Meeting with the Former EU Minister Mr. Vasile Puşcaş
Following our fruitful meeting with the former prime minister and incumbent Cluj-Napoca Mayor Mr. Boc, we rushed to our next meeting which was with Mr. Vasile Puşcaş.
He is one of the most important factors in the transformation of Romania for he was the chief Negotiator during the EU Accession Process of Romania, therefore he is considered by most of the Romanians as the person behind the accession.
He was born in 1952 and he is also a graduate of Babeş-Bolyai University. During his time as a diplomat while he was in United States he had close relations with his American counterparts and he facilitated the acquisition of the Most Favored Nation (MFN) Status for Romania from USA during his mandate there between 1992 and 1994. Following his return to Romania, he became the chief Negotiator for the EU Accession of Romania and he worked with the EU closely to move forward with the process between 2000 and 2004. Finally at the end of 2004 the accession was signed and the biggest political transformation step of Romania was taken thanks to him. He is currently focusing on raising younger generations through his classes in the European Studies faculty of the Babeş Bolyai University as a professor.
During our chat, we firstly began talking with him about how Romania turned its face to European Union and the western world so fastly following the revolution. He told us that Although Ceaucescu was seen very strong from outside people were just not expressing their discontent during the communist era because of repression and in fact majority wanted a more western oriented approach instead of communism even before the revolution. So after the revolution and freedom people massively supported a change of external policy and so in a couple of years following the revolution Romania was eager to start the candidacy process. This was easier said than done however, because Romania was still way behind the requirements regarding political, economical and social developments and therefore a large set of reforms were needed to be achieved to be able to move forward.
The time between 1989 and 1993 was the most confusing period for Romania he said, everybody knew what they wanted in general but no one had any idea about what to do in order to achieve those goals. Therefore, a meeting of all the political actors in Snagov in 1995 was the most important turning point for the national policies for everyone met on the same page after that and all the plans were made regarding the further organization of state affairs in order to move on with the transformation.
In 1999 Romania was invited to the start of negotiations but it was not very prepared in that time in comparison to other eastern European countries, he stated that the main reason behind this invitation was geopolitical because of the ongoing crisis in the Balkans therefore the European Union wanted Romania by its side. In general the most important point in the EU application process is the enhancement of infrastructure of cities and rural areas to boost the economy and standard of life to make a homogenous Europe and the EU is giving funds for such purposes and expects the perspective nations to develop themselves. We generally see the development beginning from western parts of all countries because often the western parts are more developed and this was the same case for Romania. The transformation took its effects first in Transylvania and kept on spreading but Mr. Puşkaş says that the allocated funds were not very effectively used by the government because of short time political gains. He says that the funds were not for happiness but for development and he is not happy with the current commitment of the Romanian government to the project even though ther are now a member state of the European Union.
Next year will mark the 10th year of EU membership of Romania but when we ask about how the country is doing after the new status quo we understand that he is not happy with the governments commitment to the EU and he says that the although the governments cherish the benefits of being a member state they do not use these advantages accordingly to move to country forward well enough. He says the similar things for member states such as Hungary and Greece, they were the most enthusiastic and hard working countries for the European Union membership but following the accession they did not fare as well as they should and right now they are under the shadow of populism and euroskepticism. As the topic of Euroskepticism was opened we moved on with the questions about the risks of the future of the Eu and we were surprised by his enthusiasm. He pointed out some similarities between the OPEC crisis and the current situation of Europe and he said that this was due to many factors that lied beneath the economic fragilities and the lack of a strong leadership yet he believes that they will be tackled and the new generation will be more globalist and pro European Union so the Union will be all right. He calls the next generation the Erasmus Generation who study in different countries, learn from their cultures and appreciate the value of this multiculturalism and when they will be in charge European Union will be stronger.
After talking in detail about Romania we asked him about Turkey and its EU membership application. He told us that he has long close ties with diplomats from Turkey and got to know many different actors regarding the application. He underlined that the most enthusiastic and the hardworking stakeholder in Turkey regarding the EU was the business society in Turkey and he told that they were the primary force behind Turkeys application. Following them were the academics of the Turkish Universities who always had the very stong connections to their European pairs and worked on the EU Turkey relations. He said that the politicians were not much different than the Eastern European counterparts and although they were saying that they wanted Turkey to go into the EU they were just not doing what was necessary to make it happen. He stressed that Turkey was one of the most important powers of the regions and EU would in fact like Turkey to be amember states if it satisfied the necessary criterias. He said that economically Turkey was more ready than many other member states but that is not the only factor in the application process. He was just surprised during the freezing of the application process when the Turkish delegation did not turn the tide like he did in 2007 when Romania was also in a similar situation so he interpreted it as a lack of motivation of the Turkish side.
Our meeting with Mr. Puşkaş gave us a great insight of a very important diplomat about the transformation of Romania and also about the European Union accession procedures and he was a very straight forward and easy to approach person who was ready to satisfy our enthusiasm, we thank him once again for the opportunity.