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ROMANIA


 

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 60,358 44,428 38,700 52
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,310 1,850 1,720 100
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 164 - (26/04/11)

Romania is unlikely to be granted entry into the EU passport-free travel zone this year, but it is in Europe's interests to keep encouraging the country to secure its borders and stem the flow of trafficked goods and illegal migrants westwards.

Both Romania and Bulgaria the poorest EU member states were due to join Europe's Schengen passport-free zone in March, but their entry was postponed indefinitely after Germany and France sent a letter to the European Commission in December, which stated that they had not done enough to clean up corruption and organised crime, raising concerns about Romania and Bulgaria's ability to curb illegal immigration.

Both Balkan countries became major transit routes for trafficked cigarettes, drugs, weapons and people during the war in former Yugoslavia and the trend continued after the end of the conflict. If migrants from both countries can easily travel westwards, it's possible that EU markets will have to cope with increased volumes of illegal goods, as well as higher numbers of migrants looking for work and housing.

But while Bulgaria has failed to prove that its Black Sea borders are secure, Romania has formally met conditions set by Brussels for allowing passport-free travel within all EU countries except for Britain and Ireland. It seems as though France and Germany are lumping the two states together and are keen to block the potential flow of Romanian migrants westwards even if Romania is ready to properly police its borders.

France expelled 1,000 Gypsies last Summer many of whom have Romanian origin and it doesn't want them to return. Also, the German government, which held regional elections in March, was keen to squash German fears over mass immigration from poor EU Balkans countries.

Romania didn't help it's cause when it gave passports to more than 900,000 Moldovans with an ethnic Romanian background people who would be free to travel to most countries in the EU if Romania were to join Schengen.

But on April 18, France did commit to helping Romania reach its goal when Claude Gueant, the French Interior Minister, said that France wants to renew friendly talks with the Balkan country, and a mechanism is being prepared, which will allow police officers from different EU countries to be located on Romania's borders as part of efforts to ensure security.

This extended hand comes a little late, as Romania is already offended that the EU did not uphold its end of the bargain, but France and Germany's block may have been necessary. In May, the German and Austrian labour markets will open up to all EU citizens except Romania and Bulgaria. Up to 140,000 workers, mostly Polish, are expected to migrate to Germany each year, getting jobs mostly in hotels and restaurants. Cash sent home by eastern European migrants working abroad has been important for the growth of those countries for years. Allowing Romanians and and Bulgarians to do the same might flood the market, lessening the effect on the economies of other Eastern European countries, and it might be wise to stagger the influx.

However, by blowing hot and cold, Germany and France are hopefully putting fire in Romania's belly, forcing it to make a push for entry into Schengen. In mid-April, the World Bank said that Romania's economy will lead growth among the European Union's 10 emerging eastern states next year as its public finances improve and domestic demand recovers.

Romania suffered two years of deep recession as it struggled to hold on to a 20 billion euro aid package led by the International Monetary Fund, but the World Bank said that it will post growth of 1.5 percent in 2011 and 4.4 percent next year.

Romania is also making a concerted to effort to tackle corruption. In February, Romania's custom's chief was sacked after being accused of taking bribes, and 60 other customs officials were detained for alleged involvement in cigarette smuggling. Border control has recently installed infra-red and motion sensors, as well as video surveillance cameras along key transit routes.

Romania's ability to curb corruption and trafficking is improving and Europe would be wise to continue to encourage that trend from now on, rather than stop it in its tracks.