Romanians’ perception of the European Union keeps getting worse in 2023 too
At the beginning of this year, 2023, only 46% of Romanians expressed a positive perception of the EU, slightly below the EU average of 47%, according to a Eurobarometer survey conducted by the European Parliament.
Women have a less positive image than men, and there is a noticeable decline in perception from younger to older age groups.
An appreciated aspect by Romanians is the fact that EU membership has led to an improvement in their standard of living (27%, compared to the EU average of only 18%). However, when it comes to the belief that the single market has fostered local economic growth, only 26% of Romanians share this perspective, falling short of the European average of 30%.
The prevailing view in Romania is that major corporations have engaged in unfair competition, smashing both the quality and quantity of the local private sector.
In some regions of Romania, the authorities responsible for securing European funds and advocating for Romanian interests in Europe have failed it to adjust to the present circumstances. The roles and effectiveness of MEPs and ADRs remain uncertain
The majority of the Romanian Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have not succeeded in engaging with the citizens who entrusted them through projects and initiatives since the 2019 elections.
When questioned about the significance of their influence at the European level, just 43% of Romanians think their opinions are taken into account, falling short of the EU average of 47%. Notably, young people express a more significant sense of being heard at 60%, while those who feel least heard are individuals over the age of 55 at 33%.
However, Romanian citizens’ voice can also be heard in Europe through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Unfortunately, over the last four years, there hasn’t been a consistent practice in the past four years regarding the representation of the challenges Romanians face in various fields of activity.
Romanians have more trust in the members of the European Parliament, who represent EU nations, compared to their faith in the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest
Despite the near absence of Romanian MEPs’ activity in the European Parliament, paradoxically, people have more trust in the EU Parliament than in the Romanian Parliament, and this trust level exceeds the European average for trust in the EU Parliament.
The situation is perplexing and, in fact, highly unusual. Why? Because the major nations of the world primarily place their trust in their own politicians, with a significantly lower proportion of trust in international bodies.
Migration is expected to increase in the upcoming years. On this matter, we are witnessing a negative trend.
By far, the most significant advantage perceived by Romanians regarding their EU membership is the job opportunities (39%, compared to the EU average of 23%).
The business sector and government authorities in Romania have failed to convince their fellow citizens with a stable and beneficial national strategy. Consequently, whole Romanian families continue to leave their homeland, in most cases definitely, preferring to settle in European Union countries.
In a Europe that emphasizes regional governance, Romania hasnot managed to decentralize its administration effectively through entities like ADRs to bring DECISION-making closer to local communities
Even after 16 years of EU membership, the central authorities in Romania remain reluctant to implement a thorough and efficient reform of local public administration. The primary reason for this hesitance, which is quite apparent, is their desire to maintain control over the state budget, a practice exercised by politicians in Bucharest in the spirit of complete politicization of Romania’s public administration.
Therefore, alongside the largely symbolic role of European Parliament members, we see the static prerogatives of ADRs, GALs, and similar entities.
Nevertheless, in order to avoid generalization, it’s essential to highlight those who, despite the challenging circumstances, are striving to maximize their efforts. Let’s take a comparative look at Moldova in relation to Transylvania
I attended the European Week of Cities and Regions in Brussels from October 9th to 12th, which is is the largest annual event focused on regional policies. During this four-day event, regions and cities showcase their capacity to stimulate economic growth and employment, put the EU’s cohesion policy into action, and underline the importance of the local and regional levels in effective European governance.
Transylvania’s presence was marked by the presentation of the “Urban Garden Transylvania” project
The project left a notable impression and held a unique place in the event, not only due to its intrinsic value and the favorable impact it will have on the quality of life for the residents of Beclean but also because of the way it was publicly presented. It brought Romania into the spotlight for the event attendees.
The “Urban Garden Transylvania” initiative will turn an empty field into an incredible multifunctional forest park, incorporating recreational, commercial, social, and educational amenities, all designed to enhance the community’s well-being.
This project will host robotics, tourism, and target the youth, and it will be replicable throughout the EU, having already received recognition through the #NEB 2022 Awards for its sustainability and future-oriented approach. The EURegionsWeek can be a valuable stage for our project.
The project has a partnership with the Beclean City Hall.
The event featured the following speakers: Nicolae Moldovan, Mayor of Beclean; Hildegard Brandl, architect and CEO of the architectural firm UNITH2B; Corina Crețu, Member of the European Parliament and a member of the Committee on Regional Development.
The event’s moderator, Anca Brandiburg, an architect and project manager at UNITH2B architectural firm, stated:
“We gathered here to discover ‘Urban Garden Transylvania,’ the boldest project that will be a legacy for the future.”
