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Crown Custodian Margareta: True idealists about Europe are in the eastern part of the continent
Principesa Margareta Principele Nicolae

Margareta, Custodian of the Romanian Crown, on Saturday gave a speech at the Netherlands Institute for International Relations in The Hague, pointing out that although the Romanians are now three times wealthier than during communism, it may take another three decades to fully erase the effects of the communist dictatorship. 

"Romanians are almost three time wealthier today than we were when we shook off communism. There is a national consensus in my country that there is no other place Romania can be but at the heart of NATO and the EU. Indeed - and as I often remind our European brethren, the true idealists about Europe are now mostly in the eastern part of the continent; the real cynics are often in the West," the Crown Custodian in her speech released on the website. 

She went on to say that despite lingering problems, the former communist half of the continent has seen a "phenomenal economic growth" and Romania is one of the fastest-rising economies in Europe. 

"But that has not erased the significant wealth gaps between the eastern and western halves of the continent. Three decades have passed since the end of communism, but we probably need another three decades to erase fully the noxious effects of communist dictatorship and mismanagement. In short, an entire generation will pass before we are truly and fully united, and almost none of those who were mature people when the events of 1989 in my country removed the communist dictator may live to see the day when Europe's east-west economic divide completely disappears," said the Princess. 

The Crown Custodian admitted that many of the Dutch politicians had been right when they argued in the early 2000s that "a true and complete European integration would take time, and that the mere act of joining the Union would need to be followed by many decades of hard work." 

"Nevertheless, I would like to argue that instead of being half empty, the glass is actually half full, and that both Romania itself and the European Union with Romania at its core are making progress. Let us remember that, for decades, we would hear that the European Union's greatest strength was the incentive it gave applicant countries to implement serious reforms before they were allowed to join as full EU members, that the acquis communautaire represented one of Europe most potent reform mechanisms. That optimistic view prevailed when 10 countries from central Europe joined in 2004. Yet, somehow, when Romania joined together with Bulgaria three years after the initial wave, the opposite view took hold; namely that my country and Bulgaria were allowed into the EU without having been obliged to undertake the necessary reforms, that they were allowed to join for political rather than practical reasons," she said. 

The Crown Princess went on to remark that "the pressure on Romania and the reforming procedures that were put in place before the country joined the EU were quite serious and sustained and that a huge effort was undertaken." 

"I think it is undeniably the case that the Union got it right in the sense that it made the promise of membership real and possible, but that it also made the insistence on reforms equally real and immediate. (...) Enlargement to Romania was at least partly a leap of faith. But it was the same when Greece joined the European Union, and when Spain and Portugal did the same," she said. 

Princess Margareta went on to note that although there are different perspectives in Eastern Europe on social life and customs, as people in this part of the continent "are more religious, more patriotic and more suspicious of high levels of immigration," dismissing these feelings as just 'racism and xenophobia' or dividing everything between 'progressive' and 'reactionary' is clearly counter-productive." 

"None of this is to suggest that the new member states should be let off the hook, regardless of what happens in their countries. The fight against corruption, for instance, should continue unremittingly. And there is no question that some of the political developments in my country raised eyebrows among our European partners. But the starting point for all activities is to stop patronising the new member states, and to avoid threatening them by artificially extended conditionality clauses. Various proposals to use political conditionality in the disbursement of funds from the next seven-year budget of the Union in return for certain political concessions are not only illegal under existing EU treaties, but also guaranteed to divide rather than unite Europe," Margareta said. 

The Crown Custodian pointed out that as far back as 2011, Romania was judged by the European Commission to have met all the necessary technical conditions for full Schengen membership, yet conditions were added subsequently one after another. 

"We are now told in private - by officials in a number of countries including, I am sad to say, your own country - that domestic political considerations make it difficult to include Romania in Schengen. I can understand this argument. But I hope that you can also understand that similar domestic pressures are upon our political leaders, from our own people who cannot accept that they should be in an inferior position to that of fellow Europeans," she said. 

The Custodian of the Romanian Crown, Margareta, and Prince Radu were since Wednesday on a public visit to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, specifically to The Hague and Breda.


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