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The Faces of EU – Romania

After a brief hiatus, let’s move on to our next country for the Faces of EU campaign – Romania! As usual, let’s see if Estonian young people know anything about Romania’s domestic and foreign policy.

Do you know anything about Romania’s domestic and foreign policy?

20%: yes

80%: no

“Still recovering from dictatorship”

“Might unite with Moldova”

“Recently was rejected from Schengen”

Seems that Romanian politics isn’t a particular topic among Estonian young people. Let’s hope this interview with Raluca Grigoras, an active community member and a student, tells them more about it!

Tell me about yourself. Are you an active community member? If yes, why do you feel it’s important? Is it a normal thing in your country/community to do so?

I would consider myself an active community member, although there’s always room to do more. I think voting and being involved in local organizations and initiatives is the best way to improve our communities – neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, cities, and in the end the whole country. Compared to how active civil society is in the US or Western European countries, in Romania, there aren’t that many opportunities for getting involved. But I believe with enough interest and dedication, we can create them!

How is youth activism organised in your nation and what is the role of the EU in it?

Many youth activism initiatives have been founded in collaboration with the EU, or as part of some kind of EU programme – study abroad, online campaigns, workshops, and exchange programs. Student organizations also play an important role and recently there has been a rise in online feminist or climate organizations.

How do people in your country perceive the EU? How do politicians?

People in Romania have quite a positive perception of the EU – they appreciate how it opened up easier travel and trade, and how easy it is to get EU funding for projects. So many businesses or even national infrastructure projects like schools, hospitals and roads are made with EU funding. Politicians also consider our membership in the EU essential for development and good relations with EU states, but often see the EU as a barrier, as certain EU regulations ended up closing important national firms that were damaging to the environment. 

What does the EU mean for you personally?

I value the EU for the unity and opportunities for collaboration among member states that it brings. However, I think Romania is one of the weaker voices in EU decisions, and we are still sidelined due to not satisfying the requirements to join Schengen or adopt the euro. Moreover, easy travel but big differences in wages clearly contributed to Romania’s brain drain problem, so I think there’s more the EU can do to help bridge the gap between standards of living. 

How would you describe your country to a foreigner?

Romania is one of the most beautiful countries you’ll ever see, with nature ranging from mountains to sea to everything in between. Romanians are kind, warm, hospitable people and in rural areas, many traditions are still preserved. I think the main downside is that we have this inferiority complex and always think that Western countries are better and more “civilized”, and we try too hard to imitate them and copy what they do. I think we’ll never be like them, and that’s ok, we just need to rediscover what makes us unique, be proud of that and use it in the service of our communities

What do you hope for your country to achieve or develop in?

I hope to see a change of mindset – from feeling powerless in the face of a corrupt system towards believing that we have the power to make a change. More concretely, this would lead to a decline in emigration rates. Currently, over 200 thousand people leave Romania annually. This has serious consequences for Romania’s future since many of these migrants are highly skilled and educated, leaving because they feel their own country does not value them. Stopping the ongoing brain drain would certainly start a process of positive change in all aspects.

How will you contribute to achieving this goal?

If there was a career path that would deal directly with changing mindsets and strengthening communities, I’d be the first to take it! Finding a way to address brain drain and corruption is definitely the long-term goal of my career. For now, I am interested in social impact design – finding practical solutions to social problems, and I will be able to use these skills to help NGOs, businesses or even governments to implement effective programs or policies to tackle various challenges. In the future, I am also open to getting involved in politics. 

How can the EU contribute to the prosperity of your country?

I think a great way that the EU could help is by working together with Romanian experts in their fields to identify key development areas and prioritize funding those kinds of projects. This is because currently they give funding to literally anything and it often ends up delaying projects and going into politicians’ pockets.

What do you think the EU will look like in 30 years?

I think that if the EU survives this wave of right-wing nationalism in some of its most powerful states, it can move towards being even more integrated and united, with common laws and policies that bridge the gap between the richest and the poorer states. I also hope the EU can learn to appreciate the benefits that immigrants from outside the EU bring and welcome them with open arms to create a more accepting and inclusive society.

Do you think Romania should unite with Moldova? What is the mood in the country about reunification and what are the main obstacles to it?

I think they should unite, and the majority of Romanians also favour it. However, most Moldovans are opposed to unification, which I believe is a consequence of the decades of propaganda from the USSR to justify their occupation of Moldova. Even from those who do support it, many see it as a means to becoming part of the EU and having more opportunities from abroad, not because they believe they belong in one nation. Also economically I believe it would be a challenge to integrate with Moldova since they are not our biggest trade partners – the EU is, and for them Russia. 

How vulnerable do you think Romania is to Russian influence and hybrid warfare campaigns?

There are certainly ways in which Russian messaging manages to manipulate the masses in Romania as well. I was shocked to find out for example that a significant portion of Romania’s middle-aged and older population supported Putin’s Ukraine war. However, I don’t think there is any danger of serious interference and conflict since we are part of NATO and the EU and an attack against us would be considered a war with NATO which Russia cannot risk starting.

Image: Pexels, Oana Andrei

The Faces of EU campaign is supported by the German Embassy in Tallinn.

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