Romania and Bulgaria, 15 years in the EU. From the salary explosion, to clientelism with European funds ANALYSIS

Romania and Bulgaria celebrate their first 15 years as member states of the European Union, with an unequal balance sheet, marked on the one hand by the improvement of living standards and, on the other hand, by the loss of population due to emigration and the postponement key reforms needed to make their economies more functional, EFE wrote in a commentary on Saturday.

The two former communist countries in the Balkans joined the bloc on January 1, 2007, three years after other neighbors in Eastern Europe.

Although the bureaucratic rigidity made them lose about half of the available European money, the two countries still received from Brussels tens of billions of euros with which they built new infrastructures and expanded their economy, notes EFE.

Explosion of GDP and wages

According to official figures, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in Bulgaria is more than double today, compared to 15 years ago, an indicator that has quadrupled in Romania.

In 2007, Romanians and Bulgarians earned on average less than 300 euros a month. Today, the average salary in both countries is about 700 euros per month, according to EFE. But despite these advances, both countries continue to be the EU’s tailors in terms of wages, transport infrastructure, health and education, writes EFE.

“Bulgaria continues to be the Member State with the lowest GDP per capita, the lowest labor productivity, the lowest competitiveness, the highest poverty and the indicators of social polarization that continue to grow,” he told EFE Ivan Angelov, from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Mass emigration

In addition to corruption, Angelov cites the destruction of industrial production and export capacity by a ruling class unable to devise long-term policies.

“The opening of the Western European labor market, together with Brussels’ insistence on liquidating public companies as soon as possible, has created serious demographic problems,” said British political scientist Tom Gallagher, an expert on Romania’s modern history.

A demographic hemorrhage

The employment of hundreds of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians in Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria or the United Kingdom has meant a real “demographic hemorrhage” for the poorest members of the community club, EFE notes.

According to the National Institute of Statistics in Sofia, more than 2 million able-bodied Bulgarians have left the country since 2007. Today, Bulgaria has a population of only 6.5 million, 800,000 less than a decade ago.

Demographers predict that the country’s population will shrink to 5 million in 20 years.

According to the Center for the Comparative Study of Migration, affiliated to Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj, about three million Romanians have emigrated to Western Europe since 2002, when they no longer needed visas.

Counterbalancing corruption

Although the two countries have not yet been received in the Schengen area, their EU membership has served as a counterweight to the corrupt tendencies of their political classes, EFE comments.

“I have no doubt that the EU has played an important role in preventing Romania from becoming a kleptocratic state. It is very likely that the supervision of the European Commission has curbed the appetite of a political elite that does not stand out for its reformist vocation.” , says Tom Gallagher, Professor Emeritus at Bradford University (UK), in an email.

Clientelism with European funds

However, the arrival of European money has given a boost to corruption, writes EFE.

“During Boiko Borisov’s rule, European funds served as a catalyst for the capture of the state,” a European diplomat told the Spanish news agency on condition of anonymity, referring to the former Bulgarian prime minister who has intermittently dominated the country’s political life. , between 2009 and 2020.

The European diplomat alluded to the allegedly favorable treatment received by business people close to power in the distribution of European funds.

Recovery Plan as a “Teststone”

For Gallagher, the management of billions of euros that the EU Recovery and Resilience Mechanism makes available to both countries will be a stepping stone to measure the commitment of the two states to the club in which they were admitted 15 years ago.

“If a substantial part of the 30 billion euros is lost through corruption or is wasted due to the lack of viable projects, it will have to be concluded that Romania’s relationship with Brussels has not worked,” Gallagher said.

Source: Breaking News – Cele mai importante stiri – by

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