Five years after they achieved their European dream, Romania and Bulgaria are still lagging behind on democratic reform.
The European Commission has just delivered an especially damning verdict on Romania, even questioning the government’s commitment to the rule of law.
To get some insight on this issue we talked to the former President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering.
Euronews: Mr Pöttering, what is going to happen concerning Romania and Bulgaria?
Pöttering: “First of all I have to say that it’s very important that the European Commission focused on how Romania and Bulgaria will fullfill the assumptions for the rule of law, for the fight against corruption and for reforms.”
Euronews: “Don’t you think the two member states might say “We’ve nearly got everything right?” and wonder why the Commission took a very harsh position?”
Pöttering: It is quite well known in Bucharest and Sofia what both countries are supposed to do. Both became member states in 2007, but both countries at that time knew that they didn’t fulfill all the requirements, all the conditions. In particular the very grave events in Romania do cast serious doubts on the state of constitutional order there.
Euronews: Did both countries join the EU too early?
Pöttering: “In fact you are right. This should be a lesson, one should not let member states into the EU too early. From where we are today, you have to admit that Bulgaria and Romania, particularly Romania, were not ready. But today they are part of the European Union, they are part of the european family and they have to comply with its membership criteria.”
Euronews: What might be – from your point of view – the reasons for the shortfalls shown by Bulgaria and Romania, admitting that the deficits are different?
Pöttering: There has been an enormous amount of work done by these two countries, which were under Communist and totalitarian rule for more than a generation. They made a lot of progress in order to leave this experience behind them. The European Union is a community based on law,
the law is power and this represents enormous progress in the history of Europe. In the past, authority was always right. Today we are united, connected through values. The core of them is the human dignity, the core of them are human rights, democracy, freedom. The rule of law is something very precious, this rule of law which is uniting Europeans in the European Union has to be respected.