Romania is not Greece

European Institute of Romania

Mihai Sebe
 
Giving gifts to the Greeks or helping the prodigal son
 
Greece’s economic situation is regarded with acute seriousness by many Romanian analysts due to the close geographic proximity and the important number of Greek banks in the Romanian banking system. Many often wonder what would happen if the Romanian banks with Greek capital or the Greek banks operating directly in the Romanian market would face serious solvency problems. The main fear of the financial analysts was and still is that “the Greek banks with an important presence on the Romanian market [a 25 percent share of the Romanian banking market] could reduce the volume of credit as they will have to rely more on scarce, local resources.”[1] However, the National Bank of Romania believes that there is no such risk; as a National Bank official clearly stated, “there is no threat for the Romanian banking system as a result of the Greek crisis.”[2] Even if the situation of the Greek economy will not directly affect the banks, for many Romanian officials, Greece remains the perfect “scarecrow” used to justify austerity measures. In President Traian Băsescu’s words, “contrary to the televised gaiety, that Romania is like Greece, I tell you that we have 2011 and 2012, if we were to continue in this rhythm, in order to reach Greek ’performances’. There, we still have time to take actions so that nothing bad happens.”[3] Although the Greek situation is a difficult one, for many economists it is clear that Greece will not fall down, as its fall would seriously affect the Eurozone. The financial package directed toward sustaining Greece was seen with relief in Bucharest. In Lidia Moise’s words, “Romania breathes more easily as the pressure over the Romanian Leu attenuates.”[4]
 
When neighbouring countries require similar solutions
 
If Romania is neither Greece, nor will it reach its situation, then there will at least be a side effect of the lessons learned by the Romanian authorities. Even if the numbers differ and Greece has some structural advantages related to its economy, geographic location, etc., we still have some “bad” habits in common: “growth on debt, fiscal evasion, politicisation of the public apparatus, ‘buying off’ the trade unions’ silence.” For the economic analyst Dan Suciu, the last trait that can set us different from Greece will be just that – that the Romanian authorities do not have to buy the trade unions’ “silence” at the cost of budgetary deficits.[5] Aurelian Dochia, a renowned Romanian economist, also draws a series of warnings for Romania which must not be ignored by the government. Firstly, when the issue in question is money, even “the most harmonious family relations deteriorate rapidly” and, secondly, Romania will be forced to restructure its public sector or its pension system.[6]
 
The financial Big Brother – a necessary step?
 
In various financial and intellectual media there is, in a way, hope that the strong measures, which are to be taken by the European Union in order to obtain a stronger coordination of economic policies in Europe, will represent a plus for Romania, who will be, therefore, obliged to adopt stricter financial control of the national budget. This idea resides clearly from a policy memo of a Romanian think tank, the document’s title being “We must not be afraid of the European Monetary Fund”. The authors draw a straightforward conclusion “it will be in our best interest that the EU creates stronger mechanisms of economic supervision – we would simply put together/import fiscal responsibility, a thing that lacks us.”[7] One of the main ideas resulting from this study is the necessity of the completion of the common currency by a method of harmonisation of economic policies. As the European economies are so interconnected, this idea seems to be the best next step in order to avoid further economic problems.
 
The struggle for a better future: Europe 2020 – a dream in the making?
 
The Europe 2020 Strategy enjoyed a great deal of success in public debates unlike other European issues due to the current economic and social crisis. For many, it represents the chance of a lifetime for assuring Romania’s renewal on the economic and social side. For the analysts, Romania’s current status is a poor one, and only a coherent European strategy could help our development. Far from helping to consolidate the European average toward the established level, Romania finds itself once more, “among the less advanced states.”[8] Aware of this état d’arrieration in development, the Department for European Affairs initiated on 3 March 2010 a public consultation regarding the Europe 2020 Strategy addressed to all the actors of society, a process meant to build consensus over the decisions and actions to be followed.[9] The main result of this consultation process will be the adoption of a “Memorandum regarding the Approval of Romania’s preliminary position with regard to the Europe 2010 Strategy”.[10] It sets the main objectives that Romania wants to achieve as well as a set of preliminary measures designed to help achieve those objectives. One such measure was the constitution of a high level work group designed to elaborate, until May 2010, a proposal for the Romanian government in order to achieve its national objectives as well as a timetable at the national level.[11]


[1] Vasile POP-COMAN: Băncile greceşti din România: “drobul de sare“ sau „călcâiul lui Ahile”?, Săptămâna Financiară, 22 February 2010, available at: http://www.sfin.ro/articol_19073/bancile_grecesti_din_romania_%E2%80%9Ed... (last access: 18 May 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3] President Traian Băsescu press conference, 13 May 2010, available at: http://www.presidency.ro/?_RID=det&tb=date&id=12098&_PRID=ag (last access: 18 May 2010).

[4] Lidia MOISE: “Bani la Atena, efect calmant la Bucureşti“, Revista 22, 13 April 2010, available at: http://www.revista22.ro/bani-la-atena-efect-calmant-la-bucure351ti-7976.... (last access: 18 May 2010).

[5] Dan SUCIU: Grecizarea Romaniei, Revista 22, 16 March 2010, available at: http://www.revista22.ro/articol-7816.html (last access: 18 May 2010).

[6] Aurelian DOCHIA: Poveste de familie, România Liberă, 8 February 2010, available at: http://www.romanialibera.ro/opinii/comentarii/poveste-de-familie-176821.... (last access: 18 May 2010).

[7] Cristian GHINEA/Mihai PANAITE/Paul IVAN: Să nu ne fie frică de Fondul Monetar European - comentarii pe marginea Consiliului European, CRPE Policy Memo no. 9, March 2010, available at: http://www.crpe.ro/library/files/crpe_policy_memo_9_ro.pdf (last access: 18 May 2010).

[8] Alina GIRBEA: Noi în anul 2020 sau întoarcerea la plan, Europuls, 17 March 2010, available at: http://europuls.ro/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=423:noi-... (last access: 18 May 2010).

[9] Department for European Affairs, Departamentul pentru Afaceri Europene lansează o consultare publică pe tema proiectului de strategie “Europa 2020” al Comisiei Europene, 3 March 2010, available at: http://www.dae.gov.ro/articol/833/departamentul-pentru-afaceri-europene-... (last access: 18 May 2010).

[10] Department for European Affairs, Memorandumul privind Aprobarea poziţiei preliminare a României cu privire la Strategia EUROPA 2020, 12 May 2010, available at: http://www.dae.gov.ro/admin/files/Memorandumul%20privind%20Aprobarea%20poziţiei%20preliminare%20a%20României%20cu% (last access: 18 May 2010).

[11] Department for European Affairs: Strategia EUROPA 2020 la nivel naţional, 12 May 2010, available at: http://www.dae.gov.ro/articol/961/strategia-europa-2020-la-nivel-na-ional (last access: 18 May 2010).
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