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21.3.2006 Anca Daniela Boagiu, Romanian Euroopan integraatioministeri: Romania in the EU: The Last Preparation

Anca Daniela Boagiu
Romanian Minister of European Integration
Romania in the EU: The Last Preparation
Speech - 21st of March 2006, Paasikivi Society

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My distinguished colleagues,

1 feel honored by the opportunity to be among the representatives of the prestigious Paasikivi Institute, particularly as I was very willing to have a firsthand grasp of Finland's perspective on the forthcoming enlargement of the European Union. The Europe I am referring to here is a dynamic Europe; a Europe to which the May 2004 enlargement has brought a breath of fresh air, a Europe that is ready again to accept two new members belonging to the same family, Romania and Bulgaria. And with each day, we are getting closer to this symbolic family reunion.

First of all, I would like to say that it is my sincere hope that my participation in the debate at the Paasikivi Institute will further strengthen the Romanian-Finnish relations. All this bearing in mind that by the time Finland will assume the presidency of the European Council (1st July 2006), Romania will know for sure whether its full EU membership beginning on 1st of January 2007 is granted or not. In this regard, it will be equally important for both Romania and Finland to be more aware about how they can contribute to the new European construction. My aim today is to open a new type of dynamic dialogue between our countries, as I strongly believe that sharing ideas and respecting opinions is the best way for Europe to address its challenges.

Shedding more light on the European answer

Today the EU is undergoing a tremendous process of transformation to meet the new challenges of our times. Integrating the new Member States, fighting terrorism, tackling the immigration issue, developing economies based on knowledge and technological innovation, identifying new sources of energy, cleaning up the environment - these are just some of the crucial issues of the new European Union.

There are some voices saying that the EU is no longer a peace project. But what is eventually the historical reunification of Europe? Was not the peace of the whole Europe what Schumann, Monnet, Adenauer and all the other framers of the EU envisioned in the early days before the World War II? Maybe we should all think of those dreams when trying to find solutions to important questions of our times, when solidarity between our peoples is highly needed.

We have been listening to the sound of Europe for centuries but we are preparing to become an official part of the orchestra only since the early 90s.
Maybe our destiny would have been less bitter if it were not for the cruel reality of communism. In terms of development, this legacy created a great gap between former communist states and the democratic Western Europe. And yet, despite uneven levels of development, the pace of the reforms towards a modern society made possible for the Eastern European states to come with a fresh vision, high enthusiasm, and greater will to recover. And thus they are coming back to Europe, the place where they have always belonged.

Setting the right agenda

My distinguished colleagues,

It is not my intention to give a technical speech in which I praise the measures taken by Romania to comply with the EU requirements in all areas. I will emphasize those issues that are of most concern, such as corruption, border security, and management of EU funds. It is of outstanding importance to succeed in eliminating the deficiencies in these areas if we are to fully benefit from our status of Member State after 1st of January 2007.

Romania's integration into the EU has proved to be a tremendous process in terms of redesigning our strategy and our way to formulate public policies. We are already prepared to act in a responsible, European manner; we know how to establish short- or middle- term goals and objectives, we are able to set appropriate deadlines and define responsibilities. What we need now is to keep our attention focused not only on one area, but on several at the same time, because one cannot solve the corruption issue first and see after that what can be done about the delays in agriculture. All these problems need to be tackled fast and at once. Placing the priority on a certain issue rather than another would be a fatal mistake. Thus, we are not talking about our priority, but our set of overarching priorities.

Romania's path to the EU: what has been done, where are we now and what is still needed?

Our work is not over, it will not end on 16th of May, and it will certainly not end on 1st of January 2007.

Furthermore, with regard to the fight against corruption, we are very close to establishing an efficient system of monitoring and controlling the disclosure of assets and interests, which will become operational in less than one month. Meanwhile, the legal framework that we have set, which guarantees the independence of the judiciary, is already giving results. Magistrates are no longer afraid of political investigations because they know politics are not of their concern. Their only concern is to fight criminality.

We are also focusing on how to ensure proper spending of the European taxpayer's money. Being aware that only strong institutions and transparent procedures can help us take advantage of the large amount of European money, we began training and hiring more than 8 000 people who will acquire expertise in this field.

Another issue I would like to bring to your attention is that of security - security not only for Romania, but for the entire European Union. One of the arguments that I heard against Romania's accession was that we will bring more insecurity to the European Union. Let me just say this. We are part of the solution, not of the problem! We will have not only the second largest external border of the EU, but also one of the most modern equipments to secure it. We know this is not an easy task considering the conflicts that surround our region. But that is why enlarging the European project to Central and South-Eastern Europe is a key factor in turning this zone from a region haunted by past and present conflicts into a democratic one, one which can bring an added value to the EU.

However, the next legitimate question for us relates to Romania's capacity to play a major role in this debate. In other words, what can Romania offer to the European heritage, what will be our contribution to the new European design?

Romania's vision on the future of Europe

We are not joining the European Union just to have the possibility to access more funds. We are joining the EU because we believe in this construction and we have a vision on its further development. We envisage the European Union as a project that is expanding all over Europe, spreading democracy and prosperity. Let us just consider what the European Union meant to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Union has been a source of support and an incentive for democratic reforms.

We believe that the European Union should maintain its role as a promoter of democracy and free-market principles, and this is the only way to ensure stability in this part of the world. Moreover, as Chancellor Schussel has already said, the countries of the Western Balkans should be regarded not only as partners of the European Union, but also as future EU members. These countries have a common European historical and cultural background and they deserve a common European future too!

We believe it is essential to also focus our attention on the countries that may not traditionally be considered as part of the European continent. In saying this, I have in mind the entire Black Sea region, including the South Caucasus countries. The Black Sea region is a European area of major interest in terms of the security challenges it poses. It is in the EU's interest that democratic values and human rights triumph in the fight against authoritarian regimes and terrorism. That's why the EU needs a special policy for this region, a policy that strengthens our position and can contribute decisively to the peace process in this region.

These two priorities together with the proper implementation of the Lisbon Agenda can make the European Union stronger and translate into reality the ideals of peace and prosperity that the Union started with.

Dear colleagues,

It is my belief that Romania can act as a liaison between the European Union, the Western Balkans and the Black Sea region. We have proved that we can solve our own problems. Now it's time for us to prove that we can help others too!

Thank you!