of 1991, there were slightly over 3.6 million people in the Republic of Moldova, on the right side of the Nistru. At the start of 2021, the republic’s population decreased to about 2.6 million people. The human capital available for social, economic and political transformations has permanently decreased owing to emigration and to the “brain drain’ The dramatic decline of the population became the main characteristic feature of the period of 30 years of independence of the Republic of Moldova.

More missed chances, for the Republic of Moldova

Missing the chance to become part of the EU accession process in 1999, Moldovan society remained powerfully fractured up to now. Without authentic identity, being trapped in the false vulgar-Moldovenist identity imposed through social colonial engineering, the Republic of Moldova didn’t develop as a community of united people and as a nation with consensus about its identity and history and, which is as important, about its future. Contrary to the civilization path of Romania of the last 30 years, the Republic of Moldova missed the direct benefits of the affiliation to the European Union generated by investment opportunities, access to European financing with a direct impact on the prosperity, democratic freedoms and political-military security. 

Today, Romania’s identity is intrinsically related to the Union’s identity, the liberal-inspired values and principles on which the European project was built. Instead, the Republic of Moldova, failing to assume the Romanian historical identity, frozen in the colonial identity of a Russian province or a former Soviet republic, misses the shortest path to its identification with the European identity, remaining in the zone of Eurasian civilization and geopolitical pretentions. This way, the identity-related problems generate major national security vulnerabilities, irremediably endangering the development perspective of the Republic of Moldova, including its European perspective.  

Anatol Țăranu
doctor of history, political commentator

IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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