“The ‘Urban Garden Transylvania’ project aims to transform an empty field into an astonishing forested park, which will simultaneously serve as a true green lung for the area.” – Nicolae Moldovan
“It will not only provide a beautiful setting for relaxation and disconnection, but at the same time, it will have a significantly positive impact on the local natural environment and biodiversity.” – Hildegard Brandl
“Urban Garden Transylvania’ represents the commitment of the town of Beclean to sustainability and future-oriented thinking and will undoubtedly become a beloved landmark for future generations.” – Corina Crețu.
This is how Transylvania itself, with its own event!
What has ADR North East prepared for an entire year for the most significant event dedicated to regions?
The North East region did not have its own event!
It is commendable that Botoșani County Council participated and was included in a long list of partners in a project called “Boosting Change: How Local and Regional Authorities Drive Behavioral Change in the Energy Sector.”
Botoșani County Council found itself among the project partners, alongside the Autonomous Region of Košice in Slovakia; Wielkopolska Region Poznań, Poland; the Executive Office of the Government of Northern Ireland in Brussels, United Kingdom; Umbria Region, Perugia, Italy; Voivodina, Novi Sad, Serbia; Pomeranian Region, Gdańsk, Poland; Abruzzo Region, L’Aquila, Italy.
Social Media was represented by: The Brussels Office of ADR North-East Romania, Botoșani County Council, Abruzzo Region in Italy, and Michele Fioroni, Advisor for Economic Development, Innovation, Digitalization, and Simplification.
The list of speakers included: Rachel Burns, Program Manager, Belfast Metropolitan College; Maciej Sytek, President, Regional Development Agency in Konin; Katarina Sisakova, Project Manager, Self-Governing Region of Košice; Michele Michelini, Director, Umbria Region.
Unfortunately, as can be observed, there was no representative from Botoșani County Council on the list of speakers.
To sum it up, the reality is clear! There is no coordination at the level of the North East Region that leads to the planning, development, and ultimately the implementation of significant projects in Moldova
In the context of organizing the Moldova Regional Economic Forum in 2024, we initiated several fundamental procedures. However, we couldn’t carry them out. We conducted checks and found that we, the North East Region of Romania, lack the basic capacities to host large-scale economic events aimed at attracting foreign investments to the Moldovan counties.
- At the moment, there have been no basic preparations for highlighting (mapping) the potential and advantages of the North East Region.
- Procedures to integrate Moldova into the investment strategies of the Foreign Investment Agency have not been established.
- There is a lack of collaboration between the Chambers of Commerce in the Region and ADR NE that would have produced concrete results for the business environment.
- ADR NE’s Representation Office in Brussels is not effectively linked to the local public administration and the business environment in Moldova.
- Moldova Invest is still evaluating the cross-border cooperation system with Ukraine (BRCT Suceava) and Moldova (BRCT Iasi), which are also connected to ADR NE.
- Quarterly and annual statistical data are not collected and interpreted by ADR NE to be made available to the local business environment and investors interested in identifying business opportunities in the North East Region.
- There are no projects explicitly aimed at stopping migration in the region, and there are no active initiatives to support the return of Romanians working in the EU.
- There are no joint initiatives between ADR NE and Romanian Members of the European Parliament in favor of regional development.
- ADR NE has not yet shown interest in major road infrastructure (they have not been present in discussions). Preparing the business environment and local public administration for the opportunities offered by Highway A7 is a fundamental component in the future regional development strategy.
- What is the development strategy for the North East Region (Moldova)?
We are about to thoroughly analyze the results achieved in terms of attracting European funding in the previous financial exercise. In the current financial exercise, the region is experiencing significant delays.
Why do all these issues directly concern ADR North East?
ADR North East serves as the intermediary for the six Moldovan counties in their dealings with European institutions, particularly the Commission, the Committee of the Regions, and the European Parliament, until the regionalization process in Romania is initiated and completed.
In terms of the regional budget, we must precisely determine what benefits (foreign investments, support for foreign trade, scholarships, research programs, etc.) we obtain for the region and the associated expenses (salaries, travel, public events, protocol). Because if the balance is negative, then we have a major problem.
Regarding the structure and content of the Regional Program 2021-2027 designed by ADR North-East, serious controversies have already emerged in the region. Are the region’s priorities being funded? It seems not, and for this reason, the calls are not of interest to the authorities and the business environment in Moldova.
This is the evaluation we’ve brought back from the Regions Week held in Brussels. I am very skeptical that the development of the North East Region of Romania can follow an upward trend until 2027 under the stated conditions. Therefore, how can we improve the public perception of Romanian citizens about the European project if the actions of the authorities are not likely to produce convincing results?
Next year, especially in the context of the first elections, and I refer to the spring European Parliament elections, these realities will become much more conclusive.