As expected, the latest report released by the European Commission (EC) met with varied reactions among Romanian politicians, journalists and ordinary citizens. A cautious tone was evident as the country discussed the historic moment and its long-term significance.
The good news coming from Strasbourg also brought the first joint press conference by President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, whose recent relationship has been strained by differences over domestic policy.
“Mission assumed when we took office, mission accomplished,” said Basescu. He warned, however, that efforts to implement reforms must continue, in the wake of the green light from the EC.
“Romanians have a reason to be proud of their country,” Tariceanu said. “We are entering an era of certitude. In less than 100 days, the Romanians will be members of the EU, just like the British and the Germans, but they will have the same obligations.”
Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, meanwhile, reminded the public that the country only recently got back on track, after lagging behind in the reform process in prior years. “It is good we managed to fill the gap as regards previous mistakes and shortages,” he said.
Mircea Geoana, the head of the main opposition party, PSD, voiced concern about Romania’s apparent incapacity to absorb EU funds, amounting to 30 billion euros a year. Unless this is fixed, the country risks becoming a “net contributor to the EU’s budget and not a beneficiary”, he said.
“We’re also concerned that more and more countries are planning to close their labour markets to the Romanians,” Geoana added.
Local media struck an even more cautious note. Romania has “caught the last train to the EU”, the daily Evenimentul Zilei declared in a headline, crediting the millions of ordinary Romanians who have done their part to move the process forward.
Ziua warns that after a short-lived celebration, the country must prepare for the next phase, which could be just as difficult as those before. According to the paper, Romania needs a coherent and viable post-accession strategy.
“The later the governors pass the right measures to bring the national economy on the European track, the longer and more painful the accession of the Romanian society in the European community will be,” it said under the suggestive headline “EU with teeth”.
“We’re finally in, after seven years, three presidents and four prime-ministers,” rejoices Cotidianul, while emphasising that the process is not complete yet. “We are entering Europe in a moment when we are basically still away from it, and have much homework to do,” a columnist writes.
The latest report is “surprisingly positive”, observes Romania Libera. The EC, it adds, was looking for a formula that would encourage Romania and Bulgaria to carry on the reforms, without humiliating them, while calming the euro sceptics.
Romania may be returning to the European family, but its relatives are welcoming the country with their “arms wide shut”, the newspaper adds