16 Feb 2011

Diplomacy, As We Know It

Author: Laura Stefan, Anti-Corruption Coordinator, Romanian Academic Society

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.

France and Germany do not want Romania in Schengen, at least not in the very near future. Why? Romania still faces significant corruption issues (I can give numerous examples: Fatuloiu scandal, Ridzi’s case or the one of Pasat). Mr Orban, presidential adviser, warned us all that if joining Schengen is not going to happen when sheduled, than the delay could last years, not months. On January 3rd, the Romanian Foreign Minister, Mr Baconshi, flexed his muscles in sending a rather surreal message to Europe: Romania is considering to unilaterally cancel EU’s monitoring mechanism on justice and corruption, and condition Croatia’s EU membership on the existence of a monitoring mechanism similar to the Romanian one (additionally, he invited those who have something against Romania, to give us a call). Now, let us discuss each of these claims one by one.

1. Romania is considering to unilaterally cancel the monitoring on justice

Romania’s EU accession was conditional on the adoption of Cooperation and Verification Mechanism – in other words, if Romania had refused the mechanism, the EU would have blocked Romania’s accession in 2007. In 2011, Romania no longer agrees with the commitment taken in 2006 and would like to refuse EU monitoring. With the sole exception that this decision is not for Romania to make, but for the European Commission. This is precisely what Mark Gray, a spokesman for the EC, was explaining on January 4th: procedurally, suppression of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism should be based on a European Commission decision, once the four benchmarks that are related to justice reform had been fulfilled. In other words, monitoring will cease to exist when we had met all our obligations. The Commission will continue to issue reports on Romania’s developments, whether Romania wants to or not. Mr. Baconschi’s belligerent attitude could only cause losses for Romania – the only thing he will succeed is to piss off our European partners, not to mention that it has no practical purpose. After the Parliament’s disaster performances in the Ridzi and Passat cases, after the scandal on the attempt to bribe the Internal Affairs State Secretary in charge of Schengen, after irregularities in the organization of elections for the new Superior Council for the Magistracy, the decision to obstruct the monitoring mechanism seems almost hilarious! Bulgarians are wiser: the CVM helps their country to progress, they wish to maintain the mechanism until EU conditionalities are fully met they stress the importance of not tying the CVM on Schengen accession.

2. Romania will condition Croatia’s EU accession on the imposition of a monitoring mechanism similar to that existing in Romania

In his rage, Mr. Baconschi threatens to take revenge on Croatia. Nice foreign policy touch… Let us explain a bit to Mr. Baconschi as well, the principle underlying the conditioning of a country’s EU accession on the acceptance of a cooperation and verification mechanism: only if a country fails to meet all conditions required for membership, the EU is able to condition the accession on issues still unsolved. That means that the cooperation and verification mechanism could be discussed only if Croatia still has solved background issues after the accession. Romania’s understanding is completely wrong: we cannot ask for Croatia to be monitored just because Romania and Bulgaria are monitored. We can ask for monitoring only if we indicate problems still unsolved in Croatia – only this would mean knowing what they are and that is a little bit more difficult than any uncivil statement of the Romanian Foreign Minister. As it can be noticed, Mark Gray did not even respond to Romania’s threat…

The conclusion is that nobody is afraid of the angry Romania. This scandal will die slowly. The story of the summer of 2010 is likely to repeat itself: you might recall probably that the president announced that Romania will conduct its own monitoring, dissatisfied as it is with the EC report. Have you seen this report? I certainly did not …

This article was published in Romanian in “Revista 22”, on January 4th.